“What’s Your Excuse?” the headline reads, under a photo of a gorgeous woman, clothed in nothing but a sports bra and booty shorts, showing off an incredibly toned body. At her feet are her three young children, ages 8 months to three years.
And so began a firestorm of controversy.
After posting the now viral photo on Facebook, Maria Kang, a 32 year old California mom, has received over 16,000 comments of both support and outrage. Rants from insulted bloggers pepper the internet, accusing her of being a bad mom for focusing on her body instead of raising her kids, being a ‘bully’, being a poor role model, perpetuating the unreasonable expectations society places on women and for “fat shaming” those that don’t have the perfect size 2 body. Yet, others find her an inspiration.
Kang, owns two businesses, started a non profit fitness organization, is a former fitness competitor and beauty queen as well as a recovering bulimic. Kang’s blog is intended to motivate and inspire people with her own personal stories and insights.
“I wanted to inspire people,” she explains, adding that the “What’s your excuse?” part was simply a borrowed, popular phrase that’s been used in various “fitspiration” campaigns. “I wanted to say, ‘I know you think you don’t have time if you have kids. But if I can do it, you can do it, too.’”
Kang gets up at 5:30 every morning to run, she eats healthily, raises three boys, takes care of a husband that is unable to work due to a traumatic brain injury, volunteers her time teaching Mommy fit classes and after school programs, all the while finding time to workout twice a day. After reporting the image on her website, she attached what she admits is a “non-apology:”
“I’m sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way. I won’t go into details that I struggled with my genetics, had an eating disorder, work full time owning two businesses, have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer,” she wrote, in part. “What I WILL say is this. What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s yours. 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.”
Is this another case of “haters” who resent the success of others? I think ‘we’ in the photography industry are no strangers to criticism and negativity on content that we’ve posted. Many people see the need to ‘share’ their opinions on anything and everything and feel that is their prerogative. Yet, those same people fail to see that in their comments and outrage (usually of the snarky nature), they are perpetuating the negativity that swirls around us and brings the industry down as a whole. Why must certain people feel the need to spread hatred and anger, completely disregarding the feelings and intentions of others?
Kang has been directly attacked, being called a bad mother and a bad person. And for what? Being proud of her body and her accomplishments? For trying to inspire people to work out? Could she have posted a tagline that was more delicate, humble and politically correct? Sure she could have. If she posted that photo with a tag line like, ” You Can Do It!” would we be having this discussion? No. Very likely, the photo would’ve gotten a few likes and disappeared in the vapid abyss of social media. The purpose of this image for Maria Kang was to inspire, but the ultimate intention was to promote her website and business. I am not going to fault her for that. I’m certainly not going to question her abilities of motherhood based on one photo of her and her kids.
On a side note, as for the issue of perpetuating society’s unreasonable expectations for our young women about their bodies? In my opinion, as a mom of a daughter, I ultimately have the responsibility and privilege to teach my 8 year about how to cultivate a healthy body image. Sure, she sees the magazine covers of nearly anorexic Photoshop models airbrushed to perfection, but she also has not only been taught about eating healthy foods and exercising to feel great, she sees it as an example in my life. It is my duty as the parent to teach my daughter about her self worth. She wants to emulate me, not some model on a magazine cover.
If I had a body like Maria Kang, you can bet I’d flaunt it all over social media. MY EXCUSE, Maria Kang, is because I can’t say no to that chocolate cake and I hate running. So, I’ll embrace my stretch marks, my post baby belly pooch, the little patches of cellulite and be inspired for your perseverance and dedication to work hard to look like that after having three kids.
This article has unintentionally turned into mini rant, but I am curious to know how you interpret Maria Kang’s photo? Is it inspirational? Is it insulting? I also would love to hear your thoughts about haters in the industry in general. Feel free to comment below. Haters, I also welcome your opinion.