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The “Fit Mom” Controversy refers to the online debate surrounding a Facebook photograph of Maria Kang, a mother of three and fitness blogger, posing in a bikini suit with her children and the caption at the top reading “What’s your excuse?”
On September 17th, 2012, Maria Kang uploaded a studio portrait showing herself in a bikini suit with three of her children to her official Facebook page. The promotional image also contained links to her official website and online fitness instruction guide “No Excuse Program.” In the comments section of the post, many Facebook users praised the photo for being inspirational, while others asserted it was disparaging toward women. In just over a year, Kang’s photo had received over 2,700 likes, 820 shares and 770 comments.
October 2012: Initial Reactions
On the same day, blogger Julie DeNeen posted an article on her personal blog, criticizing Kang’s photo for shaming women into pursuing unhealthy diets. On October 3rd, 2012, Kang appeared on the talk show Good Day Sacramento and defended her Facebook post by saying that it was simply meant to be inspiring (shown below).
On the following day, the mother’s interest blog The Inklings of Life posted an article titled “My Excuses for Not Looking Like Maria Kang After Having Children,” which listed several excuses of a stay-home mother for not being in top physical shape and criticized Kang for posting the photograph.
September 2013: Kang’s Apology
On September 25th, 2013, almost a year later after her original status update, Kang re-shared the photograph to her Facebook Timeline, adding that she has continued to receive negative comments accusing her of “fat-shaming” and “bullying.” Kang went on to defend herself, stating that she is not responsible for the negative interpretations of the photo.
“I’ve been getting an influx of new followers, emails and comments (on my profile pic) recently. Some saying I’m a bully, I’m fat-shaming and I need to apologize for the hurt I’ve caused women. I get it. SO here’s my First and Final 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 business’, have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer. I won’t even mention how I didn’t give into cravings for ice cream, french fries or chocolate while pregnant or use my growing belly as an excuse to be inactive.
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. You can either blame, complain or obtain a new level of thought by challenging the negative words that come out of your own brain.
With that said, obesity and those who struggle with health-related diseases is literally a ‘bigger’ issue than this photo. Maybe it’s time we stop tip-toeing around people’s feelings and get to the point. So What’s Your Excuse? – Maria Kang
News Media coverage
On October 14th, 2013, the news blog Yahoo Shine reported on the photo controversy. On the following day, the women’s interest blog Jezebel published an article about Kang’s Facebook response, referring to it as a “faux-pology.” On October 16th, the hosts of the morning talk show Today discussed the Facebook photo (shown below).
On the same day, several news sites reported on the online backlash surrounding to the photo, including The Daily Dot, The Huffington Post and The Daily Mail, On October 17th, Kang appeared on Today to discuss the photo, in which she argued that her detractors were motivated by a “dialogue that’s happening in that person’s head” (shown below).
On October 16th, 2013, Redditor Jimmyruslte submitted a post to the /r/fitness subreddit, which questioned why women in media were attacking Maria Kang. In the first 24 hours, the post gained over 1,900 up votes and 1,100 comments.
The Huffington Post – Maria Kang Issues Apology Over Viral Fat-Shaming Photo
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