Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #89

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on 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?

Stunning portrait disrupts our ideas

Maggie West is tired of seeing women forced into sainthood.

Her new project, an art installation called “98,” removes the concepts of sainthood and purity from femininity and lets feminine sexuality shine on its own. The installation was inspired by stained glass artwork, and was funded by the Amber Rose Foundation and the upmarket sex toy company Lelo.

Body positivity with added glitter!

A group of women are covering themselves in glitter and posing naked for an Instagram project which aims to show “real people with real bodies” and encourage body positivity

The artifice in taking natural photos

Anny Lutwak began taking photographs when she was a 13-year-old living in Manhattan, experimenting with her first rolls of color film. Now a sophomore at Bard College, the artist is using photography to explore female sexuality and the ever-complicated issues of how it can be expressed, and also muffled. Her new series, “Female Trouble,” looks at the physical struggles that women face and the way that gendered issues such as domestic violence, sexual oppression, and body image can be covered up, aestheticized, and trivialized. Lutwak paints a black eye on one subject, and adorns a penis with sparkles on another. Some of her images show the gory and graphic realities of abuse, while in others, the effects are much less discernible. Here, the artist discusses the ways that the female experience is portrayed visually, and how women are regaining control over their own photographic representation.

Taking over Victoria’s Secret

Brooklyn-based model Tabria Majors has fighting words for Victoria’s Secret, but all she really needed was three Instagram photos to prove her point. In order to draw attention to the rigid beauty standards demonstrated by the company’s ad campaigns, she posed in a few of her favourite pieces of the season and looked absolutely bomb. If this doesn’t prove that curvy women can sell just as many undies as the size-2 ‘angels’ VS seems intent on exclusively using, we don’t know what will (skinny girls, we love you too; we just think there needs to be more diversity going on).

Getting our fit on at all ages

Readers may remember I got back in the pool in late August. I’ve really been enjoying it. After three months, I’ve gotten to know the regulars and it’s been very interesting to see the range of ages and abilities.

There’s me of course, doggedly putting in my laps of the breast stroke and frog kick. I’m more about the meditative aspect of swimming than the speed but since my trainer and physiotherapist have seen the difference swimming by makes to my mobility, I’ll keep on keeping on.

I haven’t seen the group since September but it is possible they are going at a different time. The group consisted of four or five women who hung out in the deep end chatting and doing their exercises. It got crowded from time to time but it was good to see friends work out together.

There are a couple of other women I see from times to time. One does laps like me; we nod politely as we pass. She likes to keep her head in the water whereas I don’t. I don’t see well without my glasses and filling my ears with water when I go under doesn’t help.

The other woman is probably 20 years older than I am and she is totally focused on her routine. Each day, she gathers her gear and arranges it at one end of the pool. She works through a series of strokes as she does her laps, some with her swimming tools and some without. She can go quite quickly and as I go through my laps, I sometimes think about how I can add speed to my swim.

But it doesn’t really matter how fast I go, or how slow, as the leisure/lane swim can accommodate my skill level just as it accommodated those of the other swimmers.

During the week, it’s adults in the pool in the early morning but on the weekend, there’s lots of small children, some taking lessons and some just getting comfortable in the water with their parents. I like the fact the kids will see all kinds of shapes, sizes, skills, and ages in the pool, especially women.

I’ve been thinking about taking lessons to vary my strokes so I can work different muscles and different parts of my body. For now though, it’s enough to show up. It is getting colder in the mornings and it’s not the brightest at 7 am but still we show up. We nod and smile; sometimes we chat idly about the weather. Almost always, we say “see you next time.” And we will, because we have found a place where we can get our fit on, without any judgement. If you want to just do it, our pool is the place to make that happen.

— Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant who uses swimming to bring calm and powerlifting to build strength.

Still Struggling with Body Image? Try a Nude Vacation #tbt

As we enter into the holiday season (yes, it’s coming), we are about to face a barrage of posts that are trying to make us feel badly about our bodies (you know the ones, all about holiday weight gain — more on that in a few weeks!). Here’s an oldie but goodie from the early days of the blog, when I (Tracy) reported on how I tackled my body image issues in an unusual way: I went to a nude resort and it was transformative!

Fit Is a Feminist Issue

Sam and I often get a kick out of the site stats that tell us what search engine terms get people to the blog. People have landed here by searching “soccer and beer,” “If a guy says you are not fat but fluffy,” “aikido makes me nervous,” “hard fast no cuddling after tshirt,” and “no other regret compares to the childhood email address made.”

But yesterday, my heart really went out to the person who searched “I want to be nude at home but I’m too modest.”  Many of us struggle with body image. I’m not sure if this searcher is too modest because she (or he) is self-conscious about her (or his) body not being “good enough,” but if she is, I can recommend a solution that worked for me:  a nude vacation.

A few years ago my husband finally convinced me to try a nude resort for our…

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Why the “Thigh Gap” Makes Me Sad #tbt

Sam and I have been reviewing our older content lately to get a sense of our most read posts and topics. I’ve also revisited “the thigh gap” topic this week proof reading a paper I wrote that’s coming out in the Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics (Ann Barnhill, Mark Budolfson, and Tyler Doggett, editors) very soon. My paper is called “Food Insecurity: Dieting as Ideology, as Oppression, and as Privilege.” It’s almost five years since I posted these thoughts here on the thigh gap. And it and any other arbitrary thin ideal that makes people, especially women, feel poorly about themselves if they don’t achieve it, still makes me sad.


Fit Is a Feminist Issue

thigh gap push pushIt’s not the newest news, but the whole “thigh gap” thing, especially among young women, has been a simmering pot that came into media focus a couple of weeks ago when I was off the grid on a sailboat vacation.  It was on the news and in the paper and on the web. It’s a popular hashtag on Twitter.

Sam alluded to it in her post about bathing suit anxiety.  The “thigh gap” aspiration is the newest thing driving young women to obsessive dieting and disordered eating.

I am a woman in her late forties with no teenagers, so I’m a bit out of the loop sometimes. When I discovered the world of tumblrs (such as “fuckyeahthighgap” and “thigh gap” ) devoted to the thigh gap, I confess to being not just shocked, but profoundly saddened.

I don’t even want to link to the sites because they are so…

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Thanksgiving-Birthday-A-versay aka Nat’s personal New Year

It’s the first full weekend in October and in Canada that means a long weekend widely celebrated as Thanksgiving. Our family enjoys a giant feed of food. It also falls very close to my birthday and my wedding anniversary. 

The changing season and the celebrations feel like a personal New Year. A time for reflection and change. 

Soccer season wrapped up and my team, Zidane in the Membrane, won B division. We had a fun season. I grew as a player, forced to play mid-field I found out I’ve gotten a bit better. 

Smiling soccer players crowd together, laughing and sweating

Zidane in the Membrane 2017 is a motley group ranging in age from 21 to somewhere in the 50s. Our bright orange jerseys are easy to spot.

My big achievement this year, aside from hitting the ball effectively with my head and getting called on a foul, I was unanimously chosen by my team as “most sportingly”. In a nod to my feminism the organizers changed it from “sportsmanship”. Awe! Everyday feminist feels. 

Workout wise I’m heading back to the gym for cxworx classes Tuesdays at 4. The class this week was humbling after several months of not doing those moves. I often have to modify exercises because I don’t have the thrust to mass ratio or my round body simply can’t do some of the moves. So it’s a cognitive load with the cardio, strength and balance. I do like it though but the first day back I was weepy for the guilt of not being back sooner. I did wear last year’s soccer jersey. It cheered me up. 

I’m loving Walking Wednesdays with my pals Tracy & Stephanie. We loop around the beautiful park in front of our office. 

I’m throwing some treadmill running back in the mix. I want to improve my endurance and sprinting in soccer so I can be better in mid-field. 

All in all, I’m feeling good about turning 43 this week. I’ve lots of friends who model what fitness in my forties & fifties can look like. 

My sweetie and I are celebrating 22 years of togetherness. It’s official, I’m now at the age where I’ve lived with him longer thanIve lived without him. I’m thankful we keep finding good reasons to enjoy each other and fitness stuff is a big part of that. 

So my folks are in town to celebrate my eldest son’s high school commencement. It’s basically the family High Holidays! Food, family and the time to enjoy it. Many things to be thankful for. 


You can run but you can’t hide: fat phobia in the dictionary

As an academic who works on public health ethics, body weight and image and health behaviors, I spend a lot of time thinking and reading and writing about fatness, fat phobia, body image and discrimination.  But sometimes, a girl’s gotta go teach logic.

I teach introduction to logic and critical thinking at my university, and have been doing so for a long long long long long time.  So, in order to try to keep things fresh and at least moderately interesting, I add new modules to my class.

There I was, working on a new module on types of definitions and terms.  There are a ton of them (if you’re interested, we meet Tues/Thurs at 12:30).  But one important contrast I teach the students is between lexical and persuasive definitions. Here’s an example:

  1. democracy: control of a group or organization by the majority of its members
  2. democracy: government by the weak and less-qualified parts of society

The first is a neutral definition (lexical), which I got from a dictionary.  The second is a persuasive definition, designed to make you disapprove of democracy.  It imparts an emotive message in the purported meaning; it’s designed to distort.

In the course of looking for interesting examples for my logic slides, I came across the term “overweight”.  Great, I thought– I can compare lexical and persuasive definitions!

graphic of the words "But Wait!"

Tried though I might to find a neutral, dictionary-type definition of overweight, I kept coming up short.  Here’s an online dictionary definition:

A shot of google's dictionary definition of "overweight" which says "above a weight considered normal or desirable".

A shot of google’s dictionary definition of “overweight” which says “above a weight considered normal or desirable”.


So “overweight” means “a weight that’s so high that it’s not normal, not desirable.”  It’s conveying the message that anyone who is overweight weighs too much to be considered normal, and that such a weight is not one that anyone would/should ever want.  Okay– that was conveyed efficiently.  Check.

Well, maybe google is a little fat phobic; I’ll try Wikipedia.  Here’s what I found:

The Wikipedia page for "overweight". It's chock-full of normative words which I discuss below.

The Wikipedia page for “overweight”. It’s chock-full of normative words which I discuss below.


Well, it is more thorough– in its fat-shaming through claims about health and body weight.  If you’re overweight, you’re not optimally healthy (sez Wikipedia).  And the healthy body, if it accumulates too much storage fat, becomes impaired with respect to movement and flexibility.  And– the appearance is altered.

I can see that the writer of this page tried a little harder to be neutral, but they failed.  Being overweight is sub-optimal for health, and impairs movement and flexibility.

Apparently this woman didn’t read the Wikipedia page about impaired flexibility.

Jessamyn Stanley, a large-sized brown-skinned yogi, in a triumphant split on a boardwalk.

Jessamyn Stanley, a large-sized brown-skinned yogi, in a triumphant split on a boardwalk.


I can’t keep myself from posting another photo of her.

Jessamyn Stanley in a modified triangle pose (maybe), legs apart and straight, torso bent overleft arm over head on calf, left arm holding other thigh.

Jessamyn Stanley in a modified triangle pose (maybe), legs apart and straight, torso bent overleft arm over head on calf, left arm holding other thigh.


Okay, I’m done now with the pictures.  But you can check out more Instagram images of her here.

I looked at a bunch of different dictionaries.  Here’s Merriam Webster– a standard one.

Merriam Webster's definition of "overweight"-- weight over and above what is required or allowed, and excessive or burdensome weight.

Merriam Webster’s definition of “overweight”– weight over and above what is required or allowed, and excessive or burdensome weight.


Wow- it just keeps getting worse.  Now I hear that I’m required not to have a weight above some standard, so I’m not even allowed to be overweight.  And furthermore this amount of weight that I have is burdensome.  Good lord.

Is it any wonder that fat phobia is so pervasive?  It’s even in all the dictionaries.

I do have a proposal for dealing with the term “overweight”, and it comes from my intro logic class.  There’s something called a “precising” definition, which is a definition you use when you need a very precise term for some context.  So for instance, to define “adult” for purposes of registering to vote, regions have specific guidelines and requirements for when the person has to be at least 18 years old.  We use precising definitions in law, medicine, and other fields where we need unambiguous terms.

So how about this?  “Overweight” means “has a score of 25 or greater on the BMI scale”.  We still need to futz with this to make it perfectly precise (there are different BMI scales for different demographic groups and age groups, etc.), but this is a neutral way to deal with it.

Please know– I’m not endorsing the BMI scale as meaning anything particular about us, our sizes, our health, our attractiveness or anything.  But it’s a way to bury the term “overweight” in a pile of technical medical terms, where it belongs (if it indeed belongs anywhere).

The cool thing about language is that it turns on a dime.  We can change it by changing our usage.  The dictionaries work for US– they pick up on that usage and change their entries accordingly.

So do you use the term “overweight”?  What does it mean for you?  What descriptive language do you use about bodies?  Or do you not tend to use it at all?  I’m interested in your usage and your thoughts.





Imagine if size really didn’t matter. Can you? #tbt

Today I’m doing a “Throwback Thursday” post where I invite you, once again, to imagine how different life would be if we actually lived in a world where size doesn’t matter. Happy Thursday!

Fit Is a Feminist Issue

tape-measureOne of the most intriguing news items this week reported on a six-year study that measured what happened to the contestants who lost dramatic amounts of weight in Season 8 of the reality TV show we here at Fit Is a Feminist Issue love to hate: The Biggest Loser.

For those of us who have gained and lost, lost and gained, and lost and gained again, the most obvious result wasn’t a shocker. The contestants are heavier than they were when the show ended.  The season’s winner, Danny Cahill, went from 430 pounds to 191 pounds over the seven month period of the weight loss competition.

And he’s gained 100 of it back. According to The New York Times article “After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight,” the regain is despite his best efforts. “In fact,” the article goes on to say, “most of that season’s…

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