What's Your Excuse? My Thoughts on the Word Bully

Friday, October 18, 2013

I don't usually write reactionary posts, but I felt this needed to be said. It's not my intention to make anyone mad. But it is my intention to (hopefully) make people think. If you have no idea who Maria Kang is or what the drama is about, read up first or this might not make sense. 

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.  

It seems that, as a society, we've gotten so sensitive that negative statements, any type of confrontation, thought or idea that makes us uncomfortable or forces us to confront our own demons (like Maria's photo), puts us on the defensive and are automatically getting labeled as bullying behavior. I think that's wrong. There's a difference between bullying and being a jerk. It may be slight, but in my mind there's a difference nonetheless.

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.


  1. I saw that photo and thought it was motivation. Go figure...Some people are just negative first.

  2. I'm one of the people that it hit a nerve for--and I think she really is a whipping boy for a general frustration with the unrealistic expectations of "hotness" for women that our society perpetuates. Interestingly, I have noticed that those of us that are reacting strongly have daughters; personally, I would like them not to have to deal with the expectation that unless you're also hot, nothing else really matters. Had her tagline been aspirational rather than judging, that would have made a lot of difference to me. I don't need an excuse not to be exercising to a point that has more to do with vanity than fitness. That's my 2 cents (I always have them!).

    1. I don't have a daughter but I have nieces. I don't want them caught up in body image or weight issues either. Maria's tagline wasn't motivational for you, but it might be for someone else. I want my nieces to be aware of their personal filters before they rush to condemn as people seem to have done with Maria.

  3. My only issue with the photo is that it perpetuates the very unrealistic aesthetic look that most women are unable to achieve so soon after childbirth, but society at large seems to expect. It takes nine months to gain all that weight and grow a baby inside your womb, why would anyone expect a mother to be able to lose it in two?

    However, my true problem with all the brouhaha surrounding this photo is the use of the word 'bully' to describe it. Adults cannot be bullied, only children can. An adult can be harrassed, intimidated, coerced, not bullied. I truly hate now women on the internet bandy about that word to make themselves a victim because another person on the internet made them mad or disagreed with them. This is what the freaky hipsters at Reddit and the trolls on 4chan call butthurt. It's an apt description, no?

  4. I honestly would see her photo as motivational. My children were both bullied in school and it is nowhere near what the phrase is being used as in this situation.

  5. I don't find her motivational at all. But bully is a strong word people toss around way too much.

  6. Scary how normal this is today - I pray often that my son will never have to deal with it. We're trying to teach him now and I'm going to use your post to help with that - thanks!

  7. Thank you! This whole thing made me really sad to see. I am not at my best weight, I too could work at it a little more but attacking someone for looking as she does....what is the difference between that and attacking someone for being heavy? Nothing.

    1. I never thought of it that way. So, maybe people who are upset with her could be accused of fit-shaming?


Thank you for visiting and letting me know your thoughts!

copyright melanie sheridan 2009 template design by Studio Mommy (© copyright 2015)