I opened my Facebook this morning and apparently I'm supposed to be upset over the photo fitness enthusiast Maria Kang posted of herself, her abs and her children on her Facebook page (more than a year ago). Well, I'm not upset but I am disappointed. People are outraged. How dare she put up a picture like that! Kang has been labeled a bully and frankly I don't think that's fair.
Folks, it seems some of us, myself included, need to put the Internet on pause, go make a good cup of coffee and take some deep breaths. Maria Kang is not stretch mark shaming. She's not trying to make you feel bad about yourself. She's certainly not a bully. I feel what's happening here is her photo has poked the bear. Or, more specifically, the 'What's Your Excuse?' tagline used on the photo has.
Am I carrying around extra weight? Definitely. Do I have body image issues? Yep. Do I wish I were living a more active lifestyle? For sure. Are any of those Maria's fault? Not in the least. When I look at Maria's photo and read the tagline, it doesn't make me mad. Good for her for working so hard at something that is obviously important to her. Whatever jealousy, insecurity or anything else that makes me feel even slightly 'less than' when I look at her picture is all on me. They're part of my issues. In fact, she's right. My personal answer to her tagline question is, "I don't have any excuses." I have several reasons, but no excuses.
I feel that people (okay, women) are letting their insecurity, maybe a little guilt at not being more fit, maybe even a little anger at how often we feel we're not able to put ourselves first determine what filters they're looking at Maria's photo through. I would bet money that everyone who has a problem with the caption reads it as 'what's YOUR excuse?' and, through the little voice in their head, the word 'your' has been assigned a judgey, snarky tone. I read it as a straight question, with no emphasis on any of the words. It's all about perspective.
I also wonder how many people who are upset over the photo also have Words of Wisdom Pinterest Boards filled with quotes like, 'no one is in charge of your happiness but you;' 'the control center of your life is your attitude' or the biggie 'no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.'
If you're one who has had a visceral reaction to this situation, ask yourself: has Maria harmed you in any way? Threatened you? Do you feel there is an imbalance of power? Are you intimidated by her? Physically harmed? I could go on but I think you get my point. Please stop referring to Maria as bully. It dilutes the word and diminishes the experiences people, particularly children, are having with actual bullying.
"It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school everyday due to the fear of attack or intimidation by other students - 2 out of 3 teens are verbally or physically harassed every year. - 58% of teens have had hurtful things said to them online and over 40% say it’s happened more than once."
Our children are in crisis. They're experiencing depression, missing school and attempting and committing suicide because they're being bullied. This is not okay! I think the word bully is being used more and more as a catchall phrase and it's doing more harm than good. I think there's a fine line between someone being mean and being a bully.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Take a moment to reflect on the word bully and what it means to you. Think about how you're using the word and in what situations. What terminology and phrasing have you used when talking with your children about bullying? Bullying is serious. We need to treat it seriously. Please don't use the word so casually. Our children are counting on us and we can't afford to have the word lose its true meaning.
For information on bullying visit Pacer.org, Stomp Out Bullying.org, National Education Association.org and StopBullying.gov. Quoted statistics from Do Something.org. Image via freedigitalphotos.net and David Castillo Dominici.