Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #81

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on our Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

Poster that says "not one drop of my self worth depends on your acceptance of me" in black all caps on white poster with black border.

Image description: Poster that says “not one drop of my self worth depends on your acceptance of me” in black all caps on white poster with black border.

How to Love a Fat Person

Fat people are reminded every day that we are objects of fear and revulsion. When we dare to aspire to love — real, reciprocal, respectful, deep, boundless love — we are slapped back. Our most human want is met with a seemingly impenetrable wall of harsh stereotypes and unforgiving attitudes.

Fat people are expected to be grateful that anyone wants us — even if that desire shows up as sexual assault or abusive partners. We are subject to humiliation for daring to express our interest in someone else. Those who fall for fat people learn to hide their feelings after years of being told their desire isn’t real. We learn simple lessons: that bees sting, that fire burns, that open affection cannot be trusted, and that love is not for bodies like ours. If we are to be fat, we cannot also be loved.

I will be the flicker in your blind spot 

When I was a child in Tokyo, every evening my family and I would gather our toiletries and go down the street to the public bathhouse. There, in the women’s bath, all bodies slipped happily into the hot waters and gossiped and cackled. As a little girl I saw all the shapes and all the imperfections and all the stages of bodily change of wrinkles and sags and decay of time that framed the glorious granny grins of life well lived.

I told the women of this and their eyes lit up. (I need to get these women to an osento, or jimjillbang bath! Or saunas, or hammams or banyas…)

There were other threads of ‘all women’ assumptions.

Widow transforms herself

Show me a man who controls the way his wife looks, and I’ll show you a man with an unhappy wife.

For Charlotte Guttenberg, she had always wanted a tattoo. But her husband wouldn’t allow it. He has his mind made up as to “what a woman should look like” and because Charlotte wanted to be a good wife, she obeyed him.

“I always wanted tattoos. My husband…forbade me from having tattoos. His whole concept was that no lady would have a tattoo. But it didn’t stop me wanting one,” said Charlotte.

But when Charlotte’s husband died 10 years ago, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.

37 Beautiful Portraits Of Fat Couples Challenge Sizeism (NSFW)

“As author Junot Diaz once wrote, if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves,” photographer Substantia Jones explains.

This adage strikes at the core of Jones’ mission as a fat activist and photographer. Eight years ago, she resolved to “subvert the very tool most often used to instill body hate” — photography — and wield it to celebrate fat bodies. (She prefers the term “fat” — a “morally neutral descriptor” — to the term “plus-size,” which she sees as more suited to clothing than people.)

Substantia was weary of sizeist representations of larger bodies in the media and the lack of images that depicted fat people as sensual, fulfilled beings. So, she started “The Adipositivity Project,” a photo-activism campaign dedicated to beautiful (and unretouched) photography of fat people of all sexualities, ethnicities, genders, and abilities.


We’re doing it all wrong, the escalator version

Also, Cate and Sam, both fast walkers who like to zoom by people standing on the right on escalators start to think more about disability and escalator etiquette.

Image of an escalator, grey, with the word "walk" on the left side in green and "stand" on the right side in orange.

Act 1: The story begins
It all started with friends are sharing this story on Facebook, Why the escalator etiquette of ‘stand right, walk left’ is wrong.

As with zipper merge our intuitions about fairness are getting in the way of doing what’s most efficient. You know the zipper merge issue, right? We’d do best, use up the most space on the road, and merge in the most efficient way possible if we merged at the last moment. But at least in Canada, we’re very polite. It feels wrong to zoom in the the lane that will end and merge at the last moment. And because they’re convinced it’s unfair, people don’t let you in. Other drivers enforce the norm of fairness. Of course you wouldn’t be zooming in an empty lane if everyone did it. That’s the problem. And the other problem is that the politeness point, the point at which merging is thought to be fair, gets moved further and further back, and you have lots of one lane unused.

See How Canadian Politeness is Killing Efficiency.

So it’s a case where our well developed norms of fairness get it wrong. We’d be better off zipper merging at the last possible minute.

But that’s not our concern here. Today it’s the escalator and a different politeness norm, that of “walk left, stand right.” As someone who zooms up escalators past all the standing people, I like that rule. And on days when I want to stand I like standing right, knowing that I’m not in anyone’s way. What’s the issue? Well, the problem is that many more people stand right than walk left and elevators wear out unevenly. Owners of escalators want us to abandon our norm of stand right, walk left.

The London Underground took down their “walk left, stand right” signs after deciding it is more efficient for everyone to stand. The Nanjing Metro did the same.  And so did the TTC here in Toronto. But removing the signs isn’t enough. Most people still think that “stand right and walk left” is the etiquette rule for escalators.

So how do you do away with a norm that’s strongly grounded in deeply held beliefs about fairness? It’s tricky.


Poster that says "keep in mind that the right portion of the escalator is for standing while the left is for walking." There are three people on the right standing and one on the left walking.


Act 2: Sam and Cate sound all judgey about standing

Also, you might ask, Cate and I did anyway, why do more people stand right than walk left? We asked on Facebook, why aren’t more people walking? We sounded pretty judgey about it. WALK PEOPLE!

Admittedly maybe we should have thought first before issuing commandments about walking but luckily our friends are good at correcting us. I like that about my friends.

You see at first I speculated that it’s the good side/bad side of universal design and the idea of “build it and they’ll come.” What do I mean? Well, mobility aids like escalators and moving sidewalks are terrific for reasons of accessibility.

In the case of the escalators I encounter most often, the ones on the TTC, they serve to make public transit, access to the subway, more accessible. And the universal design aspect is cool. You build them for people with disabilities but it turns out that lots of people–tired people, people who are unstable on their feet, people carrying babies, groceries etc prefer them.

But, here’s the bad side. In a society where there is a rise in extreme sedentary behavior, where there are people for whom making a meal is a workout, who drive to work, sit at a desk and watch TV all night, escalators are part of the problem. I worried about this in my post about home elevators.

So one thing, escalators, can be part of one solution–making transit and more places accessible–and part of another problem, increasing rates of extreme sedentary behavior.

Act 3: Sam and Cate get schooled (rightly) about disability

As one person pointed out on our Facebook discussion of this page, “Just stop it. I can’t walk up the escalators and you can’t tell who is disabled by looking.”

Agreed. Agreed.

Another friend wrote, “Apart from the ableism concern (which is important), it’s worth noting that there’s a difference between a short escalator at a mall and long, steep ones to/from subways (what the column opens with). Even for folks with no mobility issues, not all escalators equally walkable.”


More friends chimed in. “I’m young and a runner, hiker, cyclist and as part of training have run stairs.But a few years ago I developed fascia constriction in my calves (part genetics, part a result of being super active and using the crap out of my jacked calves). I do physical therapy for it, but it is chronic. On many days I can run and walk miles but I cannot take even a short set of stairs without experiencing profound pain- enough to drop me to the ground and make me cry.Feel free Sam to use my story in your post.”

I went off and read some more things about movements to get people to climb stairs and the anti-ableist critique of the campaigns.

See Elevator Shaming and Why Pro Stairs Health Campaigns Kind of Suck and Elevator Shaming.

I wondered how can we nudge people to walk more while at the same time not making those who can’t feel nudged and guilty? Is there a nudge we can make that’s not ablest?

Here is a bad kind of nudge. Imagine if you get in an elevator on the ground floor and pressed 2 and a recorded voice says. “Do you know that’s only a single flight of stairs? Do you need to use the elevator? If so press 2 again.” That’s pretty awful for the person in the wheelchair. Worse for the person with a less visible disability who may feel pressured to explain to others in the elevator. This idea is discussed here.

I remember that I used to feel funny using the elevator when I had a stress fracture. I couldn’t walk, certainly not upstairs, but I was allowed to ride my bike to work.

Act 4: Other solutions

Why are walkers on the escalators anyway? Maybe we are the ones who should change our behavior and take the stairs. Now as Tracy pointed out having more stairs available is great. I love that at Pearson airport in Toronto. When I get off a flight I charge up the stairs while there is a wait to get on the escalator.It’s the joy of travelling with a backpack rather than a wheelie suitcase.

Seems we’re all chiming in here. Sarah says the real issue is car culture and driving and that things like escalators are a drop in the inactivity bucket. Don’t you dare blame universal design here, she says. It’s all about driving and cars.

And then my good friend Sally said maybe no one cares about efficiency. Let the treads on escalators wear out unevenly. How bad is that? If the stand right/walk left norm allows standers to stand comfortably and speedsters to zoom by without worrying, maybe it’s a good rule to have even if it comes at a price?

Why should we care about efficiency at all costs? You know what? I think maybe that’s right. Me, I’m going to continue to walk left, zoom left most of the time, and when I’m tired, stand right.

How about you? What do you think?

Why eating too little now can lead to awful things later, like broken bones

Around here we’re fans of athletic rather aesthetic goals and values. (Wow. that’s an old post. Dec. 2012. We’ve been doing this for awhile now!)

And mostly it’s true that athletic goals are healthier. But not always.

The case in point: stress fractures and bone health. Two friends this month have broken bones in their feet. They didn’t break them doing anything particularly athletic. Both, in fact, broke bones in their feet on their stairs at home. Both misjudged the bottom step. They’re now out of commission until spring. No more skiing though they might be better in time for outdoor cycling.

Ouch. Argh. Ugh.

Women are at higher risk for stress fractures than men, athletic women more so. What’s the story with that?

From web md, It's a picture of the bones in the feet, a sketched foot skeleton against a blue background with the bones labelled.

The issue isn’t necessarily the athletic thing you’re doing now. In some cases it’s how you ate and trained as a teen and twenty something athlete. And it’s hard to care then about bone health now. Young you cares more about making weight for lightweight rowing or about making weight for fighting sports. Or just plain and simple losing weight and looking good.

This isn’t a new subject around here. I’ve written before about keeping bones strong. Guests have blogged about it too. See Osteoporosis is a feminist issue. Usually that’s a pitch for including lots of weight lifting/strength training in your life. But it’s also a pitch to eat well, and to eat enough when you’re younger.

What’s the connection? It begins with something called the Female Athlete Triad. That’s when  an athlete experiences loss of menstrual cycle, disordered eating, and osteoporosis. You needn’t have stopped your periods to have an issue. Many people think they’re not at risk but they menstruated through their eating disordered phase. But not everybody who eats little enough to damage their bones experiences loss of their menstrual cycle.

See The silent female health crisis.

See  To Thrive, Many Young Female Athletes Need A Lot More Food.

See Every Runner Should Know About The Female Athlete Triad.

It appeared today in my newsfeed too.

See this piece in the Globe and Mail: How female athletes’ eating patterns can affect bone health:

The endlessly repetitive impacts of high-level training – running, jumping, pivoting, cutting – often make such injuries seem like an inevitable occupational hazard for athletes. But a new study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, published by researchers at Stanford University, offers an important reminder that training isn’t the only risk factor: Eating patterns, and the broader cluster of conditions known as the “female athlete triad” predict stress fracture risk in female athletes with devastating accuracy.

The study followed 239 female student athletes at Stanford University, using data from preparticipation health questionnaires and bone-density scans to classify each of them as having a low, moderate or high risk of suffering a “bone stress injury” – a category that includes the hairline bone cracks known as stress fractures as well as less-severe precursors called stress reactions.

The risk assessment was calculated with an algorithm developed by a group of international experts on the female athlete triad, including Jenna Gibbs of the University of Waterloo and Marion Olmsted of the University of Toronto, and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014.

The female athlete triad refers to the relationships between energy availability, menstrual function and bone mineral density. In athletes whose food intake doesn’t provide enough calories – after the demands of training are accounted for – to support necessary physiological needs, both menstrual function and bone health are compromised. The condition exists along a spectrum, and even mild problems in one of the areas may signal hidden or impending problems in the other two.

How common the problem is depends on who you ask. Endurance, aesthetic and weight-class sports tend to be particularly vulnerable because of the emphasis on low body weight. Studies have found that between a quarter and a third of elite female athletes in these sports have clinical eating disorders.

Go read the rest here.

Also, go back in time and give your younger self an apple and a sandwich. Take some young women out for pizza. And talk about bone health and why it matters.

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #80

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on our Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

This Woman Took A Picture Wearing Just Tights To Make A Powerful Statement About Body Image

Same girl, same day, same time. 💛 Not a before and after. Not a weight loss transformation. Not a diet company promotion. 💛 I am comfortable with my body in both. Neither is more or less worthy. Neither makes me more or less of a human being. Neither invites degrading comments and neither invites sleezy words. 💛 We are so blinded to what a real unposed body looks like and blinded to what beauty is that people would find me less attractive within a 5 second pose switch! How insanely ridiculous is that!? 💛 I love taking these, it helps my mind so much with body dysmorphia and helps me rationalise my negative thoughts. 💛 Don't compare, just live for you. There is no one on this planet who's like you and that's pretty damn amazing don't ya think. The world doesn't need another copy, it needs you. 💛 We are worthy, valid and powerful beyond measure 💙🌟 (If you don't pull your tights up as high as possible are you really human?)

A post shared by Milly Smith 💛🌻☀️👑 (@selfloveclubb) on

It’s amazing how much something as seemingly innocent as a pair of tights can make you feel like total crap about your body—and one woman is laying it all out on Instagram.

Body positive activist Milly Smith, who operates under the Insta handle @selfloveclubb, posted side-by-side photos of herself in a pair of black tights, noting that they look like they’re being worn by different people. In the first pic, Milly’s tights are up high on her hips, creating a slim waist; in the second, her tights are low, creating a tummy.

Windsor group goes analog to improve perceptions of body image

A Windsor eating disorder association has launched a project that aims to improve perceptions of body image by encouraging people to take selfies with a Polaroid camera.

The Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association set up shop at the University of Windsor this week, asking students to take photos without giving them the ability to edit or enhance the images

The Be Your Selfie project is a departure from the easily altered images people share on social media, which are easily modified to change someone’s appearance.

“It’s in the moment,” said Zara Ali, who snapped a selfie with the Polaroid. “It’s your everyday kind of life, whereas, if you’re posting something on Instagram, you are going to look at it for the longest time ever.”

This Body-Positive Photo Series of Women Embracing Their Curves Is Mesmerizing

<p>Photo: Silvana Denker Fotografie </p>

Photographer and plus-size model Silvana Denker is back with a new body-positive series.

Following her “Body Love” campaign, in which she photographed eight women of all shapes and shades posing in just black undergarments, Denker released a new photo series titled “Metallic Curves.”

The series features nude women covered from head to toe in gold and silver body paint, posing for portraits against a black background — a powerful statement to embrace your body as it is. One of the women in the photoshoot was Denker’s 52-year-old mother.

White Women: This Is Why Your Critiques Of Beyoncé Are Racist

Pushing that bull-shittery aside, instead of being happy for Beyoncé and her Beybies, I came across three different think pieces about the announcement by salty white women who decided it was ok to criticize:

  1. The way she announced her pregnancy.
  2. The fact that she did announce her pregnancy.
  3. That she looked amazing in her pregnancy photoshoot.

In honour of Lady Gaga’s midriff, #Gaga

After that amazing show, I can’t believe that people are talking about Lady Gaga’s belly.  I’m much more interested in talking about the politics of it. But they are talking about her looks instead. Of course they are.

Grrrrr. That’s all I’ve got to say really. Like me, her fans are not having it. There are some terrific responses on Twitter. See Lady Gaga Fans Puts Trolls In Their Place.

Men’s Health says, “The thing is, Lady Gaga is in arguably the best shape of her life. She documented her Super Bowl prep on Instagram, saying she was “Training. Everyday all day.” She didn’t stop moving the entire time she was on stage, all while wearing uncomfortably high-looking stiletto boots.”

They went on to say that body shaming Lady Gaga might not hurt her feelings but the ill effects of body shaming can hurt women and girls generally. If Lady Gaga isn’t thin enough/fit looking enough, what hope is there for the rest of us?

“What’s more, a recent University of Pennsylvania study shows that “body shaming” can actually make people sick. Researchers found that when people felt bad about their bodies, they were more likely to experience metabolic syndrome: a cluster of health issues that can put you at risk for heart disease and diabetes, most likely due to the way your body reacts to stress.”

Thanks Men’s Health.

And in honour of Lady Gaga’s midriff here’s our past posts on bellies:

Belly Patrolling

30 Day Ab Challenge: I’m in, are you?

Bellies, butts, boobs, and breath

bellies body acceptance and menopause


Let’s do the #150PlayList together!

This morning I posted about the 150 play list, a fun challenge to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.

Cate immediately commented that it’s a fun list and we should do some of the things together. Yes, there’s the usual hiking and biking and hockey. But there’s also wood chopping and jump rope. 

The idea is that you sign up to make your way through the list. There’s a good range of winter and indoor options. This is Canada, after all.

If you do it, let us know. We’re on Twitter @fitfeminists. They’re @particiPACTION.

The hashtag is #150PlayList.

It’s a rough year. Come play with us?

Read more about the 150 playlist here.

Happy 150th Birthday Canada! Participaction and the 150 Play List

Here’s what I think about when I think about Participaction Canada, annual school fitness tests. I only ever got a bronze and I knew bronze was the best I could ever get thanks to the dreaded flexed arm hang. Ugh!

Even Wikipedia has bad things to say about that test. “The Canada Fitness Award Program was a national fitness test and evaluation program operated by the Government of Canada department Health and Welfare Canada from 1970 to 1992. Millions of primary and secondary school children participated in the program. It was discontinued in part because it discouraged those it was intended to motivate.”

Yes, yes, it did discourage!

But now it looks like a kinder, gentler, more encouraging sort of place. Participaction came to my attention recently with the 150 play list. They’ve identified 150 activities for Canadians to try during our 150th birthday year.

Have a look at the ParticipACTION 150 Play List.

The ParticipACTION 150 Play List was created by over 465,000 votes from people across Canada. Including 150 physical activities that make us uniquely Canadian, the Play List is a challenge to Canadians in communities, schools, workplaces, and even abroad to see how many different activities they can complete in 2017. Official Tour Stop and community events will be happening across the country as partners join together to inspire Canadians to sit less and move more.

It’s a pretty good list. Here are the some of the entries: marco polo, obstacle course racing, building a snow person, mini-putt, and hopscotch.

The idea is you register, try the activities, and log your progress through the list.

The website has a very helpful section on inclusion. There are suggested strategies for including girls and women, lgbt persons, indigenous people, and people with disabilities.



Anyway, have a look and enjoy! Give it a try! It’s got to be better than the push up challenge, endless speed sit ups, and the dreaded flexed arm hang.

What’s the flexed arm hang? “The flexed arm hang is a popular military testing exercise. It’s purpose is to measure upper body strength and endurance by timing how long someone can hang with their chin above a bar. Members of the Marine Corps are required to pass the Physical Fitness Test (PFT) twice a year.” See here.