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  • Writer's pictureKaren Law

An open letter to Giles Coren

To Giles Coren,

Thank you for posting your thoughts about your son and family in Esquire on 9th November 2017. Yes, I double checked. Definitely Esquire. Not the Daily Mash or Newsthump.....

After the initial confusion upon realising that your writing was not meant to be funny (it wasn't, was it?) I did more checking and realised that you've written some fairly offensive and controversial articles in the past. Just two of them being fat shaming your wife after she had given birth to your second child, and admitting that while you're "not Jewish by practice" you decided to pay for someone to cut off a perfectly functional part of your son's body. Not your body. HIS... Even though you explicitly mention that you're not sure if he will chose to follow the Jewish faith later in life. Can I just take this moment to suggest you look into bodily autonomy?

Anyway, back to the fat shaming. Of your own son. Really? And explicitly mentioning other people in the limelight. I mean, what have they ever done to you? Apart from being more famous, funnier, more successful..... oh, and not forgetting the fat shaming of your wife previously.

The fat shaming. Yeah.... of a child. He's. A. Child.

Do you know what happens to children when people make comments about their appearance? They often end up with body image issues. When grandmothers constantly tell you to eat more because you're too skinny you end up ashamed of your body and covering up your long slender limbs so no-one can see them (yes, it's not just those who are overweight who have issues). When fathers are "worried as fuck" that their little son could grow up to be fat, what kind of comments are they making to their child because they're more concerned about "how it will reflect" on them? You say you will "unquestionably continue to love (your son) with all (your) heart no matter what". I am not so sure anymore, after reading some of the stuff you write.

Ricki Lake on Embrace

There is a growing epidemic of young people facing social media, film and TV, magazines and fashion houses which are telling them they have to look a certain way, be a certain size, have a certain physique, even think a particular way. But no-one does, not even the models, film stars and celebrities! They are all artfully lit and airbrushed. So it's impossible for us ordinary people to look the way we see those in print or online. But for our own family to be making comments about how we look in the guise of supporting us to be better.. .. well, it just makes me sad. So sad and weary. That kind of insipid negativity just leads to demoralisation, low self esteem, poor body image and comfort eating or, worse still, eating disorders.

You think you know what I'm thinking when looking at that picture of your son? I am most certainly not thinking "Fat little bastard". I'm thinking that I see a little lad still, thankfully, too young to be ashamed of his father for the kind of ignorant, intolerant, bigoted, judgmental man that your writing portrays you to be. I see him playing with you and he looks completely normal. I really hope he grows up well adjusted, maybe despite your apparently awful attitude to him.

So, maybe I have interpreted the article incorrectly. Is it supposed to be tongue in cheek? Is that supposed to be your style? Do you think it funny to slag off your own wife and your son? Maybe you don't really think like that and maybe your wife and son know it's not about them? That you don't really think that about them?

I’m sorry to have to burst your bubble if that’s the case. It most certainly is NOT funny, it’s not helpful and, in fact, it’s very damaging! Some people reading it will either think it’s ok to fat shame and continue to be offensive to others, while many will take it to heart and continue to feel badly about themselves because they see people shaming others about their size or shape, sex, race, religion, ancestry. What you do when you get your judgmental style of writing published is tell others that this kind of attitude is ok. You legitimize body shaming, sexism, misogyny, bigotry, racism.... You can be as obnoxious as you want in private but I, and many others judging by the comments I have seen, do not think it’s appropriate to inflict this on unsuspecting people. If you want to make a difference to people battling with their weight the way to do it is to build up their self esteem, giving them the confidence and resolve to eat healthily and move their bodies more.

I urge you to watch Embrace, a social impact documentary exploring the issues of body image. Maybe then you might begin to understand how important this is. Maybe you might join the conversation, maybe apologise for the damage you are currently doing. Nagging at someone because you deem them to be fatter than what you think acceptable is only likely to lead them to develop an unhealthy negative body image and possibly comfort eat more. Think about it. Due to the pain they feel from your harsh, thoughtless words.


Instead, love them for who they are, for their inner beauty. Inspire them, encourage their creativity, praise their abilities. Be proud of their kindness, show them (by example) how to be genuine and thoughtful. Just don't focus on the outward appearance.

And please, don't try to make a name for yourself by being as obnoxious as you can be. It really is not a good look.

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