The other day I woke up late (it was a bank holiday) and idly scrolled through the news while still in bed. The first three news items I happened upon were the following: Donald Trump had mocked Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. The US was going to start to denying visa to the same-sex partners of UN diplomats unless they were married (but some can’t get married and would face prosecution in their home countries if they did). And the Nobel prize winner in Physics, Donna Strickland, first woman to win it in 55 years, had been denied a Wikipedia entry last May because she hadn’t been considered famous enough. I just wanted to roll over and stay in bed all day. And the bad news just keep coming, from all parts of the world. We live in darkening times.
What room is there, in such a world, for me to worry about exercising? Instead of spending my free time in the pool or out running, shouldn’t I be more of a political activist? Or at least, like Natalie, combine the two? Yes, we need self care in these rough times, and exercise definitely helps me disconnect and recharge. It gives me the strength to deal, including with the political situation. But how much of it is really necessary? I swim two nights a week and try to go bouldering and running at least once. That’s quite a lot of my spare time that I could theoretically expend on more “worthwhile” things. Joining, and being active in, a political party. Joining the local LGBTQ+ community. Going to protests… you name it.
I try to tell myself that in itself, practising sports as a woman (and thinking and writing about it here) is at least somewhat political, as long as women are harassed, followed, and killed while running, a strong reaction from a female tennis player to an umpire’s decisions causes an international outcry (shortly after her choice of clothing on the court was the subject of international discussion too), and so on. But I’m not going to lie, it feels much less valid than the options outlined above. Also because, even as a woman practising sports, as a cis-gendered, White woman from a developed country, who has the resources and the time to do all that exercise, I’m aware that I hold a massive amount of privilege, and doing these things is just not a huge deal.
I also try to tell myself that I actually do things in other parts of my life. I work for an organisation promoting scientific endeavour and international exchange, two things that are important right now. I volunteer for United World Colleges, an educational organisation that runs schools around the world to promote international understanding. I vote. But I often feel like that’s not enough, and I should be doing more. Yet doing more of one thing (activism), for me, would have to mean doing less of another (sports) – less of a thing that I enjoy immensely, that keeps me strong mentally and physically, and during which I do some of my best thinking about politics and feminism, if I do say so myself (especially while running).
This isn’t going to be a very conclusive, satisfying post, I’m afraid, because I haven’t reached any conclusion at all. So I wanted to put that question out to you, dear community: do you struggle with this dilemma? Have you resolved it? How?
5 thoughts on “Fitness and Activism in this Political Climate”
You have captured how I so often feel beautifully! I do think that despite all that is going on, it’s important not to get mired in hopelessness, helplessnessor anger. There’s only so much we can each do. And I think one of the very important things is being kind to other people and our earth. So hokey. But more important than we give those small acts credit for. You do not take too much time to exercise!
Thanks Mina. You’re right, it’s often about small things. But at the moment it feels to me like those small things are no longer enough… and something’s got to give.
This is a terrific post and it’s so hard and I think we are all feeling versions of this. I need a haircut and I find myself thinking that we’re killing the planet, who cares if my hair is scruffy? Why I am learning to swim when I should be writing letters to politicians? Everything can feel pointless. For me, it helps to pick a thing that helps politically and do that. Otherwise I get mired in sad feelings and inertia, where I don’t help politically and I don’t swim/bike whatever. How much is too much? That’s a harder question and we all need to find our own balance. I just know that my balance has to include movement.
This. I need to pick my thing but it’s hard, with all the bad stuff going on right now there are too many things that need doing – how does one pick? (Also, I really, really need a haircut)
Personally, I am guided by two principles right now. The first is that our democracy is endangered and people are suffering, so I have an ethical obligation to do the work that needs doing even if I’d rather be doing something else. The stakes for not doing it are just too high. The second is that I give myself a break to do whatever I want whenever I need to because I need to be well enough to fight another day. It’s a constant push-pull that a lot of us struggle with.
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