Maria Kang is defending a controversial photo of herself that has prompted a cavalcade of Facebook critics to accuse her of fat shaming women. Kang, a California fitness enthusiast and mother of three, posed in the photo with her own children.
In the photo, seen at left, the 32-year-old poses in a workout bra and matching micro shorts — revealing an incredibly toned figure with washboard abs — while surrounded by her three young sons, now 1, 3 and 4. Floating above her head is the question, “What’s your excuse?” The picture has gone viral, with more than 16 million views on Facebook, and has generated more than 12,000 comments.
While much of the input has been of the supportive “you go, girl” variety, plenty of it has been made up of angry, offended personal attacks on the photo subject, calling her everything from “obnoxious” and “fake” to a bad mom and a bully.
However Kang, in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Shine, says that making other women feel bad about themselves is the opposite of what she was going for.
“I wanted to inspire people,” she explains, adding that the “What’s your excuse?” part was simply a borrowed, popular phrase that’s been used in various “fitspiration” campaigns. “I wanted to say, ‘I know you think you don’t have time if you have kids. But if I can do it, you can do it, too.'”
Kang, of Sacramento, California, is a former pageant queen and fitness competitor who founded the nonprofit Fitness Without Borders in 2007. She’s also a recovering bulimic. Kang says she understands why some people reacted so defensively. “I think people struggle with their weight,” she notes. “When you add on being a mother — and the pressures we face to have it all and be everything, including fit — the expectations are so high. I think some moms saw the picture and just said, ‘This is ridiculous.'” But still, she says, “I felt really frustrated. Being called a bad mother and a bad person definitely hurts.”
Though she first posted the photo to her Facebook page a year ago, Kang noticed it was being shared a lot more recently and that it was generating a swell of negative comments toward her. So she reposted it to her own 72,000-plus followers, tacking on an apology — which, she admits, is really a “non-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.