Friday, October 18, 2013

More on Maria Kang... "What's your excuse?"

A couple of days ago, I posted about Maria Kang.  When I wrote that post, I had no idea how much her Facebook post was going to erupt into a viral sensation.  Lots of people have hit this blog because of the post I wrote.  CNN posted a column about it, which attracted a slew of comments.  Many of the comments are not what I would call "civil".  There are a lot of people being rude and sarcastic as they argue about whether or not Maria Kang's photo was "fat shaming" or bullying.

I don't think Maria Kang is a bully.  To me, it looks like she posted her photo as a means of drumming up business.  The caption "What's your excuse" is probably what got people pissed off.  The photo itself is cute.  Maria Kang is pretty and she has a nice figure.  Her sons are cute.  But "What's your excuse" is sort of an "in your face" confrontation that begs a response.  For some people, it's kind of like waving a red cape in front of a bull.  I've said it before.  For many people, body image is a sensitive issue and confronting people about their bodies is potentially offensive.  Since she did it online and people feel safe behind their computers, there will be a lot of responses, some of which are rude.  Seems to me that Kang should have expected a backlash... but she's also making a name for herself and may soon be laughing all the way to the bank.  

Frankly, I'm much less troubled by Kang's photo than I am by the mean spirited comments so many people post.  I don't understand why it matters to some random stranger on the street what another random stranger looks like.  Unless you are stuck sitting next to them on an airplane and their ass is taking up half the seat you've paid for or they are in some other way directly affecting you, I don't see what difference it should make to you if your neighbor is fat.  And I don't see why, if you don't know the person, you feel like you can call them weak, lazy, slovenly, ugly, stupid, jealous, hateful, unhealthy...  etc.  You can assume you know why the person looks the way they do and make a guess at how healthy they are.  I don't see why it's your business, though.  Don't you have your own life to attend to?

We don't tolerate these kinds of openly hostile judgments toward people based on other aspects of their appearance.  For example, it would be socially unacceptable to assume and say out loud that someone is weak, lazy, stupid, or slovenly because they are black or Asian or Hispanic... or because they are Mormon or Muslim.  Someone who is overweight can be beautiful or brilliant or even technically healthy.  Someone who is at a normal weight or thin can be ugly, unhealthy, and stupid.  These conditions are all mutually exclusive... and they are all also very subjective.  As I wrote before, health is a relative thing and so is physical attractiveness.  Seems to me we should all be focusing more on ourselves and our own "health" than being concerned about someone else and their "health".  

Anytime there's an article written about someone who doesn't have the perfect body image, there are all kinds of people bitching about "fat acceptance" and how we shouldn't tolerate it.  Most people would not actively choose to be fat.  In other words, if you asked someone if they would rather be fat or thin, most people would say they'd rather be thin, though a lot of them would rather eat a cheeseburger and watch TV than eat a salad and go jogging.  But if your neighbor would rather eat cheeseburgers and watch TV, what's it to you, unless you get stuck sitting next to them on the plane?  Is it just because you don't like looking at them because you think they're "gross"?  What if they said the same thing about you because they think you have an ugly face or a misshapen ass?  Or they think you're ugly because you have a shitty disposition?

By the way... Type 2 diabetes can be caused by issues other than being fat and lazy.  It's true that being overweight and sedentary are two big risk factors for type 2 diabetes, but it is very possible to be a normal weight and active and have type 2 diabetes.  There are other factors that can cause type 2 diabetes or heart disease or cancer.  Moreover, not everyone who is fat is on the verge of diabetes.  I don't see how you could even know what someone's actual health status is if you aren't their doctor.  And even if you are their doctor, there's a good chance you don't know.  Most doctors don't get to spend that much time with their patients, nor do they usually treat the whole body.  If something goes wrong with your kidneys, your internist or family practitioner will send you to a kidney specialist who specializes in kidneys.  And that doctor will focus on your kidneys and not your heart or liver, right?  If that's the case, how could your doctor know exactly how healthy you are?  

Here's an uncomfortable fact.  Good health is certainly a goal that everyone should strive for.  However, at some point, everybody's health goes bad.  If it didn't, you'd never die.  If your organs always worked perfectly and your cells always regenerated the way they are supposed to, you would go on forever like a Timex.  At some point, you will either get sick or suffer an injury that will cause your body to die.  We would be in serious trouble if everyone was optimally healthy.  If we all lived to be 100, there would be problems.  You want to talk about overpopulation?  We've already run into problems because our society is aging and people aren't dying as young as they used to... and that's even though more people are fat and becoming diabetic.  Fewer people are smoking, which means that instead of getting lung cancer, they are getting some other chronic disease like diabetes.

This was a topic that was frequently covered when I was earning my degree in public health.  As you age, it usually costs more to maintain your health.  You typically don't earn as much money because you can't work as hard or for as long... or despite our anti-ageist laws, some employer finds some reason not to give you a job and you have no way of earning your own money.  But you are still likely to keep accessing healthcare, which costs money.  You stop accessing healthcare when you die.  Does it make sense to do what you can to stay healthy longer?  Absolutely.  But if everyone stayed alive until they were very old, the burdens on our society would definitely increase, even if every single person did all they could to avoid risk factors that typically lead to disease.

Anyway, my point is that I think a lot of people just want to have a reason to be nasty.  You might look at a fat person and think, "They could choose not to be fat and diet and exercise. "  For most people, that's a true statement.  For other people, it's not.  They have some other reason for being heavy besides eating too much and not exercising.  They have a legitimate medical problem or they take some kind of medication that makes them fat, like some steroids or certain antidepressants.  You can't know why someone looks the way they do unless you happen to live with them or otherwise spend a lot of time with them.  So looking at some stranger on the street or the Internet and assuming that you know their health status is really pretty ignorant.  I think it makes a lot more sense to focus on your own problems and health status... and realize that the fat person who offends you probably would rather be thin but, for some reason, isn't.  Being mean to or judging that person is not going to make them suddenly shed 100 pounds.  In fact, it may make them want to eat chocolate mousse for a quick mood boost.

With that being said, I want one of these in the worst way right now...


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