Ideas.Time.com recently published a piece called “Fit Pride isn’t ‘Hate Speech.’” I would like to begin by stating that taking pride in your body is never hateful, and can only improve your experience in the world. Where the problem comes in is when you start associating taking pride in yourself by putting others down.
Maria Kang wrote the article in question, and posted the photo that sparked controversy alongside the text. Below, you will see the photo.
From her Time.com article,
Society has finally, just hardly, begun to take back the idea that a body belongs to the person living within it, rather than the outside world around it. Additionally, we have just reached the tip of the iceberg in addressing how truly objectified we have encouraged one another, and ourselves, to become. We create hate between ourselves by not only finding things to hate about ourselves, but in others. For instance, the “fashion police,” in the back of every gossip/even some fashion magazine(s), discussing why a certain someone shouldn’t wear a certain something. Another example would be a traditionally attractive, fit woman calling an entire group of oppressed individuals “so sensitive and weak” over revolting against the idea that they should be shamed by that very woman’s personal standards of health and beauty. Yes, Maria Kang is fit, and she is beautiful, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that- but that isn’t the point here. You know better than that, right? Dear reader, I have faith that you understand that feeling good about your body doesn’t mean condemning another’s. I trust that you are wise enough to come to that conclusion on your own.
Kang seems to argue that we shouldn’t be so worried about a healthy body image so much as we should be worried about “actual health.” I would like to point out to Maria Kang that mental health is an actuality. So much so, that more than 24 million American people- of all ages- suffer from an eating disorder. As it turns out, mental health is actual health. Additionally, weight =/= health, as you may be able to infer from the statistics above.
The concept of battling an overall positive movement by promoting “fit pride” is ignorant at best. When you reassert your state of privilege over an oppressed group, you are not creating a stronger case for your own cause, you’re just being a bully. Your cause has the upper hand, and it is not your place to smack the oppressed back down- it’s an opportunity, if you would like, as our friends and neighbors, to give us a hand up. If that’s too much to ask, then just don’t get involved. This isn’t about winning, or who’s better than who, it’s about us all being human beings deserving of respect. A photo asking “what’s your excuse?” is not “playful,” it is certainly not respectful- it’s condescending. What you have created is a fine example of something called “thin privilege,” wherein a person who fits society’s standards for weight cannot understand how harmful something might be to those who do not fit such a mold. It’s not your fault, but it’s something you need to make yourself aware of.
Another blurb from Kang’s piece:
Please redact that from the record, whoever writes the all-encompassing rules of womanhood. (Oh, hey, those don’t exist!) There’s the normal, overweight woman. There’s the normal, skinny woman. There’s the normal, paraplegic woman. There’s the normal, green-eyed woman. There’s the normal, extremely muscular woman. There’s the normal, gap-toothed woman, there’s the normal, freckled woman, there’s the normal blonde woman, the normal woman with natural hair, the normal woman with silicone breasts, the normal woman with a fake tan, the normal woman with facial hair, the normal woman who was announced as male at birth, the normal woman who has armpit hair, the normal woman who wears bright red lipstick, the normal woman who is a size 00, and the normal woman who is a size 8, 14, 28. And they are ALL within the array of “REAL” women. (TL;DR: every woman is a real woman- including, but not limited to fit women.)
Maria Kang, please take note: the body positive movement is not about you- not you in particular, anyway. It is not about telling your children they have to eat seventeen doughnuts a day, or that they’re worthless unless they’re fat. We aren’t trying to convert you, or to ruin your “actual health,” we are simply trying to be seen for people rather than pounds. The body-positive movement is not an anti-health movement, it is about improving the way we look at one another. It’s revolutionary and beautiful and based on loving oneself. So is your issue really with the movement, or with the fact that we didn’t allow you to bully us with your photo and its nasty comment?
The fat positive movement-which is more aptly called the body-positive movement, by the way, as it isn’t just about fat people, and even includes super fit people like you, Maria- is not about bringing you down. It is about allowing others, unlike you, to rise and be seen as people, rather than disfigured and evil. Your article paints the same picture we’ve seen, time and time again, of the fat, evil villain, and you’ve got it all quite wrong. You’re right, it’s not hate speech to be fit and proud; it’s hate speech to claim that a group of people you are obviously uncomfortable with are detrimental to society.Do not confuse the pain you feel from our very hard-earned joy with us actually harming you.