fitness · inclusiveness

Inclusive Fitness?

There’s a lot of good information on Livestrong.com, some of it included in this slideshow, “The 20 Best Fitness Tips of All Time.” Nevertheless, the post raised some questions for me. It has a very narrow and gendered view of fitness and who gets to be fit. We see slender, youthful, and non-disabled bodies in the opening shot. The male has a six-pack and the female is both thin and busty. We don’t need to see their faces to know these are young people. A quick read of the comments will show that in the original photo, the woman was photoshopped to be even thinner.  So men can be muscular; but the fit woman is thin.  We see this theme repeated in later slides.  Though there is one photo of a woman doing squats with a barbell on the beach, all of the images taken in the weight room are of men. This lack of representation of women in the weight room perpetuates the stereotype of this part of the gym as a male, testosterone-filled domain. And if these images are supposed to be representative, not only is the world of fitness populated by people under thirty (except perhaps the guy doing the perfect push-up; he might be in his thirties), the majority of whom are men, but just about everyone (except one runner) is white.  I’m old school about one fairly simple staple in feminist discourse: people begin to believe they can achieve something if they see others like themselves represented doing the thing they want to achieve.  And on the flip side of this, if we represent the gym as a predominantly young, white, male domain, that sets an expectation that could have an excluding effect.  So while I like much of this article’s content and will even follow some of its advice (like the chocolate milk advice — that’s awesome! I will be having a glass of chocolate soy milk after my next workout), I would like it better if it had a more inclusive approach to the photos, and didn’t stereotype “the fit body” in a gendered way, and as young and white.

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