How to Help Your Daughter Deal With Rude Body Comments
Actress Chloe Grace Moretz’s story about being fat-shamed resonates with us all.
Just about every girl and woman in America has lived though this moment: You’re hanging with friends, grabbing a snack in the office, or just walking down the street enjoying the beautiful day, when someone makes a rude comment about your thighs, your weight, your looks—and everything immediately turns dark. You want to put the offender in his or her place, but you’re too stunned to come up with a reply.
It turns out even movie stars aren’t immune to these confidence-shaking moments. Chloe Grace Moretz, the 20-year-old star of movies such as Hugo, Neighbors 2, and If I Stay revealed in an interview last week that she was fat-shamed by a male costar when she was 15. The unnamed 20-something actor, who played her love interest, told her that she was “too big” for him, and he would never date her in real life.
Five years and many movies later, the comment still stings. “It was jarring. I look back on it and I was 15, which is really, really dark,” Moretz told Variety.
“It’s good that she shared this story—it helps when we all come together as women to discuss this and support each other,” says Lucie Hemmen, PhD, author of The Teen Girl’s Survival Guide. In fact, you can use Moretz’s story (and Taylor Swift's recent court testimony about being groped by a male deejay while taking a photo) to open up a discussion with your daughter about how to be resilient and stand up for herself when these moments occur. And since rude and hurtful comments can come from both boys and girls, it's a good opportunity to talk to both your daughters and sons about why it is never okay to comment on someone else's body, even if they think they're just being funny.
The best way to build up resilience is to make sure your daughter’s self-worth is not tied entirely to just one aspect of her life, whether it’s her looks, her grades, or her skill at volleyball, says Hemmen. “The more multidimensional a teenager is, the better she can handle these blows to one part of her life. Make sure she has a rich and varied identity—it’s easier to take criticism on one point.” That also means discouraging her from being selfie-obsessed. “Of course it’s a perfectly natural desire to want to be attractive, to be excited about buying a new outfit or trying a new hairstyle, but that should just be one part of a girl’s identity,” says Hemmen.
When your daughter does inevitably become upset about a rude comment, make sure you listen to her attentively. “Open your heart to her, be emotionally attuned to how painful it can be,” says Hemmen. “Don’t say, ‘Oh, it happens to everyone, he’s just a jerk.’ Instead, say, ‘Wow, that must have really hurt.’ Allow her to have a healthy anger about it.”
And then you can help her overcome that sense of powerlessness by coming up with a healthy retort for the next time it happens, says Hemmen. “Tell her, I know you were probably shocked in the moment, but what would you have liked to have said to him?” Advise her not to stoop to his level by insulting him, but instead say something like, “I happen to love the way I look, and I couldn’t care less what you think.”