Maria Kang, Matt Walsh and The Photo That Sparked a War

Dear Matt Walsh,

I was quickly disheartened as I read your letter to the “Haters of America” this morning. Apparently, you have concluded that anyone who has criticized Maria Kang this week - after a controversial photo of her posing half naked went viral online - are “thin-skinned, jealous, and spiteful” assholes who have nothing better to do than wish this mom of three would gain 50 pounds and be as fat and miserable as the rest of us hate mongers. You are dead wrong, Matt Walsh.

Allow me to share some statistics:

• 65 percent of American women and girls have eating disorders

• Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.

27% of girls 12-18 have significant symptoms

• 46% of 10-year-old girls are dieting, have a fear of “fatness” or are binge eating

• The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.

10 million males in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives

Now that your eyes are a bit more open – and perhaps your mind as well – let’s get back to that photo and those “haters” you so gleefully condemn.

maria-kangWhat you probably don’t know is that many of them are women like me. At fourteen, I knew I would not be a success in life unless I was skinny. It wasn’t enough that I was smart, caring and funny. Unless I had willowy arms, a tight ass and washboard abs that would make other girls jealous and boys drool, my life was nothing. I was nothing.

I tried everything to achieve my goal. I stopped eating for weeks at a time. I stuck my fingers down my throat and threw up after big meals. In college, I alternated between binging, starving myself and exercising for hours. Keep going, Wendy, I thought. You can do this. I worked three jobs to pay for college and graduated magna cum laude, but what really mattered to me was whether other people thought I was thin and pretty.

Little did I know that the self-loathing and self-objectification would carry on into adulthood. Many people look at my life and see what's on the gleaming surface: a successful stint in the Peace Corps, an exciting career, an Ivy League master’s degree, a wonderful husband and kid. What most don't know is that on the inside, I tell myself on a daily basis that I am worthless because of these goddamn muffin tops that won't go away no matter how hard I try.

Those of us who criticize that photo of Maria Kang, Matt Walsh, are not haters. We are women and men who are fed up with a society that places a sickening overemphasis on how we look and not who we are. Sure, Maria’s photo could speak to her determination and her commitment. It may even inspire many people who are living less-than-healthy lifestyles. But what millions of us see is yet another example of a woman saying to other women: “If you want to win at life, you have to look like me, you lazy piece of shit.”

Too many women and men are suffering, Matt Walsh. Too many girls and boys are putting food in their mouths and thinking “I am a loser" or "I am worthless.” Too many are finishing their salads, noticing their pants are a bit tighter and telling themselves that next time they must eat less. Just a few pounds to go and then they get to feel good about themselves.

So perhaps you should change “Haters of America” to “Haters of the Culture We’ve Created That Says Women Need To Look Like Heidi Klum.” And if we don’t look like Heidi Klum, we should wish we did or despise ourselves because we never will.

I think it’s pretty cool that you present social commentary in such a salt-of-the-earth way. But please remember, Matt Walsh, to stay on the planet Earth before you get too high on your soapbox and call people haters. Your thoughts and insights are more interesting and thought-provoking when their devoid of sanctimonious jabs.

Before you judge, watch a movie like Miss Representation. Open your eyes to what is happening in this country, which is that women and men are being crushed under the expectations of a ruthless media that know no boundaries. We are being bombarded with 5000 messages a day that tell us we are nothing unless we are beautiful.

Then get back on that blog and be a champion, Matt Walsh. Not a hater.

Sincerely,

Wendy

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