Val Chmerkovskiy Sued for Fat Shaming a Little Girl

You Forgot Your BullshitVal Chmerkovskiy is one of the pros on the US television show Dancing with the Stars. His fame on the show has garnered him 365,000 Facebook followers.  That’s a big platform. So it’s too bad that he decided to use it to fat-shame a 9 year old girl with Down syndrome.

He posted a picture of the girl drinking a soda at a baseball game with the caption “Letting your kid become obese should be considered child abuse.” When people pointed out how absolutely inappropriate this was, he responded with the “I have fat friends” defense, saying that his “mother is heavy set” and he thinks she is “the most beautiful woman in the world.”

Then he pivoted to some concern trolling:

I have no desire to discriminate or shame, I just think people should have a little more knowledge and take more responsibility when it comes to their children’s diet. That’s all. It’s not about what I find beautiful or not, it’s about what’s healthy or not. Anyway, thank you.

Thank you?  I’m thinking of a two word phrase, “you” is the second word, but “thank” is most definitely not the first.  This is such bullshit I feel like I need boots to break it down but here goes:

  • Having “no desire to discriminate or shame” doesn’t matter if you are, in fact discriminating and shaming. If you aren’t sure whether posting a picture of a child with a caption fat shaming her is discrimination or shaming, you should probably not post things to social media.
  • If his goal was to give people more knowledge about kid’s health, then his post should have been information about kid’s health.
  • In addition to cheap fat shaming, it’s also cheap stereotyping, for all he knows it could have been iced tea or water in that cup, and even if it wasn’t I’m sure there were plenty of thin kids drinking soda that day who were not photographed for the express purpose of shaming them and making wild accusations about their parents. When you apply an appearance-based double standard you’re discriminating.  Since he has “no desire to discriminate” that should have been a great reason not to post this.
  • You cannot tell how healthy someone is based on their body size. You cannot tell the quality of someone’s parents based on their size.  You cannot tell the quality of a parent by their size.  The only things you can tell about someone based on their size, as Marilyn Wann has very famously said, is what size they are, and what your personal prejudices are about people that size are.

This is what happens in a society where fatphobia is not just accepted but actually encouraged, often by the government. When people are encouraged to join the “war on obesity,” we get people who think it’s actually ok to fat-shame children. Kids come in lots of sizes for lots of reasons and stigmatizing the kids and accusing their parents of child abuse is a stunningly terrible idea. Just ask the parents of Anamarie Regino who was torn from her home at 3 years old.  When she failed to lose weight in foster care it was determined that a genetic disorder caused the weight gain and she was returned to her family. Oddly, parents seem to find “We’re sorry, our bad” to be cold comfort for the pain and loss caused by having their kids ripped out of their home because of the way they look.

The girl’s sister saw the picture that Val posted and was justifiably shocked. It seems that, like so many pictures of fat people, this picture was taken without the girl’s (or her parents’) knowledge or permission, with the express purpose of mocking her. Val took the photographer’s dream of fat-shaming a little girl and gave it the wings of his 365,000 followers. The girl, now 16, and her family are suing the photographer, Val, and CBS (the picture appeared on cbsnews.com) to the tune of $6 million.

Maybe that’s what it will take to make this trend of fat shaming memes based on pictures taken without permission to stop. Maybe if stigmatizing, stereotyping, fat shaming, and making baseless accusations about fat people becomes expensive, it will help those who lack the capacity to treat other people with basic human respect to, if not locate their humanity, at least not visit their issues on the rest of us.

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Published in: on February 2, 2016 at 9:44 am  Comments (25)  

25 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have a daughter with Down Syndrome. Despite a healthy diet she is obese. She is 20 years old. She has friends with DS who come from “thin” families but they are also heavy and when I researched this, I found that people with DS have decreased Basal metabolic rate meaning they don’t burn calories like other people do, they have a propensity to low thyroid function,obesity-increased leptin levels, which are positively correlated with increased body mass index, masticatory dysfunction which may lead to nutritional deficiencies, may also lead the child to eat softer foods, which are often higher in carbohydrates, sugars, fats, and cholesterol ,and cardiac and skeletal defects that prevent rigorous exercise. So shove it Maksim, you might be nice looking on the outside, but you are very ugly on the inside.

    • Except while totally true none of that matters. The actual reason a person has a certain body size means nothing. In fact explaining it could actually make things worse, cause then this jerk is going to say “well that person had Down, that kid next to them looks fine, lemme go along and call that person names, because obviously they have no visible metabolic reason for that body type that I don’t like. I’ll just lay off kids with Down.” Which is not the lesson we wanna teach the jackarse.

      • Such a good point. It doesn’t matter why somebody is fat.

    • Val looks more like big brother Maksim every year and Maksim has his own issues, but Maks didn’t do this one.

    • Hm…could this apply to people like me who have Asperger’s (high-functioning autism), I wonder?

      Some of my relatives, like my maternal uncle, are very thin, while others, like me, are very fat.

      I often wonder how genes work within a family.

      My uncle has always been naturally thin and never had to worry about his weight.

      • nope, apologies. nothing to do with asperger’s at all, unless, perhaps you either feel less socially constructed/constricted & thereby feel less forced to force yourself thin [in which case, kudos] -or- sometimes people with asperger’s become obsessive over one sort of eating over another [an exceptional number of vitamins; an exceptional diversity of chocolate bars. it doesnt matter what. the obsession can be anything].
        sign me,
        ex-sped teacher/SED adolescents & adults,
        —kafkette

  2. I kinda put my mom in her place in a “Say Something Sunday” way when I had dinner at both her and my step-dad’s house on Sunday.

    She felt the need to point out — in front of my man, mind you — that I don’t like healthy food.

    He knows this, but I was pissed off because she didn’t need to draw attention to it, so I confronted her after we ate.

    I ended the confrontation with the statement that my body is not up for discussion and she immediately apologized.

    Sadly, all 3 of them (my man, mom and step-dad) wholeheartedly believe that fat is unhealthy, health and weight are correlated, fat leads to an early demise, et cetera, so there is no convincing them there, but at least she listened to me.

    • Good on you! \o/

  3. Oh my goodness.

  4. I think your first bullet-point is cut off. What was it supposed to say?

    Otherwise, great take-down, and I am SO glad her sister caught it, and that the family is taking up the fight.

    Why do so many people get all up in arms at the idea of a stranger taking a picture of a child, but if they use that picture to fat-shame, then it’s suddenly somehow not creepy or pervy, but is just perfectly OK? NO! It’s not OK!

    Then again, it’s not OK to take a picture of an adult and post it without their permission, and fat-shame them, but it’s even worse when that is done with a child!

    I really hope they win their case.

    • Ah! Thanks for fixing that bullet point. It’s all there and clear now.

  5. Thanks for bringing to my attention. He needs to be slapped upside the head.

  6. I have several friends with Downs kids. As stated above, it part of their makeup. I was with my one friend with her Downs daughter, who at the time was fighting leukemia, another nasty side bar to Downs for some. She was on steroids at the time and was more blown up from all the drugs. Some asshole felt justified in telling my friend that her daughter should go on a diet. I was so pissed, I informed them that A) it was none of their fucking business, and B) I’d like to see how they looked while fighting leukemia. They looked shocked and my friend then told them how offending they were and to quit harassing complete strangers. This kind of crap makes me go right off the deep end anymore. I am sick to death of entitled a-holes. My friend’s daughter was only 11 at the time. Thankfully, she beat the leukemia, and is a wonderful and very functional 19 yr old now.

    • Ugh, that is awful. Whether she had leukemia and was on steroids or not doesn’t even matter. It is totally inappropriate to go up and shame, criticize, or give unsolicited dieting advice to another person, full stop. Also, I am not sure if you are aware of this, but the preferred terminology is “person with Down Syndrome” or “child with Down Syndrome” rather than “Down’s child.” It is also recommended to avoid referring to Down Syndrome as “Down’s.” You can read more here: http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/Preferred-Language-Guide/

  7. I love the fact that a law suit was filed. Just doing that is an act of fat activism. Hopefully they’ll win money big time. Actually anybody who looks different and is viewed on the mass media without their permission might be able to file a lawsuit. Surprisingly obesity has been declared a”‘disease” by the medical profession and although I don’t believe in this classification, It is there and can be used especially when combined with other diseases to make it expensive to fat shame on the media. Many fat trols are encouraged to act by what they hear and see on the media.

  8. I hope they win the lawsuit. When civility and basic respect are thrown out the window, there should be ramifications. With so much money being made making people feel bad about themselves, perhaps one of the only ways to combat it is by making it less profitable.

  9. I hope they win. There are sooooo many reasons why I hope they win, and I’m not going to get into them all.

    Well written post.. kudos

  10. I am so glad that someone is being sued over this crap. I had an aunt with Down’s syndrome who lived a great life, and yeah, she was fat. Like a lot of us in the family. Imagine. I really hope they win the lawsuit.

  11. On a separate issue to fat shaming, when are there going to be laws that say you cannot photograph a minor child without permission (I am not talking about cameras panning a stadium, the parents or adults give permission for that just for being in the building with a ticket.) I’m talking about specifically targeting a kid in a way not expected at the venue. It’s bad enough that they’ve eroded protections for adults in public places (upskirt photos are not considered a violation of privacy in some locations, geez Louise) but seriously,

  12. Often times in our society the best way to get someone’s attention is to reach down their throat and grab their wallets, so I wish lots of luck to the girl’s family.

  13. I’m glad this twat is being sued! Not only did his fat-shaming bullshit cause untold emotional distress, he took someone’s image (without their permission) and used it to draw attention to himself, i.e. profit. As far as I’m aware, that’s illegal in civil courts. For example, if [insert clothing line here] were to take pictures of Ms. Chastain wearing their label in public and then put those pictures in their catalog without her knowledge/permission, they would owe her all the money they’d have paid a model, plus a hefty asshole tax to warn future assholes that such shenanigans will NOT be as profitable as they’d like.

  14. might i say that one of the scariest of the battles being currently fought during this, our oh-so-moral War on Fat People is the singular side issue, the Mocking of Diabetics?
    my friend & i know someone who pretty much has every symptom in the book [“neuropathy runs in the family”], and whose ankle is collapsing—to me this is horrifying—but who refuses no matter what to even have her bloodwork done [i go four times a year, she can go with me, i dont care] but has, instead, decided to eliminate GLUTEN from her diet and not sugar?
    this is not a particularly fat person; it’s not weight that concerns me here [nor would it be], it’s STIGMA. there is no stigma attached to being gluten-sensitive but there is PLENTY to being diabetic.
    it’s just another way the War on Fat People is going to actually KILL fat people. or not so fat people. or anyone who’s afraid of being identified as a member of the Fat People contingent. or anyone who’s ever been mocked about anything, and can take mocking no longer.
    if they’re out for deaths, they’re going to get them.
    DESPICABLE & DISGRACEFUL.

    • I am a Type 2 diabetic and have been for 43 years. I have been very well controlled for much of that time with few complications.
      Type 2 Diabetics are usually fat although not always so.It has been my experience that most primary care doctors I have come in contact with give poor or questionable treatment to diabetics.They encourage lax control for a disease that requires some discipline to achieve successful treatment. That does not necessarily demand weight loss. I have been obese for much my diabetic time. Many diabetics who are fat are uncomfortable going to doctors as is your friend.Many skip pills and insulin, eat poorly and are unaware of the consequences until it is to late.Many turn to quack remedies which are prevelant. Fat patients in general are treated poorly by most doctors, and if the disease is associated with being fat in some way, they often give shoddy treatment at best.This clearly is a form of Fat Discrimination which is part of a concerted effort on the part of this society to eradicate fat people.

  15. I’ve followed the story of Anamarie Regino for years. It just boggles me how obsessed people can be with weight. Never mind that this child was also half again as tall as she should have been for her age. Yes, you read that right, one and a half times as tall. Never mind that she was also cutting teeth bizarrely early. Her only problem must have been overfeeding because fat!

    Because an extra bottle of formula (gosh, could that possibly have been needed to support her enormous HEIGHT? Gee I wonder) gave her fat teeth, yup.

    • Seriously, it’s terrifying. Anamarie wasn’t just taken from her parents, her actual medical issues were ignored and left untreated for months… *on nothing but the word of a single person.* I think that’s horror movie material and I don’t even have kids.


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