fitness · You Ask

You Ask, Fit Feminists Answer: What books would you recommend about getting older and standing up for oneself?

We have a thing here that we do from time to time, and that’s “you ask, fit feminists answer.” It goes like this — you ask, we answer (as best we can). In this case I’m turning to you, our wonderful community, to help answer. Please chime in!

Dear readers,

Please help a fellow reader out. She writes, “I’m having a really deep issue when it comes to strength (in all forms) and my relationships.

So firstly, short version, I’d like to request from any of you if there are books I should be reading about getting older, standing up for myself, and not hurting men’s egos? I have absolutely no skill in making these two things mutually agreeable. When I do stand up for myself, I give no flying rats about how it sounds or whom I hurt, because my strength has to be on my terms. Has anyone had this issue?

Long version, I am fairly recently divorced, having left an extremely controlling marriage where I was unable to make the most basic decisions for myself without it needing to be a “group” decision. Much of my identity formation as a woman of this generation (43), and as a mother trying to raise a strong girl who takes no b.s., is to be able to call b.s. when I see it. I am also extremely reactive to my boyfriend trying to 1. Make decisions for us, and 2. Not letting me finish my thoughts when we argue.

My fitness journey all fits into this because when I am running, stepping, or lifting, I am in the most pure take-no-b.s.-even-from-myself mode, but I can’t seem to translate this into my roles as mother/girlfriend without hurting people’s feelings.

Is there a book out there (or podcast, or guru) that deals with trying to soothe the savage bitch? I thought the way forward was to embrace her, but no one else around me wants to :(”

Looking forward to your responses.

Image description: Graffiti cat on garage door. Photo from Unsplash

5 thoughts on “You Ask, Fit Feminists Answer: What books would you recommend about getting older and standing up for oneself?

  1. Hi Marie– I’m so sorry you’re going through such a hard time. I’m reminded of a book from 20 years ago called Women who run with the wolves. I never read it, but it made its way into the feminist zeitgeist at the time. Probably our bloggers and readers will have newer suggestions as well.

    I’d also say find a group of women to talk to about these issues, this transition. They will help you navigate it; my friends and colleagues and activity acquaintances have proven to be a great support in rough times. Therapy helps too, if you have money and time. As much as I wish it were true, I don’t think reading is going to provide all the support you need to make your the way through this– getting active support seems to me more important. But of course reading and learning and asking questions are all important. Stay in touch and keep reaching out!

  2. My friend Jennifer recommends the following, over on Facebook:

    “These books may help your reader out:

    ▪️The Power of a Positive No
    ▪️ The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
    ▪️ The 4 Agreements
    ▪️ Essentialism
    ▪️ 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do
    ▪️ Resilience: Hard Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life
    ▪️ The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness
    ▪️ Crucial Conversations
    ▪️ How to Win Friends and Influence People

    Best of luck to her! xo ❤️🐻🌈”

  3. Dawn recommends,Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger (by Rebecca Traister)

  4. Agree with the FB commenter who said that her favorite childhood books (as distinct from overtly self-improvement titles) and supportive friends were her sources of strength. For myself: off the top of my head, I love Ursula Le Guin’s books (particularly all the Earthsea books for their portrayal of people finding their way despite being outside the mainstream); The Hunger Games; Graceling by Kristin Cashore. (YA fiction seems to resonate even though I am a ways past being a YA 😊 – perhaps because the books are often about finding oneself.) Recently, The Power (by Naomi Alderman) and Station Eleven had interesting depictions of women who find themselves in unexpected situations. In non-fiction: Handywoman by Kate Davies ( is a fascinating account of how she adapts to a sudden change in her life.

    Expanding past books per se: the FB feeds of Anne Lamott, Glennon of Momastery (blanking on her last name), & Amy Tan are all current sources of inspiration for me. I find also that learning something new – whether it’s a language or a new sport, particularly one that is often depicted as a young person’s sport in mass media, e.g. snowboarding, rock climbing, or a martial art – and improving incrementally over time is also very empowering.

    Lastly – this is unsolicited, but it stood out to me in the request – I’m wondering why you are listing “not hurting men’s egos” as one of your goals. While I don’t seek to actively deflate male egos, I feel it’s more about owning your strengths, and not apologizing for them, than protecting other people. YMMV.

    Best of luck with your search. <3

    1. Re: not hurting men’s egos–I think I understand this goal! Actually, I’m working on a post right now addressing this in the weight room. In my experience, in lifting and elsewhere, it can be very easy to upset certain men with simple acts of communication, necessary assertiveness, and what I consider a more egalitarian approach rather than a submissive one. . . I know I’m generalizing, and I’m finding myself afraid that I might be attacked for even pointing it out, but that is sort of the point! Some men take offense and in their positions of privilege (and literal greater power) do not take it well when women show strength. Personally, I find myself torn between wanting to assert myself and wanting to keep the peace.

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