Welcome to the university fat club!

See Bryn Mawr Health Center Helpfully Emails Students Weight Loss Tips for the full back story.

In short, the university emailed weight loss tips to those students  with overweight/obese BMI scores. How do the university know who those students were? Each medical visit at campus health services involved a weight in and then data that was mined and used for those purpose.

Some students who were treated at the Health Center for their weight—including those recovering from an eating disorders like anorexia—also received the email.

“The dishes and cups in the dining hall have become smaller every year,”says a pre- law student who received the “Hoot” email writes. “The encouragement by administration to lose weight has increased. And hall leaders are being told to lessen the number of food-related get togethers.”

This story managed to hit two of my hot spots, involving both fat shaming and privacy invading. Wow.

First, how likely is that to be helpful? Not so much

Second, the students are adults. Did they ask for help?

Third, what about privacy rights? I’m teaching a course on Digital Ethics this semester. See our WordPress site here and our Facebook page here, Sometimes it can be hard to get the 18 year olds riled up at privacy. This is the social media generation after all. But one thing that even they hate is information given for one purpose, used in another.

They enjoyed this older video on privacy and pizza from the ACLU.



body image · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #19

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

Why does a fitness blog even care about body image? You can read about that here.

This was taken yesterday after hiking in the #Buderim rainforest in Australia. It was tough for me because a) I wasn’t prepared & had a bikini & #aldo sandals which wasn’t the best outfit (but I looked hot TBH) & b) even though I’m active it was a strenuous hike! However I pushed myself because I’m stubborn & never quit. Don’t let your size limit you on missing out on the wonders the world has for you.

Tess holliday plus size

Many women see their body hair choices as reflections of their gender, sexuality, and femininity. Today, body hair is often associated with masculinity: Women with thick hair on their arms or faces are deemed “manly” or “unfeminine.” Some women, though, are flipping this association on its head — instead viewing their body hair as an important and powerful aspect of their womanhood. And, many of them continue to encounter sexist double standards in response to their choices.



Kim Anami is travelling around the world lifting things with her vagina. Possibly more than you can lift with your biceps.

Anami, an intimacy coach who teaches, among other things, “vaginal kung fu,” is a believer in the power every woman holds between her legs, and has set out to prove it.

She has travelled around the world, tagging Instagram photos with #thingsiliftwithmyvagina, demonstrating her unique abilities and seriously impressive vaginal muscles.

But this isn’t just showboating. As Anami explains on her site, if you can’t shoot ping pong balls out of your vagina, you’re sexually disconnected and missing out on some of the wonders of your body.

As HuffPost blogger Joan Price writes, strengthened pelvic floor muscles can lead to better sex and stronger orgasms, and can also help with incontinence.

fashion · Guest Post

Sweaty hair solutions (Guest post)

Like Sam, who has written about her Athletic Hair, helmet head, and summer time curls I have short hair. But mine is straight, and I wear it longer in the winter (in part to keep my head warm). My main goal with my own athletic hair is pretty simple: keep the hair from my eyes, keep the sweat from my eyes. I also like to keep the hair from my ears (I don’t know why; it drives me crazy when I am exercising).

There’s an obvious solution: headbands. I’ve tried most of them, little strips of elastic that UnderArmour or Lululemon retails for $10, bits of lycra/cotton with a logo.

This summer, I whipped up a bunch of them for myself, and I handstamped them with my own version of fitspiration: Badass on the ball; plays hard; faster, stronger; karma … I was wearing “plays hard” when I took an elbow to the face and ended up with broken glasses, so I feel I can claim with some authority (*cough*) that they help with performance.

Badass headband
The first creation


I wore the headband to a soccer game, and the orders started coming in from my teammates. Seems a lot of us fit feminists like to support each other’s creative outlets at the same time as dealing with those pesky tendrils that jump out of ponytails. A posted picture on facebook led to some custom requests, too – my favourite is Kim’s “Queen of the Mountain” which came after her epic ride here.

Sam asked me to write about the headbands in the summer, and I was reticent. I didn’t want to broadcast personal contact info on the blog (although it is easy enough to find me given public directories) and was unsure how people could go about ordering something without that kind of info. It’s a side amusement to make them, not a business – or at least not a formal one. But, if you too could use a little reminder about just how badass you are when you play a sport or workout, please let me know.  You can message me on facebook (I’m in the Fit is a Feminist Issue group) or look me up at Western University. The handstamped, handmade headbands are $5 (shipping extra). They are one size fits most – even people with big heads and lots of hair. My long-haired nephews used headbands for fencing camp this summer (some with appropriate words for children!).  I’m happy to customize your headband (within length limits).


Why feminism is still needed

Michael Rowe shared this on Facebook with the following comment: “I can’t help but wonder what it would look like if a male author who had sold 30 million copies of one book (in this case, THE THORN BIRDS, which was made into the second-highest rated miniseries of all time) was eulogized as being “plain of feature and certainly overweight,” especially in the first paragraph of his obituary. I’m still wondering, because I just can’t picture it happening. (Photo by @vanbadham, via Twitter.)

Thanks Peter K for sharing

accessibility · body image · disability · Guest Post · SamanthaWalsh

“My Body is not the Unfortunate Container for my Personality” and Other Lessons I learned Art Modeling (Guest Post)

by Samantha Walsh

walshI would like to thank “Fit is a Feminist Issue” and specifically Samantha (who shares my name) for the opportunity to write a guest post. This will be my second time guest blogging. You can read my earlier post on wheelchairs, the warrior dash, and inclusion here. I am a fan of the blog so it is fantastic to take part. Recently, I was a model for a life drawing class (Art Model). This is a paid position where you sit for the class to draw or paint you. It is four hours. You hold the pose for fifteen minutes at a time (or more if you can do so). The class I sat for usually draws models of whom are able bodied and the model is naked. The experience of art modeling required that I become okay (but ideally comfortable) with my own body. My blog will be mediation on my body and body image related discourse.

About Me

To begin, here is some information about myself: I am 31 years old and I work in a post-secondary institution. I am doctoral candidate in Sociology. I also have a condition called cerebral palsy and it effects my coordination and ability to walk. I use a wheelchair to get around. I have only been an average weight according to the BMI index once in my life and it was for two years in high school. I weight trained every day, played wheelchair basketball 3-4 times a week and my mother worked for a weight loss company. Everything in our house was portion controlled. I was 5’5 and 130lbs. Since then, my weight has fluctuated. I have quit basketball but continued to have periods in my life where I am incredibly active and then others where I am inactive. I have always had a tenuous relationship with my body. I learned very early that my body was in need of repair. Much of my time between the ages of infancy to ten were taken up by visits to physical therapist, doctors and specialist who have endeavored into attempts to cure me or make me walk. My mom eventually, in a bold move, decided that functionality was far more necessary than walking. She allowed me to get a wheelchair, put me in adapted sports and installed ramps in our house. Walking was associated with fitness and stretching; wheeling was associated with movement, play and function. My wheelchair is the best thing that my mother has ever given to me. The fact that she got me a wheelchair in face of conventional wisdom suggesting that her soul goal should be that I walk, while folks were saying “if you put your kid in a wheelchair she will never get out” speaks to my mom’s convection and depth of character. The fact is I would have never walked, or I would have walked in a way that would have been limiting (if you walk and like it good for you). The body may crave movement, but not everybody craves the same movement. In the same way some of us are runners and some are not; some of us are swimmers and some are not; some of us are walkers and some are not- I am not a walker.

I struggle (sometimes) not being a walker in a world that is designed for folks who walk. I am the unexpected body most of the time. However, I struggle more (if we can quantify struggle) with conventional beauty. As I said before I have been overweight according to the BMI index most of my life, I would not consider myself one to have conventional beauty. I could list many things I wish I could change. In the same way that my mom tried in earnest for the first part of my life to make me walk because that’s what society said was important. I have spent my whole life trying to make myself beautiful. Not spiritually beautifuland not beautiful to friends and family, but the type of beautiful, that sells cars: that manufactured beautiful that makes us by spandex underwear and teeth whitener.


How Did I Decide to do Art Modeling:

The literal story of how I became an art model is pretty basic but for context, here it is. I have a friend who does it and she said it was a good part time job. She gave me some contacts and I started cold calling. I booked a session with an art studio of which did not require a portfolio and was interested in diverse models. The director and I discussed poses I could do and we settled on something. That is physically how I became an art model.

How I intellectually became an art model is a very different story. I have recently had a paradigm shift in how I think about my own body and the standard I hold myself to. I have always thought of my body as the unfortunate container of my personality. However, in the past ten years this perception has shifted quite a bit. Having the privilege to study Sociology has given me amply time to consider and reflect on the notion of beauty. Furthermore, because of this I have come to understand my body as a tool rather than a site of work. My body lets me do all kinds of interesting things from a “warrior dash” to sex (sorry mom). This shift in thinking has been mediated by many things. For one, I had very skilled trainer who taught me about challenging the body for the sake of the challenge rather than as punishment. In addition, a friend of mine became a weight lifting instructor, and her passion and love of her own body was truly infectious. I was also a part of a cross-fit style gym with a focus on movement called StrengthBox for a year. My involvement in the StrengthBox community was incredibly transformative it changed my body and further solidified the idea of the body as a tool for entertainment and joy. There were all kinds of folks there and no one seemed particularly concerned about who was beautiful and who was not. Everyone was there for their own sake and the sake of movement. A recent unrelated injury has caused me to change my fitness routine but, the experience was truly transformative. I am not completely unburdened by social pressure to conform, but rather I seek spaces of like minded folks and opportunities that challenge me. I want to use my body in the immediate rather than wait for when it’s perfect because, just like walking, “perfect” (or that abstract concept that is) may never happen for me. Art modeling seemed like a novel experience that would certainly force me to appreciate my body or at least use it.

I had originally wanted to start my Art Modeling in the summer during the peak of my StrengthBox days and when I had a tan. However, I ended up doing it in January post injury, while my body was showing signs of injury, recovery, rest and a lack of motion. While I was not thrilled about the timing, I am pleased that I did it because it was truly a chance to live my new paradigm. I was not working on my body-my body was ready, as it has always been. It just took me quite some time to notice.


Art Modeling: the Day of…

Decorum dictates you show up at least fifteen minutes before the class. You “set the pose”: this means with your clothes on you hold the pose. While you are in the pose, someone tapes marks on the stage so you know exactly where to sit. This is also the time when lighting is staged and the artist has decided where they will sit. You then go to the washroom to take off your clothes and then you come back in a bath robe or in my case, a little sundress. You get into the pose again, and then take your cover off. However, in my case the class all decided they liked the sundress I was wearing as a cover so they would paint me in that rather than naked. One of the first things I noticed was how symbiotic the relationship between the painters and the model was. Several of the painters there said the room was too cold for the model to be naked, and so a heater was turned on. The art director set the tone and everyone knew my name and that it was my first time. Everyone addressed me by name. I had control over how long I would sit. Artists were able to comment on my pose, but I had the final say or a compromise would be reached. My imagination had been that I would have little control or voice in the situation. The overall explanation to this is that if the model is unhappy or uncomfortable it becomes harder to paint them. This was fantastically empowering because everyone thanked me for my time and said positive non-creepy things. For example they would say things like:“you sit very still”, “you are fun to paint” and “your eyes change colour”. As an aside it is actually frowned upon to objectify or say things that make the model uncomfortable. I thought about a saying I heard once about the safety of women: that theoretically “a woman should be able to walk down the street, drunk, and naked and/or alone and still be totally safe”. In life drawing class you are naked (or in a little dress) and alone (you could theoretically be drunk I suppose if you kept it to yourself but, this is not something I would try) but, you are totally safe and it feels that way.

Second, I also noticed that no one said anything about me being disabled or assumed that I was anything else but the model. I don’t know if they were just being polite, but everyone agreed I was the model and they would be painting me. I think this is another example of how access is created through relationships. While the physical space was accessible, the class had to accept me as their model, and further to this the art director who hired me had to be okay with the fact that the pose I would do would ultimately be the one my body allowed. I was worried I would be second rate to a standing model that this would be an experiment but it was not. A good model is someone who likes themselves (at least a little) and can sit for a long time.

Third, I assumed that the hardest part would be being naked. The hardest part was sitting still and letting all of me either painfully fills with lactic acid or fall asleep due to lack of circulation. Being disabled was an asset because in four hours I only got up twice (during the breaks I just stretched on the stage) and I can’t lift my legs easily, so they sat still. The pose I was doing put all the weight through my arm. Most people cannot hold the pose I was in but, even with the recent injury my shoulders are still over developed. Apparently I was fun to draw because I seemed just as interested in being painted as they were to paint me. Everyone said a lot of positive things. I didn’t smile though because I was physically uncomfortable for a lot of it- it took a lot of endurance.. I assume that this is why there are so many paintings of women who look horribly sad.

Can I Take a Picture of Your Picture of Me?

Another interesting nuance was the notion that I was being stared at but, with purpose and intent. It was one of the only times in my life that I have known people were staring at me and not been intensely annoyed. I am used to folks staring because I am disabled. But in this situation, everyone was staring at me because that was the point. It also became interesting because, the artists had to ask to take photos of me– they do this so they can work on the painting later, and I could say yes or no. I myself also had to ask if I could capture photos of their work, because I wanted these images to use as a portfolio. There is share vulnerability when the act of exchanging images is mediated through consent. This was so powerful for me because, often as a person with a disability I don’t get to control who stares and who does not. It was also interesting to be the person staring at something, in this case an individual’s artistic creation, and how that could make someone feel vulnerable.

Art Modeling From Job to Body Based Meditation

Overall, the opportunity to art model has served as an occasion to think about my body, and the interplay I live between expectations and reality. It has not solved all of my body image worries but, it has softened them. In art modeling my body is not the unfortunate container for my personality, but rather my body is interesting, valuable and useful.






The Taboo of Menstruation in Sports

heather-watson-featureBritish tennis player, Heather Watson, started what some regard as a most welcome conversation by admitting that she wasn’t at the top of her game at the Australian Open because of “girl things.” She said:

‘It just was one of those days for me. I felt very light-headed and low on energy – you know it’s a shame that it’s today. With the way I as feeling… um it didn’t do me any favours today … the last couple days I felt fine. I think it’s just one of these things that I have, girl things. It just , yeah, happens.”

More than one headline has said that in alluding to her period, she broke a major taboo in sports.  The CBC’s The Current says: “Heather Watson breaks period taboo at the Australian Open” and The Huffington Post headline is: “How Tennis Player Heather Watson Confronted the Taboo of Menstruation in Sports.” The Guardian story is titled, “Menstruation: The last great sporting taboo” and, in a further piece, asks, “If men menstruated would periods still be taboo?”

In that article, the author writes:

What a relief it is to be able to say “period” out loud in public, without everyone running queasily for the hills. Thank you, Heather Watson, for telling the world that menstruation messed up your tennis-playing. A breakthrough. Well, it is for my generation, which never dared mention periods, tampons, sanitary towels, tummy aches and spare knickers to anyone (except the swimming teacher). We didn’t even know what PMT was.

Those were tough times. We had to be fairly stoical and keep it all a secret. Not easy, what with all the leaks, belts, nappies, stench and pain. I once had a seven-week-long period about two decades ago and thought I might bleed to death. Imagine keeping that quiet. I couldn’t, so I wrote about it in this newspaper, initially pretending it wasn’t me, because of the shame. Then I owned up, and so did many brave readers. But that was the Women’s page, not the wider world.

I’ve blogged before about menstruation and yoga, in the post “Yoga’s Red Tent.” Now, maybe yoga isn’t what we’d call a sport, but one positive thing about the menstrual practice is that it at least acknowledges that sometimes menstruating women don’t feel 100%.

When people applaud Heather Watson for her comments — even Martina Navratilova expressed support — they are acknowledging that a badly timed period can indeed have a negative impact on a woman’s athletic performance. As Navratilova says:

“It sounds like an excuse but for women it is reality,” said Navratilova, who recently joined the growing ranks of superstar tennis coaches in a partnership with world No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska. “For me I didn’t even like to drive before I got my period, that’s how out of it I was. So it certainly affected me on the tennis court. There were a few matches that I wish would have been played about three days earlier or three days later.

I’ve known women who were positively sidelined by their periods, spending at least a day or two crampy and achey and tired–hardly in any shape to perform their athletic best.

But it’s not the same for everyone. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I used to feel worst for a few days before my period. That’s when my legs felt like they were filled with lead and I could sleep for hours in the middle of the day. But when my period finally arrived I felt a surge of energy. It was like a big relief.

For me, that all started to change during peri-menopause, when I finally learned what it was like to have cramps and lower back pain.

These are realities for some women, and while every athlete has an off day from time to time, for women athletes who do suffer prior to and/or during their periods, it can be a thing of dread.  You can track all you want, but the fact is that for many, it’s difficult to predict exactly when you’re going to get it.

Navratilova talks about having had to spend a day in bed between the Wimbledon semi-final and final in 1978:

“In my first Wimbledon [title, in 1978], I played Evonne Goolagong Cawley in the semi-finals. I got my period the next day, I stayed in bed all day. I didn’t go practice. I beat Chris [Evert] in the final, but I was lucky that it came that day. If the final came the day before I would have lost the match, because I was in bed. Now you have ibuprofen that helps it, so that at least you’re not in pain, but the head is still … there’s no drug for the head.”

It’s great that women can talk openly about menstruation. But I think there’s a potentially sinister twisting of the message that we need to watch for.  I worry that this openness will be used against us.  It could be cited as confirming why women just aren’t as good as or as consistent as men at sports — men don’t menstruate.

Despite that it’s true that for some women, some of the time, a nasty period arriving at the wrong time can temporarily set them back, there are lots of women for whom menstruation isn’t much more than an inconvenience. Indeed, there are even those, like I used to in my twenties, who welcomed the influx of energy that came with it.

And while it’s great to be able to talk openly about something that affects so many women — sort of how I felt about that locker room conversation about hot flashes and night sweats the other day — we also want to be careful with arguments that suggest that biology-is-destiny. It makes me think of the way girls used to be forced to sit out gym class because of their periods.

So I’m cautious. I think this all speaks to the double bind that as women, we often find ourselves in. It’s great to be open about things that affect us, but it’s also then used against us, dismissed as an excuse, and becomes a source of generalization about the way “all” women “get” when they’re menstruating.

On balance, it’s a good thing to be open about the facts: lots of women, even athletes, menstruate.  And for some, it’s not a happy time (hence, one of the euphemisms for it is “the curse.”). I’ll end with this rant about why tampons are taxed as luxury items in the UK:

Who decides on these mad taxes? I suspect it’s men. Not that I have anything against men. Some of my best friends are men, but men have never had periods. They’ve never been called unclean and sent to huts and baths outside their homes and villages, away from kitchens, in case they turned the bacon rancid, tainted their spouses, repelled fish and game, polluted the air and young hunters, affected the weather negatively with their gaze, bled uncontrollably, stank and became wild and dangerous. They’ve never had horrid bloating and dragging tummy aches, bloody knickers, sheets and even mattresses, spent hours washing everything, lying bleeding and clutching hot-water bottles. Because if they had, they’d know that having a convenient way of containing and mopping it all up is a necessity, not a luxury.

Now that last bit may not be everyone’s experience. But you can see how it would be tough to play your best tennis under those circumstances, and it would also be tough to speak up about it, given the taboo, stigma, and stereotyping that goes on around menstruation and menstruating women.

Guest Post · soccer

Soccer with A Twist (Guest Post)

by Sarah Rayner

Bubble Soccer What a Blast! This past Sunday my soccer team Poise had the opportunity to be a part of the first ever London Bubble Soccer Tournament.

I went into this tournament having some soccer skills but not knowing what to expect. The organizer from KnockOutStigma called all of the captains a few days before the tournament to assure us it would be “good clean fun” and there was not much chance of injury being wrapped in a bubble. This made me feel a lot better!
I was pretty nervous thinking we would be the oldest team of all the women’s team but to my surprise we weren’t…we actually saw a lot of familiar faces on the field.

It was four on four 30 minute games which was pretty exhausting running with inflated bubbles on, but we played hard…we won 2 and lost 2 games. It was a highly energized, well organized event ant I would like to thank KnockOut for being able to scratch Bubble Soccer off my bucket list.

I will be participating in Knock Out events again for sure.

Check them out on Facebook or website www.knockoutstigma.ca
They have a great mission to knockout stigma with LGBTQ athletes and their straight allies.

Here’s some outdoor bubble soccer videos:

And Sam’s post about bubble soccer: Bubble soccer!


Women-Only Spaces and Why I Love the Locker Room

women_symbol_200Last Tuesday after a swim I was in the locker room at the Y. I glanced behind me to see a colleague from another department just arriving for her workout.

We don’t see a lot of each other and we’re not super close or anything, but before long she and I and a third woman who is a stranger to us both started chatting about poor sleep, hot flashes, and night sweats.  My colleague is a bit younger than I am. The stranger a bit older. So between the three of us we represented three generations of menopause — the prospect of it, the reality of it, and the well and truly over it.

As I gathered up my things and wished them both a good day, I felt grateful for the opportunity to have a spontaneous and casual conversation about something sort of personal.  And that’s why I love the locker room. This same conversation would never have taken place in a space that wasn’t a women-only space.

Feminists have been thinking about women-only spaces for decades.  We value them for all kinds of reasons.  As I experienced in the locker room, there are some conversations that just wouldn’t start up in the company of men.

People are okay with separate locker rooms. But the idea of women-only spaces is actually controversial. Some people even think they’re sexist. And that prompts others to defend them as not sexist. Consider this post on Role Reboot by a women who found a job through a women’s only Facebook group for women in IT:

While there is a small part of me that squirms at the exclusivity of an invite-only circle, there’s a much louder voice that remembers that “old boys clubs” have run the world forever. For men who work in business and tech, the industry is the men-only space. It may not be a backroom cloudy with cigar smoke anymore, but you can still see it in the inner workings if you look close enough. Every lineup of executives that all went to the same three colleges and pull each other between the same three companies and promote each other’s people is the new version of an old phenomenon.

Now we’re creating our own opportunities to help, hire, and promote each other. Is it overcompensation to insist on women-only spaces? Sure, but we’re nowhere near the point where it’s unnecessary. When people start ranting about the “sexism” of all-female spaces, I’m reminded of the West Wing bit about White House bathrobes:

Sam: There are bathrobes at the gym?

CJ: In the women’s locker room.

Sam: But not the men’s.

CJ: Yeah.

Sam: Now, that’s outrageous. There’s a thousand men working here and 50 women.

CJ: Yeah, and it’s the bathrobes that’s outrageous.

There’s been a lot of news lately about female-only spaces, from the woman-to-woman cab service SheRides, to the feminist-hacker space Double Union in San Francisco, to the new policies on transgender students put forth by women’s college Mt. Holyoke

When people point at these and rave about reverse-sexism, it means they’re too focused on the White House bathrobes when the real problems—only 2% of drivers are women and female passengers feel unsafe; and women in tech industries are woefully underrepresented—are staring them in the face.

Do I dream of a world in which I don’t feel like I need the safe space of an all-women community? Sure, but in the meantime, I’m going to work my Old Girl’s Club until the playing field is less bumpy.

The blogger at ITISIWHOWILLIT has a great defence of women-only spaces against common objections.  For example, she says:

“It’s sexist- you wouldn’t want a men-only space”.
The first flaw in this argument is that it refuses to accept that the rest of the world is exclusive of women- that though they may be physically present (they aren’t “banned” from the room as men and self-identifying men are in a women’s only space), they are not intellectually or politically present. The world makes us the Other, and if the only time when some women feel that they can be honest and productive is in the company of fellow “Others” (I use the term begrudgingly), then that space must exist.


“Well, I don’t feel threatened by men, so I don’t see what the problem is”.
This kind of experience denying is incredibly problematic. It’s so problematic because it’s such an easy thing to do- we are empirical creatures, and we construct our lives around our experience, so it makes sense to base our view of others on our experience. Yet, an abstraction from our own experience is essential if we are to understand any kind of struggle. As a white british I have never experienced racism/xenophobia- but I could never deny its existence, nor would most people who deny the feminist’s struggle. Yet they still use this very argument against feminism. Baffling. I imagine the main reason that this isn’t seen as 1) logically flawed, 2) fucking stupid, 3) outright offensive is because woman’s struggle isn’t as felt as racism is. I mean, women aren’t killed/raped/beaten/fired because they’re women, right? There is always another reason- walking alone at night, a short skirt, not listening, being physically weak, having children… is my point evident? Women are almost always abused for the reason that they are a woman, anything else is an excuse for what is nothing less than sexism. You are privileged if you don’t feel threatened by men, other people are not so privileged.


“I’m not intimidating/offensive/dominating”.
Yes, you are. Even in saying that you are being intimidating, marginalising/guilt-tripping women for wanting to be alone with people they feel more connected to and safer around. It is very hard for many women to feel secure talking about their experience with men present, particularly when issues such as rape/sexual assault are on the table. It is very difficult, if not impossible for men to even empathise with women when they’re talking about these issues, and that is fine, we do not expect you to understand, but we do expect you to understand  our need for a sisterly community and a comfortable space in which to talk about very personal, very real, very emotional experiences.

And then finally:

“Women-only spaces are just women sitting around man-hating”.
Wrong. Wrong in so many ways.

You can go here to read all the different ways in which that’s wrong.

But one way it’s wrong is that, as my locker room example shows, women-only spaces give rise to different kinds of conversations. And as much as some men would like to think that when there are no men around, women just want to talk about men, it doesn’t happen quite as much as they might hope.

And remember, just because there’s value in women-only spaces doesn’t mean that integrated spaces don’t also have value.  I’ve posted before about women-only gyms. I’m not a big fan. See that conversation here.

But I love women-only races like the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon. And I posted about why women-only events are not sexist and are a good thing for women.

The Facebook IT group for women-only made me think of something else that I’m quite enjoying lately. I joined a Facebook group for women who sail. It’s a closed group. You need to request membership and be approved.

I’ve been sailing for almost two decades, but never have I belonged to a group of sailors who are all women.  It’s got a totally different quality and character than any of the other forums or groups. There is a lot of encouragement and support going on, a lot of empathizing and reassuring, information-sharing about everything from routes to electronics to cleaning products to the quickest drying fabric.

And that’s why I love the locker room.



Guest Post

My first time rock climbing (Guest post)

So a little thing you may not know about me is, despite having been an Air Navigator for 12 years, I am terrified of heights. Like, I don’t like getting on the step stool kind of terrified of heights. It’s irrational, I know, but it’s a real thing. Full disclosure, I have done rappelling, zip-lining and parasailing as part of my military training in the mid 90s but I never actually propelled myself upwards, so yes this is really my first time rock climbing.

My beloved and 2 teenage boys have really enjoyed indoor rock climbing since Junction Climbing opened here in London last spring. I kept saying I would go, but honestly, I also kept putting it off. It was even one of my goals for 2014. I’ve decided that I’m letting this count.

To make it more (or less?) weird we had gathered a group of friends that do active things and organized to go on a Sunday afternoon. Mallory offered to belay alongside my partner and oldest son so us newbies could try lots of walls. I was joined by Jessica and Brent, both long distance runners and really nice humans. Brent had been to this facility once before and Jessica was brand new, like me. Bike Rally David came along to observe and he promises the next time he’s there he will climb.

We got our loaner harnesses, I cracked a joke that I’d never worn a harness in public before. I was nervous so my humour was sitting at 12 year old level. I opted to use my running shoes, mistake #1. Jessica chose to rent the climbing shoes and later reported that they made a big difference.

We got our orientation from a nice fellow who got us to try out the autobelays by climbing up the easiest wall (known as the birthday party wall) just a few feet then jumping off. Jessica went up and hesitated to jump off but then did so with lots of awesomeness. My turn I kept scrambling at the wall with my fingers, not wanting to really let go. I finally did by just throwing my hands around the rope, squealing with my eyes closed. I flopped harmlessly to the ground and asked the staff person if I would get kicked out for making too much noise. He replied that lots of people make lots of noises.

We got an intro to the bouldering sections and then went on our way. Mistake #2 was trying to get in the beginner area on a Sunday afternoon. there were lots of tiny humans, blissfully unaware of the overhead danger I posed. I stuck to a harder but less busy route, Mallory belayed for me a few times but I couldn’t get more than a few feet off the ground. I simply didn’t have the leg strength to lift up onto a hold that was mid thigh height.

Jessica tried a bunch of different walls and loved it. Mallory demonstrated her approach to a bunch of walls that had autobelay. She would push off like an aerial acrobatic, very Crique du Soleil, and glide down. Mallory’s easy going approach was a big help in me staying calm. This was way harder than I had thought it would be, psychologically and physically. I realized the months of my family climbing without me meant they were well along their way to being highly skilled. They went up seemingly impossible routes with skill and ease. David pointed out that most people climbing were lean, sinewy types like my partner and sons. He was right. I looked around and I was the doughiest person in the building. It was humbling and after a handful of tries my forearms were too tired to do more and I’d only gotten a few feet off the floor. Bummer. My expectation was that I could do at least one route so that was humbling.

I was tired when I got home and a bit embarrassed. I even had to take a nap! Will I do it again? Hheck ya I will! Sam said if I blogged about it she’d come try it too so TAG, you’re it! Let’s go climbing 🙂

(Editor’s note: Gulp. Here we go!)


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