It was interesting to see the renewed media attention and criticism for old content. How these firestorms get started I don’t completely understand. I read Maria Kang’s blog, am a fan of the facebook page, and in my opinion the criticism against her is unjustified for many reasons. Thoughts:
1. Freedom of Speech: Someone posts a photo to their facebook page for their followers. The image could have said ‘get the fuck off your lazy ass and work out’ and I still wouldn’t have had a problem with it. I may not have followed that page, but people interact with their followers in various ways.
2. Inaccurate criticism: if you are going to bash someone, at least get your facts straight. I watched Maria go on the morning talk shows to defend herself, having to correct the morning before rantings of the talk show hosts saying ‘she gets paid to be fit’ it’s not fair. Maria hasn’t been a personal trainer for ten years, and runs her own non profits. I don’t even see how that is relevant though. Personal trainers don’t train with their clients. They may be at the gym, which cuts out the driving time, but it’s not like they are getting in a good squat workout alongside their struggling client. ‘hold on a sec, be right with you, just gotta finish this set’. No. There was also a lot of negativity from women – saying she is airbrushed, doesn’t show her stretch marks, has good genes, etc. Anyone who follows the page knows that she posts plenty of photos showing stretch marks, non touched up photos etc. Photoshop is different than touched up. Having a professional photographer take your photo with the intent of using it publicly means that you want it to look it’s best. Touching up a photo is not the same as taking 15 pounds of the hips, and elongating someone’s legs, neck, or whatever for a magazine. Let’s be clear what Photoshop is, and where we draw the lines.
3. Fat shaming: No. Why? Why would it be? This is an image of healthy woman, with a love of fitness who is working to inspire others. She overcame an eating disorder to become a healthier person, and openly discusses the dangers of unhealthy eating and low self-esteem. One of her critics on the Geraldo Show said that we have a problem with fat shaming, and she goes into schools to try to make kids more open to different body types. Yes. Kids are fucking mean. That is a huge issue in schools and our society as is body image and the people we put onto billboards, show in school curricula, and idolize. Acceptance means you accept every body type, not just one. Being skinny doesn’t mean you are healthy, and being fat doesn’t make it all ok. I saw the image to the right on Melissa Sarah Wee’s facebook page and completely resonated with it. The movement against fat shaming doesn’t have to be thin shaming. It should be about just simply loving your body, and supporting people to love themselves and be comfortable in their own skin.
People are dying from weight related disease, from unhealthy eating, getting diabetes at an alarming rate, etc. You can still lovingly tell your family member that you are concerned about their health without calling them ugly. Health does not need to be connected to appearance, yet we choose to make it that way. We choose to be a society where image and status is a sacred standard, and self-esteem is elusive.
4. Nutrition is bigger than fat shaming: “Why don’t people just eat better?” Is it the parents’ fault? Kids’ fault? WHO’S FAULT? We want someone to blame. There is a lot of blame to go around. But lets not forget society structures that makes this really a bigger and much more complicated issue than body image. High poverty neighborhoods lack grocery stores, there is a much higher concentration of fast food chains, not to mention the cost of healthier food is more expensive. It’s also about education, and knowing what is healthy and what isn’t. If you grow up in an unhealthy household, it’s likely that trend will continue. Taste buds are developed in the womb so you can be predisposed to crave unhealthy foods literally before you are even born. This is continued and furthered in the early stages of childhood. People lack choice. In most developing countries, the areas with high poverty rates tend to be more obese. Rice and fried food are cheap, provide sustenance, and are consumed daily, which also causes major health issues for communities that can least afford it. This isn’t just about being teased for being over weight. This is about income disparity, lack of resources, and communities around the world with a health crisis.