I don’t really like piling onto things that are universally despised, but I think this one is pretty relevant to our interests at “Feel the Burn,” and also a little more complex than just “oh, my God, why are you being such a colossal wang to your fellow humans?”
Pictured is Maria Kang, who posted this picture to her Facebook page. Shockingly, people did not respond SUPER WELL to it, which could never have been anticipated, and she has now weighed in to inform us she does not have a nanny and does have a job and used to be bulimic and only works out for half an hour a day (“intensely”) and just chose not to use her pregnancies as a time to gorge herself on ice cream, etc. etc.
Which, again, FINE, right, like, you do you? You’re up in the gym, just workin’ on your fitness, and Facebook is your witness. Me too! Sometimes I like to flex in the mirror and say “I’d fuck me” in a husky voice. The world is strange. I am not always the feminist I would like to be.
But one of the reasons Ms. Kang had to update her post to explain her lack of nanny and possession of a job and scaled-back fitness regimen is…DING DING DING…we don’t know her life, so we made…assumptions. Those assumptions made her sad/angry/feel misunderstood.
As Calamity Jane once said: “Join the fuckin’ club of most of us.”
Let’s work through a few obvious, or not-so-obvious things that occurred to me while I read literally every comment on Kang’s post. Two big ones, and then two smaller ones.
1. If she had been holding her PhD diploma, instead of just having a conventionally attractive body, people would have said ‘um, my excuse is that I didn’t want to go to grad school, so it wasn’t important to me?‘ and that would have been totally valid, but we as a society think that having a societally-approved “attractive” body is a goal for all women.
There are people who do not care about the appearance of their body, full-stop.
There are people who find different kinds of bodies attractive.
There are people who, in a vacuum, would like to have a body that looks like Maria Kang’s, but do not care enough about that to make it the focus of their lives.
This leads us to…
2. There are people for whom having a body like Maria Kang’s IS a goal, but not necessarily an attainable one.
(I am deliberately not phrasing this part as “there are LOTS of excuses,” because literally no one in the world needs to excuse themselves for having a body which is different from the body of another human being. There’s nothing wrong with the impulse to chime in with “cancer!” “split shifts!” “ailing mother!” “breastfeeding!” “food desert!” when you see an ignorant-ass meme like this, but in some ways, that only gives credence to the ridiculous premise.)
Hey, I want to make this part super clear: there is this HUGE THING in our culture where people who, by expending a fair amount of effort via food and exercise, can and do adjust their body’s natural weight by 10-15%, and think that this makes them an expert on fatness. That is not the case. I have no interest in getting into a huge conversation about the complex reasons that people are or are not fat, or why people are fatter now than Once They Were in crowd footage from the 1930s, I will just say that I can guarantee you that Maria Kang’s body is not one that everyone could magically have by showing up unannounced at Maria Kang’s house and saying “Maria, I’m here to eat what you eat and do what you do, and I’ll be here until we can pose like twins in that cute little outfit.”
Obviously there are people who have lost and kept off enormous amounts of weight. I am not going to deny their existence. I am also not going to deny the existence of people who are very fat, yet eat 1500 calories a day and also work out “intensely.” I do not know why people refuse to believe such people exist, yet will happily talk about their friend who eats pizza 24/7 and weighs less than Kristin Chenoweth and isn’t that wild?
While we’re on the topic, you can be SUPER-DUPER FIT, and not look anything like this at all. I mean, start Googling female weightlifters and Crossfitters and you’ll see a beautiful rainbow of strong, healthy bodies that may not also look like fitness models. Being a fitness model is a distinct look. That’s cool! Again, I think Maria Kang looks pretty freaking baller, and appears to be very fit. But there are plenty of mega-fit women who look like they could literally eat Maria Kang for lunch. That is why, here at “Feel the Burn,” we talk so much about behaviors, and not appearances or weight.
People have different bodies. To get horsey on you, a Quarter Horse is never going to have the ass of an Arabian, it doesn’t matter what you don’t feed it. To get feminist-y on you, it doesn’t matter. To get nihilistic-y on you, we will all be embraced by the grave and decay into the earth anyway.
3. If she had been actually engaging in exercise in this picture, it would have been a little better.
This is not a picture about being strong or fit. This is a picture about looking a particular way. I think she looks pretty great. I’m not gonna bodysnark on her and say she’s too skinny, or has man-abs, which I’ve seen in the Facebook comments. That’s not the point. But this picture is about being PRETTY. She’s not lifting a weight. She’s not posting a better time on her half-marathon. If you distill your message down to your body, that’s what people are going to take away from it. Not health. Being fuckable in a lad-mag sense of being fuckable. Trust: there are plenty of fat women who have never slept alone in their LIVES unless they felt like it.
4. If she said “Moms, I know where you’re coming from!” instead of “what’s your excuse?”, it would have been a little better.
Being fit is great. If it’s your goal, it can be a real source of pleasure and satisfaction in your life. When you have small children, it’s easy to feel like your body doesn’t belong to you, because it’s being pawed and gnawed on and grabbed constantly by third parties. I felt like a literal cow for about six months, which had nothing to do with my weight, it had to do with standing or sitting in one place while someone or a device tried to extract milk from me. I was eating, or sleeping, or being woken up from sleep, or producing milk 24/7. Being able to carve out time to work out (which is a privilege, GOD KNOWS) was incredible for my sense of self and physical and mental well-being. I love it, I love my body more in my thirties than I ever have before in my life, and I love sharing the gospel of working out with other women who express some interest in hearing about it.
You really don’t have to feel like a bad person because you like exercising, or because you think about your nutrition a lot. Just don’t be a colossal wang about it.
That’s pretty much all I wanted to say about that. I hope you have a lovely day.
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.