New Chapter in Parenting Lows: Let’s Publicly Shame our Kids and Profit from It

Photo Credit: Christopher Katke/Vogue

Last week, most of us read, and rolled our eyes, at the news of the article in the Shape issue of Vogue about Dara-Lynn Weiss who forced her 7-year-old onto a diet to lose 16 pounds. Like most of you, I cared enough to post a scathing statement and link to it and then moved on. Apparently that’s not how the publishing world viewed it. With horror I read the NYT style section on Sunday only to learn Weiss  inked a book deal with a major publisher to tell her story.

Unbelievable.

I read on.

Mouth gaping open.

Reading Julie Bosman’s piece, I was lucky enough to learn that apparently the publishing world is falling over themselves to publish books about over-achieving mothers who shame their children. They do this because we buy them. This is the new hot trend. Hop aboard….

Do you buy these kinds of books? If you do,  stop reading my blog.  Seriously.

Why would ANYONE buy a book written by a mother who shamed her young daughter into losing 16 pounds? Isn’t the story here that the mother was too lazy to set boundaries on what her child was eating? We aren’t talking about an obsese child, we’re talking about a privileged white girl  lounging with her equally as coiffed mother for a Vogue photo shoot in Manhattan. We aren’t learning from a medical expert how, as parents, it is our responsibility to offer our kids healthy foods and guide them towards making the right decisions and learning boundaries without putting shame and guilt on them.

Why would we buy a book from a woman who just bought her kid a one-way ticket  to  eating disorder-ville and a life of insecurity? Would we buy it because it makes us feel better about our own parenting skills?

This news says as much about the parenting-consuming public as it does about this publisher and this mother. I’m sorry. And it disturbs me. Personally, I never had any intention of purchasing the Tiger Mom book because I thought she was horrid as well, but I sure had fun making Tiger Mom references on my blog. #NotaTigerMom

 I was a little surprised to learn it’s sold 150,000 copies. Who are you, people who bought that book? I also thought the latest tome on American parenting in contrast to the French was a joke but apparently people are buying that one. So now we have this disgrace of a topic written by a privileged woman who  is living her own public shaming of her young daughter out loud – and being rewarded for it with a book deal. Is this as much a narrative about mothers and daughters, and our own obsession with women’s bodies, as it is about profiting off our kids? Would anyone be interested if this was a story about a little boy who needed to lose weight? Isn’t the audience here really women – not parents – and isn’t our job as mothers to raise confident, strong, self-assured little girls?

Plastering an 8-year-old across magazines and the internet, and writing a book about her calorie consumption and excluding her from Pizza Night on Fridays strikes me as abusive.

Again, do stop reading moi if you plan to buy this book.

I can’t help but wonder this: Are we a schizophrenic culture, especially when it comes to eating? Recall two months ago the mommy blogging rage that swept the country in response to a Georgia hospital’s campaign to fight childhood

The Georgia Anti-Obesity Campaign dismantled by Mommy Bloggers. Photo Credit: Strong4Life

 obesity because their tactic was shame. The Strong4Life campaign featured obese kids with tag lines like “WARNING: It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not.” The mommy bloggers generated 23 million impressions on Twitter in one hour – lambasting this campaign – because it was effectively shaming obese children. Medical expert after expert  was quoted stating that publicly shaming children never works. Ultimately, the social media grassroots effort, all in the name of defending children, was successful and the hospital took down their campaign ads.

How does this fit against this current news? Apparently, when you write a piece as a mother for Vogue, the publishing industry is salivating over you as the next hot book turned best-seller but a hospital is taken to town by public outcry? Ultimately, what is different about the approaches?   One features visibly obese children and is shocking while the other features a thin privileged white girl with her mother.

Ultimately, are we left to conclude that it is okay for a MOTHER to shame her own child, because apparently we’ll pay to read about that, while we Tweet about the Georgia hospital?

Can we resume our Twitter rage and this time direct it at the publishing industry? #EnoughWithTheCrap

I can’t figure it out. I’d like to believe the publishing world has it all wrong and we, the general public, really don’t want a book like that and we don’t want to continue to encourage more parenting books in this vein. But for an industry that doesn’t make money easily, clearly they must believe there is a huge appetite for this sort of hypocrisy.

 “If it’s not a little countercultural, then what’s the point of doing the book?” said editor Cassie Jones in Sunday’s NYT piece. “There’s something about these books on parenting that gets people angry,” continued Jones in Sunday’s article. 

But again, I am left wondering, what is the purpose in getting people angry? Is the purpose just making money? So then back to the general parenting-consuming public – why do we buy it? Is it for the same reason we watch Supernanny, because it strokes our own egos that we aren’t this horrible? What about the kids?

And from the publishing house who inked the deal with Weiss: “Asked about the book deal, Libby McGuire, the publisher of Ballantine Bantam Dell, the division of Random House that acquired Ms. Weiss’s book, wrote in an e-mail: “Indeed there is a new and important category of parenting narratives that examines all aspects of raising children today, which is why we were early on so interested in talking with Dara-Lynn Weiss about her perspective, and ultimately acquired her memoir. Clearly her story and the issues she’s exploring have resonated with so many people, and we look forward to publishing Weiss’s book.”

Code for: the audience for parenting books are hungry wolves whose appetites are only satiated by over-achieving privileged women who shame their children, ridicule American parenting styles and produce successful outcomes by their own personal definitions – not by the definitions of their children. Is this really an “important category of parenting narratives?”

True, I like to trash it on my blog but I will not buy it. I hope you’ll join me in this ban.

#EnoughWithTheCrap

Unless it’s an April Fools Joke……

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3 Responses to New Chapter in Parenting Lows: Let’s Publicly Shame our Kids and Profit from It
  1. jodifur
    April 1, 2012 | 7:57 pm

    I am so glad you wrote this. I was too busy trying to pick my head off the desk to put coherent thoughts like this on a page.

  2. Nicole
    April 1, 2012 | 11:52 pm

    This woman should be investigated by child protective services not awarded a book deal. As if our daughters didn’t have enough pressure. It’s upsetting on many levels.

  3. Jessica McFadden - A Parent in America
    April 2, 2012 | 1:24 pm

    I’m so with you – I promise not to buy it (or even check out of the library, where I pray it is not a popular hold).

    What horrified me was that after meeting with the pediatrician, she forced her child on a *crash diet*, rather than simply preparing healthy meals, purchasing healthful snacks and encouraging family bike rides. Any overage would have worked itself out in its own time.

    And notice how her child is laying on her stomach in the photo. Did her mother style the pose? Revolting.

    Hopefully this girl is not scarred for life. If she ends up liking to write, she is assured a personal essay in Vogue on how she survived meals with that mother.

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