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.

 

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.

I don’t have any fitness goals for 2017 (Guest post)

Other than to listen. And to understand.

We are at war with so many things. And our voices are hoarse from yelling about things that we can’t believe we still need to yell about. And yet we are still at war with our bodies.

Image result for i can't believe i still have to protest this

I am becoming acutely aware of where I sit in this space. My race, the gender I identify with, the way my body is put together puts me in a particular position. I acknowledge my journey the past year and a half has been one of more fun movement, less punishment, loving food and full-belly breaths (no sucking in!) – but I also recognize how lucky I am that my journey looked that way, that I was able to explore those avenues.

But now it’s time to listen. I can’t tell you to celebrate your body (as much as I want to because you’re awesome). As a beautiful friend of mine said, it’d be like me saying you don’t need face creams when I’ve never had a zit (as an example – I’ve had plenty of zits in my day). I do hope that while we are looking at this world around us that seems like it’s growing increasingly unfamiliar, we also take time to examine where our goals around our bodies are coming from (there are correlations between a lot right now).

Many of us are stuck in this endless loop of self-improvement and striving, without knowing the roots of where that striving might actually be coming from (race, privilege, patriarchy, colonialism, etc.). And what I have taken away from it right now is that I need to be, open, on my own path and there for others.

So I will listen. And be there. And I hope you will be too. Because while we share many similarities as humans, our differences are still making a big difference in the way we are each able to experience life and our bodies.

 

JESSICA IRELAND-4 - Copy.jpg Jessica Ireland thanks all of her friends who increase her awareness on her privilege and how she can help others, while still validating and giving space for her own life experiences. She chooses to be kind to her body by being fortunate enough to move it often (often there is smiling involved), not eating animals, getting rest and choosing not to qualify food. She hopes others find ways to be kind to themselves and others that work for them. We may have a long road ahead of us – please listen and take care of each other 🙂 

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #79

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?

NSFW-Feminist Ex Mormon Brings Floral Vagina Paintings to Utah

Vulvas emblazoned with cherry blossoms, roses, butterflies, and irises take their place as wonders of the natural world in Salt Lake City artist Jacqueline Secor‘s expressive mixed-media paintings. Her statement is political, as far as womens’ bodies are battlegrounds, and the series has earned both praise and controversy in her local community.

Secor explains the context of The Diversity of Nature with a manifesto: “Women’s bodies have been blamed for inciting sexual violence that is enacted against them. Breastfeeding has been deemed ‘indecent.’ Birth control has been regulated by politicians that have never menstruated. Laws, religious texts, and social norms attempt to regulate women’s bodies. From the time a little girl is told she’s cute, to the first time that she’s called ‘sexy,’ the message is the same… her worth comes from her appearance. There is nothing wrong with celebrating feminine beauty, but it’s problematic when beauty is the only feminine value worth celebrating.”

Why Men Have More Body Image Issues Than Ever

Superheroes today are a lot more shredded than they used to be. The original Superman and Batman look almost willowy compared to our muscle-bursting modern-day versions.

That’s no coincidence. America is in the midst of a cultural shift in terms of the ideal male body image, and as the ideal man grows more muscular, men stuck in the real world with real bodies are growing less satisfied with theirs—with potentially dangerous medical consequences.

Body Image Concerns Linked to Alcohol Use in Teen Girls

Adolescent girls with a distorted body image are more likely to consume alcohol, according to a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Teen girls who try to alter their weight when there is no medical need to do so, the study found, are also more likely to engage in heavy drinking—defined as five or more drinks in a few hours.

Body image issues are often rampant among teen and preteen girls. A 2012 report by the Keep It Real campaign found 80% of 10-year-olds have been on a diet. The 2013 Girls’ Attitude Survey found more than half of girls age 14 and older are dissatisfied with their appearance.

You Should Be Getting Naked Around Strangers As Much As Possible, Science Says

Stripping off your clothes in front of someone, whether in the confines of a locker room or your very own bedroom, can be extremely terrifying. But as it turns out, getting naked around strangers may actually make you feel better about your body. According to DailyMail.com, a circle of researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London took a deep dive into the nudist lifestyle and found that taking a page from their book could be beneficial to your body image and overall happiness.

Watch video here.

Read more: http://elitedaily.com/dating/naked-around-strangers-body-image/1767403/

The Flu and My Friend’s Fitness Journey (Guest Post)

Last week I got unexpectedly hit with the flu. (Come to think of it, is it ever really expected?) Anyway, it knocked me out hard and I was upset by the rough start to my 2017. (Needless to say I haven’t worked out but proudly made it to a Yin yoga class which my post-flu body could barely handle.)

While I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, I do appreciate a New Year’s reflection on my overall life trajectory. What have I accomplished? What haven’t I? Where would I like to see things going over the next year?

new years ecard.png

New Year’s resolutions for me, like lots of people, tend to fall flat by Week 2. Sam wrote about December 1st as the new January 1st. I actually like the idea of getting a jump on a new year the months leading up to it.

In the fall, I was excited to recommit to my health and fitness. I’ve written here about how I am learning to see myself as an active person who is takes her wellbeing seriously. One of the people who inspired me to make the change in my own life also recommitted to her health and wellbeing exactly one year before I did (she in November 2015, and I in November 2016).

I thought that I would speak more formally with her about her experience, as there are things I recognize as similar about both of our stories: we both started out as relatively active children and young women but became discouraged and anxious about fitness as we got older. We both had multiple false starts over the years, and we both decided to integrate fitness and wellness in our lives around the same time.

 

Tracy: What does being “fit” mean to you?

Jaclyn: Being fit means loving, embracing and accepting my body for all the amazing things that I can do. This is not to say that now I love my body because it is leaner and has more muscle mass, and that I could not love my body before because I had a much higher body fat percentage. Getting stronger, lifting heavier, and getting my cardio up to a level I didn’t know was possible has led to an appreciation for myself and my body that I never had when I spent most of my days drinking, partying, and subsequently binge eating my hangover away the next day.

Tracy: Since you mention it, regarding your drinking/partying in the past, do you feel like you simply “replaced” those old habits with new ones or is it more complex? (Do you feel like a different person now than you were back then?)

Jaclyn: I think it’s more complex than that. I’m the same person, yet a different person. I think a part of the drinking was me trying to cover over parts of me that I didn’t like (or that I thought I needed to change to be liked). When I began my fitness journey, my new habits (nutrition, fitness, sleep, water intake, etc.) replaced old habits (binge drinking, binge eating, partying).  As my new habits began to slowly weed out and replace my old ones, there was a moment that I realized I was truly and genuinely happy. In that moment, I realized that this new lifestyle fuels me and allows me to be my most authentic and genuine self.

Tracy: That’s so wonderful and it’s been amazing to see your progress. What was your previous experience with fitness? Were you an active child?

Jaclyn: I grew up an active kid; I was on the swim and synchronized swimming teams, played soccer, and did ballet. My family loves to camp, so I’d frequently go canoeing, hiking, swimming and kayaking with them. But gym class was a nightmare for me. As a shy and introverted child, cliques in gym classes (which often involved choosing partners and teams) intimidated me. My intuition was to skip the classes to avoid this.

In undergrad, I joined a couple gyms but never stuck with them because I had no knowledge about what I should be doing, how to use the machines and free weights, or how to bring variety into my workouts and how to eat in accordance with my goals.

I would never even dream of asking someone to show me how to do something, and I was too afraid of being judged using free weighs since I had never used them before.  So, I would go over to the one machine I knew – the treadmill – walk for 40 minutes and leave as quickly as I could.  After a couple weeks, I would get bored of the same old routine and frustrated by the lack of any tangible kind of progress, I would quit the gym.  Looking back, my social anxiety, shyness and introversion were the biggest obstacles for getting into fitness.

Tracy: I think that can be quite common—sometimes people see “gym culture” as macho or unfriendly, especially for someone who is new to working out or not that knowledgeable when it comes to fitness. How did you find this and what strategies did you find helpful in overcoming that?

Jaclyn: As someone with little knowledge about fitness and exercise, and as an introvert with social anxiety, breaking into the gym and developing a consistent routine was a huge obstacle. This time, however, I didn’t want to run; I wanted to face this challenge and move myself into a space where I could walk into a gym and do my routine comfortably.

As I’ve grown with my anxiety, I have learned things that I can do to help reduce attacks.  For example, in a conference setting, the more research I have done on my topic, the more comfortable I felt.  So, this was my first strategy in wanting to become more comfortable at the gym, to gain knowledge.

I’m fortunate that I could afford a starter package with a personal trainer.  My thought process was that if I was willing to spend the money I previously did on booze, then I could certainly take that money and invest in myself and buy some training sessions.  I thought that if I had an expert take me through the gym, show me how to use the machines and show me some free weight exercises, I would feel more confident walking in and doing it on my own.

Further, I thought that if I could learn the basics of form, that when I went on my own I would be less likely to injure myself.  Another alternative to training packages is to take full advantage of the growing fitness industry via social media platforms (such as YouTube). I used this to watch how certain exercises are done, would mimic the motions in the privacy of my own house, and then try them at the gym. Utilizing the knowledge from the training sessions and from my research online helped me feel more confident in the gym.

Tracy: You’ve mentioned your social anxieties, which I think are common for many people, especially when it comes to trying new things. How has fitness allowed you to grow in this area, and allowed you to become less fearful of being judged, etc.?

Jaclyn: In addition to gaining the knowledge necessary to make me more comfortable at the gym, I made sure to go during quieter periods (i.e., not during peak times), especially at the beginning. I would also wear a baseball hat, which almost acted like blinders—it helped me feel more “in the zone” and focus more on myself and less on others around me.

Over time, I became more and more confident in myself and in my place at the gym. The better I became at lifting, the less I worried about being judged.  Moreover, the more I fell in love with lifting, the less I cared about being judged; in fact, I don’t worry at all about this because I know that weight lifting involves stalling on reps, or failing a certain move.  I know saw failure as opportunity to grow and learn – understood that this was part and parcel of the process itself – and so I no longer feared being judged.  This process of working on my anxieties in the gym was by no means a speedy one, but I can now happily say that about one year later, I do not need to wear a hat, and I can walk into any gym, at any time, and get to the grind with no fear and no anxieties.

I found that this newfound confidence in the gym spilled into other aspects of my life.  Looking back at where I started and where I am now made me realize how strong and resilient I am.  It helped me realize what I want out of life, and what I wasn’t willing to compromise.

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Tracy: What surprised you most about the new lifestyle that you wouldn’t have expected?

Jaclyn: I never expected to fall in love with fitness and weightlifting like I did, but perhaps more surprising was the humbling self-love and acceptance that arose naturally out of the process.  I have cellulite and big thighs, but this no longer bothers me like it used to.  Instead, I am amazed by how strong and resilient I have become since I started.  I have become humbled by fitness and developed a love for myself that was absent from the larger part of my life.

Jaclyn is an aspiring fitness blogger, living in London completing her PhD in philosophy of neuroscience at the University of Western Ontario.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Speaking with Jaclyn over the last few months have helped to keep me both motivated and patient with myself. It’s especially helpful when I have my own hang-ups or things that slow me down—like the flu, or like fainting (which I wrote about in last month’s post). I’m grateful to have her as a friend and role model and thank her for letting me write about this so openly in this month’s post!

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Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #78

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?

Dancers destroying stereotypes

Akira Armstrong was in two Beyoncé videos, but couldn’t find an agent to represent her as a professional dancer because of her size. To change the narrative around what a dancer’s body should look like, Akira started her own dance company, made up of plus-size dancers. “Pretty Big Movement” is destroying dancer stereotypes, one routine at a time.

 

‘I Weigh 236 Pounds And I Have Great Self-Esteem’

Hi. My name is Sarah. I weigh 236 pounds and I have great self-esteem.

I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting in 1989. My mother is a lifetime member and she enrolled me in the kids’ program. She told me that life would be harder for me if I was overweight. She also said that I would be much happier if I could shop at “regular” clothing stores.

I locked myself in the bathroom and stood on the tub so I could see my legs in the mirror. I hated my thighs. I was nine years old.

Illustrator Explores Femininity Through Modern Cave Paintings

If cave paintings were able to kaleidoscopically cartwheel through a contemporary femme lens, the results would probably end up looking like Louise Reimer’s illustrations. The Canadian artist—who says her work explores femininity, interdependence, performance, and solitude—draws a world that is pink, mystical and brashly feminist.

“I never said to myself ‘I’m going to make feminist art,’ but my work is about girls and women and bodies and freedom, which are all connected to feminism,” Reimer tells The Creators Project. “The world my figures exist in is a kind of female utopia of safety, free from the male gaze, which I think is a feminist paradise.”

Why This Mom Is Sharing Pictures Of Her Body After Breast Cancer Surgery

Jennifer, a mother of two and breast cancer survivor, came across photographer Natalie McCain’s The Honest Body Project, and wanted to participate. The project, which showcases intimate portraits of mothers’ bodies alongside narratives about their lives, aims to empower mothers to feel good about their bodies and help instill body confidence in their children. Jennifer wanted to represent a specific group of moms — those who are battling, or have survived, breast cancer.

 

How the Fuck-Off Fairy helped me fight fat-shaming

“Recently, a personal trainer has been trying to recruit me as a client. When we first met, I told her my goal was to do a pull-up. I’ve been taking some aerial classes, but had plateaued, so decided to lift for a while and build some strength before going back. I told her what I’d been doing, and she was supportive. She made minor noises about how “slimming down” might help me lift my body weight easier. I understand physics well enough to know she is right, and mostly ignored the fat-shaming that was also present in the conversation.”

TOP 5 THINGS TO DO INSTEAD OF LOSE WEIGHT IN 2017

“As you may or may not have seen on the internet, I posed for the brilliant Tanja Tiziana for NOW Magazine’s 3rd annual Love Your Body Issue. This is the much anticipated January issue featuring ten Torontonians who bare all in front of the camera; each one with a beautiful story behind the love of their own bodies. I could tell you that it was easy. I could tell you that thanks to my innate confidence, I got buck and savoured every minute. But that would be a lie.”

What Tabletop Gaming Taught Me About Feminist Fitness, Inclusiveness, and Body Image (Guest Post)

by Kimberly Brumble

grey sleeveless workout tank

Personally I’d just settle for being to walk all day long

 

This time of year, when a lot of people are re-committing themselves to various fitness goals, the tabletop gaming community is also abuzz with discussions comparing fitness trackers, sneaker purchases, couch to 5k plans, and the elusive 10,000 steps.  However, unlike a lot of January fitness adopters, the tabletop gamers are training to play a long game with goals cumulating out in mid summer and even early September.  Why?  That’s convention season, and suddenly thousands of people who are passionate about a hobby that involves sitting around a table for 4-6 hours at a stretch will need to also be able to walk 10,000 to 20,000 plus steps in a single day, probably also lugging bags full of games and gaming materials with them, for 12 to even 20-hour stretches at a time.  These are folks, like me, who take their sedentary hobby so seriously they will begin training 6 and even 9 months out to get the most out of the Best Four Days in Gaming.

Hello, I’m Kimberly Brumble.  I’m a philosopher of science.  In my free time I hike, cycle, run, and lift heavy things.  But also once a week for 5 hours I’m a dwarven fighter trying to save Golarion one axe swing at a time.  Yep.  And I live for it. And sitting around a table pretending to be a super-human elite who can do all sorts of things I can’t has changed how I experience fitness.  Our journey begins…

Let me backtrack and give a little background on me and my hobby.  Tabletop gaming centers around playing games on, you guessed it, a table rather than a screen.  These games range from complex board games like the wildly popular Settlers of Catan and Arkham Horror to role playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) or Vampire the Masquerade.  Also popular are miniatures games like War Hammer, deck-building card games like Magic the Gathering, party card games like Werewolf, and so on.  Basically, if you can play it on a table, it probably has a following which attends conventions like GenCon.

If you had caught me 2 years ago, I would have told you that my dalliances with board games began and ended with an ex-boyfriend trying to explain Catan to me, which I experienced much like this.  And then at his suggestion observing his friends play the game, which went much like this.  When the guys finally did let me play I was so bored I sabotaged my own budding civilization in the first hour so I could go do something else at the party.  Much of my experience of board gaming was at first shaped by 1. the weird gendered dynamics involved with learning mechanics-heavy games and 2. playing the wrong games for me.

RPGs and card games and I didn’t fair much better. As a queer geek gal growing up in a yet-to-be-hip Portland, Oregon, of the 80’s and 90’s, I could never get invited to play DnD or Magic the Gathering for two reasons: 1. I was a girl and 2. I didn’t “look” geeky enough to seem “safe” to invite.  A common trope in 90’s geek culture.  Apparently it was scary enough to invite Cool Guys, let alone sporty girls.  I mean I was also plenty geeky (I’ve read the Silmarillion…multiple times…which is something even among Tolkien dorks), but I was also sporty and artsy, and geek culture had yet to  become so mainstream that people who looked like me got invited to the game table.

Fast forward to two years ago when a bunch of grad students in my philosophy department decided to start a game night.  Our goal was two-fold: 1. have a good time in small-town Indiana without spending money and 2. try to build a better, cooperative climate in our hyper-competitive, socially-challenged cohort.  A weekly gaming night morphed into a 2+ year DnD campaign–which I am still skyping into thousands of miles and two countries away–and passion for tabletop gaming.

DnD will change your life.  There has been a lot written about the social and even professional benefits of RPGs in terms of team-building skills, empathy and community building, and even writing, but for this post I’m going to focus on how it changed my experience of fitness.  That’s right: if you are still reading this, my fellow jocks, DnD changed how I experience fitness.  Here’s how:

First the bad: Tabletop gaming lives up to some of the stereotypes.  Committing to a long-running DnD campaign (Pathfinder, actually, for my fellow RPGers reading) meant committing to sit at a table for 4-6 hours a week, during my free time.  That’s time that I used to spend hiking, cycling, and running.  I now spend it sitting.  That doesn’t mean I don’t still do those things, but I don’t do them on Saturday afternoons (when we currently game).  It’s not more time spent sitting gaming than many people spend in a week watching TV, but there it is.  Also, there are snacks.  Lots of snacks.  Which is great.  And not.

But here is the good (and maybe surprising):  plenty of us gamers are still really active people during the rest of our lives.  What’s more, I have found that gaming and gaming culture has some nice benefits for people, and particularly femme-type people, who are also into fitness.  First of all, DnD campaigns in general involve a lot of action. Even if the players are sitting, they are imagining fighting, swimming, climbing, and doing so, so, so much walking.  Ever read or watched Lord of the Rings? Yeah, it’s like that.  And actually, you can just walk into Mordor.  It’s pretty much the only way to do it (eagles aside).  So even if you play a very squishy (that’s DnD speak for non-athletic and easy to hurt) wizard, your character is probably pretty fit and occasionally making climb, swim, acrobatics, and wilderness survival checks and, generally…hopefully…dice permitting, passing most of them.  On top of that you can choose to play a character who uses physical abilities rather than magic primarily to get shit done.  In our game I play a fighter–and I don’t use magic, just a lot of strength and agility and stamina.  Which is nice, actually, because it kind of motivates me to think about and maintain those physical abilities IRL as well.  Characters “level up” and improve their abilities, which makes them better at doing more stuff, and I have gone from thinking about fitness as maintenance, or beauty, or a duty, to “leveling up” with regard to my IRL physical stats.  Charisma (charm, social skills, beauty) after all, is its own stat.  Strength, agility, and constitution have nothing to do with how you look in the world of DnD, and that’s kind of liberating, especially I think for women and femme-type folks.

Speaking of gender and stats, in DnD the gender of a character does not determine their base stats or how stats progress. Men, women, and every other gender imaginable start with the same base stats available to them.  That means your average human in DnD has a strength of 10, dexterity 10, and constitution (hardiness) of 10.  It’s up to you to change those scores as you build your character and play the game.  For me, a gender-fluid woman who has struggled my whole life with gendered norms and expectations about fitness, that was a revelation.  If I didn’t have to go into DnD with gendered expectations about my own abilities, maybe I didn’t need to bring those to the gym/mountains/cycle track either.  And what I can imagine has a big impact on what I find myself able to do and be.

Finally, I want to say something about the world of DnD and gender with regards to the DnD races.  If you have consumed any high fantasy media you are probably aware that much high fantasy post-Tolkien comes stocked with some standard-issue (and often less standard-issue) fantasy “races.”  It’s important to note that these “humanoid” races do not and probably should not track real-world human concepts of race: we are talking elves, humans, dwarves, gnomes, haflings, orcs, and the like.  While they do come preloaded as tropes with their own set of representational problems, others have also argued that thinking about these issues in fantasy can also open dialogue about issues in media representation of real racism, cis-sexism, hetero-sexism, and ableism.  One thing which fantasy races have done for fans of the genre is to provide us with a multitude of alternate images of different genders as strong, agile, and beautiful people.  In my own experience as a stocky, muscular woman standing 5’2’’, I have found myself drawn to characters with similar builds; thick legs and powerful arms can be beautiful too.  Or not.  Because beauty is not compulsory for effectiveness.  Not even for bards.  Body diversity matters.  Even in fiction.  And especially in a genre in which men and women have so often been made to look like this:

conan

It’s powerful to see them depicted in a range of bodies.  Like this:

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Behold the “Rat Queens” from the eponymous, amazing DnD comic by Kurtis J. Wiebe. Source:https://www.facebook.com/RatQueens/photos/a.145825672257123.1073741828.145821855590838/217050488467974/?type=3&theater

And the same has been true increasingly for men as well:

 

Feels good to go post-human, yeah?

So to sum up, tabletop gaming has brought new perspectives on fitness for me as it has slowly taken over my non-academic life: I think about my fitness in terms of being able to do things I want to do (like walk around a convention all day lugging heavy gaming manuals, something my DnD fighter would consider par for the course), or improving my ability scores (rather than punishing myself or maintaining or striving for some abstract appearance-related goal).  What’s more, it’s expanded how I and many gamers imagine strong, capable, competent, optionally beautiful, and powerful bodies- both ours and those we inhabit in our dream-lives saving imaginary worlds, one Saturday afternoon at a time.

 

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Kimberly “Berly” Brumble is a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary. Her research focuses on how uncertainty in climate modeling effects decision-making and how decision-making under “deep uncertainty” involves both scientists and policy-makers in the environmental sciences and geophysics. She enjoys hiking, camping, cycling, cycle camping, running, canoeing and kayaking, lifting heavy things, and pretending that the Canadian Rockies are the Misty Mountains on weekends. She is also pretty serious about illustrating and painting. She has recently discovered playing in, writing, and running rpgs. Catch her next year at GenCon on her recurring panel “Philosophers Play Pathfinder.”