feminism

Fit Feminists Shuffle Things Around: New 2018 Blog Schedule

As Tracy de Boer announced Saturday, she’s taking a break. I was happy to read though that she’ll continue to post when there mood strikes. I’m hoping it strikes often.

Here then is our regular schedule for 2018.

Mon:Sam

Tues: Tracy

Wednesday: Sam or Catherine

(Thanks Catherine for helping me out this super busy first term at my new job!)

Thursday: Tracy or #tbt

Fridays: Susan/Cate/Martha/Kim

Saturdays: Nat/Christine/Cate/Christine

Sundays: Catherine (Weekends with Womack!)

If you’re ever interested in guest posting here at Fit is a Feminist Issue, drop me a line at samanthajbrennan@gmail.com.

Here is the note I send guests.

Thanks for your willingness to join our community of guest posters at Fit is a Feminist Issue.

Posts usually range between 500 and 1000 words. If your post is really long it might make sense to do it in several parts.

First and foremost we’re a feminist blog and we expect guests to share that perspective. We also usually incorporate a personal perspective in our writing, even if that’s the history of what made us think about the thing we’re writing about.

We also are a body positive blog and we try to keep the diet talk down to a minimum. Lots of us are critical of diets, the long term odds of success, and the beauty standards beneath lots of fitness ideals. We’re more about doing things we love and sharing athletic, rather than aesthetic goals. That said, we don’t all agree about all of these things and “big tent feminism” is part of the charm of the blog.

We try to use accessible language and write with a sense of humour, where appropriate. We especially try to avoid ableist language. For example, we don’t say “crazy” or “lame.” Here’s a link to alternatives

Where it makes sense include links to further resources.
You must include a short bio at the end.

The way it works is that you submit the post for review and I edit it lightly (mostly for grammar and spelling and adequate paragraph breaks). I schedule it. I also add photos. You can email pictures to me, samanthajbrennan@gmail.com.

Contributor status means that you can’t add photos. After a few posts, we switch you to author status and authors can add their own photos and schedule their own posts.

Note: If you are adding your own photos and video, pls be sure to provide image and video descriptions for the visually impaired. All non-text content should have a text alternative that provides an equivalent meaning as the image. Read past posts for some descriptions of the images in the posts. Best practise is for the image description to go in the alt-text field which you can see when you edit the photo. You can put the image description in the caption as well if you have space. Captions are also useful for photo credits Finally, giving your photo a descriptive title makes it easier for search engines to find.

Please share your guest post widely to let your friends and social media followers know about the blog. We’ve got some excellent regular commentators and if you could check in on your post and reply to them that would be great.

Yay! And thanks for contributing!

Cheers,

Sam

A black road bike on a black backgroundFrom the Minimalists collection on Unsplash, photo by Josh Nutall

cycling · eating disorders · feminism · fitness · motivation

A return to fitness in 2018 (Guest post)

Biking with a friend

I love to make New Year’s resolutions, although I sometimes have uneven results. My main and most exciting New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to do 218 workouts – they don’t have to be particularly strenuous or any set length but they have to be fun and pleasurable.

I hope that 2018 – the year I turn 40 – will be at my fittest year ever. This isn’t an extreme goal because my fittest year was probably 2011, when I was running regularly, had not yet gotten my driver’s license so cycled everywhere out of necessity, and impulsively bought an expensive personal training program. I was 33, so it is not as if I am trying to re-live athletic teen years, which would be considerably harder. I was actually the type of kid for whom gym class was a nightmare. I walked the field when I was supposed to run, regularly ‘forgot’ my gym clothes, and dreaded group sports when my lack of any skill would be humiliatingly apparent to all my classmates.

I was not fit in any sense of the word until my late twenties when I started to cycle everywhere often, in those years, pulling two children and/or groceries (!!) in a bike trailer. When I was 30 and newly single I decided to try some new activities: running, roller derby, hot yoga, and weight-training. I felt fantastic, met some great people, and began to think of myself as a fit, even athletic, person. I felt strong and powerful and had a lot of fun. I still remember the exhilarating day I ran 13 km for the first time. As someone who a couple years earlier could not run one block, I was extremely proud of myself.

Unfortunately, the fitness activities got confused with and integrated into disordered eating habits, which dulled my enjoyment. Healing from disordered eating, which for me meant restricted eating, and unattainable weight loss goals, meant also giving up some of my fitness goals. But now I am about turn 40, a busy PhD student, community activist, and mom. Giving up a strong focus on fitness may have been necessary for me to heal from disordered eating but it also meant that I lost the physical and emotional benefits of fitness especially the almost magical effect it has on my ability to deal constructively with stress.

I miss the camaraderie that accompanied roller derby practices and group runs. I miss experiencing my body as strong and powerful. When I think about my life in ten and twenty years, I want fitness to be an everyday part of it. So, I have made a plan to get to my fittest this year and to re-discover the joy of fitness.

The plan is simple: do 218 workouts in 2018 which will include some weight-training, a gentle triathlon, and a few no-pressure and fun 5 or 10 km runs.

Maybe I’ll even, finally, attempt a fall half marathon – but only if it brings me joy. I also hope to cycle year-round instead of taking a long winter break after which I always feel hesitant and creaky. The focus, other than doing the 218 workouts, will be on feeling pleasure in moving my body and having fun participating in physical activities with other people.

There will be absolutely no weight loss goals or restricted eating plans and I will steer clear of others who have integrated those elements into their fitness plans and motivations. I’m excited, motivated, and ready to have fun and feel strong!

Kayaking in Venice in 2017

Becky Ellis is a PhD student at Western University who studies the bee-human relationship in cities. She is a mom to four kids and a community activist. Becky loves gardening, cycling at a leisurely pace, and taking millions of pictures of bees. She also maintains the blog Permaculture for the People about social justice and urban permaculture.

accessibility · athletes · cycling · equality · feminism · fitness · gender policing · Guest Post · inclusiveness · stereotypes

Taking the Lane: Gender and Cycling in Toronto (A Panel Discussion)

On Thursday, June 15, I get to talk about my favourite topic in cycling. Something I like better than debating wheel size on mountain bikes, frame materials for road bikes, or what type of shifters to use on a touring bike. I’ll be chatting about gender and cycling with four excellent people of a diversity of backgrounds. Joining me at the Parkdale Library will be Katie Whitman, Community Cycling Champion and researcher; Lavinia Tanzim of Bad Girls Bike Club; and Sivia Vijenthira of Spacing Magazine, with moderation by Tammy Thorne of Dandyhorse Magazine.

For some of you, this will be an obvious topic of conversation. “Of course that’s still relevant!”, you’ll say, “Why would anyone disagree?”

But I know I get a lot of questions about why we can’t just talk about getting more butts on bikes generally. “Just shut up and ride your bike” is a comment we get all of the time in the advocacy world, whether it’s about centering conversations on women and gender nonconforming (GNC) people, or attempting to convince people not to ride trails when they’re wet.

Why do we need to have this conversation?  I have worked in retail bike spaces, as a ride leader and as a mechanic for the past decade.  And the overwhelming drone in the background has always been cis-male* voices.  If you make a bike event open to all genders, take a look around the room. The gender diversity is likely to be pretty limited, with the bulk of your attendees identifying as male. If you brand your event as women-only, you’re still very likely to end up with a cis-dude* or two attempting to gain access These interlopers will at times be very understanding, having missed the fine (or bold) print, and will at other times be dismissive, derisive, or downright aggressive. That’s cool, we can (and do) deal.

(*cis-gendered = someone whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were born with)

The Good

So why am I so excited about this panel and these spaces? What’s the difference at events intentionally directed at women and GNC people? For me, it’s all about the energy and a willingness to ask questions. As a mechanic, the most refreshing thing has always been a woman coming in with her bike and asking questions or talking about her experiences. Events or drop-in hours where women and GNC folks are the sole audience have a lot more chatting, laughing, whooping, and questions than all gender events. There are a lot of generalizations and assumptions about why this happens, and we’re going to unpack the heck out of that in the panel.

The Bad

Note that I never said women and cycling, I said gender and cycling. How many of you jumped right to thinking this was a conversation about women and bikes? One of the aspects I find most difficult in organizing programs for not-cis-men, is making “women’s” events open and accepting of the trans* and GNC community. All of the events that I run are GNC-friendly. They have to be, because I identify as GNC. But I struggle constantly with the thought that my events are still exclusionary, as they’re often labeled as women’s events. If it’s a women-only event, does that mean our trans* and GNC friends aren’t allowed?  Women and GNC events often get read as queer events. Does that mean straight, cis women aren’t allowed?  There’s a barrier no matter what we do. My employers may not go for me labeling events as Women and Gender-Non-Conforming. It’s wordy, which is a hard pill to swallow when you’re trying to make a catchy and easily communicable event. If you write your event as Women and GNC, you may scare some women away who don’t know what that acronym means and feel this event isn’t for them. Throw an asterisk in there? People don’t read things. The complications and variations are endless.

So What’s the Question?

We know we need infrastructure changes and programs geared towards lower income people and newcomers to Canada, so that people have a safe and supportive way into bike commuting. But recreational riding, my main squeeze? How do we make these spaces accepting of all incomes, gender identities, and sexual orientations? Can we do it with one club, or do we need multiple clubs to make sure everyone has space?

 

What do you think, Toronto? Who wants to talk about this with me? See you on Thursday, June 15th at 6pm at the Parkdale Library!

 

If gender identity is not your most important question, never fear. We’re going to talk about loads of things, including how to make streets safer from an infrastructure level, the importance of programs for youth and newcomers to Toronto, how to tie the suburbs into this conversation, and what the research says about all of these things.

 

——–

 

Event Info:

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/643794175823092/?active_tab=about


Join us on June 15 for TAKING THE LANE: GENDER AND CYCLING IN TORONTO! Pop by the 
Parkdale Library from 6-7:30pm for an a-one panel. The event seeks to unpack our city’s cycling past, where we need to go, and who is missing from the conversation? But at the end of the day the question is: how do we get more women and girls cycling?

There is a serious lack of conversation and action around intersectionality and cycling in Toronto. This event aims to highlight that many women and GNC people in the city do not feel comfortable cycling due to unsafe streets (a lack of infrastructure) coupled with a lack of outreach.


Alex has been working in the Toronto cycling community for the last nine years. A certified CAN-Bike, Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association, and bike repair instructor, Alex would be so happy to take you for a bike ride. In addition to their role with Charlie’s FreeWheels, a charity dedicated to teaching youth how to build and ride bikes in Regent Park, Alex coordinates group rides and clinics with Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop and leads women’s cycling programs as a rider for Trek’s Women’s Advocacy program. You can usually find them with a posse of rad women and non-binary folks in the Don Valley mountain bike trails.

Follow Alex @legslegum on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

 

 

 

fashion · feminism

Sam has mixed feelings about sports dresses but loved axe throwing in a skirt

It’s spring and my social media newsfeed is full of ads for summer clothing. But it’s me, and lots of it is sports related. So many beautiful bike jerseys!

But this year, there’s a new thing there, cropping up from time to time, the sporty dress. I confess that often my dress wearing ways (see biking in a dress and I hate pants) are at odds with my resistance to normative femininity.  For a taste of that, go read my running skirts post.

Basically I don’t like being told how I ought to dress. And often, for women, being told how you ought to dress involves skirts and dresses. When I dipped my toes into journalism as a career, women still had to wear skirts or dresses in the parliamentary press gallery. As a young punky person I had to carry a skirt in my back pack if I planned to visit.

School uniforms were the same. I’ve blogged here before about being taught by nuns. That certainly required skirts.

I’m the kind of person who couldn’t live in a suburb with rules. You know, the kind of place that has rules against clotheslines, and wildflowers, and funny coloured house paint and leaving your garage door open. I’d move in and right away paint every wild colours, plant all the flowers, and hang up scandalous underwear in plain sight. You know the type. That’s me.

So what about the sporty dresses!

Here’s an example.

A woman with hair tied back, wearing glasses, and a pink flowered dress is walking her bike. From https://nuu-muu.com/collections/xlent
Image description: A woman with hair tied back, wearing glasses, and a pink flowered dress is walking her bike.

Like these skirts, which I also like and even tried on several times over the winter, I can’t decide if they are about warmth and function or butt modesty. And if the former, I’m all in, and if the latter, I’m a bit uncomfortable.

Image description: Women's Rocket Skirt Black/Gray
Image description: Black sporty skirt with zippers., from Garneau, https://garneau.com/us/en/women/new-products/jupe-rocket-femme/color/black-grey-251-191%20can’t%20decide

 

On the one hand, so cute!

On the other, I want to reject norms about women not being to be show our bodies and especially as a larger person (Fat or big?) who is mostly comfortable with her size, I like opportunities to express that. (yes, I love wearing bikinis, stretch marks, tummy rolls and all.)

Okay, I’ll keep mulling about sports dresses and butt-warming skirts, but I know one thing for sure. I love throwing axes in a skirt! (We were encouraged to wear plaid and this is the only plaid item I own.)

I think it’s skirts and dresses in rebellious contexts I like best. Prom dress rugby! Fishnets in roller derby!

Oh, also I’ll wear pants on June 11. It’s Wear the Pants Day.

skirt

 


What do you think of sporty skirts and dresses? Love/hate/to each their own?

feminism · fitness

Self care, world care: hoping it’s not either/or

Yesterday my friend Janet and I went cross country skiing at Foss Farm west of Boston.  It was a picture-perfect snowy day in the woods.

The woods at Foss Farm, ski tracks in the middle and trees all around.

On the way back home, we stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things.  I ran into a fellow feminist philosopher (hi, Naomi!) in the produce section.  I noted my ski clothing and said what a wonderful day it was to be outside.  She replied that she had been at a demonstration in Cambridge to protest the Dakota access pipeline, and pointed out her very warm clothing.  We parted, planning to get together for a snowy walk soon.

It’s funny (interesting, not haha) that I should run into a friend who had been protesting instead of skiing that day.  Talking with Janet while enjoying the woods, I mentioned that I was really interested in going to the March for Science in Washington, scheduled for April 22.  But I can’t, because I had already scheduled to go to the East Coast Paddlesports kayak symposium in Charleston, SC.  I’ll be doing 3 days of on and off-water kayaking classes in warm water.  It should be great, and I am/was really looking forward to it.

Was? Why was?

Maybe it’s bad luck/timing, but I now count three times that I’ve missed chances to join others in public protest against political conditions that I consider dangerous for my country, the environment, and human rights.  The third miss-out was when I was at a cooking course at the Kripalu center in western Massachusetts on the weekend of the Women’s Marches.  I had scheduled that trip weeks before the election– who knew this would happen?

All of these things I’ve been doing or am planning are part of my efforts at increased self-care these days.  I’ve written about struggling with eating in healthy-to-me ways,  and also with physical activities that I love but in which I am  less adept/fast/comfortable/fit than I used to be.  So I made the conscious decision to shift my focus a bit.  I am teaching less (fewer overload courses, which means less money), going to fewer conferences, saying no to new projects (this is in itself a work in progress!), and doing more focused service at work and in my community (i.e. not saying yes to every shiny new opportunity).  I’m also trying (really, I am) to space out my social events– I love love love seeing friends and really hate to miss out on dinners, parties, etc.  In fact I’m going to try to go to both a lasagne dinner and a karaoke party next Saturday.  We’ll see how that goes…

Back to the conflict at hand.  Our time is limited, our energy is limited, our personal needs are real, and the needs of the world are wide and deep.  Lately it’s feeling like saying “yes” to myself results in my saying “no” to the world.  And maybe vice versa.  What to do about it?  How to find that seductive and elusive karmic balance in life?  I guess that’s what I’m asking.  At times like these it feels as mythical a goal as this:

 

an elephant balancing on a beach ball on the beach!

It’s funny I’m writing about the difficulty of balance, because I’ve always been good at balancing.  I skate (ice and roller), I ski (downhill in past, cross country from now until I expire), and I used to dance ( ballet, tap, modern) and still do recreationally when I get a chance.  I’m venturing into new realms of balancing– edging a kayak is an exercise in balancing yourself and the boat to optimize on the physics of forward motion and turning.  And yoga?  Yeah.  Don’t get me started on all the balancing that we’re supposed to do there.  Like this one:

Woman doing a forward arm balance on a yoga mat

Seriously, that is not happening.  But I found out just yesterday that I’m rather better than I used to be at this one:

Two children doing tree balance pose on a yoga mat

What I wish and hope is that getting stronger and caring for ourselves will open up new energy for caring for the world, which really needs our attention.  I’ve recently gotten involved in several teaching projects for minority STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students at my university.  It feels stimulating to develop two new courses (philosophy courses on race and racism, and also a science and values course).  Maybe I’ll figure out how to make time for protests.  Or maybe protests won’t be the route for me– there’s lots of work to do to forward the causes of justice (however we see it).

Readers, how have recent world events shaped your time and energy and balance?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

 

body image · fat · feminism · fitness · inclusiveness

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 🙂 

feminism · fitness

work-life balance: just what is it supposed to look like?

Last weekend my friend Norah and I took off from our busy lives to spend a weekend at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in western Massachusetts.  We are lucky and grateful for the privilege of the resources (time, control, money) to be able to take such a nice vacation.

Kripalu has limited internet access and strict rules against cell phone use in most of the building. The idea is to create an atmosphere in which people can take a break from their regular lives and from the regular stream of information and demands coming in over the airwaves (to use an old twentieth-century expression).

We both took full advantage of the break, enjoying lots of yoga, cooking, eating supremely yummy and healthy-to-us food, meditating, strolling in the woods, resting and reading.

Yeah.  We should all run–not walk– to such places.

three stick figures--standing with no, walking with no, running with yes

But here’s the thing: all of the lovely activities that Norah and I did– the woodsy strolling, yoga, cooking, reading, meditating, chilling and hanging out– can all be done at a much lower price AT HOME.  So why don’t our non-vacationing non-getaway lives look more like this?

Here’s one reason:

graphic of the word "work"

We all work.  We work too hard.  We work too long.  We work at home. We work on vacation. We work at all hours of the day and night.

Contrast last weekend with this week:  Norah went to Florida Monday morning for big work meetings for a few days.  She was steeling herself for having to do regular job tasks on top of these extra meetings.  Let me clarify here:  her job required traveling and going to a bunch of all-day and into-the-evening meetings.  But there was also the expectation, nay, requirement, that she complete tasks that she would be doing normally at her job while not traveling.

And get this:  the schedule for the work meetings included breakfast at 5:30am–7am, whereupon employees would be shuttled to the convention center for the big meetings.

5:30am digital image

Good God.

Some of you who read the blog (and everyone who’s ever met me) know very well that I’m not a morning person.  But seriously?  Starting the work day at 5:30am?  I can see getting up early if the goal is to commune with nature that looks like this:

early morning sunrise over marsh and water

But I suspect Norah’s day began looking much more like this:

people eating breakfast at a convention ballroom

But wait– we forgot about the work tasks that Norah had to be BEFORE her day began.

working on tablet at night, colors in background

No, it probably didn’t look or feel like this.  The image was too pretty, however, not to share.  Likely it felt more like this:

stick figure working at computer

What does my rant about working too much have to do with fitness?  With feminism?

the word "everything"

When work life takes over every waking (and many of the sleeping) minutes, we are unable to cope, to take care of ourselves, to take care of others, to move in ways we love, to sit still alone or with others, to cook and eat food that nourishes and delights us, to think about how to make the world better and then do something about it.

This year I’m paying more attention to when and how and how often I work.  I’ve planned to go to some conferences, but fewer than last year.  I’m planning fun activity trips with friends and family and fun activities at home.  Sam and Tracy have blogged about their approaches to scheduling activity during their week.  I had, over the past couple of years, lost my rhythm, and am paying some attention to getting it back.  Or rather, finding a new rhythm.  I can say now it will not involve getting up at 5:30am (except for special outdoorsy activity occasions), but I am looking for something that can stand as a bulwark against the constant encroachment of work.  I know, something like this might seem like overkill:

a stone bulwark-- defensive wall

But some structural help, to keep me from letting work seep into all the cracks, is needed.

I don’t have concrete plans yet.  But my weekend away helped me wake up to the need to make some concrete plans.  So for now, I’m at this stage:

work in progress

Readers, what sorts of ways do you cordon off time and space for life outside work?  I’d love to hear some of your plans and structures.