Friday, December 13, 2013

No, What's YOUR Excuse?

Did you see the post on Facebook last month? Or read about it on someone's blog ... or on the news ... or somewhere else?

It's a woman. She's an... I don't know. Trainer? Fitness model? Something along those lines. Wearing less than a beach volleyball player. Posting with her 3 (count 'em!) kids, 2 toddlers, 1 baby. And the headline on the image has caused quite the stink:

What's Your Excuse?

The implication being, of course, that this mother of three young kids is in this amazing physical shape and you (Collective you, including myself here.) are most likely not. There are many individual factors that play into this, and it's been spinning around in my head for a long time but I think I finally have nailed down exactly what it is that bothers me about it. The message wasn't meant to be negative (She asserts, after the fact.). It wasn't meant to make anybody feel bad (You guys! I would never!). Instead, her claim was that the message in those three little words was meant to be inspirational; as in "Look! I can do it! So can you!"

Really; is it that simple? And for that matter--is it that easy? Because the message could have been delivered through any number of words ("This is possible," maybe?). But the three words that she chose? Say a lot. It could be mentioned here that had the message been a simple positive note, we wouldn't be talking about it anymore; the story wouldn't have trended. Fewer people would have seen it. But for the sake of argument (and since this is my space), I'm going to assume it was just a poor choice and not a marketing ploy.

This simple picture, and the anything but simple reaction to it, proved that it's a complicated issue, for many involved. From where I'm standing? It's about a person who posts a provocative message, meant to elicit an emotional response, and then runs and hides behind other people's emotional reactions to it, claiming that she can't be held responsible because she can't control how people react.

It's about taking physical appearance and using it as a measurement for health. It's never really that simple.

It's about telling women and girls that if they can't do it (look as good as she looks in that bikini), they are inferior. Granted, yes, after the fact, she did make the argument that it was all taken out of context. No, she doesn't own that message, didn't intend to call anyone inferior, but it's there. IT'S. THERE.

Did you see that? It's my bullshit flag waving.

Because putting up a picture of yourself in that pose with those words isn't encouraging; it's not a person making an effort to reach out a hand to help. It's a taunt. And the backhanded apology; saying "I'm sorry I offended you" is not the same as "I'm sorry you took what I said out of context but I'm not responsible for your perception of my message."

First of all, she's assuming that we (the collective we) idealize her physical shape as much as she does. And frankly? I don't. Good for her, I'm very happy for her that she's happy and all that, but personal choice--get on board. Diversity is a beautiful thing, right?

And also what needs to be remembered is that it's naive to think that we (collective) could actually achieve that level of physical shape. Because for some people? Their excuse is more than being tired or lazy or not having enough time in the day; it's an autoimmune disorder. Or different physiology. Or maybe, just maybe, it's the deep secret that if she tries to achieve that ideal, it will trigger that impulsive thing she keeps hidden, a thing that will push her to the point where it will lead to her ultimate destruction.

The irony is that physical beauty does not always require good health to achieve. For all I know, this photo was airbrushed and PhotoShopped. Athletes, those beautiful, perfect specimens, have been known to behave in unhealthy ways, and outward appearance does not equate to good health. Binge training, impossible calorie-restricted diets, performance enhancing supplements and drugs... just as unhealthy as bad habits that lead to morbid obesity.

Please don't get me wrong; I want to see empowered women, all women--this woman, in her tiny bikini. I would not have minded this image she posted so much if she had posted a more positive message to go along with it. Or better yet, prove your health in another way. Give me a picture of your awesome cholesterol scores. Your healthy blood pressure (Mine is 120/70. What's YOUR excuse!? See what I did there?). Show me your latest bone density scan. You know, any number of things that actually prove you're healthy.

Show me a picture of a Nobel Prize winner. A rocket scientist. The current poet laureate. A fireman. An oncologist. A librarian. A philanthropist. Show me a picture of someone who has achieved measurable greatness and ask me, What's your excuse?

But don't throw pointed words at me and then run and hide. Don't blame the world when the world tells you that you're not being supportive. That's no excuse. That's just crap. You can do better.