Fixed it! (Guest Post)

So I spend lots of time around people who work in the fitness industry. My partner runs his own kickboxing program that he has worked really hard to make an inclusive place for people who might not feel comfortable at other gyms. And I teach taekwondo several days a week, mostly to kids, where I can only hope that some of the positive stuff we say to them about being strong and kind and not putting down other people sinks in.

And I’m not oblivious to all the fitspiration that’s out there which I’m happy to see is being more academically studied and shown to be quite counterproductive. So when a friend of mine who works at the same gym as my partner posted this picture (with annoyance) on social media, I was pretty annoyed too.

A sandwich board on the sidewalk: the top part says "Suck it up" then an "OR", and on the bottom part, someone has partially erased the words "Suck it in"

Someone was not impressed by this message.

And ok, sure, maybe there are some people out there who are motivated to exercise by some generalized feeling of shame for their bodies, but I feel pretty strongly that we can do better than telling people that if they don’t have fit-looking bodies they should hide them. Or exercise until they change them. Or should feel obligated to change the way they look at all.

So… that meant that upon seeing the sign reinstated on Monday afternoon, someone *ahem* decided it might need a little light fixing.

A sandwich board on the sidewalk. The top part says "Suck it up" then an "Or" and the bottom part where it says "Suck it in" is covered up by a piece of paper taped to the sign saying "You might not achieve your goals, but don't be ashamed of your body."

Fixed it!

Your body does not exist to please other people. You are under no obligation to diet-and-exercise it into whatever shape the cultural norm dictates. Your body should not be an enemy to be tamed. Exercise should not be punishment. And don’t let any sandwich board or Internet meme tell you otherwise.


Exercising at the APA (Guest Post)

Audrey: Conferences are tricky to navigate for those of us who are used to moving our bodies on a regular basis. Lots of people get up and stand, but sometimes that’s just not enough. The Pacific APA (American Philosophical Association) Conference was held in Seattle in mid-April, and I was lucky enough to be able to get funds for staying at the conference hotel, which I often don’t do, since I’ve tended to opt for cheaper off-site accommodation. But one of the benefits for staying on or very near the venue is an increased ability to engage in non-conference socializing with other conference-goers. This time, my dear friend Rebecca Kukla (my co-author on the Lingerie Fighting League post) and I were able to plan a few hours to meet up at the hotel gym and do a little bit of training. We did a little bit of boxing, calling combos for each other, and I got to get some kicking in, since my main sport is taekwondo. It was nice having her non-academic partner there as well, who partook of the boxing, and helpfully held kicking targets for me also.

I’m in a pretty privileged academic position these days, and my ability to skip sessions and exercise surely reflects that, but it was definitely a fantastic time for setting the tone of the rest of my day. Not only did I get to do something I love that isn’t philosophy, but hitting stuff is pretty great stress relief too, that helps with talk-related nerves. Plus, you get to pose like a superhero afterwards!


Audrey (left) and Rebecca (right) posing like superheroes at the hotel gym.

Rebecca: Philosophy has a happy number of Amazingly Badass Women who are not only brilliant and charismatic and righteous but also awe-inspiring, highly trained athletes. Their existence makes me so happy – it reminds me that being a legitimate scholar doesn’t mean I have to ignore or denigrate embodied pleasures and pursuits. When I get to train with one of these Amazingly Badass Women at a philosophy conference, I feel like my life is in perfect balance. I’ve escaped conferences to go running with Tracy Isaac, to lift weights with Serene Khader and with Julia Bursten, and to box with Cassie Herbert. But it has been a specific bucket-list goal of mine for a long time now to get to punch and hit things with the formidable Audrey Yap. I’ve wanted to do this for so long, but I have to say, feeling the power of her incredibly precise, strong kicks and punches in person intensified my awe. Not only was this training session one of the highlights of the APA, but it made me once again so proud that the discipline is home to these women.

(And we had a blast even though the inevitable older philosophy dude had to walk by and chuckle, “Har har I wouldn’t want to be hit by one of those!” No, sir, you really would not, nor would you ever have bothered making explicit that you didn’t want to be hit by a man’s fist or foot!)

Some Thoughts Before Posting About Weight Change and Diets (Guest Post)

Eating disorders are typically associated in people’s minds with women, and more specifically with emaciated young girls. Eating disorders are not things we think of ‘serious’ people as having. Those of us who suffer from them or have recovered from them often are quite secretive about it, and feel a fair amount of shame about the whole issue. Often, for busy and powerful feminist academics, having an eating disorder, especially with the attendant stereotypes and stigmas, does not fit our self-image. But there are a surprising number of full-grown academics of various genders and body shapes and ages who struggle with eating disorders. Often these struggles are life threatening. They are also very often invisible.

Facebook posts and unexpected blog entries about dieting, food restriction, and weight loss and gain are extremely and dangerously triggering for many of us who struggle with these issues, and may be alienating and painful for your fat colleagues. Posts that seek and/or receive wide social approval or sympathy around issues of weight and food restriction are especially triggering. These triggers are serious mental and physical health risks for many of us.

Of course we support everyone’s right to post whatever they want on their own walls, and to blog about whatever they like. It is impossible to avoid triggers altogether, and not our place to demand that the internet be safe for us in particular. But we ask you to think seriously before posting on these topics, and to take into account that these posts are difficult for more of your colleagues and friends than you know. We also ask you not to assume that someone who ‘looks normal’ will be comfortable with these issues. If you want to discuss and especially to celebrate dieting and weight loss, you might think about creating a restricted list for friends you know to be comfortable with the topic.

Much love to all of you and strength in all your complicated struggles –
Anna Bergqvist, Tiffany Cvrkel, Megan Delehanty, Fiona Maeve Geist, Tracy Isaacs, Rebecca Kukla, Whitney Mutch, Audrey Yap

Canine Fitness Coach: Don’t Celebrate Your Skipped Meals (Guest Post)

The last time I wrote about why my dogs are my fitness heroes, I talked about how they’re always motivated, and exercise for joy, not for calorie-burning.

This time I want to talk about their adorable yet irritating tendency to beg food from anyone they meet. This includes their ability to deploy their beseeching eyes and convince almost anyone that they’re on the brink of starvation.

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Seriously though we are about to collapse from lack of snacks

But my poor dog training skills aside, one new lesson I am trying to learn from these beasts is that hunger is not a reason for celebration (though they do admittedly often see it as an emergency). There’s this trap that I fall into entirely too often, particularly when I’m busy (though the frequency of this state of busy is itself an issue for discussion), which is to eat far less than I know I should, mostly because of poor time management. Now, this is a pretty common problem, and here’s some ways that people like me talk about it:

“I know I should have, I just didn’t have time to eat lunch today.”

“There just wasn’t a break between classes and things just had to get done, so I just couldn’t eat before training.”

The problem, though, isn’t just the skipped meals. It’s the fact that secretly, humblebraggily, I’m proud of having skipped them. This pride is a holdover from a mentality that calories are bad (they aren’t). But being secretly proud of your skipped lunch should make as little sense as being secretly proud of your skipped workout, because both types of activity (eating and exercising) are important.

For one, the quality of my training definitely goes down when I haven’t eaten enough. Though I don’t get hangry like lots of people – it’s more like… hinconsolable. And in case you haven’t tried sobbing your way through a circuit, I can assure you it’s not recommended. Especially given that said sobbing usually takes place in front of my partner, who works in the fitness industry, and can’t stand calorie-counting, weight loss based approaches to exercise, or his girlfriend tearfully attempting to wall ball.

Food is great. We don’t function well when we’re lacking in it. And we probably shouldn’t take pride (even secret pride) in things that are hurting our overall well-being. Especially if the only reason we’re taking pride in these things is because of an unhealthy relationship to food and eating.

So here’s the official recommendation from the canine fitness coaches I live with.

Don’t skip meals if you can help it. And if you can’t help it, don’t view it as somehow beneficial or a bonus calorie deficit. Oh, and if you forgot to pack lunch, maybe there’s a friend who might be persuaded to share.

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Hello yes I am very interested in pasta salad


Happy Pride, UFC! (Guest Post)

Sunday was our Pride Parade here in Victoria, BC, and as a Pride present from the UFC (or at least I’m going to take it that way), we got to see, for the first time, a belt going to an openly gay fighter, Amanda Nunes. On Saturday night for UFC 200, Nunes defeated Miesha Tate, the previous title holder in the Bantamweight division (Ronda Rousey’s division), by rear-naked choke. Though Tate tapped out, and the fight was technically won by submission, it was Nunes’ excellent striking, breaking Tate’s nose, that really gave her the victory.

Told you! #ufc200 #AndNew #mychampmandy #loveislove

A post shared by Nina Ansaroff (@ninaansaroff) on

Nunes’ girlfriend, Nina Ansaroff, is also a UFC fighter, but in the strawweight division.

To top it off, this title fight ended up being the main event at UFC 200, one of the most highly publicized UFC events to date. This is a pretty big deal for women’s MMA, because every single name on that main card was a big one. Two women headlined an event that also featured Brock Lesnar’s much-touted return to the octagon against Mark Hunt, a matchup between Daniel Cormier and recent substitution Anderson Silva, a fight for the interim Featherweight belt between Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo, and a Heavyweight match between Cain Velasquez and Travis Browne. Admittedly, there are a lot of ways in which Tate vs Nunes was the logical choice, since they were the only title defence on the card. But there’s no denying that fans were expecting an exciting match, and that the women delivered on that. And all this only a few years after UFC President saying that he was against women’s divisions.

So happy Pride, everybody, and let’s hope for even more encouraging times for women’s MMA.

Ashima sends V15 (Guest Post)

Ashima Shiraishi is, objectively, amazing. Just a few days ago, the 14 year old climber from New York became the youngest person ever to send a V15 boulder problem. If you’re not a climber, you might not have a good sense at just how remarkable an achievement V15 is, but it’s the kind of grade that most of us regular climbers would never even dare to dream of. I don’t know it totally captures the sheer difficulty of what a V15 boulder problem looks like, but note that the photo above is not a top-down shot.

I remember seeing the short film Obe and Ashima (trailer) at a Reel Rock film festival a few years back and loving its coverage of the then-nine-year-old Ashima and her coach Obe Carrion, once also a world-class climber.

There are several sports in which women do not seem to be given the same competitive opportunities as men (see Tracy’s post here) but in outdoor climbing, the rocks don’t get switched out for different climbers. When Ashima sends V15, she’s not sending a women’s V15, she’s sending a V15 boulder problem that anybody could try, but only a handful of people in the world (of any gender) could successfully complete.

Now, there is certainly still sexism in climbing and I’ve seen enough examples of it myself. But part of the beauty of climbing rocks is that it’s all about matching your body and its capabilities with the holds that are there for you. There are lots of problems in which a larger, more powerful climber, might make a big move that might not be possible for a smaller person. But a more compact person with smaller hands might see more potential handholds and use finger strength and balance instead of shoulder and arm strength.

There are not many big names in women’s climbing, with some exceptions, like the spectacular Lynn Hill. And certainly many more first ascents have been made by men. But there are also a lot of misconceptions about climbing that make it easy for people to think that it’s better suited to men. For instance, while a strong upper body is certainly a good thing, someone using good technique will use their core and legs as much, if not more, on many climbs. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more women and girls demonstrating the diversity of ways in which people with different kinds of physical strengths can solve problems. And I also can’t wait to see what Ashima does next.

Lingerie Fighting League: Because We Don’t Sexualize Women Fighters Enough Already (Guest Post)

Audrey: I’m fully willing to admit that I am the wrong kind of person to understand why there is such a thing as a Lingerie Fighting Championship. Not only am I somewhat unclear on the ontology of lingerie (I take it that lacy bras and underwear count as lingerie, but sports bras and the kind of underwear that comes in 3-packs do not, but beyond that I’m a bit stumped) but I am also quite lacking in the desire to wear it. So I tried to go into this with an open mind.

Cat Zingano in a sports bra and little shorts knees a similarly clad Miesha Tate in the face.

Seriously who looks at this photo and thinks about how to take more clothes off Zingano and Tate? Who can have any other thoughts about this than, wow I’m so glad I’m not taking that knee from Cat Zingano right now?

Self, I said. Maybe this isn’t just a thinly veiled excuse to put women in even skimpier outfits than fighters already routinely wear. Maybe there is a legit thing where some athletes feel good about fighting in lacy panties and can fight their best that way. Maybe, self. Just maybe this is not the brain child of all those boys in high school who thought that girls having cat fights and pulling hair was hot.

And then I watched this highlight reel and a little bit of me died inside, because those highschool boys clearly grew up and became fight promoters.

But just so I wouldn’t have to do it alone, the second time through I made Rebecca watch it with me.

Rebecca: Good god this is so very awful
I hadn’t made it to the boob bump at the end before
kill me.

Audrey: oh sweet mercy the boob bump!

Rebecca: ok so I am trying to articulate just why this makes me so ragey.

First the obvious point: f*ck them for hooking something that could be empowering for women, namely shows of strength and the right to be aggressive and combative, to totally disempowering clothing that you can’t possibly fight for real in. And we barely even need to mention the obvious extreme het-male-gazocentrism of the whole thing.

Audrey: i can’t even walk 10 steps in nice underwear without having to pick something out of someplace awkward.
and how many of them were wearing navel rings?

Rebecca: I can’t even imagine how many bits of me would fall out the very first time I punched in that getup.

The whole aesthetic of this keeps very narrowly to conventional het-porn standards of ‘beauty.’
Look, I enjoy me some porn and strip clubs. I have no intrinsic objection at all to women bouncing around mostly or totally naked for sexy purposes. I wouldn’t want people to think we were objecting to that per se! It’s that that conjoined with ‘fighting’ that is driving me crazy. Using porn norms and stripper norms to undermine something that could have been cool in its own right and that already has its own aesthetic is what drives me apeshit.

Audrey: right, i’m more on the straight end of the spectrum, but i think lots of women are super hot
like really, if you want to have long hair and makeup and be sexy and be a fighter then by all means, but making a fighting league that’s based around it, well
you get this sad rage pool.

Rebecca: And it is behind the times in picking women with very little muscle definition – not only is this stupid for the sport at hand, but it’s bucking the actual current trend of what counts as sexy.

Hey! Can we include pics of us being all muscle-definitiony, unlike them?

Audrey: We did tell Sam no lingerie.
I have a picture of me fighting but i’m pretty full clothed

Rebecca: I have one of me right before my fight wearing almost nothing. But I have seen hot pics of you with rippling muscles before I am sure.

Audrey rock climbing with some visible forearm definition.

Audrey , forearms and all, halfway up a cliff on Vancouver Island somewhere.

Rebecca: yeah that’s super awesome
hang on lemme find the one I had in mind

two muscular women posing in fighting stances

Rebecca (right) pre-fight posing with her opponent.

Audrey: fucking babely

Rebecca: I am definitely enraged by the implicature that women fighting in actual, regular, often quite revealing fighting gear are not already sexy as hell and need to be sexed up. Have these people SEEN actual women fighting?

Audrey: I am also kind of enraged by how bad that double leg takedown was

Rebecca: And all the sleeping beauty poses of the ‘girls’ out and in need of rescuing.

Audrey: You mean you don’t like having your ribs and arm patted gently when you’ve just been choked out? Weirdo.

Rebecca: Shouldn’t we have something to say about the closing ‘boob bump’?

Audrey: Probably. Like what?

Rebecca: Let me watch it again … grrrrraaaaaaghhhhh<sob>gnashmotherf*ckergrrrrrr….

Nope can’t do it. Forget it; we have more than enough for a blog post i think.

Audrey: even if we don’t, i don’t think either of us is willing to watch that whole highlight reel ever again.

Rebecca: Word up.