What’s your excuse? A non-attack on Maria Kang
Out of understanding and respect for those who find the Maria Kang Whats your excuse meme upsetting Im not reposting it here. A quick google search if you havent seen it will bring you up to date. Though, if you follow any fitness professionals, this meme is probably not news.
So heres what happened Maria Kang is a fitness professional who took a photo in revealing workout clothes with her 3 young children, showcasing her lovely abs and low body fat percentage with the caption Whats your excuse? And then, well it pissed a lot of people off. I so get that. Women, primarily mothers, felt the memes question was What is your excuse for not looking like me? And given that she isnt actually doing anything physical, its really hard to gather another message. Folks defending her either didnt feel attacked by the meme, and some actually felt inspired by it (which I assume was her intent, though the wording maybe didnt convey that). The inspiration might be a reaction more like, Wow, if she can look like that after having 3 kids and while caring for them, SO CAN I!! YAY!
The trouble is, you cant look like Maria Kang. Maria Kang looks like Maria Kang. Her body is a complex result of whatever she does with her body and her genetics.
The trouble for me is two fold. One, the original message of the meme, if it intends to inspire folks with children to workout, is that she isnt doing that. She is posing looking beautiful (and I do think shes beautiful, just for the record). If she was pushing some sort of triple jogger stroller contraption up a hill I might be more inspired. So my excuses so far are 1) Im not Maria Kang and 2) I dont have a photo-shoot.
The second issue is the presumption that unfortunately a lot of people make, that if one simply does all the things that someone else does they will have the same results. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but that is simply not true. My sister and I, for example, have about as closely related genetics as two people who arent twins can have and regardless of our behaviors, we have very different bodies. She gets to have leaner thighs and I get to have curvier hips. Its all good.
The other piece, that you may or may not want to fist pump with me about, is the backlash shes experiencing makes me sad. I know as well as anyone that when you take to the internet and post photos and messages that you cannot control how people respond. While it is sometimes difficult to deal with the hateful messages I sometimes receive, I know that regardless of how positive and uplifting I intend to be, people react differently than I might intend. Some folks really dont like me. Some folks decide to make sure they attack me, making very clear all the things they hate about my body and my insights instead of simply unliking. And sometimes? That make me defensive.
When this happens I have a strict rule of walking away. If youve ever seen me respond to attacks, you will find that I am compassionate and kinder than the message I receive. But sometimes that is only possible because I ran, literally, far and long away from the computer. I run and run until I am able to not attack back. I do not want to live my life feeling defensive.
Every way that I have seen or read Maria respond to the onslaught of (some kind and thoughtful, some gut-wrenchingly mean) responses to her meme have lacked compassion. She reasonably attributes others reactions to their own feelings, however does not consider how she may have made people feel, even if it wasnt her intent. But Im not mad at her for this. Shes a busy mom with three kids who is feeling attacked and behaving defensively. I dont say this to excuse the awful feelings I know she has incited within so many mothers who felt belittled by her meme. However the issue here isnt Maria Kang, she is just the woman of the hour to attack for it. Instead of a headless ab model, here we have a person with a face and a name with a message that simply does not resonate with a lot of people.
Even though that message feels honestly down right icky to me, regardless of her intent, I dont feel compelled to attack her. Instead, I prefer steer as clear and far away from those kinds of messages in my life. Personally, I dont like fitness magazines, mainstream fitness gurus and any facebook page that constantly asks what my excuses are. Im not upset about them. As vile as the question has sounded to me in the past (Former self: whats my excuse? Well, Im depressed and have no idea how to manage it, Im overwhelmed with my life, I hate my body and it wont seem to change no matter how much I starve and abuse it. Im freaking miserable. But thanks for showing up with your abs to make me feel bad!!!) it doesnt make me feel badly anymore.
Im not asking you to like her, be her friend, have a play date. Im not even asking you to forgive her if she made you feel bad. Im merely suggesting that attacking her might not make you feel better. Rather you believe she deserves that or not. And that perhaps whats happening here is that you are finding that a whole notion of the mainstream fitness industry, that you too could look like a figure model if you tried, feels abusive and not uplifting to you. So lets just move the hell on. Maria is may or may not begin to feel more compassionate about the sort of reasons my former self would have felt bullied by her. She is probably less likely to find that compassion in the midst of being beat over the head with it and called awful things. But its a message sent often by the industry, and the message is the problem regardless of the messenger.
So Id like to answer her question.
Honor your life. If you are in a dark place for any of the many reasons we find ourselves there, I hope you find your way out. If you are overwhelmed or depressed or up against extremely difficult odds, I really hope for you that you will find some peace. If you are simply feeling stuck in your routines and unable to make changes right now towards taking better care of yourself, I hope that you find a way to prioritize yourself. I believe that taking care of your body and your soul is so very important. And if your life doesnt feel like there is room for you in it, I hope, in your own time and with your own knowing, you find a way to put yourself back on your list of priorities. There was a time in my life where I didnt see a way out. Where I felt completely trapped in my body and helpless to do anything about it. The way out for me was wanting to teach my daughter how to be a woman who takes care of herself. I couldnt have given myself or her a better gift. But as wholly and honestly as that is my personal truth, I understand and fully acknowledge that our lives, our stories and our challenges are all different. So I offer support and encouragement. I have no judgement for you. Our lives are our own to live, and my only hope for you is that you find all the beauty in it, and live it in a way that feels good to you and not spend it hating yourself because you dont look like someone else.