'Dear Santa' Sign Stirs Controversy

·Writer

Most girls have long lists for Santa: a bike, an Elsa doll, a brand-new backpack. That sort of thing. Not, we hope, a skinny figure and wads of cash.

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Photo courtesy of WPTV West Palm Beach

But one mom posted on Facebook a photo of this sign, which she saw in a Florida Dillard’s girls department: “Dear Santa, This year please give me a big fat bank account and a slim body. Please don’t mix those two up like you did last year. Thanks.”

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The sign was shared more than 400 times, according to WPTV in West Palm Beach, and quickly grew criticism for sending the wrong message. “What would a little girl want with a bank account?” shopper Sally Stewart asked WPTV. “It gives the wrong message about having a slim body. That’s not the message we want to give our kids.”

Dillard’s told WPTV that the sign was put in the Girls department in error, and has since directed all stores to remove the sign from sales floors entirely. Still, Dr. Robyn Silverman, body image expert and author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsessions is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It, says the sign should never have made it into stores in the first place. “It’s time for retailers to stop making a joke out of women’s body image,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “If it was placed there by mistake, that’s a really big error. When a sign is posted like that it sends the message that this would be an appropriate thing to wish for, so much so that someone wrote it down, posted it and made sure that they could see it.” 

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Silverman says parents should use this sign – or any media images that send the message that your body’s size and shape is the most important thing about you – as a teaching opportunity. “Ask questions. ‘What do you think about the sign? Why would someone make a sign like this? How does it make you feel?’” she says. “Retailers and advertisers use these kinds of messages to make us feel bad so we’ll buy more from them to make his wish come true.”

And while the sign may have been intended as a seasonal joke, the effect lingers long after the Christmas trees have come down, says Silverman. “Every time we receive a message like this— and we do over and over and over again — it hammers home the message that the most important thing to wish for is a thin body not just at holiday season but year ‘round,” she says. “We want our children to realize that the most important thing about them is who they are—their character, strength, and what they bring to the table. Their body is a vehicle to relay these gifts, it is not who they are.”