Can we have game misconducts for sexism?

Earlier this week 7AFL took down a post of AFLW Tayla Harris which featured a photograph of her completing a spectacular football (soccer) kick. The member of the Australian women’s football league received high praise but then the trolls arrived and it all went down hill from there.

Here’s the photo:

Photo shows Tayla Harris, Australian soccer player in mid jump with her right leg up high after completing a spectacular goal kick.

The AFLW was criticized for not responding more quickly to requests for moderation of the negative, crude posts. The organization’s Facebook page faced more criticism for removing the photo. Kaysey Symons writing for The Guardian said:

“While the messaging from the AFL’s official broadcast partner was somewhat admirable in that they acknowledged the harmful nature of the comments, their course of action to erase it, in effect, was even more damaging. Deleting the image, and Harris, from a digital discourse does not silence the haters and the trolls. It silences her. It silences the athletes. It silences everyone whose identity was vilified in those comments.”

Followers of the group responded to the photo’s removal by inserting it in subsequent posts regardless of the content. Finally, the administrators reposted the photo.

Perhaps we should be grateful the AFLW made this misstep because it has become an opportunity to look at the imagery we see of women excelling in sport.

We’ve all seen the fitspo posters in gyms featuring women in skimpy clothing posed provocatively. And when we do see it in media — newspapers, television, and social — it’s almost impossible to see the physicality of women in sport without people imposing a filter with sexual overtones.

The fact is, this is not the first time we’ve seen photos of women in sports which do not meet social expectations for docility and gentility. Nor is it the first time they have been critiqued.

Kaetlyn Osmond, Olympic figure skater faced controversy in 2013 when the Globe and Mail published a photograph on its front page which many readers felt was too revealing and inappropriate.

The Globe and Mail’s public editor Sylvia Stead weighed in on the controversy saying the photo should not have been used. Stead said: The readers and I both thought the photo could be embarrassing to anyone, although Kaetlyn, who is a good sport and a great skater, responded on Twitter that she was happy to be on the front page and said “I really like that picture.”

Stead went on to say that readers “want photos to show our athletes in the best possible light and not to (potentially) embarrass them. And while the news imperative is to show action photos of athletes, there were many other photos of Kaetlyn (such as the one included with this blog post) and the other victorious Canadian skaters that could have shown their strength and grace.”

But let’s go all the way back to the end of the 20th century when the web was still new and burgeoning with potential and concepts like virality and doxing were unknown but flaming on news groups and listservs was still a thing.

Back in 1999, US soccer player Brandi Chastain was captured in celebratory glee taking off her shirt after making the penalty kick which won the team the Women’s World Cup gold medal game. The horror: a woman’s bra was shown on a sports field!

In a BBC story, Chastain recalls the moment: “I whipped off that shirt and I kind of whipped it around in the air over my head and dropped to my knees as a ‘Yes!’ moment that we had done what we set out to do. I had no idea that would be my reaction – it was truly genuine and it was insane and it was a relief and it was joy and it was gratitude all wrapped into one.”

While many male athletes are presented taking off their jerseys, Chastain’s action was seen as abnormal. However, she said “There’s something primal about sport that doesn’t exist anywhere else – when you have a moment like scoring a winning goal in the World Cup championship, you are allowed to release this feeling, this emotion, this response that is not elicited anywhere else.”

I like seeing pictures of women doing their sport well. When I was growing up, the only women we saw sportsing were usually figure skaters or tennis players. Let’s focus on the fact that women are excelling in sport and they are doing physical things which are not in themselves sexual. And if the trolls can’t handle that, then administrators need to step up and moderate comments or not allow them if the result is going to be bigotry and sexism.

— MarthaFitAt55 lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

femalestrength · fit at mid-life · fitness · habits

Some things that make me feel great about my body (this year)

This week I’m super busy and super-stressed about being super busy. But, I am also feeling pretty good body-wise. That is, I’ve been doing more activity and more types of activities that have gotten me out of my winter movement doldrums. Infusing my physical life with some novelty has been refreshing; it’s almost like spring has come early. Well, almost…

Sam posted about some of us trying new things, and for me it’s not over yet; more new things may be in the offing. Stay tuned to the blog for details.

Last year this time I posted about 6 things that make me feel great about my body. I’d like to update the list to reflect what’s happening this year.

Yoga is sill on the list, definitely. Last year I wrote this:

Hanging out in downward facing dog or wide legged forward bend, I feel strong, stretched out, grounded, engaged with my muscles.  In shavasana (corpse pose for resting on the mat at the end of class) I connect with the floor, feeling my limbs and back and head and belly all sink into relaxation and stillness.  And when I get up to leave I feel grateful for the body I have.

Last summer I discovered yin yoga, and it’s added enormously to my enjoyment of yoga, my enjoyment of my body in stillness, and my enjoyment of my body stretching and experiencing shifts from that stretching. I love it.

I also wrote last year that I loved primping and poufing and prettifying myself from time to time, especially focusing on my hair. This year, I’d say I’m not so into that. I do like wearing clothing that feels comfortable, sleek, with pretty colors, and accessorized with more color. What I want more this year is comfort and ease in the clothing on my body.

Walking was on my list last year. But in September 2018, I sprained my ankle, and was in physical therapy for a long time. I’m a lot better, but these days am preferring the gym or the yoga studio to loads of walking. Paying attention to where I still need more healing seems like not a bad thing. Also, working on strength and flexibility through different exercises is where my happy place is (for now).

Cycling was and is and will always be on my list of things that make me feel good physically. But these days I’m letting myself spend more time on other activities before turning to cycling more. Now that spring is here and temps are rising, I’ll be outside on two wheels a lot. It’s been a nice change of pace, however, to try out other ways to move and work my body.

A new addition this year has been weight training. I’m still in the early stages of working with a trainer, but so far I love it– working with free weights feels elemental and pure. I really enjoy how I can tune in to my body when deadlifting, benching, etc. I am still in the process of putting it in place in regular rotation, but I’m getting there.

Finally (and I’m not putting out a content warning, but I will talk about my eating here):

I have had to change some of my eating habits because of a health problem (I had pancreatitis recently). This different way of eating in response to and because of that diagnosis has resulted in my feeling a lot better than I had in a long time. I’ll blog about this sometime, complete with content warning. But for now, let me just say that some health-enforced changes have resulted in my body feeling a lot better. Yay!

Are you doing anything that is making you feel luscious, yummy, energized, comforted, serene, on fire, ready for anything? Let us know– we’d love to hear it.

Two pairs of legs in blue tights intermingled-- I don't know what activity this is, but it seems like a happy image, so here you go.
Two pairs of legs in blue tights intermingled– I don’t know what activity this is, but it seems like a happy image, so here you go.

How do you fill the March sadness void? Here the Fit Feminist Team is trying new things

Sometimes McSweenys gets it just right. Take their March Sadness story. “The only way to play is to pick your saddest seeds and take solace in knowing all of this is temporary. There are no winners. We are all losers until April. But we and our bad skin are in it together. “

Me, I’m buying new plants to fill the void. (One of the McSweeney’s suggestions.)

Image description: A green plant in close focus.
Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

But around the blog it seems we are also all trying new things.

Catherine is the new things rockstar, trying Parkour and Ariel Silks. Go Catherine! Go Catherine!

Me, I branched out to Orange Theory earlier this winter and Zwift. (Zwift stuck and OT didn’t but next winter, maybe.)

Cate tried out a local crossfit style gym near her house.

And then Cheryl tried a circus class.

There’s a class I’ve been tempted by at the university’s fitness centre. It seems to involve banging sticks together.

How about you? Anything new on your fitness calendar this March?


Cheryl Joins the Circus

For more than a year now I’ve been intending to take a circus class, so when my friend Steph (who attends circus classes regularly) told me that there was going to be an Intro to Aerial Class offered at Cirque-ability in March, I decided that it was time to take the leap.

I was nervous and excited, and feeling glad that the other folks there would be beginners too, rather than starting in a multi-level class where I thought I might feel inadequate or intimidated by other people’s skills. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Exercises to help us get in shape for aerial? Trying a few things out on the apparatuses? Surely we wouldn’t be going upside down on the first night of an intro class, right? (wrong)

A photo of Cheryl hanging upside down in aerial silks in a circus studio.

Including me, there were 5 people in the class. I’d guess that two were in their 20s, two in their 30s, and then me at 46. The teacher was very supportive and encouraging right from the start, while also still challenging us to try things that we weren’t sure we could do.

We began with a warm up of stretching and then 25 jumping jacks. I’m not very flexible but am used to that from yoga, so I did the stretches in ways that worked for me. Jumping jacks are not ideal for my bladder, but I managed.

We started with silks – putting the two strands on like a backpack and then lifting our legs to let our upper bodies hold us up. I could really feel where the silks were pressing into my rather soft and squishy torso, but it wasn’t painful – just kind of uncomfortable and new. The next thing was to flip upside down in the silks. What? I wasn’t expecting this! I watched the teacher do it, and a few of the other students, and I decided to try it. It went better than I expected – I didn’t freak out or throw up. It was actually pretty cool and I did it a few more times.

Next up was the trapeze. This one was tough for me. The instructor showed us how to mount, get up to standing, and then dismount. She made it look easy and the first two students seemed to have no problem. Then it was my turn. Oof! My arms, abs and upper body as a whole were not quite up for this. The teacher helped me through all the steps, making things easier for me or helping lift me through some stages. It felt hard and uncomfortable. I made it to standing, but by then I felt anxious and just really wanted to be done. I made it most of the way down but then got my legs separated in some kind of disarray near the end and said to the teacher “This isn’t feeling ok, this is hurting me” and she told me to just let go and fall, which I did. The trapeze was close to the floor so I just fell a few inches and got both my legs on the ground.

The final apparatus we tried was hoop. This was fun and what we did felt pretty easy for me – we sat in the hoop, then brought our legs up inside and stretched our arms down to do “Man in the Moon” (or “Person in the Moon” as we called it).

The class ended with a chance for everyone to try one of the apparatuses a final time. I went back to the silks and hung upside down again, as it turns out that was what I liked best. Then we stretched and the class was over.

I enjoyed the class and appreciated how supportive the instructor and the other students were. When we were doing trapeze one by one, we all clapped and called out encouraging things to each other. So even though I felt pretty awkward on the trapeze I felt good about the overall experience of the class. My body got a good workout and I was feeling it for a few days afterwards. I plan to go back and do some more with silks soon, to see what it’s like.

In this, and in most of the other fitness activities I’ve been trying in the last 8 months, I’m working on getting past worrying about not being good at whatever it is I’m trying. At my current level of fitness, I’m not likely to try something new and instantly be good at it. It’s just not realistic. So I need to be ok with being not very good at something, and then perhaps getting to mediocre, and with some things I may eventually become “good” at them. But it’s ok if I don’t, as long as I’m having fun or otherwise meeting my fitness goals. So here’s to being not very good at things and doing them anyway!About me: Feminist, bisexual, LGBTQ health researcher, book lover, drummer, introvert.

cycling · fitness · monthly check in

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the March version

Thing 1. I am really tired. I don’t usually play the “I’m busier than you” game. I love my work.  But March in the academic world is not a fun month. My former Dean used to say, when I was a department chair, that we should never introduce anything new in March.  Faculty will hate it, guaranteed. Also, nothing anyone says in March really counts. Professors have been teaching all year and they’re tired. However, all the faculty also retreat to their research cocoons in April and so there’s some pressure to get projects that require faculty input and involvement finished. Add to that the tension around our provincial government’s budget and cutbacks to universities, we’re all busy, tired, and stressed. I work 12 hour days quite often and then I come home and do this. (Note though, unlike other Deans I don’t work on weekends other than showing up to events and though there’s lots of those they mostly feel fun and celebratory.)

Thing 2. My left knee saga continues: This is neither up nor down. But it’s official. I’m in the queue for partial knee replacement. The wait time is 6-12 months which is good because that’s after the 5 Boro Bike weekend, my Newfoundland bike adventure and likely also after the one day bike rally and the tri-adventure. Priorities. It’s not certain yet that I’ll go through with it. It’s scary stuff but I’m one step closer and I’ll get (yet more) expert advice.

Here’s an image of knees from Unsplash but they aren’t mine.

Image description: Someone’s knees, not mine. The knees are wearing brown cargo pants. A blurry mountain and some trees are in the distance. Photo from Unsplash.

Thing 3. My riding: I kind of hoped to get outside riding more in March but thanks to the weather that didn’t happen. Instead, I bought a monthly membership for unlimited indoor trainer riding at the Bike Shed. I’ve left my bike there with the goal of making it in three times a week. I love it there. I’ve left my bike there and I’ve been Zwift riding around New York City and London, UK.

Screen capture of my recent Zwift ride.

Oh, and Facebook and Google keep reminding me that in Novembers past I was riding outside in March. Thanks, I guess.

fitness · yoga

Gonna fly now (sort of): aerial silks yoga and me

Last week was my spring break. I wasn’t traveling anywhere warm, so I decided to create my own heat through some new physical activities. I blogged about parkour class already, and am here to testify that you can work up a serious head of steam in a one hour class. 

Another class I’ve had my eye on has been aerial silks yoga. It’s basically yoga done with or in a silky nylon hammock that’s suspended from the ceiling. There are also loop handholds for more acrobatic moves.  

The yoga studio with an array of yoga hammocks, mats underneath them.
The yoga studio with an array of yoga hammocks, mats underneath them.

I went to a beginner class, required before attempting serious flipping around. I was the oldest person in the room by at least 25 years, I think. I was also the heaviest. I checked out the weight limits for the hammocks— they can hold 1000 pounds. Yay engineers! 

There seem to be two ways the silks function in these classes:

1) as a hammock. There’s helpful instruction for getting in and out of it (including backflipping with legs going over the head, feet landing on the ground. I tried it and it actually worked). You sit or lie down, with legs in many different configurations. For restorative classes the hammock turns into a cocoon, which may or may not feel soothing (I didn’t particularly enjoy being closed inside, but many people love it). 

One of my classmates lying in a purple yoga hammock.
One of my classmates lying in a purple yoga hammock.

2) twisted or bunched up, serving as a seat or swing or bind. We did downward dog this way, swinging forward and backward , then sat on the silk swing and lifted our legs to hang upside down. The instructor gave clear and very specific step by step instructions,  demoed the more complicated-looking moves, and came by to help us, making adjustments.

Some classmates getting into hammocks, with the one on the right bunching up hers.
Some classmates getting into hammocks, with the one on the right bunching up hers.

Some things I liked:

  • the novelty of using the hammock for movement 
  • Hanging upside down
  • The intense core exercises (at least in principle…)
  • Flipping around generally 

Some things I didn’t like:

  • The swaying motion of the hammock—I tend towards queasiness and sometimes felt vaguely so. This is common in their classes, and they have Altoid mints strategically placed all over the studio. Popping one took care of it for me.  Again YMMV. 
  • The lack of yoga-ness in the experience. Of course, it was my first time, so I was more preoccupied with getting this leg over there or making sure my hands were properly positioned on the silks than cultivating mindfulness. But, it just didn’t seem geared toward the body awareness I get in yoga classes. 

In the ropes yoga classes I’ve taken at Artemis, my local beloved studio, there’s a lot of instruction and demo to help you use the ropes to get in position. But once you are in position, the focus turns to the body— where you are in space, how you can choose to shift in small ways to feel differently, and how you might respond internally to the physical state you’re in. This is really why I love ropes yoga— it takes over some of the work my body usually does so I can shift my awareness and explore gravity, weight, weightlessness and the feelings those things provoke. 

I bought a two-class pass for aerial silks yoga, so next time I’ll try out their deep stretching class.    Will report back.

Readers, have you tried aerial silks yoga?  Ropes yoga? What do you think?  I’m feeling more than meh but less than whee.  I’d love to hear about your experiences.

fitness · nutrition

In remembrance of eggs past, or: not bad egg news again!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the breakfast table: eggs are in the news again, and this time the news ain’t good. This week the nutritional research ouija board people once again asked the eternal question:

The ouija board, asking if eggs are good or bad.
The ouija board, asking if eggs are good or bad.

And the answer (for this week) is:

The ouija board, asking if eggs are good or bad.
A woman in front of a purportedly crystal ball, seeing the badness of the dietary cholesterol found in eggs.

Many readers of this blog know that this is definitely not my first eggs rodeo. I follow egg news very closely and make sure Fit is a Feminist Issue followers are always informed of the latest in good-egg-bad-egg research. Here are some of my previous forays into ovo-journalism:

The new US dietary guidelines, or just tell me– are eggs good or bad this year?

Fake egg news? More on the eggs-good-eggs-bad controversy

Tracy has also written often on food morality: not demonizing foods, avoiding all-or-nothing thinking about nutrition.

Okay, time to give y’all the 411 on the newest egg nutrition results. There is a serious question that nutrition researchers have been wrestling with for decades: what, if any, relationship is there between dietary cholesterol intake and mortality risk? The answer is (as it always is in real science, especially nutrition science): it’s complicated. Here’s some background from the New York Times coverage of the new study, that came out in JAMA on Friday:

Eggs are a leading source of dietary cholesterol, which once was thought to be strongly related to blood cholesterol levels and heart disease. Older studies suggesting that link led to nutrition guidelines almost a decade ago that recommended consuming no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily; one egg contains about 186 milligrams.

Newer research questioned that relationship, finding that saturated fats contribute more to unhealthy levels of blood cholesterol that can lead to heart problems.

The latest U.S. government nutrition guidelines, from 2015, removed the strict daily cholesterol limit. While eating as little cholesterol as possible is still advised, the recommendations say eggs can still be part of a healthy diet, as a good source of protein, along with lean meat, poultry, beans and nuts. Nutrition experts say the new study is unlikely to change that advice.

So what’s new about this study? Here’s what CNN had to say about it:

The researchers examined data from six US study groups including more than 29,000 people followed for 17½ years on average. Over the follow-up period, a total of 5,400 cardiovascular events occurred, including 1,302 fatal and nonfatal strokes, 1,897 incidents of fatal and nonfatal heart failure and 113 other heart disease deaths. An additional 6,132 participants died of other causes.

Consuming an additional 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day was associated with a 3.2% higher risk of heart disease and a 4.4% higher risk of early death, Zhong’s analysis of the data showed. And each additional half an egg consumed per day was associated with a 1.1% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and 1.9% higher risk of early death due to any cause, the researchers found.

Here’s where things get a bit interesting and more complicated. News sources are not consistent in their reporting of these results. The New York Times said this about the results:

The researchers calculated that those who ate 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily — about 1 ½ eggs — were 17 percent more likely to develop heart disease than whose who didn’t eat eggs.

So which is it? Eating 300mg of dietary cholesterol a day, or 300mg MORE of dietary cholesterol (than what?) a day is bad for me? I think the New York Times got it wrong this time.

I went to the original paper, which is long (15 pages, a lot for a medical journal), and has loads of tables with loads of data. In the discussion section (which is always what you want to read when tackling these technical papers), they raise a bunch of issues that bear directly on how to interpret their results, how to understand their results in contrast with eggs-good research results, and what they think is really going on with respect to eggs, dietary cholesterol consumption, and mortality risk:

  • previous meta-studies have been all over the place, finding positive, negative and no correlations between more frequent (more than one a day) egg consumption and risks of death from various diseases.
  • Apparently egg consumption has been associated with low physical activity, smoking, and “unhealthy dietary patterns” (according to the paper). So it’s hard to separate egg consumption effects from these other effects.
  • The associations found between egg consumption and mortality risk were modest, but statistically significant.
  • Researchers claim a dose-response effect of egg consumption, which means the more eggs you eat, the higher the effect.

Their discussion raised some questions for me:

  • Do the researchers think there is a “safe/normal” intake amount of dietary cholesterol? They say the mean intake in the US is 289mg/day, and that taking in 300mg more per day (which would be 1.5 eggs, including half the extra yolk) increases all-cause mortality. But what is their nutritional goal here?
  • When researchers say egg consumption should be reduced, what do they have in mind for its substitutes? Eggs are a big source of animal protein, and lots of other sources have more saturated fat, which has its own scary back story.
  • As always, I am wondering to what extent statistical or research significance translates to clinical or medical significance?
  • All eating happens in social and cultural and economic contexts– if you ask people to reduce eating X, will substituting Y make things better or worse?

What do you think, dear readers? Is this new egg news throwing a monkey wrench into your brunch plans? Are you vegetarian or vegan and don’t care? Is this a reason to increase our vegetarian or vegan eating? Are you inclined to just turn the page and dismiss the nutritional research as a mass of confusion? Should we short-sell egg futures (I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I think it sounds business-y)? I’d love to hear from you.

3 eggs in jars of water-- one bad floater, one so-so lurker, and one good one lying at the bottom of the jar.
3 eggs in jars of water– one bad floater, one so-so lurker, and one good one lying at the bottom of the jar.