After posting pictures of her family on vacation, Kristin Cavallari drew social media concern—and criticism—about the bodies of her sons, Camden (3) and Jaxon (2). In the picture that caused a stir, Cavallari’s sons (with football star Jay Cutler) were pictured from behind, and it appears that their little back and shoulder bones are jutting out, which prompted comments that Cavallari was starving them.
The picture drew more 38,000 likes and 1,473 comments on Instagram. Negative commenters urged her to look at her sons’ diets, and worse, accused her of starving them. Cavallari’s response to the comments was sarcastic, “Yep, I starve my children,” and swift (she blocked all of her haters).
Who could blame her?
When it comes to opining about children and their bodies, we should practice greater restraint. By restraint, I mean we should shut our traps 100 percent of the time.
I’m no Cavallari fan. She’s come under fire before for her parenting choices, like the time she posted a recipe for goat-milk based formula for babies that doctors widely discredited. And there was the time she admitted that she and Cutler opted not to vaccinate their oldest son because of fears about the unsubstantiated links between vaccines and autism.
But I feel for her on this one. The judgments hurled at her based on people’s “reading” of her children’s bodies are serious and cut at the heart of what it means to mother a child.
And her recent run-in with negative public opinion begs the larger question: When, if ever, is it OK to comment on the size of a child’s body?
I vote never.
First of all, unless you are that child’s pediatrician or medical healthcare provider, you have no idea how much he should weigh. While we all like to pretend to be experts when we comment online, when it comes to opining about children and their bodies, we should practice greater restraint. By restraint, I mean we should shut our traps 100 percent of the time.
Second, the odds are slim to none that any of us can look at a child objectively. We are all, every one of us, weighed down by our own body image baggage. Our vision is neither clear, nor objective, because it’s clouded by our own experiences of being too big or too small in this culture that leaves us all so little room to just be. Third, there are dozens of reasons why a child’s weight might fall outside the norm. How many of those are my business? Here’s my rule of thumb: Unless they are my children, precisely none of it is my business.
The outcry over this picture points at another double standard: We feel entitled to comment on a child’s skinniness where we would never comment on a child’s girth. Think about it. What if Cavallari was called out because her Instagram fans thought her kids were “too pudgy”? Who would stand for calling out toddlers for being too portly? No one—because that’s rude, and we’re aware how toxic fat-shaming is.
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So, where’s the outrage for skinny-shaming? Just because our culture worships skinniness, and most women are desperate to fall on the "right" side of the line between thin and not-thin, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to cry “too skinny” at another mother’s children. That’s never OK.