Last October, Maria Kang, “Hot Facebook Mom,” surfaced with what many women viewed as fat shaming as she posted a pic of herself, less than a year post-partum with rock hard abs, toned arms and legs, and well to be honest a more toned physique than I could ever hope to have, pre or post baby! In the pic, she is surrounded by her brood of boys all under the age of four; with captions giving their ages and “What’s your excuse?” scrawled across the top of the pic.
Needless to say, she posted this pic and the PC police came out in droves, slamming her for fat shaming. And, to be honest, I felt that way too. My methods of encouragement, with friends, family and even students, usually teeter somewhere between an older sister and a long, lost best friend. I believe in Buddhist philosophy and strive for balance in everything. As a result, for me, her “What’s your excuse?” pic was a little over the top. Additionally, I could see how folks would take offense. And, well, to be honest, the last thing I want on a fat-day is for some skinny, toned chick calling me out. But, that’s just me, right?
Not so much, if you read the original article here, compliments of Yahoo Shine, you can see that Kang received many negative comments that go way beyond my speculative fat shaming assumption. And, while she may have received quite a few positive and supportive comments, she chose to focus on the negative and she then road that wave of negativity into viral fame, establishing quite a following and starting her “No Excuse Mom” campaign. And so, like so many others on the internet, Kang fell into, in my opinion, a shameless, no excuses rollercoaster of self-promotion.
At the beginning of the backlash, she posted a non-apology and went on the record as saying it was ‘hurtful’ that folks called her a bad mother and person. But, don’t you think the proof is in the pudding?
A truly high-class individual would have some restraint as opposed to responding with her ‘apology’ which contained statements like,
“The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn’t create them. You created them. So if you want to continue ‘hating’ this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life” (On Yahoo Shine).
I didn’t hate the image and to be frank, had I seen it without the challenging captions, I would have also quipped “you go girl!” But, I can’t get over how tactless it is to try to inspire with an obnoxious and unattainable challenge and then respond with barely literate sarcasm. That is not inspirational. Seeing my aunt revamp her entire life and be the happiest I’ve seen her in 20 years; that’s inspirational. That, minus the BS caption, inspires me daily to work out.
Here’s more perspective; I teach developmental English. Do you think my students would be inspired if I posted a pic of myself in an authoritative stance, looking down my nose at them with captions like “first generation college student, low ACT scores, poor grammar and writing skills…” and so on with the caption “What’s your excuse?” and pics of my degrees, maybe a list of publications? Nope.
They would feel overwhelmed. Not inspired. So, Miss Kang, from someone who strives to inspire on a daily basis so as to teach the not so sexy subject of grammar…one does not inspire with shameless challenges of those weaker than us. One inspires through love and encouragement. And, she had the chance to do that and perhaps she did with the “No Excuses Mom” campaign. But, I can’t get over…the non-apology, which was more tongue and cheek than anything, and then her subsequent pretty-girl pouting…cause if I’m pretty enough and stick my lower lip out then perhaps they’ll understand. Uh,no.
My take on Maria Kang:
I think initially she was proud of her physique and posted a pic of herself on Facebook like many of us would, but she also missed an opportunity. She missed an opportunity to truly inspire by being arrogant.
And, perhaps she is misunderstood. But, I prefer to think that she is not only misunderstood but also too stupid to realize why. For instance, when confronted with negativity her first response was to be defensive, okay understandable, but then her next move was to attack. And, in a culture like ours with the increase in eating disorders and the overall obesity problem, she missed the opportunity to reach even more people had she just been a little bit smarter and less haughty. And, she’s not done yet. Check out this article on Time, featuring her newest pic where she is practically ‘glowing’ as she glowers at her perceived audience of challengers.
I think that ultimately, there needs to be some responsibility for what we do online, even if it is only personal responsibility. And so, Kang could have accepted this responsibility, as a woman and mother, and dropped her hubris like an out of style cloak and gone in many directions in response to the attention she received. Instead she chose to ride the negative as opposed to nurturing the positive.
In November of 2013, she was temporarily kicked off of Facebook for what they called “hate speech” in a response to Curvy Girl Lingerie’s Facebook campaign encouraging ‘regular’ women to post pics of themselves in lingerie. Kang said, “While I think it’s important to love and accept your body, I was a little peeved because while I feel like it’s ok to love and accept your body, I think that we’re normalizing obesity in our society.” No, we aren’t.
Anyone with common sense knows that obesity is a dangerous health issue and is not one to be normalized; however, anyone with access to the internet can read the most recent scientific evidence that demonstrates that obesity can be genetic, the result of mental illness, the result of other medical conditions, the result of medication and so on. SO, it has been scientifically proven that while obesity is not the ideal, it is, for some, unavoidable and debilitating. Why make folks feel bad about something beyond their control?
Unfortunately, we live in a culture where Anorexia is responsible for more deaths than any other mental illness and the death rate is 12 times higher than any other form of death for women aged 15-24; given this, shouldn’t we all just be more aware? (National Association of Anorexia)
If the statistics aren’t enough, think about young girls; take yourself back to middle school. When I was in the seventh grade, one of my best friends lost a great deal of weight over the summer and so had I. On the first day of school, I told her how awesome she looked and commented on her ‘great’ jeans. Full of solidarity and sisterhood, I expected a similar response. Nope. She said I could borrow those jeans, if and only if I “could get my fat ass into them.”
See, she was so hyped up on where she was that she forgot where she had been. And so, I just request that we take some personal responsibility, act smartly and don’t forget where we’ve been.
It is, after all, all about the journey…