clothing · cycling · inclusiveness · media

On representation and why diversity matters

So as many of you know, I’ve been riding my bike on the trainer a lot lately.

But all those hours Zwifting have been tough on my cycling clothes. I keep old stuff around and I tend to wear it to death. See here (from 2014) and it’s still true. I wear shorts with thinning lycra under dresses for work bike commutes (back in the pre-pandemic times when I commuted to work) and I wear them at home on the trainer. I have shorts that came with me on my first sabbatical in Australia 13 years ago. I still regularly wear my very first pair of cycling specific socks and they are nearly 20 years old! I keep inspecting them, looking for holes, and wear, but they are doing fine.

Those tenacious socks aside, things are starting to wear out. And the thinning cycling shorts aren’t just not decent, they’re also starting to get uncomfortable. Riding the trainer is harder on clothes I suspect. It’s sweatier and there’s a lot less time out of the saddle, moving around. They make indoor cycling specific clothing now but so far I haven’t been tempted to buy it.

In Zwift’s virtual world my avatar has a lot of cool kit to choose from. You earn kit through riding lots and from doing specific events. I have Pride kit from doing the Pride rides and I have team kit from TFC through riding for TFC.

I’ve been wanting some new bike clothes for my actual, physical, non-virtual, self.

I did a Betty Designs workout the other day and I liked the kit my avatar was wearing. It turns out they sell it for actual people. Of course they do!

Sadly their snazzy Zwift kit was sold out.

betty designs zwift kit
Model wearing Betty Designs Zwift kit

But I browsed the site anyway because why not, I was there. Every single model is wearing size S or XS. They sell larger sizes but there aren’t any models wearing it. Instead it’s screen after screen of super thin models. Mostly the same model actually. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m fine with smaller people and thin models. Some women wear size XS. There are lots of thin cyclists.

Not all cyclists are thin though. Some of us wear sizes L and XL and beyond. See Big Women on Bikes.

Compare Betty Designs to Machines for Freedom. I’ve written about MFF before. See Riding safely in pandemic times. Also, OMG, she looks like me! and Getting gear that fits plus sized cyclists and hikers!.

And look at their models!

Plus Size Cycling Clothing is here!

See Finally, Body Positive Cycling Kits For Women for an interview with the people behind Machines for Freedom: “I really wanted to change what this sport looked like and to create space for difference and individuality in a sport that values uniformity,” says Kriske. “When we launched, I was very deep into training, often riding 20-plus hours a week and treating it like a part-time job. Yet, I felt like I didn’t fit in, all because I was a curvy woman who valued life and relationships rather than just talking about gear ratios or what new bike I was lusting after. I saw the industry as very flat and superficial, and tailored to folks who ascribed to a very specific, and elite, lifestyle. I wanted to change that, to draw more people in.”

Between the fact that my Zwift avatar doesn’t look like me size-wise and none of the women on the Betty Designs site are anywhere near my size, you’d almost think that women my size don’t ride bikes. But we do. I do. And I’d like some representation please.

Thanks Machines For Freedom for getting it right. Women my size do ride bikes and need cycling clothes. We also appreciate being represented in your advertising imagery.

Earlier, when I was planning to teach a course on feminism, ethics, and fashion I asked whether we had an obligation to buy from size inclusive brands. At the time some readers had given me flack for liking Oiselle sports bras. The issue is that they only offer sizes up to LARGE and while they fit me, they wouldn’t fit lots of athletic women out there. The issue in today’s post is not exactly the same. Betty Designs sizes do go up to XL and while that’s still limited, the worry I raised here was a different one. Their size range includes M, L, and XL but none of their models are wearing that size. They’re all S and XS.

Having people who look like you doing the sport in question makes a difference. I’ve made the point here in terms of shape/size but Black Girls Do Bike makes the point in terms of racial diversity.

Machines for Freedom are also keen to get more Black, Indigenous and all People of Color riders out there telling their stories about riding bikes. You can offer your support here.

“Black, Indigenous and People of Color have often been left out of conversations about biking. As a film festival with 18 years of experience seeking unique bicycle stories, we have a long history of searching for films by BIPOC filmmakers. We know firsthand how few of these films exist. We’re working to change that! Funding is a major barrier to filmmaking, which is why we’ve created this fund to award generous grants to emerging filmmakers. With your support, we can award grants to more filmmakers and help bring important stories and voices to the screen.”

fitness · media

Thanks BBC: “We’re BBC Sport, not BBC Men’s Sport”

Another quick update from the Land of Twitter.

BBC posts this.

Dude bro comments, “Any chance the Beeb can put out a separate thread solely for the WSL? I have no interest in it and some of the headlines are written as if it’s the men’s game. I appreciate those who follow WSL and intend no slight.”

But I love BBC’s reply.

Thank you BBC. Thank you.

I also love of the other suggestions that follow:

@LewesFCWomen: So please can you remove suffix ‘Women’ from BBC website after all team names in WSL/FA Women’s Championship (or add ‘Men’ to Prem League etc)? Teams themselves don’t add it on eg Lewes, not Lewes Women, Arsenal, not Arsenal Women etc. League name indicates male/female. Ta

0094@0oonthe: Yes but every time you talk about sport; let’s say football; You don’t say men’s football you just say football, then when you talk about women’s football you say women’s football

covid19 · fitness · media

Wrong! Sam says that there aren’t just two types of people in quarantine

I don’t know the source of the above image but lots of friends have been sharing it on social media, some with critical commentary, some not.

I think it gets something very wrong. I suspect that most of us who are part of this blog community are to varying degrees both of these people. Fun comfort food, yay! Also, running streaks, daily yoga, and lots of time on Zwift.

Sometimes when I’m stressed because I’m sharing a small place with three other people all with our own busy work agendas or I’m feeling overwhelmed by the global pandemic more generally, I do Yoga With Adriene or take Cheddar for a long walk.

Sometimes like Cate I find I can’t do yoga. My mind is too busy. Yoga feels so slow and I’m easily distracted. I have even paused Yoga With Adriene to doomscroll. Really. Sometimes I’m stressed but my knee hurts too much to walk Cheddar. Or he’s already been out for three walks! He even hid one day because too many people had been walking him. He’s looking pretty svelte.

Last week I had a busy work afternoon that was super stressful. So much Zoom time. So many hard issues to discuss. I retreated to my bedroom with a bag of peanut butter M & Ms to watch BoJack Horseman, which I know is not an easy show but the thing is when I’m like this sometimes fluffy, easy, light shows aren’t enough to engage me. I’ve always liked BoJack, hard as it is. See BoJack Horseman’s running advice.

I’m not alone, by the way. Quill Kukla, a philosophy professor, boxer, and powerlifter, and sometimes blogger here, even teaches a philosophy course called BoJack Horseman and Philosophy: What do we know? Do we know things? Let’s find out!

My point though, my main point, is that there aren’t obviously two types of people in quarantine. We’re all coping as best we can. Sometimes here that’s meant excessive/competitive baking. Sometimes it’s riding bikes indoors. And sometimes it’s laying in bed with BoJack Horseman and M and Ms.

It’s okay to just get through this.

fitness · media

Just when you thought reality TV couldn’t get any more horrible…

CW: discussion of a proposed reality TV show that focuses on the fatness of women as a problem for their relationships. Followed up by fiery righteous ranting (by me and the rest of the Twitterverse). Oh, and also lots of memes of Jean-Luc Picard. Use discretion.

You may have seen news stories about a TLC proposed reality show called (please forgive me; I just work here) “Hot and Heavy”. The premise is to gawk at couples of straight-sized men and fat women, to better understand how such a relationship can be functional and loving.

Jean-Luc Picard, saying "Oh, come on!"
Jean-Luc Picard, saying “Oh, come on!”

There is so much wrong with this idea– where shall I start? Well, how about letting our Twitter neighbors kick off the outraged totally-justified objection-fest?

Tweets in response to TLC's announcement. They were not amused.
Tweets in response to TLC’s announcement. They were not amused.

TLC refers to the couples as “mixed-weight”. Twitter rightly called them out and named what this term actually means. Herewith a brief but mighty Twitter post:

Shantel tells the truth here: "mixed weight" means fat women and thin men in relationships. What do we call relationships with thin women and fat men? Uh, relationships. Die, term, die!
Shantel tells the truth here: “mixed weight” means fat women and thin men in relationships. What do we call relationships with thin women and fat men? Uh, relationships. Die, term, die!

Jean-Luc PIcard, upon reading the TLC story, had no words.

The famous and moving face-palm of Jean-Luc Picard.
The famous and moving face-palm of Jean-Luc Picard.

Here’s my take on this: any TV show focusing on the larger-than-some-made-up-photoshopped -ideal size of anyone as a challenge or obstacle in the course of their doing anything in their lives is engaging in out-and-out fat shaming. Using the made-up term “mixed-weight couples” is an unsuccessful attempt at disguising the fat-shaming.

It also brings to mind other terms (for instance, “mixed race”) to refer to couples whose relationships that powerful groups have disapproved of, made illegal, and perpetrated violence against. That show is using a term that will remind lots of people about serious injustice against many populations. I’m not qualified to speak for lots of populations. But I’m calling out the show on this.

And one more thing: NO. No more. We’re done with that. The same way we’re done with trying to make this recipe work:

Yes, chicken in a watermelon. Don't try this at home. Or anywhere else.
Yes, chicken in a watermelon. Don’t try this at home. Or anywhere else.

Maybe some day, Fit is a Feminist Issue could be made into its own reality show. And who would be on it? Everyone who wanted to share their stories about fitness-according-to-them, in all its realistic glory. This would include experiences of movement, injury, illness, loss, gratitude, friendship, adventure, fear, napping, training, going solo, venturing with groups, moving while aging, moving while pregnant, not moving when we really wish we could, etc.

I asked Jean-Luc Picard what he thought about this idea.

PIcard saying full of win!
Full of win!

I agree. What would you want to see in a Fit is a Feminist Issue reality show? Or podcast? Just curious…

body image · fitness · inclusiveness · media

Fat babies deserve heads

We’ve written about it before. See Is the end in sight for headless fatty photos?  and No more headless fatties, why not use images of active fat people and Why the “headless fatty”.

I thoughte  it was getting better! But not for babies, The reporter in this case actually replied citing privacy concerns when it comes to infant images, But I’m pretty sure I’ve seen regular size babies with faces.

Why does it matter? What’s wrong with headless fat imagery? It’s this idea that it’s so shameful to have a body like this that we shouldn’t show their head or face in the media. But fat bodies belong everywhere. In the gym, in the classroom, on the runway, and in a diaper in the media.

body image · eating · fitness · food · inclusiveness · media

Samin Nosrat’s “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” redefines cooking shows in the best way

Cooking shows… some are great and some less so, but many of them – at least until recently – have had one thing in common: if they were about high-level cuisine, they were mostly male (and white). If they were about everyday home cooking, they were mostly female (and also white). In the past couple of years or so, this has slowly begun to change. Netflix has been at the forefront of this development with its original productions. Ugly Delicious was still mostly male, but at least less white. Chef’s Table still explores a lot of male, Western white chefs, but also really interesting women and people from countries outside of the traditional Michelin star circuit (Ana Roš from Slovenia, for instance, Musa Dağdeviren from Turkey, or Cristina Martínez, a Mexican chef living in the US undocumented).

But BAM, up shows Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, and with her Netflix-produced show of the same name, changes everything we know to be true about cooking shows. Nosrat, an American of Iranian descent, explores these four key elements of great cooking through the lenses of different countries. The Salt episode takes place mostly in Japan. For Fat, she goes to Italy. Acid is set in Mexico, and finally Heat focuses on her own kitchen. She is genuinely curious and appreciative of everything the locals she interviews for her show tell her, and constantly relates it back to her own culinary upbringing, but without overpowering the stories of her interview partners.

Mussakhan.JPG
No direct connection to Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, this is a meal that’s been a favourite in our household lately: Mussakhan, a Middle Eastern dish that involves chicken marinated with red onions, lemon juice, and sumac. In Samin Nosrat’s words: “It’s so good!”. Make it, you won’t be sorry (recipe here).

She’s unapologetic about her own enjoyment of food. Samin Nosrat’s relationship to eating seems so healthy and natural. It’s so good! she exclaims again and again, and you can’t not start salivating as you watch. I mean, imagine – a whole episode about fat without one single remark along the lines of ‘guilty pleasures’, ‘I shouldn’t really’, ‘just this once’…?! In a cooking show presented by a woman? This is unheard of. She even asks for more. This is how it should be, but too many times sadly it’s not.

In a world where women are constantly shamed for enjoying food, where exercise is frequently framed in terms of dieting and weight loss (women must work out so they can eat), and where talking about food in public is still defined by gender and racial stereotypes, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is huge. It’s refreshing, genuine, and heartwarming. Highly recommended! Also, you can get some of the recipes from the show on its website. A-ma-zing.

(Other people have written much more eloquently than I ever could about the impact of this show, see e.g. here, and here.)

feminism · fit at mid-life · fitness · media

Sam and Tracy on Daily Blast Live! Resonating with journalists everywhere!

Image description: Low angle urban street shot of Tracy, standing in workout clothing, Sam, in workout clothes with a black tank top that says FEMINIST, on her bike, standing with one foot in the pedal. Stop sign and building in background.
Image description: Low angle urban street shot of Tracy, standing in workout clothing, Sam, in workout clothes with a black tank top that says FEMINIST, on her bike, standing with one foot in the pedal. Stop sign and building in background.

Sam and I did another TV thing the other day, and it was great to have an opportunity to visit her in Guelph, where she’s heading into her ninth month of the big new job! We had to be in the same room to Skyped in to do a taped interview for Daily Blast Live! It’s a TV show that is syndicated across over 40 stations in the US and also shows on YouTube and Facebook. We’ve learned a couple of things about TV and interviews in general since the book came out and we’ve done some media. One is that TV interviews are super brief and you have to get to the point really quickly. Here’s our Daily Blast Live segment, which was only a 5 minute interview to begin with and then got edited down to about 2:30.

The other thing we’ve learned is that, especially for the women who interview us, the book really resonates with the interviewers in a personal, non-journalistic way. Even in the parts that they kept, this interviewer was enthusiastically committed to our book and its message. But throughout the five minutes we were chatting with her, she expressed a personal identification with the book and its message several times.

This particular interviewer didn’t turn to a sad personal story. But we have had many an interview where at a certain point the person asking the questions switched from her journalistic role to her own life, her struggles with body image, fitness, dieting, and weight loss. It’s never a happy story. At least so far it never has been.

We don’t feel great about the sad stories, but it’s not as if it’s news to us that many (most?) women have a vexed relationship with their bodies, workouts, and food. So it’s encouraging when our feminist fitness message resonates with anyone, even the journalists who are interviewing us.

Here’s to feminist fitness!

fit at mid-life · fitness · media

Sam and Tracy’s Excellent Book Adventure: Next Big Moments

LANDON LAUNCH POSTER picSam and I are kind of stoked these days because of all the book excitement over Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey , published by Greystone Books. Everyday, wherever I go, people are congratulating me (friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and even strangers). No doubt Sam is having the same experience. It makes me smile.

We are thrilled to see the exposure the book is giving to our message of inclusive fitness, and have had more outlets than usual to promote what we believe in. From radio (the CBC National syndicate last week) to national newspapers (The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star last week).

In the next few days, we have three big moments:

  1. Friday, April 27: An appearance on the Global Television Morning Show at 9:20 a.m. We are excited and nervous at the same time, since we are driving into Toronto for FOUR minutes on television. Last week when we did the radio interviews, each of us doing seven or eight in a three hour period, the interviews were 5-7 minutes and seemed to fly by. It’s a bit daunting to have just four minutes between the two of us (also, we have no idea what the questions are, and it’s live television).
  2. Saturday, April 28: London, Ontario Book Launch Party, 2-3 p.m. at the Landon Library in London’s Old South neighborhood of Wortley Village. This promises to be a big friends and family event where we get to celebrate with our local circles. For this one, we’re going to talk about how the book came to be and each read a little from it. Then we’ll have a Q&A followed by a book sale, handled by our local independent Oxford Book Shop, and anyone who wishes can get us to sign their book with our illegible handwriting. Plus: vegan cupcakes from BoomBox Bakery.
  3. Thursday, May 3: Guelph, Ontario Book Launch Party, 7-9 p.m. at the Bookshelf Bookstore in Guelph. Sam just moved there to take up her big new job, and we wanted to give her a chance to celebrate the book with her new local community. We’ll have a similar talk — about the book and its message — read a few pages, answer a few questions, sell and sign and have refreshments.

We’ve got other things — magazine articles, podcast interviews, book excerpts, more radio spots. We’re excited, so please forgive us for basking in our moment for the next little while. We will be posting regular updates of book-related news and events. And before you know it, the moment will pass and it’ll be business as usual, with a few more fit feminists out there than there used to be.

We do have a request, and that is, if you read the book we would love to start seeing your reviews on Amazon and on Goodreads.

media · Sat with Nat

Nat won’t sit in an ice bath anytime soon but thinks survival training is a great idea.

This all started with Sam sharing this article with Nat:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/physical-fitness-third-pillar-diet-exercise-a8254061.html

The book’s premise is that a component of fitness could be the ability to handle harsh environments.

It’s been a long time since I did my survival courses in the military but the lessons I learned were very helpful. Take my winter survival course, I learned that when you live 24/7 outside with the right gear and skills your body will adapt to daytime high of -40C. A few days into the 1 week course I shed my heavy mitts, balaclava and parka and walked about in my sweater and snow pants. My body adapted and could provide the extra BTUs to keep me warm.

The thing is, that adaptation is temporary. One night in a heated room and I was back to bundling up. The long term impact for me was understanding what I needed to be safe in that weather. I learned that while I would be cold at first I could survive and adapt to the environment. I learned that lined winter tents are fantastic but also that a thick bed or fir boughs with a tarp as a lean-to and a small fire can keep you going a long time.

There are lots of reasons to get used to being outdoors for extended periods of time and working through difficult situations. Along with the skills comes, well, a mental toughness that prevents me from giving up in bad times. Will I cry when tired, frustrated or in pain? Oh heck ya, almost always.

Do I think people should take ice baths? Uh, no. Definitely learn about boating safety if you are in the water, what to do if you fall through the ice if you skate or cross ice in winter.

Learning what to do in emergencies is helpful, you learn how to overcome the first impulses to panic by self soothing as well as the techniques to ensure the best outcome.

I’m skeptical of the claims that we all need to swim in icy water. Those conditions are dangerous and I’m not persuaded that the benefits outweigh the risks.

However, if you want to build skills and confidence definitely learn survival or emergency response skills. First Aid and CPR are a great way to start building up skills.

I hope you have awesome adventures and not have any emergencies.