Fitspiration Brouhaha

Tired of looking at this yet?

Tired of looking at this yet?

This month has witnessed a sustained hullabaloo regarding images of “fit” women. First there was the storm of controversy surrounding the photographs of Lea-Ann Ellison, a CrossFit aficionado shown lifting weights while 8 months pregnant, discussed in my previous post. Then things really got heated when Maria Kang, a 32-year-old fitness instructor, produced a poster of her scantily clad self towering above her three young children while challenging the viewer with the taunt: “What’s Your Excuse?” Attracting millions of hits and thousands of comments, many people felt bullied by this picture of a beautiful, young, and clearly fertile woman with washboard abs. Others admired Kang’s chutzpah, declaring that those who criticized her were likely lazy, fat “haters.” Surpassing the media frenzy inspired by Ellison, Kang received international attention, even appearing on major television talk shows. Despite the sheer quantity of dialogue, for the most part it was limited to asking audiences to take sides either for or against Kang. This lack of thoughtful engagement is par for the course in today’s world of unsophisticated journalism. Yet it was also predetermined by the dominant message encoded in Kang’s self-promotional poster. Her aggressive question “calls out” a particular kind of spectator, namely someone who does not work out and therefore looks nothing like Kang. Continue reading

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