This weekend’s episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians was a pretty eventful one, even by Kardashian standards. The family took a surprise trip to Vail, Colorado, where there was much reminiscing about their late father Robert Kardashian, an awkward confrontation with Tyga, AND the revelation — via social media! — that their brother Rob had asked his girlfriend Blac Chyna to marry him without telling anyone in his family.
And yet, amidst all this drama, one seemingly minor moment in a casual conversation stood out as a teachable moment: at one point in the episode, Kris Jenner asks Kourtney, “Do I look fat?” Kourtney, between bites of salad, says firmly, “Don’t use that word in front of my daughter, please.”
Kourt went on to say her son uses the word “fat” all the time — in fact, it’s his choice insult to hurl at the paparazzi that constantly document his family.
Banning the word “fat” is a bold move, especially in a family as image-conscious as the Kardashians, and we applaud Kourtney for being proactive in supporting healthy ideas about body image for her daughter, Penelope, who is three. Kourt obviously understands how important it is to be aware of how we talk about our bodies in front of our children. After all, girls are especially susceptible to mirroring the unhealthy attitudes and behaviors they see in their mothers.
At the same time, we can’t help but wonder if villainizing the word “fat” is, in a roundabout way, contributing to the problem. The idea that “fat” is an insult or a bad word actually propagates our culture’s harmful ideas about what it means to be fat. At age 6, Mason already understands that calling someone “fat” is a mean thing to do, because it’s not only a comment about appearance — it’s a quick way to roll up all our negative connotations of fatness into a one-syllable insult. Calling someone fat, in our culture, is a quick way to call them lazy, unattractive, worthless, gluttonous, etc, etc. “Fat” is an ugly word but only because we, as a culture, have decided it is.
This is probably why Kourtney doesn’t like her mom using the word, and again, we love seeing her try to protect her daughter from soaking up harmful body image ideas and habits. If this is the best way to make sure her daughter doesn’t start using “fat” as a catchall for negative self-talk, then more power to her.
It’s worth remembering, though, that “fat” is just an adjective, no different than “thin” or “blonde” or “tall” or “tan.” And in the future we hope we, as a culture, can get to a place where it’s not considered a bad word at all.