I've been asked A LOT lately about how I feel concerning Maria Kang and her very controversial, hugely media-blitzed picture of her kneeling with her kids, six pack on display and bold statement, "What's Your Excuse?" I could show you a picture here or include a link to said picture, but, alas, I really don't care very much. And by doing that I participate in what I see as a huge failing in modern motherhood (ahem, feminism).
Here's my take on this: ENOUGH ALREADY. Why do we care so much about this woman and her choices about how she shows up in the world? I could not care less if she weighs a thousand pounds or a dozen. If she eats spinach and eggs in the morning or if her kids know what a poptart looks like. All I care about is that she feels she can make choices about how she wants to show up. And this is her choice, apparently. Leave her be. Leave her body be. She is not an object.
Maria Kang (and I'll keep saying her name over and over here to remind you and me that she is an actual live human being with context and feelings) symbolizes how very little we have traveled from the objectification of women as malleable instruments of sex appeal and from the subjugation of women in the media/workplace/world. What if we talked about who she is instead? What if the conversation was about the fact that she is a woman rummaging through the difficulty that is life as a mother - holding two "regular" jobs, raising children, running a side business that probably eats up all her free time, and being a partner in a marriage? What if we stopped focusing entirely on the fact that she is toned and fit and asked, "Is she healthy?" "Is she well?" "Is she in her zone of genius?"
Instead, we focus on her body. We, meaning, us ... WOMEN. We respond to her by saying either "You go girl!" or "You terrible, condescending woman!" Neither response tells me that we are an empowered generation. It tells me that we are all equally lost in this brigade of supposed female liberation. And it reveals to me that many of us are legitimately lost in our own skin. Within the expansive drama of children and stress and career and money, we've gone missing. And we certainly do not walk around in our bodies owning our place in the world. Which is why we are so quick to badger Maria Kang and her choice to show up as a fit mom with a toned body. It's an obvious projection of our stuckness and our turmoil.
Enough already. Let's have a conversation about something else. Please. It's time. It depends on us ... WOMEN ... to change that conversation about how women's bodies are carried and managed and hurled around in the media, in the workplace, and in the world.
I'll also say this: When we talk about a woman's body like we have Maria's, we add one more layer to the discussion that eating disorders and compulsive exercising are all about being thin. Which is massive misunderstanding of this complex and way too common situation for so many moms. It is probably not a surprise to anyone - due to the many public reports of her past alleged bulimia - that Mari suffered (or suffers) from some form of eating disorder. And, yet, still, we go at her with full force. Which also highlights the fact that we still do not take seriously enough the full scope of what is an actual disease that plagues so many women. It's not a fad. Or a hopeless pursuit of a six pack. It's a vast and textural reflection of broken bits of a person (often a woman) that often demands serious intervention. It's an actual affliction that deserves more than pop-journalism gossip coverage. When we denigrate women's issues and health to this level, we denigrate women in general. We take less seriously the massive obstacles to our wellness, to our functioning as mothers, and to our ability to embrace roles in the world that the world so desperately needs us to embrace.
Never ever in a million trillion years here at MommaStrong will I endorse or encourage an environment of "before and afters" or talk about how to "look like me." My body is my body, Yours is yours. I can't promise to anyone that they're gonna walk out looking like I do, because the way I look has been with me since birth. And, in all honesty, I could easily be viewed as some typical affront to feminism, if you were just to take my body from an objectified view. In fact, I have been very afraid many times that just me being me in my body might alienate other women, which would be a tragic loss for me. I have zero hips. I have naturally low body fat. It takes me like .5 minutes to build defined muscles. I can eat and drink and be merry and then get back on track a couple days later with nary a consequence. If I forget to eat lunch one day, I'll lose at least a pound by the next. I workout for 15-minutes a day and often take lots of days off. I am surrounded by women to whom this is not their reality. They work out harder than I do. They eat less of this and more of that. Yet, their bodies are their bodies and my body is mine. That is the most simple, precious, delicious truth ever - IF we can start to truly embody that in society and in ourselves.
Have I wrangled an eating disorder in the past? Yes. Do I confront many of the hiding issues that every other woman does? Hell yes. Am I healthier now than I have ever been? Definitely. Do I own my skin in ways I never have before? Oh yeah. These struggles and successes are not dependent on a status of thinness. They are a complex, individual assortment of private issues and obstacles that are not to be objectified, even if they show up in our physical forms.
What if we started talking about true wellness? What if we, as women, stopped trying to convince ourselves that there was some magic ending to our pursuit of a Maria Kang-like body and attitude? What if we slid patiently and tenderly into our own individual skins? And what if we leapt with empowerment and respect into our communal skin as women and said, ENOUGH ALREADY? What if we started talking about strength, about vitality, and about how we are best cultivating energy to show up in the world as we choose? What if we stopped thinking.talking.kvetching.obsessing about exercise and nutrition and bodies? How much room in your brain and your heart would be available? SO much.
So so so so much.
This is my mission. In my life. And in my service. Not to make you an itty-bitty toned magician of a mother, but to make you remember your inherent right to vitality. To living fully as a woman, partner, and mother. I want to make you feel like you're enough and I want to make strengthening something that matters in a way that does not define who you are, nor demands much of your precious time/energy. Let's get on with the real conversations modern motherhood. I dare us.
If you dare, share. Let's shift this nonsense together.
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