As I said on Tuesday, I’m taking a step back from the blog. I am saying “good-bye for now” but in all honesty, the chances of me coming back to regular blogging here are minimal. As noted on Tuesday, I’m out of ideas on blog-appropriate topics. Not that I have no thoughts on these things, but I have grown weary of writing about them myself. And we now have a team of amazing authors with all kinds of energy for blogging well into the future. So I have no worries at all about the blog’s ability to thrive without my unenthusiastic participation.
This is not at all to say I don’t love and adore the blog, the community that has grown around it, the team of authors who have become friends (many of whom I can turn to when I need comfort, support, a listening ear, the right question to help me work through a thing…). I have deep gratitude and respect for what goes on here at Fit Is a Feminist Issue. Sometimes I can hardly believe I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of it.
For today’s post, I’d originally considered doing a top ten. But my goodness, after seven years of blogging, daily for the majority of those years, it’s just about impossible to nail it down to ten posts that have had staying power with me. I could more easily list ten for each year. But that would be excessive. So instead, I’m just going to talk about an indeterminate number of posts that got my attention, and why.
I have to start with Sam. When we started this blog together, we had been talking about feminist fitness for years and years already. We had a solid foundation of shared ideas that made the blog possible. And we both wanted to add the “aging” angle, as we were approaching our 50th birthdays. In fact, the original title of the blog was “Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty.” I don’t even remember how we came up with that title. But two identical perspectives would have resulted in a big yawn. Bonus points: Sam and I had enough different experiences, interests, and perspectives on some issues to make it interesting. For examples: she LOVES tracking and data, I find tracking oppressive. In 2012, she was into CrossFit and rowing and cycling (of course!) and Aikido. I was into yoga, walking, running, and weight training. I have learned a lot from Sam’s blog posts.
Probably my two favourites of hers from the early days are “Fit, Fat, and What’s Wrong with BMI?” where she interrrogates the way BMI is used as an individual measure of health and fitness, and “Is Aging a Lifestyle Choice?” where she considers whether we slow down because we age or we age because we slow down. I liked the BMI post because, just two weeks into the blog’s existence, it helped to shape the tone and content of what we evolved into. That post sent the message that we were not just going to co-sign the “received view” about things. Nope. If you want that, then check out the rest of the internet! The aging post was a reflection on Gretchen Reynolds’ book, The First Twenty Minutes, in particular the chapter on aging. This was the very first time I ever considered that we might have a hand in the way we age.
Sam has faced setbacks of late that have driven home the point that aging is not simply a lifestyle choice. And even during our challenge she had some personal tragedies and losses of family members that made it clear that we are not fully in control of every aspect of health and aging. But the idea that at least some people might make choices that either speed up or slow down the march of time is, as Sam said at the time, certainly intriguing. And it has stuck with me and in many ways has been a positive factor in some of the things I managed to do during and since the challenge (like triathlon!).
I also love Sam’s post on ladylike values and sport performance values. Her question: do they clash? She considers some examples, like blowing your nose on the bike or having to act in ways that command attention (like kiaing in Aikido — that’s where they yell). Her conclusion: “I think we women athletes may need to say goodbye to our inner ‘ladies’ and channel our inner “bad girls.” This makes me smile still: yes, we are a feminist fitness blog. Look out.
There are any number of other posts from Sam that have stayed on my radar: “Remembering Marion, my favourite fit feminist ninety something friend,” where she reminisces about an amazing woman and friend whom she’d recently lost. We should all be so lucky to be even a little bit like Marion when we’re in our nineties (or eighties, or seventies or…!); “Loving the body you’ve got: Love a better motivator than hate,” which, for obvious reasons, sends an important message right from the title, and then backs it up with research findings. And then there was “The dad bod? Fine. But what about the mom bod,” where in her body positive way Sam applauds the relaxed standards around men’s bodies and then laments that we don’t have similar relaxed standards for women’s bodies. Of course, later, she would notice an alarming trend, suggesting things are going in the wrong direction: “Men, meet normative thinness.”
I’m mostly drawn these days to posts that dig deep, depict challenges overcome or challenges that defeat us and how we handled that, or question dominant narratives. Humour also works for me. We can strike a heavy tone sometimes, and since we don’t actually coordinate posts, sometimes (like when Trump got elected or when a harsh winter seemed to drag on too long) that tone can hang in the air without abating.
I adore the way Cate reflects in her posts. She chews things over and divulges her deepest feelings about them and usually comes to some sort of resolution, all in a way that resonates strongly with lots of people (me included). Her posts “What does it mean to look my age?” and “Making peace with our changing bodies” both do this brilliantly and reassuringly. And of course, her travel posts! They’ve taken me places I’ve never been. There are many, but “Why I run when I travel” really opened things up for me and made me consider that some of the places where I choose not to run might be places I actually could run if I took an attitude more like Cate’s. She’s the most adventurous person I know. Her birthday word cloud shows I’m not the only one who thinks that. And my all-time favourite Cate post: “What are we making together?” This post touched me deeply. In it, she laments the reality of feminists unleasing their fury on other feminists, and proposes a new idea: dialogic communication (i.e. “This means communication based in inquiry, and the assumption that the other person has a valid reason for their point of view.”)
And then she went on to say what it means for our Facebook page (where we had been experiencing some UN-dialogic communication), which everyone visiting knows to be a feminist context to begin with. She said, if you’re on our page “and you think “this doesn’t feel feminist to me,” why not get curious instead of police-y? Think maybe, huh, I wonder why Sam thought this was a fit on this page? how does her version of feminist differ from mine? ASK her — This triggers something for me, why did you think this had a feminist lens? Ask yourself — how can someone I otherwise agree with have this perspective? What am I missing about why they might have posted this? And even if you do understand and disagree, think about what this says about the wonders of multiplicity and how two people can differ and still respect each other and have more in common than they don’t.” Go, Cate!
Catherine, another resident cyclist and our “weekends with Womack” blogger, came on board as a regular quite soon into the blog, way before the end of our challenge. Besides being funny and smart at the same time, Catherine is super talented at dissecting the latest scientific research and research headlines to give important perspective that is not readily available elsewhere. She did this in” Cleaning is not the new cardio” and also, more recently, in “Can leaving the light or TV on at night make you gain weight? Shining a light on the subject.” She’s also really good at ranting: “What’s so great about more?” And at being funny and fun more generally: “A tale of two bodies, or how (clothing) fit is a feminist issue.” Catherine also blogs honestly about her own struggles and is reasonable in a way that resonates with me. I really identified with her recent post “What’s so great about more? Less is just fine as it is.” It picks up on one of my favourite themes: doing less and scaling back. It is always comforting to find kindred spirits on this front. #weekendswithwomack for the win!
Nat, also an early-in-blog regular, writes easily and honestly about hard health things. Blood pressure, sleep apnea, plantar fasciitis, bad doctor experiences. She also writes about her fitness pursuits, which haven’t always been easy — like when she learned to ride with clipless pedals and didn’t die and when she was the crying woman in a yoga class. We both had concerns about being bad feminists and since I think Nat is an awesome feminist, I cheered a big cheer for all of us when she said: “no one gets to call me a ‘bad feminist’ but myself.” Yeah! And another of Nat’s post that left a great impression on me and, re-reading it makes me want to make my own “stop doing” list: “My 2017 Stop Doing List.” We all need a stop doing list. If you haven’t yet figured it out, I’m a fan of #satwithnat.
So about those deep topics that resonate with me at a level that goes way beyond feminist fitness, right to the gut. Susan has a fantastic and gut-wrenching post that she wrote in the days following the inauguration of the new US president in 2017. Yeah, that president. The post was entitled, “Running from my despair,” and she warns us at the outset, “Okay I’m not messing around here, this is not going to be a fun post.” She talks poignantly about fear, despair, the “struggle to feel meaningful,” about privilege, and about how running helps (sort of). And Kim’s post about “girlfriend therapy” and “finding the time and the space to make new female friends in middle age.” She talked about that in the context of one new friendship: with Susan (yes, our Susan of the “Running from despair” post). That one warmed my heart because seeing the blog at work, bringing women together in friendship and support, is a beautiful thing. And I like them both. And girlfriend therapy plays a huge role in my life.
Speaking of making new friends…I had a really great experience last year getting to know Cate and Christine when the three of us facilitated our only fitness challenge group to date. The three of us didn’t know one another all that well when we started. We live in different cities and we hadn’t spent a lot of time together. But by the time the group wound down, we had developed an intimate three-way friendship that included almost nightly chats about everything under the sun. I totally fell in love with them both. Christine is a champion of timed challenges of all kinds — writing challenges, drawing challenges, and yes, fitness challenges. She’s got the best smirk EVER. And she blogs beautifully and humanely about her fitness pursuits. Her “Getting pushy with push-ups” starts with a bold statement of a desire that many of us share: “I want to be able to do push-ups easily.” Her cousin, Ken (a chiropractor), set up a 3x a week “phase one” plan for her to help her get closer to that goal.
During our challenge group, Christine set out to do yoga every day for 30 days. She invited us to join her. I tried, because her post about it — “Yoga. Practice.” was so inviting. As was the idea that 7 minutes a day is all we were aiming at. Christine’s post gave all sorts of good reasons why that commitment was do-able. It all seemed so alluring, the way she put it in her post. I didn’t quite make it. But it gave me another reason to check in every night with Cate and Christine.
A few other posts that I want to mention before I end this overly long reminiscence:
- Martha’s smart analysis of the Caster Semenya decision that said she would need to take medication to reduce her testosterone levels if she wanted to compete in women’s competitions. “Women, sport, and sex tests” tackles an important issue in women’s sport and draws out the wider implications of the decision.
- Bettina’s posts about bouldering always grab my attention because it’s completely new to me. In bouldering, as in most things sporty, men like to explain things (unsolicited) to competent women. Bettina recounts an outrageous experience of that in “Men explain things to me: the bouldering edition.“
- Along the same lines, Marjorie gives a great list of criteria it would be great for such men to reflect upon before they offer their advice to perfectly competent women who didn’t ask for it. I wish we could post this — “‘Just trying to be helpful?’ How to know if it’s okay to offer me advice at the gym” — one in gyms everywhere.
- Mina’s reflections on grit in “Is Grit Good or Bad?” is another one of those posts that helps us to reflect on our own fitness practice. At least, that’s the impact it had on me. We hear a lot about the virtues of sticking things out. But we hear a lot less about how to make decisions about when to let a thing go. She offers a list of questions we can ask ourselves, the last of which is “where would I rather spend my grit?” I love this. Why? Because it suggests that, realistically, we need to make choices. We can stick some things out. But over time we accumulate more commitments (in all areas of life) than we have space for. This is where I find myself these days — with a few more commitments than I can handle, and a time when I am engaged in the life-equivalent of licking my wounds and regrouping.
- Two women who have a spot in my heart and who blog here occasionally, not regularly (though we would love it if they did!) are Audrey and Rebecca. They had a great ranty interaction about the Lingerie Fighting League (subtitled: “because we don’t sexualize women fighters enough already”) a few years ago.
- Finally, I love the post where we got to celebrate our 20,000 wordpress followers. There had been a time, in around 2015 or so, when we were picking up 1000 new wordpress followers a month. But then it tapered off and we were waiting. And waiting. And waiting to hit 20,000. That finally happened. And it felt great. Sam blogged about it in “Celebrating Feminist Fitness with our 20,000 WordPress Followers.” Why do I love that post? Because we are not alone. And when we started our fittest by 50 challenge back in 2012, it was just the two of us and we had no idea where it would take us. We were going to stop blogging when we turned 50 because the challenge would then be over. And here we are, both about to turn 55 and the blog thriving as a community we could not have even imagined.
The length of this post proves to me just how much appreciation I have for all of the other bloggers at Fit Is a Feminist Issue. Together, as a team, we really have built something special, with plenty of diverse content that speaks to a much wider palette of issues than how to be a fit feminist. It’s been a privilege to be a part of it.
Next week, on Tuesday and Thursday, I’ll post my 3rd and 4th installments of my two-week good-bye. Until then…do you have any favourite posts you’d like to mention?