Maria Kang (the “What’s Your Excuse?” lady) is in hot internet waters again this week. Hot enough to result in a temporary ban from Facebook after a vent she posted was flagged as “hate speech” by another user. The vent was sparked by the “Regular Women” campaign launched by Curvy Girls Lingerie where owner, Chrystal Bougon, beckoned “regular” women to post pictures of themselves in lingerie on the store’s Facebook community page (note: “regular” meaning you wear a size 14 or larger). In her post, Maria expressed her frustration over “[t]he popular and unrelenting support received to those who are borderline obese (not just 30-40lbs overweight).”
After learning about the original hoopla over her much publicized “What’s Your Excuse?” meme, I not only liked her community page- I even blogged in her defense. This go-round, well, Maria’s lost me. As someone who lived a good chunk of their life as actually obese (let’s not be gentle here, there was no “borderline” about my obesity), I was not the benefactor of any “popular and unrelenting support” for my weight. When I wasn’t feeling invisible, I was the subject of glares or stares, whispers & smirks, “helpful” diet tips or even the occasional “hey there fatty!” yelled out of car windows by anonymous passersby. I was summarily rejected for dating, friendships, job opportunities & promotions. I was assumed lazy or unworthy. I was the recipient of the often silent, sometimes spoken sentiment- “but you’d be so pretty if you just lost weight.”
In her second non-apology apology (entitled aptly enough “Sorry but not sorry”), she went on to write, “[W]hen we normalize being unhealthy we create complacency to positively change.” Point taken Ms. Kang. There’s a dangerously fine line between self-acceptance and apathy. I touched upon this subject in the Accept portion of my Get Real post last year. However, I don’t believe women sharing pictures of themselves in lingerie is “normalizing” being unhealthy. Let’s face it- obesity is fast becoming the new “normal” in our nation and several others. Whether or not people post pictures of themselves, obesity still exists. Just as a tree still makes a sound even when there’s no one present to hear it, so too do obese people exist even if there are no pictures of them in their skivvies floating around on Facebook.
And yes, there are even folks who fit into the borderline obese category who are, by all accounts, healthy individuals. Automatically equating borderline obese with unhealthy would be just as foolish & short-sighted as automatically equating all those in a “healthy” weight range as actually healthy. You can be within a healthy weight range and still suffer from diabetes, heart disease, cancer, you name the illness, you can get it. The number on the scale or the size of your clothes is thankfully not the sole determining factor of your overall health.
While I find Maria’s recent commentary more than a tad misguided (and even a touch self-righteous), it is so far from the realm of hate speech that the resultant ban was absurd. Anyone who spends any amount of time on Facebook has likely encountered way more offensive stuff than that of Maria’s very tame venting- she didn’t even utter the dreaded “f” word as in fat. Just because your feathers get ruffled by something someone writes doesn’t mean you should flag it as hate speech. Like the owner of Curvy Girls herself even said in an interview with Yahoo! Shine, “seriously, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But my page is our little space in the cyber world. If you don’t like what we are doing, move on to the next page.” If you don’t like what Maria Kang says, don’t like her page. Simple.
Hate speech, big fat no. Yes, I’ll use the f word here. Maria (bless her heart) was just expressing her opinion and here on my own forum, I’ll express my own. Big girls posing in lingerie don’t annoy me. Confidence, in any size, shape or color is amazing & lovely to me. Even if I had the guts to publicly post a picture of my then 240 pound self in lingerie to a Facebook community page and received a flood of positive comments, it would mean little compared to the day-to-day real life struggles & discrimination I faced as an obese woman. I would not mistake the comments and likes of a handful of well-meaning & like-minded strangers as “popular and unrelenting” support of me in my size 24/26 panties. I may have been young then, but I wasn’t naïve. Maybe I would have felt empowered for a bit…but only until I received that first nasty comment, the inevitable “hey there fatty!,” this time not uttered through a car window to last a mere moment but typed out from a keyboard and lingering in cyberspace for all to see, possibly permanently . And I would have deleted my picture, shut down my computer and cried, like I did so many times after being rejected, judged or devalued simply because of my weight.
Unlike Maria, I don’t find myself annoyed by the new “normal” or “regular” in this country. Rather, I find myself profoundly saddened by the fact obesity IS the new “normal”, the new “regular.” It’s painful for me to see so many others out there who are severely overweight and obese. I know what it’s like to live that way. I get sad and I get angry at everything that has led up to this new normal– the mass production & marketing of craptacular processed food, urban sprawl & car dependency, the astronomical increase in fast/convenience food options. And don’t even get me started on 100 calorie snack packs or The Biggest Loser…now there, you’ll coax out some truly hate-filled speech.