Remember the "Fit Mom" blogger Maria Kang? The woman who wrote the oft-dissected fat-shaming "What's Your Excuse?" post? Well, she's back in the news. And, this time, she's objecting to Curvy Girl Lingerie and its "Real Women" campaign. You know, the one that encourages real women to take pictures of themselves in their underwear, restrictive beauty standards be damned. The powerful campaign allows women to celebrate their bodies even if they don't fit in with society's ideal image of how those with XX chromosomes should look, so of course Kang is unhappy, and she took to Facebook to express her disapproval.
"While I think it's important to love and accept your body," Kang wrote, "I was a little peeved because while I feel like it's ok to love and accept your body, I think that we're normalizing obesity in our society." The comments went viral and were reported to Facebook as hate speech, causing Kang's account to be shut down. Two days later, Facebook restored it, saying it had made a mistake, but the offending comments did not reappear.
Now, to be fair, I really don't think that Kang's words were hate speech. It is absolutely, 100 percent possible for body-shaming comments to rise to the level of hate speech, but, here, Kang's comments don't. They were certainly hurtful, but the idea that we are normalizing obesity is an opinion, and one she should be allowed to express. (Hey, First Amendment, y'all.)
But that doesn't make Kang's opinion any less wrong. Last time I turned on my TV, opened a magazine, went online, or generally interacted with modern America, I'd say we're not normalizing obesity. In fact, we're still normalizing the sleek and slim body type that Kang herself is so proud of. Gisele Bündchen continues to be the ideal; post-baby Kim Kardashian — who, it should be noted, looks normal and healthy — continues to be our object of ridicule. Obesity continues to regularly shamed, often by Kang herself.
The thing Kang seems to be missing is not just how prevalent fat-shaming is, but how restrictive beauty ideals in our culture are. We are constantly bombarded with thin, white, women with conventionally attractive features held up as beautiful while everyone else is given the occasional nod. It's a detrimental attitude in a world where women are often judged by their looks. Just look at this summer's study from Rice University, which found that women deemed conventionally prettier are bound to leave a better impression on prospective employers.
Projects like Curvy Girl's "Real Women" campaign or the feminist selfie hashtag that swept through Twitter last week are admirable ways for women to change the narrative. They're ways that women with the audacity to promote change can boldly declare that they are worth looking at the way they are. They don't need to conform to conventional beauty standards. And unlike Maria Kang, these women seem capable of being proud of their bodies without telling anyone else to be ashamed of theirs.
Image: Wikipedia Commons