From the Today Show to my facebook news feed, I can’t ignore this image:
Even though the ad’s been around for about a year, it’s causing a storm now. It’s being called fat shaming and Maria Kang, the trainer in the ad, is getting a whole lot of attention around the interwebs.
Fat shaming? I disagree.
I think that asking “What’s your excuse?” (For not having a six pack? For not being half naked? I can’t even be sure what she’s asking me about) to the general population—women who don’t simultaneously earn their paycheques and sculpt their six packs like someone whose job might be looking this way—is misguided. It’s not realistic for most people, no matter what the fitness magazines tell us. The vast majority of personal trainers want us to want this kind of body. Sure, trainers and fitness instructors exist who sell health and who don’t focus on aesthetics (I count myself among them), but I think it’s safe to say that people wanting rock hard bodies is a good thing for business if you’re a personal trainer. To sell something, something has to be lacking or not good enough. In this case, it’s our bodies or where we spend our time and energy.
Do I think this is the worst ad ever? Not really. I also don’t think it’s very effective advertising. Like I said, I don’t consider this fat shaming, but I didn’t like the way it made me feel. I know I don’t respond very well to being shamed—I’d rather be encouraged (something Molly Galbraith suggests in her take on this ad). Sure, I think Kang looks good, but she doesn’t make me think that I, too, can have kids and a six pack if I work harder. Quite the contrary, actually.
As a woman, I know I’m supposed to look like Kang—and if I don’t look like her, I’m supposed to want to. The thing is—and I don’t think I’m alone here—if we don’t look that way, it doesn’t mean that we’re making excuses. In fact, most women I know who don’t have perfect bodies are the ones busting their butts in pursuit of them. Times when my body has been the furthest from this ideal are the same times when I’ve been dieting my butt off and hitting the gym religiously—far from making excuses for myself.
I’ve blogged before about my frustration with working hard and not fitting the image I think I should. Not looking the way you think you should or the way you want to is hard. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to feel chubby—if I’d be okay with it—if I just ate what I wanted and didn’t dedicate years of my life to dieting and then to giving up dieting or if being able to eat a cupcake wasn’t something I thought was worth blogging about, etc.—but that’s not the case for me. Whether or not I have a six pack, I spend a lot of time thinking about and working on my health. I work out—a lot. I am conscious (perhaps too conscious) of what I eat. So I for one, with my measly 2 abdominal muscles and soft lower belly, was insulted by the ad suggesting I’m making excuses.
So again, do I think the ad is fat shaming? No. But do I think it’s empowering or motivating? Also no.
How did this ad make you feel? Do you think it’s fat shaming?
What message would you like to hear from personal trainers?