‘What’s Your Excuse?’

Recently, a woman (Kang) posted the above picture on Facebook. Subsequently it stirred up quite a bit of controversy. This photograph–along with the controversy surrounding it–fits in well with our discussions of women judging other women. 

The reason this picture has been so controversial is because it implies that if this mother of three can be perfectly in shape, so can everyone else. It suggests that all people should be fit in the way she is, and if people aren’t it is their fault. It shames people into wanting to look like her, and potentially act on it in some way (positively or negatively). Obviously, Kang is judging people who are aren’t fit in the way she is. She presents her fitness as a standard that all people can and should strive for.  Because the viewer is intended to compare their own body to Kang’s, one can see the message more directly addressing women, and subsequently passing the most judgement on women.

However, I find women’s responses to Kang’s photo more complex and interesting. You can see some of them in this article. Some women have responded to the photo by calling out her judgement or addressing specific reasons why people might not be able to achieve her standard, or might not even want to achieve it. However, some women have responded by reciprocating the judgement. One woman stated:

If you really cared to promote health you wouldn’t need to be half naked. You can show health by being dressed. The fact you chose attire such as this is that you were promoting appearance.

And the judgement doesn’t stop there. Other women have responded with judgement to the responses. One said:

No need to apologize to the fat slobs out there who don’t know how to put down their forks or spoons and get some exercise.

It’s fascinating how frequently women get caught in a spiral of judging one another. How do we stop this cycle?

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6 thoughts on “‘What’s Your Excuse?’

  1. I think this article is a good addition to the conversation. I don’t think the post was necessarily the best way to inspire people but I do think that some of the backlash against her is unwarranted and I understand what she is saying here (though I would agree that her apology is a rather defensive non-apology and probably shouldn’t have had ‘sorry’ in it:

    http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/hot-mom-defends-herself-against-facebook-haters-192149769.html

    (the title of the article is clearly a bit biased…)

  2. I think the male gaze from females onto other females is particularly heightened during and after pregnancy. It is clearly demonstrated in our celebrity and paparazzi obsessed news. This Buzzfeed article on Kate Middleton’s post-baby body is particularly disturbing. http://www.buzzfeed.com/ellievhall/kates-middlesection-unreal-baby-body

    The way the photos get closer and closer until it is a close up shot of her belly. Especially because these photos seems so exploitative given the circumstance they were taken. She is obviously doing some charity event and was not dressed appropriately for an unexpected game of volleyball and the paparazzo capitalizes on that to take these intrusive shots. It is an extreme example of the male gaze as filtered through females.

    Also Kim Kardashian is experiencing the same post-baby body objectification. Every article that mentions Kim mentions the fact that she looks great and skinny only a few months after giving birth even if that comment has no relevance to the rest of the article.

    • Meghan, I saw an article regarding Kim Kardashian’s weight loss (after she posted a photo of herself in a white swimsuit on her Instagram/twitter account).

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2465582/Kim-Kardashians-Instagram-swimsuit-photo-receives-backlash.html

      The article covers the backlash she has received after posting this photo, which is funny, because you’re right–most articles on Kim (even if irrelevant) commented on her baby weight loss and how great she looks. However, when she actually posts a picture online to show her body, she is actively shamed by other women. Many of the comments argue she’s a mom now, and because she is a mom, this sort of sexy selfie, in which she is flaunting her body, is inappropriate. Society expects her to lose the weight and applauds her weight loss, but then demonizes her for presenting her body in a sexual way. We accept her body, but only in the context of Mother, as in Kim, should only see herself as Mother now… It’s especially funny, because Kim posted this photo of herself. In the buzzfeed article on Kate Middleton, Kate has no part in the objectification of her body, only the viewer, but here, when Kim is asking audiences to look at her body in a certain way, we reject her for asking such a thing. It all brings us back to the One Direction Song: You don’t know you’re beautiful / That’s what makes you beautiful. As a society we are saying: Kim and Kate are both Mothers and they should only see themselves as Mothers, but we are allowed to see them and label their bodies however we want.

      • It is fascinating the idea of the implied sanctity of motherhood. The fact that once a woman becomes a mother she is expected to transform to an asexual body. She can be sexualized, as seen in the Kate Middleton post, but she cannot take control of her own sexuality. It is particularly interesting in the case of Kim Kardashian who has made a career out of a combination of self promotion, sexuality, beauty, and elegant manipulation of her own public image. It seems odd that now she should be denigrated for her attempts to self promote post pregnancy. Especially given how obsessed the media is with her post-baby body. Why is it that body exposure is only positively received when someone other than the woman herself is profiting from it?

        Also the idea of holding mothers to a higher standard than other women is confounding. If every woman has the biological potential for reproduction why are they only held to a new standard once they have actual engaged in reproduction? How and why does society delineate motherhood and sexuality considering you cannot have motherhood without sexuality? This discussion reminds me of the blog post https://girlpower1.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/britney-spears-star-vs-entourage/ about Britney Spears’ “Work Bitch” video. The author of that blogpost by module81 focuses on the sexual explicitness of the video and the fact that Britney claims she cut down on some of the more sexual footage because she is a mother an has children at home and it is hard to play the sexy mom while being a pop star. The question i have about that quote is whether she doesn’t believe mother’s can be sexy or whether they should be?

  3. Pingback: Women Judging Other Women and Lena Dunham | Girlpower

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