Maria Kang, You Are Not The Cosmos

All around us, they are suffering. Put-down, mocked, disregarded, dismissed as vain and shallow. Society is oblivious to their pain and blind to their achievements. Look into the mirror and stare hard; it’s likely that you too are guilty of marginalizing them. Who are these invisible victims? Look gym-ward angel, this subjugated group is none other than those who dare to be highly fit.

The Mandela-like figure who has dared to speak truth to power about the unjust treatment of those with six-pack abs is one Maria Kang. In a mind-bogglingly jejune, self-absorbed, and obtusely-reasoned opinion piece she wrote for, entitled Fit Pride Isn’t Hate Speech, Kang whines that body acceptance campaigns have turned fit women (and one would suppose fit men too) into a persecuted minority.

Jesus H Christ, what is this, Bizarro World?

The fulcrum of Kang’s argument is that in November her Facebook account was suspended after she posted a picture of herself in a sports bra and short-shorts with her three young children. The title emblazoned across the picture was, “What’s Your Excuse?” The reason Facebook (supposedly) gave for locking her account (since restored) was that the picture (and a later blog-like rant she posted) constituted “hate speech.”

Were Kang’s postings “hate speech?” No. Were they examples of the self-aggrandizing narcissism that so frequently makes perusing social media a tedious exercise? Yes. Should they have been taken down and her account suspended? Probably not.

If Kang had restricted her complaining to her right to free expression being violated, maybe she would have a valid case. It would still be difficult to sympathize much with her, but her point would be a valid one.

But give Kang an inch and she’ll gladly take things 10 miles too far. With egotistical grandeur, Kang postulates that the wrong done to her was much bigger than one of Facebook’s moderators coming down with a case of twitchy fingers. No, the blowback from her cheesecake pic and taunting tagline was emblematic of something far bigger: the sinister “fat acceptance” movement and its mission to attack and ostracize people who are “fit and proud.”

And then we get the list of grievances: A society where being fat is the new normal. Our, “everybody’s a winner” mentality that diminishes high-achievers and acceptance campaigns that posit that “liking yourself” is more important than being healthy. Haters who would rather called Kang a narcissist, poor parent, beneficiary of privileged circumstances, or out-to-lunch, instead of buckling down and getting their own slovenly asses on a treadmill. The notion that now the only “real woman” is an overweight one. Those same “real women” having the temerity to celebrate their “curves” (i.e. rolls of fat) by prancing around or posing for half-naked photos. You have to admire the guile of someone who can complain about other people having the gall to appear “half-naked” after posting a three-quarters naked photo herself. Must be some sort of offshoot of Muphry’s Law.

At times, Kang’s writing almost sounds like a put-on and it becomes tempting to check the byline to see if the article was syndicated from The Onion. She leads one paragraph by writing, “A new minority of healthy people are stepping out of the shadows…” making it sound like the people in question had to escape from the buffet line at Golden Corral via the Underground Railroad. Later she muses that the “fat pride” movement may have created such a toxic environment that a countering “fit pride” faction might need to arise in response. The only thing missing is an outspoken general who could lead the toned legions into battle…

A few pertinent facts about Kang: she bills herself as a business owner who owns two senior care facilities. She is also a freelance writer and the operator of a non-profit fitness business—and it bears remembering, “non-profit” doesn’t mean the same thing as “non-wage paying.” She has done some dabbling in modelling and fitness competitions and she has never met a flashbulb she didn’t like. Her website has a laundry list of TV and radio appearances. The criticism of her, “What’s Your Excuse?” campaign has given her a new casus belli for a full-on media press, and she has milked that for several months now, with the Time missive being her latest salvo.

Hmm, just a thought here, but if you were the owner of a fitness-oriented business, a participant in fitness contests, a writer about fitness topics, and you worked tirelessly to get yourself on TV to talk about fitness, wouldn’t you say that fitness was kind of a big deal to you? Maybe more so than for other people? And that if parlaying your own levels of fitness was responsible for a significant part of your income, that you might take it fairly seriously? And, in addition to the reasons above, that if you had the flexibility to devote ample time to working out that it might be a little easier to maintain a high level of fitness? Just some thoughts, and if you happen to be reading Doctor Phil, know that I will be happy to fill in for you anytime. Call me!

Kang draws her painful essay about the faux-oppression of fit women to a close by aiming for the rafters, positioning herself as a would-be Rosa Parks for the Cross-Fit crowd, and even deigning to rewrite the books on who “real women” are and are not:

“So, let’s set the record straight. There’s the normal, overweight woman. There’s the photoshopped fake woman — and then there’s an array of real women.

I, Maria Kang, am a real woman — and I’ve stood up. It’s not hate speech to be fit and proud.”

Well Maria Kang, you may be a “real woman” but you’re just one among many. Many “real women” don’t own their own businesses and have the flexibility to work out whenever they get the urge. Many “real women” have to spend all day working in offices or retail stores and all night trying to keep the wheels from flying off their households. Many “real women” spend their free time at second jobs or taking educational courses to try to stay one-step ahead of an economic system that seems hell-bent on crushing the middle class at every turn. Many real women don’t compete as fitness models or put a premium on looking like one, and of the ones that do, most of them go about it without grubbing for publicity six ways from Sunday, relentlessly glomming for attention, and without putting up knowingly belligerent material on Facebook.

If I can borrow the words of the great Molly Ivins once again, you are not the cosmos Maria Kang. “Fit people” are getting on just fine in this society of ours; I think we can safely rebuff your application to be our Philosopher Queen. The trend you should be worrying about isn’t the acceptance of fat persons or the persecution of fit ones; it’s that in our selfie culture so many people are falling into wells of bottomless solipsism and self-delusion where the need to empathize and relate to others is never felt. Where the only sound that matters is your own self-congratulatory voice echoing off the walls.