Though a long-time reader of FIFI, I joined as a regularly contributing author not long ago. It has been a joy for me to re-visit the FIFI blog on this date in its first year of publication and think about how events of the past 9 years confirm the need for FIFI long into the future.
A decade ago
The FIFI blog was launched at the end of August 2012. Almost a year later, the August 25, 2013 post invited readers to submit to a special issue of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics: See How She Runs: Feminists Rethink Fitness (Spring 2016).
Co-blog/issue editors Samantha Brennan and Tracy Issacs describe how the special issue—like the still-new blog from which it emerged—looks critically at the impact of fitness on women and “the very assumptions about what constitutes ‘fitness’ in the first place” (p. 3).
In forms of writing both scholarly and personal, the articles surface four key and connected themes related to fitness and feminism:
Equality – the gender disparity that starts in childhood and widens in adulthood,
Inclusivity – the exclusion of women and minorities from domains of sport and the lack of diversity in the fitness media,
Empowerment – competitive sports, body performance, and the linking of sports to personal confidence and public life, and
Aesthetics and feminine embodiment – the complex relationship between women, their fitness goals, and their bodies.
These themes have since featured prominently as the cardinal compass points guiding thousands of FIFI blog posts by more than 165 authors over the last 9 years.
Nearly a decade later
FIFI continues to examine and re-define fitness from an anti-homophobic, anti-racist, anti-ableist feminist lens. Over the last decade, this blog has helped readers to reflect on the many history-making moments in sports and fitness. Here are just a few:
Equality: Since 2013, wage and other gaps between men and women in sports (like basketball, surfing, and hockey) have been spotlighted. For instance, in 2017 the women’s hockey team announced a boycott of the world championship if U.S.A. Hockey did not increase the women’s wages. Despite greater attention to inequality, gender gap in sports participation, funding, and media attention still continues.
Inclusivity: Athletes have become more vocal about gender, race, and mental health in sports. For example, in the media gymnast Simone Biles confronted the myth of the strong black woman affecting women athletes of colour. Tennis player Naomi Osaka also articulated the need to address depression, burnout, and toxic spaces that athletes face. Yet, CAMH notes that stigma continues to be attached to mental illness as a sign of unfitness in sports.
As well, inclusivity and diversity in sports are subject to ever-changing rule books. Since 2013, some rules have shifted to promote greater inclusion, while others have not—such as the recent exclusion of transwomen athletes from sports such as rugby, swimming, and track and field.
Empowerment: Over the last few years, research has found that gentle exercise benefits women, especially at older ages. A greater focus on happiness and health, as well as recovery time, has also appeared in emerging fitness research. Social media movements addressing fat bias, such as #StrongNotSkinny, have helped to shift how women relate to athletic performance and body acceptance as a form of self-empowerment.
Aesthetics and feminine embodiment: And yet, also since 2013 more fitness influencers have greater…well, influence…than ever before on idealized body norms and commodified aesthetics. Gear such as fitness trackers have been lauded for helping women to be more fit. But their use may be concerning for reasons of data privacy and whether this tech actually matches women’s wellness and fitness goals in the first place.
A decade (or more) more
What has changed since the first year of FIFI is a more collaborative approach to publication. Under the continued leadership of Samantha, a larger collection of blog authors help to manage the blog while being a supportive global writing community for each other.
Our reading community is larger since 2013 too—tens of thousands of subscribers, readers, likers, commenters, and sharers from around the world. (We appreciate you all!!)
And yet, like the special issue the blog is a mosaic of diverse reflections that encourages making the world of fitness—and the many lived experiences of that world—more equal, inclusive, empowering, and embodied for everyone.
A decade goes by quickly, but this brief retrospective on key themes and tiny number of big fitness events show us the value of the FIFI blog then, now, and well into the future.
Hey, Western University (where I taught for 24 years before coming to U of Guelph) just asked me for a legacy gift. They did remember to call me “Professor.” I do feel old though after that email. Legacy, huh?
I’m coming up on my 58th birthday this summer, moving from my mid to late fifties.
I’ll have to be careful I don’t jump the gun too soon. Each year I start thinking about the age I’ll be soon and think about what it will feel like to be that age. The difficulty with thinking yourself at an age before you get there is that sometimes you might get to your birthday and then add a year. Yes, I did that. It took awhile before I did the math and realized I was over counting.
It’s not just reminders like the legacy gift email. I’m also thinking about my age because we’re coming up on the blog’s 10th anniversary this fall. Wow.
Tracy and I started the blog on the countdown to our 50th birthday. Remember our “fittest by fifty” challenge? But since a decade has gone by that means we’ve got 60 in our sights.
People can get weird about 60. I remember visiting a friend of my mother’s who, when the subject of her age came up, said you know the decade you’re in (my fifties) and you know the decade your mother is in (her seventies) I’m in the one in the middle but I never say its name. What’s so bad about the sixties, I wondered. I guess I’m still wondering.
Sixty doesn’t particularly scare me. I think it helps that I have lots of older friends and colleagues in their sixties, leading lives that excite and inspire. I’ve always liked older people.
I’m spending the weekend in Montreal as I’m writing this, here to visit family but also to see Sally Haslanger give a series of lectures
I mention that because Sally is in her sixties making that decade look pretty good. She’s here giving a series of lectures based on her new book about understanding social change in complex systems. I loved the final lecture on hope. I think we’re all needing some hope right about now. There were excellent commentaries too. I was there for the commentaries by Jonathan Ichikawa (University of British Columbia) and Chike Jeffers (Dalhousie University), both excellent.
There are lots of remarkable women in philosophy, far too many to list, many of them over 60.
I’m not planning on retiring for awhile yet although as Dean I’ve been noticing the wide range of ages that people choose to stop work. I’ve just expressed my willingness to stand for a second term as Dean and undergo the review, and potential reappointment, process. After that, whatever the outcome, I’ve got some leave coming to me and then I’ll likely return to teaching for a few years in Philosophy.
I’ve always thought that rather than retire immediately I’d love to swap to half time for a few years first. Teach in the fall term, winter somewhere warm sounds like the dream to me.
I joke with Tracy that we have excellent role models in aging with our mothers. We look just a little bit like them. See above.
I think the other reason I’m looking forward to my sixties is that I’ll have my knees in working order then. I realized the other day that I’ll soon be eligible to do some retirement age (if not actual retirement) activities with my mother!
I don’t think I’ll get her on a bike but with my knees fixed we could do some walking together.
There are bloggers here who have reached the 60 mark and they’re doing pretty well too. See Catherine‘s blog post about her recent birthday.
So far I’m not feeling the urge to think about 60+ as the last stage of life.
“When I was about to turn 60, I realized that I was approaching my third act — my final act — and that it wasn’t a dress rehearsal. One of the things that I knew for sure is that I didn’t want to get to the end with a lot of regrets, so how I lived up until the end was what was going to determine whether or not I had regrets. And it also then dawned on me that in order to know where I was supposed to go, I had to know where I’d been,” she said.
I recently wrote a paper on women and aging, “To Grandmother’s House We Go”: On Women, Ethics, and Aging. It’s forthcoming in the Cambridge Handbook on the Ethics of Aging. I was struck by Carolyn Heilbrun’s conceptualization of the years after sixty as the last gift of time. Sixty seems a bit early for last gift talk.
To be clear, it’s not that I don’t take mortality seriously. I’ve taught a course on death. I’ve coedited a textbook on philosophy and death. It’s more that I’ve been thinking about it for years.
I think life post retirement will feel more like a final act but I am very much not there yet. I find my work rewarding and exciting and important. It brings me happiness and keeps me engaged.
However, I am thinking about decade ending fitness goals. Fittest by fifty and still moving at sixty? I’m not sure. Will blog more about decade ending fitness goals later, I’m sure.
Are you a blog reader over 60? What’s ahead? What advice do you have to offer? What goals, if any, did you set for 60?(Also if you turned 60 during the pandemic, that’s enough. No goals needed.)
Honestly if I could I would give you all time in a tent in the rainforest. This has been a week that is from a whole other dimension in time and space 😉
On Valentine’s Day, write a love letter to yourself. What do you appreciate about yourself. Where will you cut yourself some slack? What makes you feel alive, whether movement or stimulation to your senses? How do you take care of yourself when you are alone, just you?
If you don’t know, because you don’t give yourself the permission to explore on your own, give yourself the gift of this type of exploration.
Happy Valentines! If I could you all a gift it would be some time to spend on yourselves- whether that means moving, reading, resting, sleeping… just an additional free hour in the day that’s magically untouchable by work, chores or other demands and commitments and therefore must be spent on doing something nice for oneself and one’s body.
If I could, I would give you a day to do something that gives you joy. Chocolate cake? A run? Knitting with a cat on your lap? All good! Since I’m not a huge fan of the day, I would also wish that it doesn’t look too much different from every other day of the year. I would give the gift of finding a bit of joy in every day, and celebrating it.
Happy Valentines Day blog community! Today I give you the gift of movement with two videos, one a dance party and one yoga for self love. Enjoy!