The title of this blog is a quote from vice-chair of the South African Women’s Basketball Association, Kornelia Semmelink, at the South African Women and Sport Foundation last week, courtesy of Dr. Sheree Bekker, who researches gender-inclusive sport.
I follow Dr Bekker on Twitter, and here are a few more of her thoughts from that conference:
“Which actions/measures must we take to enforce long lasting changes in women and sport? Huge focus on building and supporting next generation leadership, transparency, values, and a national policy that has teeth.”
A national policy that has teeth might be something like Title IX in the USA. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, Title IX was established in 1972 to provide everyone with equal access to any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance, including sports. This means that federally funded institutions, such as public schools, are legally required to provide girls and boys with equitable sports opportunities. Before Title IX, one in 27 girls played sports. By 2016, that number was two in five.
Dr Bekker also noted “Let’s remember that it’s not only about elite sport. It’s about community sport, organizations, sport for social good, health and peace.”
That point led me to recall past efforts to encourage sport for all children as part of international development efforts. While those efforts seem to have faded away, I did come across an article prepared for a side event to the Women Deliver international conference in 2016. It was on the power of girls’ involvement in play.
Here’s what Women Deliver had to say: “The evidence is clear that sport and physical activity provide a myriad of physical and mental health benefits….perhaps equally important, sport represents a mold-breaking departure from the traditional scripts of femininity that girls are often given. Well-designed programs can begin to transform gender norms, challenge traditional roles, and break down gender stereotypes.
By increasing girls’ visible, active presence in the public arena, sport can transform the way girls think about themselves and the ways their family and communities perceive them. In short, sport can be an empowering force in girls’ lives….We know that sport provides girls’ access to female mentors and role models, as well as an expanded network of friends, group membership, and social capital. These connections are extremely valuable and often lacking for girls in many settings.”
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of this blog, these reflections remind me of what drew me to it in the first place. Though it started out as a blog about being as fit as possible by 50, it has morphed into something much more. Here’s to another 10 years of reflection and advocacy for the rights of people who identify as girls and women to enjoy sports and healthy lives.
“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” Gloria Steinem
After a lifetime of molding (miraculous bodies we were made to feel were less than), minimizing (voices, hair, butts), anticipating (reactions), absorbing opinions, and many other ways women learn to exist in the world, we reach an age where we just want to be. It also takes some relearning and practice.
Maybe that happens much younger for some. Maybe some were born with an ability to be themselves from the get go. For many of us we were born to be free but then we quickly learn ways to exist in the workplace, in gyms, in social settings that end up feeling exhausting. We reach an age (35, 40, 50, 55) when we just want to be. And we need to teach ourselves to refocus certain (internal) thoughts and comments from others.
We remember comments making us feel self-conscious about:
not looking like a runner
a substantial nose
laugh and squint lines
“not doing too much to our faces”
potentially fading glow
too much blond
not enough blond
looking too young
looking too old
being perceived as judgmental
speaking too much
sounding too old based on experiences
We don’t want to be a celebrity who’s fixated on looking half their age (see Nicole Kidman). We don’t want to be adored for how we look. We want to feel strong and healthy. We want to share our work and our value. We want to care for others and share ideas. We want to be appreciated for what we can contribute. For all the years of learning how to be. And not have it backfire in our faces, publicly (see Lisa Laflamme)
Let’s just be and stop reducing women to their parts, the colour of their hair, the lines they have or do not have, the pitch of their voice. Let’s stand up for other women who just want to be. Who resist other’s opinions about how they should exist. Let’s support those who thrive in BEING as they see fit themselves.
But not all feminist commentators had positive things to say.
Fab abs, writes Yvonne Roberts, in the Guardian, but this frantic effort to look half your age is frankly demeaning. Her piece about Nicole Kidman is making the rounds on social media and I’m amazed the range of reactions to the Roberts’ piece and to Kidman’s transformation.
One friend wonders why the focus on age, writing “There is nothing about muscles that indicates trying to look half your age. and there is nothing about hard core fitness that is demeaning to anyone. I feel like this is peak body shaming. remember when strong was the radical feminist move? Remember when it was transversive to lift heavy weights?”
A common theme in the comments was just leave women alone and stop talking about our bodies, “Judging women for how they look is so, so predictable and boring. There are so many ways to be. Leave each other the fuck alone.”
Many people talked about how looking amazing was part of Kidman’s job and no one judges men in the industry for their body building efforts. Seen The Rock lately?
I get all that. I really do. I lift weights and I don’t do it to look younger. I want to be stronger.
Tracy wrote, “My first reaction is ‘ffs please let me age in peace.’ Is there no age where we can stop chasing the oppressive aesthetic of youthful normative femininity?”
And I get that too.
The issue isn’t Nicole Kidman’s guns or her age really. The issue is about expectations that we all do that, that all women make looking young and buff our goals.
Some friends commented about how much time Kidman spends in the gym and then said maybe they could do that in retirement. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure that’s how I’d choose to spend my retirement time.
What’s attractive about retirement for me is reading more, spending more time with family, travel, but also bike trips and boat trips, long back country canoe trips and yes also, time for the gym.
For me time in the gym isn’t primarily about looks, though of course obvious muscles are a welcome side effect. Really though I go to the gym to support my other activities. I want to keep doing long canoe trips and bike trips. Being strong lets me keep doing the things that I love.
So the issue isn’t really Kidman and her biceps. It’s the norms that weigh down on women’s lives. It’s making Kidman a standard by which we judge all women. Kidman could have her biceps and her gym life. We could celebrate her achievements. The issue for feminists is Kidman as fifty-something role model for the rest of us.
I know we’ve all been thinking this past week about the representations of women in the media in light of Bell Media anchor Lisa LaFlamme’s firing from Bell Media arguably in light of her decision to stop colouring her hair during the pandemic.
[Here is an aside from Tracy, who Sam said could add things as she proofed the post: “Nicole Kidman can do what she likes. What bugs me is 1. That this is news because it makes it seem like a miracle that a 55 year-old woman could look good. 2. That looking good is in itself seen as a newsworthy achievement for older women — that is a good indication of where our value still lies. 3. That the standard is now set by a multimillionaire whose business it is to look good (and according to the normative standards of youthful feminine beauty). I frankly would rather admire Judy Dench and Helen Mirren and Lisa Laflamme who at least don’t mind looking older.” End of Tracy’s aside.]
We need a more diverse range of older women as role models including women with grey hair and without sculpted guns. Then I think we’d all feel better applauding Nicole Kidman for the way she looks and the work it took her to get there. [Tracy: hear hear!]
Over the past few years, in an attempt to counter the natural ‘but what if…’ tendencies of my ADHD brain I have been reminding myself to ‘do the easy thing’ whenever I can.
This isn’t the same as ‘taking the easy way out.’
Instead, it’s about 1) figuring out the easiest/most straightforward way to get something done 2) making sure that approach will cover the key details/meet the needs of the people involved 3) only adding more complexity if needed.
So, instead of letting my brain branch out into every possibility, I try to find what feels easiest and check if that will work before letting things get more complicated.
All going well, I will have a new left knee by end of the day today. Yes, I know knee replacement surgery recovery is a tough slog but I’ve got 6-12 weeks off work. It’s also been a tough slog and lots of pain waiting for knee replacement surgery.
I’ve been doing twice weekly pre-hab with Defy Physiotherapy in Guelph and then daily exercises at home leading up to the surgery. I’ve also signed up for rehab, recovery focused physio starting four days after surgery.
August was lots of surgery prep–so much physio, iron pills, buying crutches and a walker, lining up help for walking Cheddar, borrowing an ice compression machine from a friend, buying books and getting recommendations for TV shows–and lots and lots of getting ready to be away from work.
But it’s not all knee surgery/all the time. August was also the Bike Rally. See all my bike rally posts in one place. We did it! We collectively raised 1.5 million dollars and rode our bikes to Montreal.
My cycling distance goal for the year is 5500 km. I’m at 4049 km which seems pretty far ahead but knee replacement surgery will slow that down a lot.
I’m at 284 workouts for the year, daily knee physio and lots of cycling have helped with progress on that front.
I’m behind on my reading goals and knee surgery should help with that.
How am I feeling about knee surgery?
I’d be lying if I said I was completely calm about it. There’s a lot of worry, fear, and anxiety floating around. I’m trying to both keep busy and make some room for big feelings as needed.
I keep reminding myself of the reasoning that got me here. It helped that I had a friend over for pizza the other night who had knee surgery 7 years ago. She’s my age and like me, she’d been reduced to just bike riding. Knee surgery was the right decision, she says. And she demonstrated how deep she could squat while were hanging out and talking about knees, far away family, dogs, and driving across the country. Thanks Jan!
Other friends are pitching in by lending me the things that got them through the early days after surgery, like a fancy ice compression machine. Thanks Deb!
I’m not looking forward to the surgery or the first few days after. But I am feeling pretty well loved and supported by the people around me. I feel lucky to have the friends and family that I do. Thanks Sarah for taking time off work for the surgery. Thanks Jeff for helping our youngest son with his big move. Thanks mum and kids for all that you do. My mum and Sarah will be my main at home support people in the weeks ahead. Thanks Rob and Sumaya for putting us up in London the night before the surgery saving us a 5 am drive on the 401.
I’m also looking forward to the weeks after surgery when I’ll have friends over for coffee/tea. Blogger Catherine Womack is coming to stay with us in October and give a talk at Guelph. More details about that later.
On the outcome side, we’ll ask do our best. I’m sure the surgical team will do their best and I’m pretty disciplined about things like doing physio 4 times a day and I’ve got appointments booked at the physio clinic for twice a week.
On the work side, I’m really thankful for the team of colleagues around me who make taking medical leave, if not easy, at least something I contemplate with worrying about work. The College is in excellent hands. Thanks Andrew, Brennan, Sandra, Sandy, and Jane. Also, big thanks to all the chairs and directors. I’m really not worried about work.
And don’t worry–I’ll blog all about it. And then next year, I hope to be blogging about long hikes and canoe trips, sailboat racing and sleeping through the night.
My birthday bike ride, my soon to be age in kilometers! That’s 58. I turn 58 on Wednesday.
I was worried that we’d forgotten to plan it. But in the end we decided not to go to the boat and instead visit the boat after knee surgery when I’m feeling okay but still not mobile. By then Jeff will be in the Thousands Islands which is super pretty. I’m looking forward to it.
Can you do them on a trainer? Yes. Can you choose miles or kilometers? Yes. Do you need to do them on your birthday? No. Does it need to be the same number as your age? No.
That said, my preference is for outside, my age in kilometers, before my birthday. And that was today.
We did our favorite rolling hills route that we’ve borrowed from the Tour de Guelph, adding on a few extra kilometres. See the weird sticking out bit that goes nowhere? That’s our bonus couple of kms needed to make it 58.
I was a bit nervous and super cautious. I really didn’t want a bike crash to spoil my surgery date. But all good. It was a happy chatty sunny ride and I think we saw every road cyclist in Guelph out there today, including a group of women on road bikes with a bride or soon to be bride, wearing a wedding veil.
Best of all, on our way home we ran into friends from Toronto, in Guelph as part of a motorbike outing. And we all got to have high tea together at the Boathouse. Yay!
As many of you may know, Fit is a Feminist Issue is about to celebrate its 10th year in existence. And this pretty much sums up my feelings about it.
I looked to see what was my first post for the blog. It was August 2, 2013. I wrote about some group bike rides I took with friends and my worries about them. You can read it below.
9 years and a bunch of bikes later, I still worry about group rides; some things never change. But it’s nice to know now that these worries are just part of the background scene in my head. It was true then and it’s true now that group rides with friends can be easy, hard, fun, tiring, exhilarating, soggy, triumphant or just fine. I look forward to more of them.
Long time blog readers will know that I absolutely adore hot yoga. I cannot explain why yoga in a hot room feels so much more satisfying to me than yoga at room temperature, but it does. And so it was a huge sacrifice when I felt the need mid-pandemic to take a stand and leave the hot yoga studio that I’ve been a dedicated member of for over a decade. At the time, I felt that they were making decisions concerning COVID that put their yoga community at risk and violated legal requirements that had been put in place based on recommendations from Ontario’s science table. I wrote about my decision here.
Well I’m happy to say that after more than ten months, I am back at hot yoga at the same studio. I don’t regret taking the position I did last October. Back in October I said, “I don’t know if I’ll go back or if they’ll have me back.” But now I feel that one of the things I’ve learned over the course of the pandemic is that I value relationships that I have built over time and I do not take them for granted. I may have disagreed, even strongly disagreed, with the official position of the yoga studio. But I am not willing to let their position on a temporary situation have permanent consequences for my well-being. To do so would have been a case of cutting off my nose to spite my face.
I have been feeling the itch to go back for some time now. So when I got a notice that they were offering a deal on ten-class passes, I purchased a couple. My goal is to incorporate it back into my life slowly, starting with a class a week. Last week when I went to my first class since October I consciously chose to go with one my favourite instructor. I got there early enough to take up my preferred spot near, but not right in, the hot front corner, and lie in savasana for a few minutes before we started. It was a yang-yin class, which meant it was only vigorous for half an hour, then completely and deliciously stretchy and slow for a half an hour. It felt so right to be back in the hot studio.
I know many of us had to switch up our routines during the pandemic, and some of those routines are permanently altered. But I’ve talked to lots of people who have been extremely eager to get back to their gyms and yoga studios and what have you.
Did you experience any big interruptions or changes in your fitness routines over the past couple of years? Have you gone back to anything that was put on hiatus? If you have, I’d love to hear in the comments about how it felt to go back.