You may have noticed that here at Fit Is a Feminist Issue we write a lot about our own experiences: our latest training plans and decisions (like when I hired a coach to train for Around the Bay); events we’ve done (like Sam’s account of the Five Boros Bike Tour on Sunday), thoughts on food (like Sam’s cooking), weight (and why I don’t talk about it), and body neutrality or body positivity; that new sport we’re trying out (like Catherine’s kayaking); stuff we like (speed work!); stuff we don’t like much (me and the bike). It can all seem so self-centred!
There are actually good reasons a lot of feminist writers favour or at least include a lot of personal writing:
The personal is political. Feminism has a long history of operating on the assumption that “the personal is political.” This can mean lots of different things, of course. It can mean personal decisions about reproduction, consent, and what we’re going to do with our lives are political. Why? Because women’s lives and bodies are regulated, controlled, monitored, and under surveillance. But another way of understanding women’s personal writing as political is that historically women’s experiences haven’t been well-documented, their stories either lost or not told in the first place. So telling our stories of personal achievements, accomplishments, disappointments, ups and downs can helps to redress the balance a bit in the other direction. It’s a matter of equality.
Generalizing can be risky. Generalizing beyond personal experience risks getting the facts wrong about other people’s lives. And sometimes that can have harmful consequences, as some of us have seen recently in the world of feminist philosophy where an article got published that didn’t deal appropriately with the lives of the people it took as its subject matter (and which represented marginalized identities not shared by the author). It’s risky business. So writing from our own lives, our own perspectives, about our own actions, thoughts, and feelings enables us to have a better chance of “getting it right.”
Women can be every day athletes too. When we have many personal stories from a bunch of women of different ages, doing different things, we demonstrate daily that women can be every day athletes too. Every day on this blog we’re saying: Here we are. We do stuff. That stuff includes sports, activities, even (gasp!) competition!
Not all feminist writing needs to be scholarly. Sam and I and many of our guests are academics. That means we do lots of feminist scholarly writing and publishing in different venues already. Much of that is theoretical/philosophical writing of a not especially personal kind. But we also enjoy a more casual form of writing, where we present our thoughts and our lives not so much as a form of self-indulgence, but with the hope that it will resonate, draw people in, give people something to identify with or think about.
The type of writing we do here challenges a lot of default assumptions people have about the world, about women, about older women, about body diversity, about what it means to be fit. If we only wrote about that in journal articles for scholarly audiences we would be depriving ourselves of an opportunity to engage with more people. I think I can safely speak for both of us when I say that the community that has sprung up around the blog–our dedicated regular contributors, occasional guest authors, commenters, followers on other social media–is one of the greatest gifts the blog has given us.
Those are just a few of the reasons we have a commitment to personal writing on this feminist blog. The blog has evolved and grown over time, but the personal writing, even when we’re reporting on the latest research, remains the standard form here. That’s something we started doing right from the beginning and plan to continue.
Do you have anything to add about how personal writing can be a feminist act and why a feminist blog should include a lot of it?