Why so much personal writing on a feminist blog?

Black and white combination of the "mars-venus" symbols for M and F, with a shared circle and an equals sign in the middle of the circle.
Black and white combination of the “mars-venus” symbols for M and F, with a shared circle and an equals sign in the middle of the circle.
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?


8 thoughts on “Why so much personal writing on a feminist blog?

  1. I don’t mind general blog posts to get some readers thinking on a topic.

    The only drawback occasionally on personalizing is if the majority of the writers come from a background that tends to be on a higher income or income where you can kayak, boat, bike (I have several bikes), raft or exercise in different parts of the world in the midst of business trips, then it can appear to abit ..privileged. Then it can seem like a dream wish to many who can’t afford some of these activities.

    I’m just saying.
    Maybe time for me to donate a blog post..

    1. Jean, you’re so right. We try to be attentive and aware of our privilege, but you’re right that almost all of the bloggers here are extremely privileged on many fronts–mostly non-disabled, mostly employed with disposable income, mostly white. If you have a blog post to contribute, let me know.

  2. I completely agree with your points. Political is personal, and writing about experiences as a woman has a way of validating the way another woman has been feeling, or forcing her to question an assumption she had. Keep up the good work x

  3. I love this “the personal is political”. As a woman who rose up from trauma and poverty and got an education I have a sense of responsibility and urge to share lived experience with the intent of being the example I was looking for in my twenties and contributing to a conversation about what might help other women who are trying to get unstuck. It feels good to support each other.

  4. I write to tap into pockets of solidarity. I share an experience and someone else says “me too!” And then a few more then I realize that thing is not an individual thing. By connecting to other women about fitness I learn what impacts systemic issues have had on me, my body and my relationship with fitness.

    1. I love that way of putting it: “tapping into pockets of solidarity.” That’s what I was trying to get at with the idea of “resonating” but your way of putting it is so much more feminist! Thanks Nat!

  5. Reblogged this on FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE and commented:

    I just finished grading papers for my class “The Art of the Personal Essay” and I continue to have so much respect for personal writing and the stories it enables people to tell. So it’s got me thinking (again) about personal writing. We do a lot of it here on the blog — the majority of our posts involve personal writing at some level, even if it’s a post focusing on commentary. I thought it might be good to revisit why we do that. So here is a post from a couple of years ago as a #tbt that considers why our blog has so much personal writing on it. Have a good one! T

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