One of the things I love about our Facebook page is when people share things with us. Often it’s links for us to pass along on the page but sometimes it’s readers sharing their own experiences and observations. One reader, Sara Wabi Gould, was shopping for a wetsuit and was amused/horrified at this size chart and the accompanying text, “all people vary in size.”
She sent an image of the tag to us with the comment, “Wetsuit sizing strikes again. “Over 155”???”
According to this chart that variation tops out at 155 lbs. There’s also, according to this chart a strict correlation between weight and height.
Our bloggers had some reactions too:
Cate: “I remember reading once, in the 80s or 90s, some sort of “advice” in a women’s magazine that women who were 5.0 should weigh 100lbs, and for every inch after that you could add 5lbs. At the time, my not-quite-5.2 self weighed about 118lbs, the tiniest I’ve ever been — I think I was a size 4. I now weigh about 140 – 145 (haven’t weighed myself for a while) and I don’t THINK I’ve grown. I’m incredibly fit and strong and happy with my body. But I think I’ve carried that bullshit algorithm in the back of my mind for three and a half decades, with a flicker of shame every time I get on the scale that I am so much heavier than I “should” be. When I let it, that flicker of shame can outstrip the accomplishment of riding my bike 150 km in a day, running 8km comfortably on a hot day, deadlifting 200 lbs or being a super functional, fit, healthy 56 year old. These charts are dangerous bullshit.”
Tracy: “I feel oppressed by diet culture just looking at the chart and the way they assume height and weight correlate in just that way.”
Kim: “I’m 5’8 and just after I did the London to Paris challenge I was at my lightest at 155lb. This was me as endurance cyclist not lifting at the time. So does that mean I need to ride 450km in 24 hours and 14 minutes if I want to deserve a wetsuit? Bahahahaha!!!”
Sam: “Oh, FFS. I’m 5’7 and 155 lbs is a weight I haven’t seen on a scale since my early twenties. So I guess I’m an XL in a suit that’s too long for me. This brings me to one of my pet peeves about XL sizes. Sometimes they’re just a bit larger than L and other times they’re four times the size of L since they’re meant to fit everyone larger than that. It’s like the “one size fits everyone bigger than L.”
Diane: “By this sizing, my daughter (who is petite by almost any standard but very muscular) might need to get a medium as she is on the cusp for weight. What happens if you weigh 117 lb? Or 140? The answer if you weigh over 155 is generally that you learn to swim without a wetsuit. There are some slightly larger models out there, but most larger swimmers I have talked to simply gave up on trying to find one.”
See also The Olympics Don’t Want Black Women To Win. Taryn Finley writes, “Sha’Carri Richardson, Christine Mboma, Beatrice Masilingi and others have been disqualified in the 2021 Olympics because of policies that are racist and unjust. There is no grace for for Black women at the 2021 Olympics.”
And then there’s this tweet which also lists the issues.
I know that some people want to say that these issues have nothing in common, that it’s not about race, it’s about rules that don’t mention race, but one thing all the cases have in common is that they target Black women Olympic athletes.
Ditto the swim cap story. There’s a lot of commentary that says competitive athletes would never wear such a swim cap since it would slow them down. Maybe that’s true. But if it puts someone at a competitive disadvantage, it’s hard to see why they’d be banned at the Olympics. It’s hard not to reach the conclusion that race is a factor and that the normative ideal of the Olympic athlete is white, in addition to being conventionally gendered.
The cyclists on the blog have long been fans of Black Girls Do Bike. Founded in 2013, with more than 100 chapters across the US, BGDB has been “growing and supporting a community of women/girls of color who share a passion for cycling” and “proving that black girls bike for fun, function, fitness & freedom.” I reached out to the founder of Black Girls Do Bike Monica Garrison, pictured below, and was thrilled when she agreed to a blog interview.
Our bloggers are in awe of the work you’ve done with Black Girls Do Bike. Great numbers, great advocacy and joy! Also cool kit. What’s been the key, do you think to your success?
Well, thank you very much! It has been a tireless and rewarding adventure. I think the secret sauce has been consistently providing inspiration with the perfect combination joyful imagery and compelling storytelling. In addition, I feel that there was a void in the cycling community that we’ve filled. Our leaders have a self-sacrificing spirit and our rides are welcoming to all, but especially, inexperienced riders.
We were curious if the mission has evolved or grown since you started?
At the core, our mission and methods have remained the same. We want to grow and support a community of women of color who share a passion for cycling by creating safe spaces where ladies can ride together, skill share, and fellowship. As we have established ourself and gained strategic partners what has grown is our ambition to effect change. We’ve recently transitioned to a fiscally sponsored non-profit, as this will open funding doors that were previously closed to us. We now have more than 180 ladies around the world in our leadership ranks. Our network is far reaching and our leaders have seats at many decision making tables.
What’s the single best event you’ve held?
Our first national meetup in Atlanta 2016 holds a special place in my heart. I stepped out of my comfort zone to plan an event in a city some 700 miles away from me. I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually make the trip and show up. Our local chapter stepped up to lend support and lead a ride for attendees. We received overwhelming support from a number of vendors which allowed us to giveaway some amazing prizes. We raised thousands of dollars for a great cause. We all managed to survive the Atlanta heat and create some great memories.
Cycling can be a pretty divided sport with lots of different kinds of communities—roadies, commuters, mtb enthusiasts, gravel riders. How do you bridge that?
We realize that we cannot be all things to all people. It’s true, our audience skews toward road and trail cycling which is a great place to start. We realize, though, we cannot be all things to all people. Our intention is to be an entry point into the larger cycling community. We are giving women skills that can translate into any type of cycling they chose to pursue. When ladies get going with us they often figure out what type of cycling they enjoy and go from there. They can also meet other women who have similar cycling aspirations. We have cyclists within our membership that cover just about all niches. For instance, about a year ago, our Denver Colorado Chapter was invited to attend a Mountain Bike 101 clinic. Our ladies took on the challenge and really enjoyed it. We also partnered recently with LittleBellas.com a mentoring mountain bike camp for young girls to help expand the vision of what women and girls on bikes look like.
Have you encountered any resistance?
Not as much as you’d think. I mean we still get the occasional internet troll who comments one one of our uplifting posts spouting nonsense and calling us segregationists. And I get reports from your Sheroes (that’s what we call our lady leaders) that at some events they’ve dealt with some micro-aggressions from other cyclists. What I’ve found is that you either get it or you don’t. Objections usually come from people who don’t take the time to learn what it is we are all about or who are generally uncomfortable around topics of race. We’re not in the business of changing minds. I you think the cycling world thrives when it is more diverse, then we are here to be a part of that vision.
What’s a big long term dream/goal/stretch ambition? What next? Any talk of a Canadian chapter?
And our next goal is to create a non-traditional BGDB team of athletes around the country who we can help move through the ranks of competitive cycling. We also certainly want to continue to expand our reach. Our first international chapter was established in London in 2020 during the pandemic and we hope to add many more. We’ve had inquiries over the years to start Canadian chapters but none have materialized. That would be amazing!
What should the world know that the world seems to overlook about Black women and bikes?
Know that there are thousands of women of color riding bikes. There are some challenges, however, that are unique to women of color who want to incorporate cycling into their lives. Most of us did not have an example of a female cyclist in our lives to model cycling. We sometimes struggle with caring for our natural hair in it’s many sizes and shapes while trying to fit a helmet correctly for safety. Some scenarios that would be intimidating for a women can become even more intimidating when you enter them as a women of color. For instance, the first time you enter a male dominated bike shop, showing up solo for a new group ride, or even riding on the road as a person of color can unnerving.
I confess I love your t-shirts that say “I ride bikes. You ride bikes. We should hang out!” but I wasn’t sure, as a white woman cyclist, if I should buy one! Would that be supportive or appropriating?
That would be a a totally appropriate way to show your support. That shirt is an example of something we designed to be welcoming and with universal appeal in mind. It’s just a cool bike t-shirt for bike people that happens to be made by blackgirlsdobike.org. Honestly, though, women and men of all races wear our gear. It’s a great way to show your support.
I’ve done some research on early feminism and cycling and the stories of Black women on bikes are hard to find but they are there. Do you have a favourite?
My favorite would have to be the story of the five women who biked from NYC to DC in 1928. In the context of the times, I just can’t even imagine the bravery it must have taken to set out on such a long journey full of unknown dangers. And considering the bike tech of the times, those miles had to be hard off their bodies, but they did it anyway and most certainly had many stories to tell from their journey. They also took the train back to NYC after completing the ride. I am a big fan of bike travel by train so I thought that was pretty cool. https://myrootsmyblog.wordpress.com/2020/08/05/five-black-women-cycle-250-miles-in-1928/
Also, what’s your favourite place and route to ride? Do you have a dream ride in your sights?
Close to home my favorite place to ride is the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. It’s a beautiful quiet trail that shows off Pittsburgh’s riverfront and has access to business districts and some local attractions. Beyond that, I’ve got a dream to one day ride from Miami to the southernmost point of Key West by bike. I think that would be a breezy ride with spectacular views and a big payoff the end.
I’ve written before about becoming a slow walker, becoming sensitive to all the boasts from friends about their walking speeds whenever ‘fast-walking=longevity’ makes the news, and feeling sorry that I was ever among their ranks, boasting of my fast walking ways and complaining about getting trapped behind slow walkers.
I’ve even stopped judging the ‘texting while walking crowd’. I always assumed that phone attention was making people slow, that if only they put away their g-damn phones they’d speed up, and now I know it isn’t so. Sometimes I check my messages while walking b/c I can at the speed I have to walk at.
Talk of step counts and walking speeds now sounds boastful to me. I know that people who talk this way aren’t boasting really. I know people don’t think they’re better than me because they walk more or walk faster.
I talk about cycling distances and speeds. I don’t think I’m morally superior for my cycling accomplishments. I don’t think people who don’t ride bikes are lazy. And yet, I’m getting a sense about why others might hear it in that way.
I think walking feels difference because almost everyone walks and it’s touted as the exercise for everyone. (And no, it’s not, not really.)
I do know I get more sympathy and understanding when I’m either wearing my knee brace or using a cane. I suspect without them people just think I’m lazy.
Yes, walking is wonderful. I miss it. But not everyone can walk for fitness. Not everyone can walk far or fast. We’re not worse people for walking slowly.
On our Facebook page last week, Nicole shared a tweet about pricing and plus sized clothes. We both thought it was an interesting observation. Wow, the reaction. We had more than 800,000 people view the link on our page and thousands react to it. We had a lot of mean people come by and visit and make nasty comments about women’s bodies. Nicole put the “delete comment and ban user” button into overdrive. Cate asked, who are these people? Answer: They’re just people on the internet. Anybody can view our content–it’s not private or a closed group– though only people who “like” it get it in their news feed.
Amid all of that there was actually a more constructive debate between actual feminists, some of whom sew and design clothes for a living, about whether it makes sense to charge more for different sizes and what that line should be. If you want to have that discussion, feel free to use our comment section below where we do moderate comments.
When the flames had run their course on the Facebook page we took the post down there.
Drama! But it did get us thinking about sizing.
I want to share my beef these days with companies aspiring to be more inclusive. My beef isn’t with companies charging more though lots of companies do do that. My gripe is when they don’t have the full range of sizes in their actual stores so plus size shoppers can’t try the clothes on and have to order online. It’s hard not to feel insulted that they don’t actually want you in their store.
We’ve all heard of French shops where the turnstile to admit customers won’t let anyone in whose size is in the double digits. Or I’m reminded of being told by my high school boyfriend’s older brother that I could sunbathe but not in the front yard as I’d bring down the property values. Ugh.
Let’s not go any further down that road.
In the spirit of Link Round Up Friday, here’s lots more to read about size inclusivity:
“As more and more brands chase the illusion of being inclusive for the sake of sales, terms like “size inclusive” and “plus size” are being vastly misrepresented and mis-used causing confusion for shoppers. And, don’t get me started on the poor representation of models on their websites and marketing further confusing consumers on how these garments will fit their body type! Picking a single, slightly thicker woman to be the token representative of an entire demographic whom, she herself, doesn’t even wear a plus-size to begin with IS NOT the solution – you aren’t fooling me!! FASHION INDUSTRY – STOP STOP STOP perpetuating these lies – your fat-phobia is showing.”
“If you have the right clothes, you can bike on a 25-degree day, as long as there’s no ice on the road. (Not to mention, wearing a mask actually helps with the cold air.)
As a woman who wears an XL or 2XL, it’s difficult to find biking gear from boutique brands. Sure, you can go on Amazon and find gear that goes up to 2XL or 3XL—I bought my favorite winter tights for $35 on Amazon—but I’d much rather support a smaller, made-in-the-USA business run by women.
Bike jerseys are designed to be longer in the back to keep you covered while you’re riding, and they have pockets for gloves or a water bottle. Over the past few years, there has been an explosion of smaller cycling brands that sound fantastic on paper—women-run, extended sizes, and with “inclusive,” “empowering” messaging—but then when you get to the website, you see that there’s a limited plus-size selection, or major price hikes for larger sizes.
“Sizing in the plus-size range continues to perpetuate fatphobia by not only [excluding] extended sizes but also not allowing sizes to have the same selection,” Satasia Brown, a procurement specialist, states, referring to when a brand carries a plus-size collection that is a less inspired version of the straight-size selection. “Even when items are designed for fat bodies, companies still don’t allow inclusivity when it comes to sizes above 24. If brands are making the effort to extend items in a 2X/3X, then why not extend the [option to even higher] sizes?”Although more and more brands are expanding size ranges, the majority of labels stop at size 24/26. This absence feeds into the notion that certain bodies and sizes are more desirable and acceptable than others. It also gives less access to super fat folx.
“If you want to do any outdoor activity beyond a basic trail walk — hike a mountain, climb a V12, run a rapid, ride a bike — you need gear that keeps you safe and protected against the elements. And if you’re under a size 12, you probably think the biggest obstacle between you and that technical gear is its cost. I know I did.
But if you’re a mid- or plus-size person you know the real barrier is simply finding durable hiking pants, insulated jackets, PFDs — hell, even just a sports bra — that fits your body and keeps up with your adventures.”
“Years of body negativity brought on by the latest fad diet or fitness craze have made my relationship with exercise a rocky one. Growing up, I was surrounded by “Beach Body” boot camps and personal training programs that signified largeness as something to be lost. But, years later in adulthood, I found positivity in hiking and a sense of calm in yoga flows. I discovered that breaking a sweat could be an enjoyable escape instead of about how many calories I might burn. Since I spent so much time feeling like physical activity was a punishment, I didn’t jump to spend my money on new fitness clothes — plus, options for plus-size retailers who do it right were already limited which made finding quality brands with inclusive activewear tricky. But, as the industry began to acknowledge bigger bodies, well-made and fashionable options started to emerge in the plus-size activewear space. And, I was lucky enough to receive a handful of such styles from the most popular brands to try on myself for size, fit, and feel.”
“This week activewear brand, Superfit Hero, announced that they will phase out their smallest sizes – extra-small, small and medium – in favor of extending their size run through 7X permanently. The change starts with their newest collection, also released this week, which includes sports bras, leggings, and shorts in sizes 12 through 42.
CEO Micki Krimmel said in a statement that this decision came after extensive research that focused on the unique needs of plus-size athletes. During interviews, customers described many of their shopping experiences as “traumatic,” stating that “lack of access, inconsistent sizing, and ill-fitting, low-quality garments” led to a feeling of disenfranchisement. She says Superfit Hero wants to solve this problem.”
Feature photo credit: Alora Griffiths via Unsplash
As gyms around the world are slowly reopening this year, I welcome them to take this opportunity to restart with some new ground rules and expectations for their patrons in order to make it a more welcoming space. As they existed pre-COVID, most gym cultures that I experienced were sometimes fine and sometimes extraordinarily problematic. They were deeply gendered spaces with unspoken rules about who belonged where. Uncomfortable exchanges as men stared or leered at me, ignored me and took my equipment, or talked down at me to “explain” something or “help,” were common. I’ve heard stories of men recording women while they lift. Of people with physical disabilities and older people being ignored or belittled. These experiences keep people from returning for the next workout.
So, I ask gym-owners take an active role in creating new, more positive and inclusive environments at their gyms. Post these expectations and then draw a hard line–folks who fail to comply will not be welcome to remain lifting there. Commit to building a sustainable community for everyone!
Do not give advice or feedback unless requested
Do not stare at or watch others lift for extended periods of time.
Absolutely no sexualized comments about other people’s bodies or their lifts
Pay attention to who is using the equipment. Make sure it is actually available before you take it/use it. Equipment unavailable? Ask to work in.
Recording other people’s lifts will immediately get you removed.
Racist, homophobic, sexist, ablist or other disparaging comments about groups of people will not be tolerated.
Post these expectations right alongside the usual “wipe down the equipment” and “rerack your weights.” Then, follow through. If a patron tells you they were stared at, given unsolicited advice, or overheard a disparaging comment, take it seriously and address the person who made the unwelcome behavior. Make it clear that you won’t tolerate behaviors that alienate members of the community.
I get it that sometimes it’s about education and not willful harm to others. It’s on you as the gym owner or employee to make clear boundaries and enforce them. You’re going to need to use your best judgement. There’s going to be grey areas. Stating your rules up front will make these ambiguous situations better–everyone will be on the same page about what you expect.
The rules will probably have to evolve as you learn more about what is problematic and how to reinforce norms that help everyone feel welcome. That’s ok. Update your poster every once in a while, keep learning, and show your members that you have their back. Consistent enforcement of behavior norms will do more for the health of your business than ignoring problematic behaviors, which leave so many of our communities alienated from the gym.
I’m a queer, White woman with some physical limitations looking for a comfortable and accepting place to lift. I’m less familiar with what other marginalized populations need in order to feel welcome in a space. If I left something important out, please include it in the comments below!
I look forward to lifting with all of you again!
Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found wondering if her neighborhood gym has survived being closed for over a year, picking up heavy things and putting them down again (in her garage for now) in Portland, Oregon. You can now read her at Progressive-Strength.com .
“Those of us trying to be more active who don’t fit society’s image of what “health and wellness” looks like can often feel excluded. While the fitness industry has made strides in recent years, shopping for activewear can still prove challenging at times. I mean really, how can any of us be expected to start hitting the gym when it’s a challenge to even find workout gear that fits us? The double standard has been weighing on a lot of us for a really long time. But Athleta’s latest push for inclusivity is moving the needle forward.”
“There’s no denying that a lot of work needs to be done to make fitness a happier, more fulfilling relationship for women everywhere, of any size. For so many women, diet culture has morphed movement from a joyful activity to an unsatisfying means to an end. Not only can this rob exercise of fun, but it also continues to make women (myself, included) feel pulled to move for the sake of shrinking ourselves. Luckily, there’s a growing movement of incredible women and initiatives leading the charge towards change. Through their own journeys of rejecting diet culture’s influence over fitness and embracing their bodies, they’ve nurtured a healthier relationship with movement that’s inclusive of all shapes and (finally) filled with fun.”
“In our own research, we argue that wearing activewear in public is a way of saying “I am in charge of my health” and conforming to socially acceptable understandings of femininity. In this sense, activewear (not to be confused with its less sporty “athleisure” offshoot) has become the uniform of what we might term the “socially responsible 21st-century woman.” Part of the appeal of activewear is that it is comfortable and functional. But it has also been designed to physically shape the body into a socially desirable hourglass female form.”
“This week activewear brand, Superfit Hero, announced that they will phase out their smallest sizes – extra-small, small and medium – in favor of extending their size run through 7X permanently. The change starts with their newest collection, also released this week, which includes sports bras, leggings, and shorts in sizes 12 through 42. CEO Micki Krimmel said in a statement that this decision came after extensive research that focused on the unique needs of plus-size athletes. During interviews, customers described many of their shopping experiences as “traumatic,” stating that “lack of access, inconsistent sizing, and ill-fitting, low-quality garments” led to a feeling of disenfranchisement. She says Superfit Hero wants to solve this problem.”
“Me, I like their yoga pants and I guess I hope companies can change. We’re all works in progress, even Lululemon. And yes, capitalism and yes, co-opting. But there’s no pure path. This is the world we live and work in.”
On April Fools Day Zwift swapped out their regular virtual bikes for virtual trikes. I laughed and laughed. My twenty something son said that I had a low bar for amusement. That might be true. Maybe it’s even part of the joy of aging. But I did enjoy zooming around on big wheel bike, especially in the peleton (see below). They disappeared for our team time trial that day. When we entered the event we were on our regular bikes. Frankly I was just relieved that Zwift didn’t swap our planned route Watopia Waistband for the Alpe on the occasion of April 1.
Second, the trikes got people thinking.
Rebecca Dobiesz posted this comment in a Zwift women’s group I’m in, “So yes, the April Fool’s joke is funny, entertaining, and a nice surprise. But I wish they spent that graphic design time (or any other time) developing more skin tones, more body types, non-binary avatars, more body feature colors and sizes, non-able bodied avatars, prosthetics, women with more muscle tone, etc. Has this crossed anyone else’s mind today? I hope with all the other initiatives they have started, these avatar designs are already in the works and have been for some time. (I shouldn’t have to say this but please don’t bash this with negativity. If anything I hope this allows us all to reflect on diversity and the importance of representation.) Ride on!”
Other people suggested that if Zwift could manage virtual rain in London (why, Zwift, why?) that they could also give people the choice to have their avatar bike match the bike they were actually riding. For example, some Zwifters ride handcycles but in the virtual world they’re on road bikes/mtbs like everyone else. It would be great to have other more adaptive cycling options represented in the game. See here for a discussion of this point.
There are lots of discussions of avatar hair options too. Me, I just want an avatar closer to my actual size. In Zwift women only come in small and medium, while men come in small, medium, and large. It’s part of my push for better representation of large and strong women’s bodies.
So to be clear, I loved the joke. Like Rebecca, I just want more options–more inclusion of all types of riders–in my virtual world.
How about you? What would you add if you could to better represent the kind of riding you do and the kind of rider you are?
And now you plus sized friends can have them too. Wow.”
They’ve gone from saying that their clothes don’t work for larger bodies to selling clothes designed for larger bodies to appointing one of my fave plus sized fitness spokespersons as a brand ambassador. That’s a pretty big shift.
“The athletic apparel brand has tapped ultramarathoner, author, speaker and former Fat Girl Running blogger Mirna Valerio to front its new global “Feel Closer to Your Run” campaign and offer better representation of runners whose body types are typically overlooked within the fitness space. The Vermont-based Valerio tells Yahoo Life that she hopes to inspire and empower both people who have felt excluded by activities like running, and the brands that have the power to provide better quality gear for bigger bodies.
“Make no mistake: All kinds of people in all sorts of bodies want to be able to engage in movement that is meaningful to them, and they need apparel that fits, is functional and well-made,” Valerio says. “There was this prevailing idea that plus-size folks didn’t do or want to do things like running, cycling, swimming, etc. But guess what? We’ve always done those things and have had to contend with ill-fitting apparel — because we’ve been forgotten and ignored — poorly constructed clothing that is not fit for any athletic activity, or if they do fit, pieces in limited colors and styles.”
Never has a post attracted so many likes/comments as this one on our Fit is a Feminist Issue Facebook page. I asked some of our readers if I could share their comments. Mostly, as a group, they weren’t convinced by Lululemon’s efforts at inclusivity.
Whitney writes, “No thanks, Lulu! Not only are their sizes not inclusive, their clothing is prohibitively expensive!”
“Love her but I abhor lululemon and everything they represent is antithesis to this. I hope she gets loads of money out of them and carries on then continuing with her work leaving them in the dirt,” says Sivapraya.
Jessy says, “Well that’s quite a change from the ripping pants at the crotch because “some women shouldn’t wear their clothes” (not verbatim but we get the point).”
Marlena says, “Yaaaaas Mirna is a goddess, so glad to see her being featured by larger and larger outdoor/athletic companies!”
And I think we can all agree about that.
Me, I like their yoga pants and I guess I hope companies can change. We’re all works in progress, even Lululemon. And yes, capitalism and yes, co-opting. But there’s no pure path. This is the world we live and work in.
And I’m happy that the world now contains this billboard.
What do you think?Share your opinions in the comments.
It begins, “People have reached out to me asking how they can make their outdoor groups more inclusive for transgender people. (This is with the hope that we can go back to meeting up with new people in person soon!)
I always share my personal experience, but I felt like I wanted to do more. So I talked to 35 transgender, non-binary, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people about what makes them feel safe and included in outdoor groups. Here is what they told me…: