A California mother of three whose question, “What’s your excuse?” landed her in the midst of a Facebook controversy about weight and fitness last month is already back in the spotlight. This time, fitness enthusiast Maria Kang wrote a pot-stirring Facebook post criticizing plus-size women in lingerie that wound up getting her reported for abuse and subsequently blocked from Facebook over the weekend. Facebook has since called the incident an “error” and has apologized to Kang, but says her post will not be restored.
“I felt like I’d been sent to the principal’s office and been expelled,” Kang tells Yahoo Shine regarding how she was unable to access Facebook and her nearly 230,000 followers for almost three days since Friday. That’s when she received the following computer-generated message from the social media site: “Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.”
Kang says the message made her feel “depressed,” and censored simply for talking about the dangers of obesity. “We’ve become so sensitive to this weight issue that people who speak out against it are vilified,” she tells Yahoo Shine. “It’s so backwards to me.”
The blogger — whose self-portrait in workout gear went viral in October, prompting some to laud her and others to accuse her of "fat shaming," — posted this time some thoughts regarding an online “Regular Women” campaign. Launched earlier this month by Chrystal Bougon, the owner of California plus-size shop Curvy Girl Lingerie, the campaign aimed to “show that women with rolls, bumps, lumps, scars, stretch marks, surgery scars and natural breasts that have nursed babies can be stunning and beautiful.” Bougon inspired many real, plus-size women to proudly post photos of themselves on the Facebook website.
But the campaign left Kang feeling “annoyed,” she notes in the removed post (still visible on her personal website). She explains, “We have a health issue in America with over 2/3 overweight or obese,” and a “healthcare crisis,” and a “childhood obesity issue.” She adds that, “We need to change this strange mentality we are breeding in the U.S. and start celebrating people who are a result of hard work, dedication and discipline. I’m not bashing those who are proud and overweight, I am empowering those who are proud and healthy to come out and be the real role models in our society.”
Kang says her post racked up 10,000 likes and 2,000 shares in four hours, generating comments that were both angry and supportive. While she says she stands by what she wrote, she adds, “The only thing I feel bad about is if I hurt someone’s feelings. They should love themselves, but they should want to make themselves better.”
Bougon tells Yahoo Shine through a text message that she’s not sure if she saw Kang’s post, because her campaign had inspired “so many haters and shamers this past week.” Based on what she’s heard, however, she says her response to Kang would be, “Thanks for your concern, dear total stranger. F-off.” She adds, “But seriously, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But my page is our little space in the cyber world. If you don’t like what we are doing, move on to the next page.”
According to an email from Facebook spokesperson Matt Steinfeld, “We looked into this over the weekend and found that we had incorrectly restricted access to Ms. Kang's page after a user reported a piece of content that she had posted. When we realized the error, we corrected it immediately. We apologize for the inconvenience.” He adds that while the post “cannot be reinstated,” Facebook would encourage her to repost it.
Kang is skeptical, though, noting that she’s seen many worse postings make it through the Facebook filters, including pornography and barely-dressed people. “I think the ‘human error,’” she tells Shine, “was by someone who is highly sensitive to the post and took it upon themselves to see it as ‘hate language’.”