This is my excuse

When I first saw this photo of Maria Kang, I had just slipped into a brand-new pair of jeans, a size larger than I wore last season, and was in the process of ordering Chinese food because the healthy dinner I had made for my family is currently immolating on the bottom of the crock pot. Needless to say, I was not in the mood for Judgey McJudgerpants, aka fitness professional Maria Kang, a 32-year old former beauty pageant queen, fitness model, business woman, fitness blogger, awesome mom, and presumably Nobel prize winner.

What's yours?

What’s yours?

By now you’ve probably seen the outcry from (seriously) millions of women from every corner of the internet. So piercing were the wails of protest that Kang was “forced” to take the photo down and to issue the standard non-apology apology.

“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.”

Surprisingly, Kang isn’t as good at apologizing as she apparently is at everything else.  Who knew? As one of my friends said, “This must be her first day on the internet.” And how does one struggle with her genetics, anyway?

There are a thousand things I  could say regarding Kang’s awesome set of genes, her career as a fitness professional, and the copious amount of airbrushing a photographer friend assures me went into this photo. But that’s not what bothers me so much about what Kang’s post.

What really yanks my cord about this advertisement (and make no mistake, Kang is a fitness blogger and this photo is an ad for her brand), his how obviously it plays on the deep dark corner of the female psyche. There isn’t a woman alive (or at least none that I know) that doesn’t feel the need to be better at something, whether it’s the house, the kids, her job, her body. It’s the “superwoman” ideal we’ve all struggled with since the days of our youth.  Perhaps it was all those hours watching Claire Huxtable wrangle her sitcom-perfect family: She was equal parts Martha Stewart in the kitchen, June Cleaver with the kids, F. Lee Bailey at work, and Marilyn Monroe in the bedroom. Oh, and I did I mention she was gorgeous and beautifully dressed at all times? She even wore satin pajamas!

To be honest, this photo would have bugged me just as much if Kang had shown herself with an immaculately clean house, a perfectly healthy and balanced dinner, and three children under three in khakis and french cuffs sitting at the table. Or earning $500k a year at her “real” job while making Martha Steart-worthy crafts for her child’s birthday party. It’s the “look at everything I can do!” coupled with the “what’s your excuse, you lazy slob ?” (okay, I made that last part up), that is making women everywhere see red. Even Kang’s non-apology apology makes mention of all the multiude of things she does so very well.  I run two businesses! I take care of my children MYSELF! I always interpret internet photos the right way! I do it all and I STILL look like this!

Well yes. It would appear that’s your job. I work in new media. If my digital skills translated into personal appearance, I would be one slammin’ community manager (rocking jeans at least TWO SIZES smaller than the ones I’m wearing).

But perhaps the worst thing about this post is that it’s a continuation of the multitude of ways women ______ -shame each other each and every day. Fat-shaming. Breast-is-best-shaming. My-kids-have-NEVER-eaten-at-McDonald’s-shaming. We-only-get-PBS-in-our-house-shaming. I-just-woke-up-looking-this-way-shaming. Why? What is it all for?

Couldn’t Kang have just as easily have said “If I can do it, so can you!” or “I worked my ass off for decades to look like this, and while it’s a fantasy for most women to look like me, I can help you feel better about yourself”? Isn’t that what we want our daughters to learn? That no woman can do it all, but we’re all really good at something? For Kang, she’s good at having the body of a 21-year old. That’s amazing–let’s celebrate that. My body doesn’t look like hers, but I’m smart and curious. My friend Jamie is the most amazing crafty mom EVER. Kate gives the most ridiculously terrific parenting advice. Deana Marie can look on the bright side of anything and practically oozes fun from her pores. Shannon has a wicked sense of humor and never fails to make me laugh. Libby is athletic and sporty and had the courage to learn to play hockey at our advanced age. Tiffini is wicked smart and has a sarcastic streak that keeps me in stitches. Teri is always there with a hug and kind words for her friends. Kirsten manages to balance an amazing career and still make it to all her kids’ sporting events.

We’re all so good at something. Why focus on what we’re not? Can’t we celebrate each other instead of pointing out each other’s flaws?

If you can’t do that, what’s your excuse?

33 thoughts on “This is my excuse

  1. cubbydon says:

    Well said. I agree 100% (if that means anything).

    1. Shannon says:

      As if I had a doubt that you could express what most of us are feeling!! You rock and are truly amazing and worthy of envy, even in those new jeans! ;)

  2. sloanpeterson2 says:

    The fact that the slogan is “what’s yor excuse” makes it impossible for me to give her any attention, much less respect…

  3. TaylorLynn says:

    The bitterness that this post is laden with is deplorable. Do you know what I hear from this? Wah wah, this woman is successful and beautiful with a nice looking family… and I don’t have that so I am mad! That is ALL this says! Rather than aspiring to be like this woman, you complain that she isn’t telling you “oh well you can do it too.” Why should she? You are the reason she released this statement. Nasty fat chicks on the internet whining because they aren’t successful so they will do anything they can to being a fit, successful woman down. You are what is wrong with women today and YOU are the one who should be criticized here. YOU are the problem and you should be ashamed of yourself. GOOD FOR KANG for being able to be fit and have a family, AND be successful. Good for her. What is YOUR excuse for not doing this for yourself? Oh, I forgot, why put the work in when you can just blame the successful person for your own lackthereof. Get a life.

    1. Anonymous says:

      she just was saying that this woman didn’t have to be rude is all…it’s like slut-shaming, but in a different way because it’s not as outright. I have no clue what women said about the woman in the photo, but honestly she’s a fitness professional. She should never be trying to tear someone else down…(by she I mean the woman in the photo)

    2. Anonymous says:

      “Get a life” says someone who took the time to hate on someone for having an opinion. Hilarious. Thank you internet.

    3. anonymous says:

      This post says no such thing. I know the author personally, and she is indeed successful, beautiful, has a nice looking family, and she is very accomplished. She has a law degree & speaks three languages. She was a killer athlete in a ridiculous number of sports. She is regularly asked to discuss on Chicago sports on high-profile Chicago-based media outlets. But she doesn’t feel the need to rub all this in other women’s faces to suggest that they are somehow less worthy than her…which the original fitness photo woman did. That was her point.

    4. ShannonB says:

      TaylorLynn, you are vile. There are few women I know that are more successful than Julie. The difference is, Julie doesn’t throw her education, career successes, financial status, wonderful husband, adorable kids, enviable contact and friend list, etc, etc, in the face of other women and ask them what their excuse is for not having what she has. She has every reason to brag, but doesn’t. She’s worked hard for all of it, but doesn’t need public applause or envy. You see, in doing so, makes your successes less admirable and your character seriously tainted and distatsteful. Take your trolling elsewhere. You’re out of your league.

      1. Teri says:

        I think I love you ShannonB. No, I know I do.

    5. JJ Fannin says:

      You and your supermodel fitness friend can blow it straight out your ass. What photo is she going to post in 10 years when the 18th plastic surgery has her looking scarier than Joan Rivers? “What’s your excuse” for being a lousy human being and a piece of shit?

      I’ll make God damned sure that my wife never buys anything that this stuck up prima donna assbag excuse of a human being tries to sell people. And that 8 month old baby is the ugliest looking thing I’ve ever seen in my life. What’s her excuse for that? Must have gotten it’s looks from the mother’s inner self.

    6. psymar says:

      Can we have the dislike button back now, Julie?

  4. Kramer says:

    Getting pregnant is not all about getting “fat” and then losing it. Your skin might stretch to the brink and never recover unless you pay for expensive and extensive plastic surgery. You might have massive surgery that comes from birth complications that leaves scars. To think even 25% of all woman could look like this after 3 kids is laughable. Posts like some of the ones above show how utterly clueless people are about what birth does to the average body. That she was able to do it is great. To think that “hard work” alone means anyone could do it is patently untrue. You could be a fitness god that works out 10 times at much as Kang and it might not matter.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Reading your article promted me to check out Maria’s website. I found this quote there:
    “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It originates from Teddy Roosevelt and argues that comparing your work, your life, or whatever else will only serve to make you unhappy.
    Her ad, as you call it, isn’t comparing your abs to hers. It’s her way of showing the results of HER hard work. That’s what she has strived for. “What’s your excuse” asks what is keeping you from reaching YOUR goals.
    Life is too short for you to allow yourself to feel threatened by other people’s accomplishments. Get over it. Someone, somewhere is ALWAYS better at something (everything) that you do. With every such comparison, insecurity grows.
    And seriously. Can you honestly say that you would hate her any less if her ad had read, “If I can do it, so can you.” She still looks better than most moms. You follow that up with ” Isn’t that what we want our daughters to learn?” I for one do NOT want my daughter to always compare herself to everyone else. That’s not an independant thinking child. That is an insecure child.

  6. Teri says:

    I couldn’t agree more! (((HUGS))) ;-)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wah, wah, wah. It is this women’s right to present herself in the manner she has. Thankfully we live in a free country .. I’m so sick of people feeling sorry for themselves. Get off of your behind and make it happen instead of complaining about others. Try worrying about yourself.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I love this article Julie! Not just women, but women and men, all people – we should all “celebrate each other instead of pointing out each other’s flaws” – I love this – and wouldn’t this world be awesome if we could all live that way?

  9. anon says:

    “What’s your excuse?” is a common inspirational fitness quote. It’s not “shaming,” or pointing out someone else’s flaws. Yes, women (especially moms) feel under pressure to have it all, and at least you admit you’d dislike the photo even if it represented other avenues of mothering perfection (than physical), but get over it and quit shaming someone you think is shaming.

    1. vivien says:

      You sound stupid!

    2. juliedicaro says:

      Sorry. I’ll take the Ho-Ho out of my mouth.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if this is the new thing fitness women do. I joined a gym back in May and received a full hour training session. This woman constantly put me down, pointing out that my BMI was higher than hers and she was 12 years older than me. Uh…if you’re a personal fitnesss trainer I HOPE your BMI is lower than mine! Then she kept bragging on when she tore her ACL and couldn’t workout for a year she only gained 4lbs. That is fantastic for her, but I am not the same..I have to stay mobile or I blow up. Everyone is different. At the end of my session she told me to come back or I’d never be happy with myself for my wedding day. I finally turned to her and told her that I would never pay someone to remind me that I am not 100% happy with my body. I let her know how rude she was and she claimed she was “just being honest” so then I became honest on how she looked 50 years old thanks to her sitting in a tanning bed for too long and left. Needless to say, she never called.

    I think these people find it okay to mentally abuse people who are weak and searching for help to better themselves. It’s awful.

  11. Peter V. Bella says:

    Just goes to show women’s worst enemies are other women. Gives a whole new meaning to the “War on Women”. Once again the social media and digital lynch mobs got their knickers in a twist over nothing. It’s an ad. It’s a slogan. It appears, in the world of low information gullible people, who vote by the way, that being offended is a way of life. If she was wearing a head to toe burka touting her fit body there would still be outrage.

  12. vivien says:

    “What’s your excuse?” is most definitely shaming. It sets up this woman’s body as an unarguable goal to be attained, and directly asks why you are supposedly failing to attain this goal. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to attain that goal. I argue that it is a silly goal. Toned, buff and skinny is fine if that’s your body type and you don’t have to kill yourself to get there, but it’s not the only desirable body type. My husband prefers curvy, moderately fleshy women. Luckily, that’s my natural body type and I am fine with that.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Typical…let’s tear someone down for attaining a degree of success we should be lauding. You don’t have a body like that because you aren’t willing to put the work in to develop one. Just because you sit on your ass all day writing whiney, trite, and grammatically-incorrect drivel, your sedentary profession doesn’t absolve you from any sort of personal responsibility for maintaining a healthy appearance.

    “Well yes. It would appear that’s your job. I work in new media. If my digital skills translated into personal appearance, I would be one slammin’ community manager (rocking jeans at least TWO SIZES smaller than the ones I’m wearing).” This, ladies and gentlemen, is a joke of an excuse, and indeed, is glaringly indicative of someone completely divorced from logical reality. This ludicrous statement is tantamount to arguing that people who don’t happen to be doctors or other physical health professionals can’t be expected to refrain from guzzling beer, crushing donuts and bugles, and sucking billowing clouds of cigarette smoke directly into their lungs 24/7 because they simply don’t get paid to know these practices are poor for their health. Sorry guys, I’m not a fitness professional, nor do I run a health club, so I’m going to take this entire box of lo mein to my piehole instead of preparing a piece of grilled chicken and a spinach salad for dinner.

    Kang is good at having the body of a twenty one year old, for sure…She is also most likely smarter than you are, as she runs two businesses and makes 500K a year performing an actual job and service, unlike your purported “real” job in “new” media–which, despite the typo, I take to mean “news” media, which, again, is a conveniently respectable moniker for “blogging.”

    You know why she can’t focus on your friends’ qualities? She is too busy running businesses, taking care of her children, and exercising to acknowledge that “looking on the bright side of everything” and practically “oozing fun from her pores” aren’t legitimate excuses or sufficient replacements for living a health, active lifestyle.

    1. anonymous says:

      One can live a healthy, active lifestyle and still not look like Ms. Kang. You’ve denigrated the author’s profession without knowing anything specific about it. And, furthermore, since you want to point out incorrect grammar, “grammatically-incorrect” is not correct. An -ly adverb that modifies an adjective should not be hyphenated, per the Chicago Manual of Style.

    2. juliedicaro says:

      No, NEW media is an actual profession. I’m a lawyer who graduated at the top of my class, so I very much doubt that she’s smarter than I am. I also run a business in addition to holding down a full-time job at the Chicago Tribune. Oh, and I’m also on the radio. And I have two kids. And I coach their sports teams. And I’ve been blogging since 2007.

      So yeah . . wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

      I really think you need to investigate where your anger comes from, because I really don’t think it’s normal to call people you don’t even know fat, lazy, sedentary, and trite. I highly doubt you’d say that to my face in real life — what makes you think it’s okay to say it here?

      1. Anonymous says:

        Julie I think you are my hero!

    3. juliedicaro says:

      And come on, don’t hide behind “anonymous.” If you’re going to call me out for something I wrote, the least you can do is attach your name to it. I did.

      1. NotAgain says:

        Because “TaylorLynn” couldn’t be bothered to create a new account for each of her troll posts.

  14. Blaze says:

    Love this! Sing it!

  15. Veronica Lanz says:

    Anonymous is a troll. Stop feeding the troll.

  16. NotAgain says:

    Love you, Julie!! :-)

  17. cl says:

    Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I was going to agree with this when I first started reading. I think there are people out there who use their jobs, their family, and their kids as excuses for not leading a healthy active lifestyle. And these are the easiest excuses.

    But then you touched on an poignant point. For whatever reason, in this society, we’ve come to expect women to do it all. We expect women to have successful careers, to be nurturing mothers, to look incredibly naked, and yet we excuse men from the same set of high expectations. Women who can’t show up to a kid’s play because of work are shamed as bad mothers. Men who can’t show up because of work are just “providers.” Women are expected to have a much lower range of BMI than men to be considered “attractive.”

    These expectations are unreasonable and harmful, and Maria Kang’s ad definitely taps into that.

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