Occasionally I share things on our Facebook page that get a negative reaction. The box of text above was one such thing.
I was thinking of the text and its message in the context of the Nia Shanks book three of us are reading and reviewing together. See here and here and here. The bit of the text that spoke to me was loving the journey and finding physical activities you love if you want more physical activity in your life. Whatever you do don’t make it struggle. There’s enough struggle in most of our lives. Make it the thing you look forward to as a reward for the rest of the struggling.
(An aside: I know one can’t always do that. I no longer say, if you don’t love it, don’t do it. Often for me, these days, exercise is tedious and painful and I do it anyway. But it’s still an aspirational goal. I’m doing painful physio so I can do long dog hikes and walks around New York in the future and those are activities I love.)
Instead what readers heard was that loving the gym was a choice. And they rightly pointed out that that’s an easier choice for some of us than others. It’s easier if you are able-bodied. It’s easier if you’re young, thin, conventionally attractive, gender conforming. It’s also easier if you are wealthy, have childcare, aren’t working multiple jobs to make ends meet, or have responsibilities to care for others that take up almost all of your time.
And I know all this. The thing I know the most about is weight bias. I’ve written lots from my own experience about fat shaming and thin privilege. See here and here. But I also struggle with juggling work and some pretty big family responsibilities.
Further, lots of fit active people hate the gym. They’re out there skiing or kayaking or climbing or hiking, etc etc. And people pointed this out too.
I thanked everyone for their feedback and I agreed they were right. Mostly I don’t engage much in discussions in comment threads. I’m a philosopher by training and even blog posts seem short and fast to me. Comment threads get out of hand quickly. But what I wanted to say was that I share things in the context of the blog and the Facebook page as a whole. I share things of interest, things that will speak to some of us. We won’t all like all of the things.
It was a thoughtful and polite discussion in the comment thread. But I still found myself wanting to ask people to think big picture, to see the whole story, to think about what I thought might be valuable in the text, and to consider why I might have shared it. Look for connection first and criticize later. But I also see in this world, the world in which we’re all under so much pressure to look a certain way and be a certain way, that being asked to like something can be felt as coercive.
Of course, you don’t have to like the gym.
But if you do want more physical activity in your life (keeping in mind that’s not a goal you have to have, but you’re here reading a blog on feminist approaches to fitness…) it’s easier if you find something you enjoy. That doesn’t need to be the gym. Around here we’re getting lots of mileage at this time of year out of walking our dogs and at home yoga! I’ve promised myself that after my knee replacement I’m going to spend more time dancing. I want to swim more outside in the summer. And I want to keep on walking Cheddar.
What do you love?