21 October 2013

10 Reasons Why Maria Kang Is Wrong Wrong Wrong

I don't work out. I lift my kids.
So I have biceps, but not a taut tummy.
Also, I don't know how to Photoshop out my nipples.
(Photo by Kevin Miller)
... and one bonus one!

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this.)

1) “What’s Your Excuse?” My job isn’t fitness, and my body is not an ad for my business.

2) Some of us have priorities other than appearing fuckable to 20-year-old guys.

3) Not all of us have a stay-at-home-husband. Or a partner at all. Or relatives who can take the kids anytime for free. Or money for sitters. Or access to licensed, good quality day care. Gee, you know what might help with that? Universal child care.

4) Why don’t all moms work out while their kids are playing at the park? Maybe because they are enjoying a moment to themselves. Maybe because they are trying to have a little adult social life as a break from being around children all day. Maybe they have kids who demand a lot of attention. And maybe women who make different choices than you have completely legitimate reasons for doing so.

5) Being skinny isn’t the same as being fit.

6) Over-exercising is a thing.

7) Fat-shaming is bad for everybody. Including the children. Maybe especially for the children.

8) Different bodies are different. It makes my heart ache to think that Kang has struggled with an eating disorder in a quest to attain the societal ideal of a “perfect” body. Maybe if we didn’t define “beauty” in such a narrow band along the spectrum of our body shapes and sizes, no girl would push herself to such extremes to look a certain way.

9) You know another Asian-American woman who has struggled with an eating disorder? Margaret Cho. Cho has coped with this through being a bad-ass feminist and GLBT advocate. Instead of internalizing norms of feminine beauty, she has dedicated herself to challenging and dismantling them. I know which solution I’d rather choose.

10) My tummy is no longer taut because my abdominal wall stretched out when I grew two human beings inside of me. Maybe we, as a culture, should try to honor these bodies that have created life. Doesn’t that have its own beauty?

And the bonus reason Maria Kang is wrong wrong wrong:

11) Now I have to explain that not all hapa-Pinays from SacTown are like this. 

Not enough reasons? Don’t worry, theres plenty more.

Special thanks to HapaMama Grace Hwang Lynch and Cynthia Liu of K-12NN for the thought-provoking Facebook dialogues that led to this post.


  1. kkkkk. She's just another person who doesn't over think anything. Or really think through it at all. This term the best part of my life has been teaching 8 students to be critical media consumers. They're getting better and better at analysis and decoding. Hopefully they will never just blindly accept what society pushes on them in the media again. Sadly Ms. Kang has.

    1. I think what gets me the most is thinking about the cycle: How Maria Kang must have felt in a body that wasn't "right," and now that it is, she is likely receiving a ton of positive reinforcement. How could she not decide that exercise is her panacea? And then wish that panacea for every other girl who doesn't get attention and attraction because she's in the "wrong" kind of body? I don't know how far the bulemia might have damaged Kang's body. Margaret Cho had to really hit rock bottom -- kidney failure -- before she could pull back and see the larger picture. But what she's done since then - wow.

      I do think that every child should be taught to be a savvy media consumer. I would say it's far more important than iPads in the classroom. Whatever technology education is implemented in the schools, media education should go hand-in-hand with it!

  2. Thanks for your clear commentary. A quick question . . . #8 refers to an eating disorder. Is that somewhere on her website? I don't recall a reference to that in the original article.

    1. Hi, Brad. It's in her "apology," which is quoted in the Yahoo! article linked in the first line. She wrote:

      “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 businesses, have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer,” she wrote, in part. “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.”

      It's the tone of her "apology" that pushed me over the edge.

  3. You're "fit-shaming" Maria. You're just a hater. And Maria is fit, not skinny. Does your job have to be fitness for you to be fit? Some women aren't fuckable, period - no need to hate MILFs. Why aren't all mom's fit - because they CHOOSE not to and that's fine, but don't go around hating and resenting the moms that CHOOSE to be fit. If you're going to be unfit, just be happy with yourself about the choices you made and stop thinking the world is judging you for it or against it. Some women will always be more beautiful than the rest of us, and that's okay and it's also okay that they celebrate their beauty as well without feeling bad for us uglier sisters. Just deal with it. I wasn't born pretty, I can't change it, and I don't resent beautiful women. I choose to stay fit because it's something I can change about myself for better and by choice, and if I upload a pic like Maria did, so what? Maybe I'll inspire someone the way she did to me. Go, Maria and down with the haters!

    1. I have friends with all kinds of bodies. Some of them work out. Some of them don't. I was a dancer for many years and, frankly, I got pretty ripped. So no, I don't hate fit women. And I don't have an issue with women working out or wanting to be fit. (Maria may be fit, but she's also skinny. Women can be fit and have all kinds of body shapes.)

      I do, absolutely, have a problem with women imposing their values on others and shaming women who don't conform to those values, particularly if those values are ones trumpeted by a patriarchal society. Maria wants to be fit? Fine. Does she want to inspire other women to work out? Fine. But the line where I start to have a problem with her is when she shames and criticizes other women from making choices that are different from hers.

      If she wants to encourage women to work out and eat more healthily, then she could do it more constructively by working for more family-friendly work policies (flex work, sick leave policies, maternity and paternity leave, etc.) and by taking on the food industry that churns out "food-like products" (often with government-subsidized corn) and markets them relentlessly, including to younger and younger children.

      But it's soooo much easier to simply make women feel bad about themselves.

      I'm happy with my body. I feel strong, capable, sexy, graceful, and at home in my body.

      I want to be sure that my daughter eats well, gets lots of time to run around and play outside, and grows up happy with her body, too. Something that would be a lot easier if only ONE type of female body weren't glorified everywhere she looks.

  4. I am so glad I found your blog! As a happa Pinay, myself, I also loved your bonus reason maria Kang is wrong. I hope you stop by my blog, also on parenting, Filipinoness, queerness and radical thought. Your piece on raising your children with gender I could also relate to. Although because my daughter is gender non-conforming at age 8(since being 4) but I have been nervous about outing her on my blog (alot of parents at her school follow the blog). anyway, stop by at brooklynbarangay.wordpress.com.

  5. Hi, brooklynbarangay! Can't wait to check out your blog.

    When I was in college, I had a talk with my dad about being bi. He said he was worried for me because being GLB seemed so hard and like I was exposing myself to so much prejudice and hatred. I told him that, relative to previous decades, being queer didn't seem so difficult. Luckily, I've had few problems with being out.

    But now, as a parent, the experience of having a kid who is non-gender-conforming is completely different. It's easy for ME to be out-and-proud. It's much harder for me to decide on behalf of my child to out him or her. So I hear you! I think you are making the right choice. I'm betting that your daughter is old enough to decide, to a certain extent, for herself, and if not now, then soon.