fitness · skiing

Women to women information? Or just mansplaining marketing about athletic gear?

We love our Fit is a Feminist Issue readers and Facebook followers– they are always letting us know about interesting, vexing, puzzling or useful stories.  One of the latest involves the Womentowomen site for Blizzard skis.  It purports to provide women with needed information so they will feel less intimidated when going to purchase skis.  Here’s their blurb on Facebook:

This is a post from the Blizzard Facebook page offering to help women understand what skis they should buy from Blizzard, and showing a variety of pastel colors of ski offerings.
This is a post from the Blizzard Facebook page offering to help women understand what skis they should buy from Blizzard, and showing a variety of pastel colors of ski offerings.

The responses from women skiers ranged from eye-rolling and sighing to comments that showed that no, they don’t need any terminology breakdowns; they got this.  The main thrust was that Blizzard offers no terminology tutorial in its men-specific or general information sites; why target women particularly when it sells to all levels of skiers of all genders?

I looked a little more at their marketing, and the soft-soap/hand holding approach for women seems popular in their marketing department.  Let’s take a quick look at the copy for two sets of skis, both designed for expert skiers.  First, the men’s skis:

Ad copy for men's ski Rustler 10-- "the ski of choice for those looking to have fun while pushing themselves to ski better and explore all corners of the hill in any snow conditions".
Ad copy for men’s ski Rustler 10– “the ski of choice for those looking to have fun while pushing themselves to ski better and explore all corners of the hill in any snow conditions”.

Yeah, alright!  Let’s do some shredding, dude.

Now to the women’s ski, also designed for expert skiers:

Ad copy for the women's expert ski, including thes snippets: "fun and forgiving, while offering up stability and versatility... confidence inspiring, elevated skiing experience... Who wants to work hard when you can play harder?"
Ad copy for the women’s expert ski, including these snippets: “fun and forgiving, while offering up stability and versatility… confidence inspiring, elevated skiing experience… Who wants to work hard when you can play harder?”

Argh.  Really?  The expert women skiers are supposed to respond to “confidence-building”, “fun and forgiving”, and buy a ski because they don’t want to work hard?

I don’t think this woman is looking not to work hard; do you?

A woman skiing in deep powder at Alta in Utah.
A woman skiing in deep powder at Alta in Utah.

This woman doesn’t need any forgiveness from her skis– she is telling them exactly what to do and is in charge.

A woman in an orange ski jacket carving  turn down the side of a mountain.
A woman in an orange ski jacket carving turn down the side of a mountain.


Of course not all ski marketing treats expert women skiers as in need of confidence-building.  Here’s an ad I would definitely respond to (if I were a downhill skier):

A female skier headed down a very seriously steep descent; the ad copy reads "the Lange RX 110 is for an expert skier who pushes her limits in the steeps."
A female skier headed down a very seriously steep descent; the ad copy reads “the Lange RX 110 is for an expert skier who pushes her limits in the steeps.”

Yeah!  That’s what I’m talking about.  I want to see women skiing down scary steeps, taking air, navigating drops, and pushing their limits.  We want adrenaline rushes (at least in aspirational marketing material) as much as the men do.  Or at least we want it as an option.

So enough already with the namby-pamby “this is easy” and “let us explain this to you” business.  Give us thrills and chills and hard-driving rock soundtracks.  And less pastel-colored gear, while you’re at it.


“I am the cyclist in my life,” says Sam

Dear bike shop staff,

Please don’t assume that female customers are Christmas shopping for that “special cyclist in their life.” They might actually be taking a break from shopping for others to look for something for themselves.

When someone asked me that, I smiled and said that I was the cyclist in my life.

All fine, all fixed.


A pink bike with a blue basket leaning against a black fence
Photo by Dana Vollenweider on Unsplash
fitness · Uncategorized

In a tizzy

I’m in a tizzy these days.  In case you’re wondering what that means:

A definition of the word "tizzy": a state of nervous excitement or agitation. "he got into a tizzy and was talking absolute nonsense". synonyms: frenzy, state of anxiety, state of agitation, nervous panic, fret, hysteria.
A definition of the word “tizzy”: a state of nervous excitement or agitation. “he got into a tizzy and was talking absolute nonsense”. synonyms: frenzy, state of anxiety, state of agitation, nervous panic, fret, hysteria.

Why?  Here are some reasons:

  1. It’s that period of maximum activity between Thanksgiving and New Year’s in the US, in which we are bidden to feast, shop, party, cook, attend holiday-themed events, plan travel or visits from others, finish up plans for 2017 and devise new plans for 2018.
  2. It’s the last week of my academic semester in which both my students and I have the most work to do (me–grading; them–assignments) and they are at their most panicked (provoking same in me).
  3. Because of the aforementioned conditions outlined in 1) and 2), all of my exercise/activity/self-care regimens have gone by the wayside– seriously by the wayside.  The wayside by which they have gone is not even remotely in sight anymore.
  4. I’m still doing some yoga everyday (today is day 66!), but the amount of yoga has shrunk to a few sun salutations, legs up the wall, a twist or two, and sometimes a yoga-in-bed video, which lasts 5–7 minutes.  I really need and want more yoga, but it’s also by that long-since-left wayside mentioned in 3).
  5. Just when I think the world can’t possibly accommodate even one more additional depressing or appalling news story, several come galloping across my news feed.

I don’t feel even a smidgen of control over my life right now.  Naturally, 1)–5) are contributing to this feeling.  But even apart from them, I’m not sure exactly what to do or how to prioritize things I want or need to do.  I’m not sure how fast or slow I should be going.  I do know that going slow feels good until time passes and I realize how little I’ve gotten accomplished.  I also know that going fast is a limited option– I can manage it to finish an urgent deadline, but then I collapse for a while.

So I’ve decided to come up with my Christmas/holiday gift list a bit early.  Here’s what I want:

  1. permission (from myself and the universe, by which I really just mean myself) to be in this state of tizziness.  It won’t make the tizzy go away, but at least it won’t add a layer of useless guilt.
  2. a little more quiet, so I can listen to myself.  I think we often know what we want and need, but have to listen.  Right now there’s too much cacophony to be able to hear anything.
  3. clarity for honest appraisal of what I think I can and want to do.  Yes, I have a lot of goals– athletic, academic, domestic, social, etc.   But not all of them are doable or even really at the top of my list, provided I had one.  Time to focus.
  4. sufficient gumption to prioritize goals, plans, activities.  I’m lucky and privileged to have a job where I have some control over some of my activities, and I am very grateful.  All the more reason not to waste this gift.  Instead I’d like to put it to work for me and others.
  5. oh, I would like a new (to-me; it can be used) commuter bike, specifications to be named later.  I figured while I’m making my wish list, I might as well add that to it.

Seriously, though, we can all use some time and space for reflection before/in lieu of getting caught up in the end-of-year and beginning-of-year frenzied planning.  What’s on your wish list during this time of year?

Here’s a pretty picture that maybe represents some stuff I want, including a spot on the beach next to those balancing rocks.

two rocks balancing on a flat rock, which is balancing on a triangular rock, sitting on a beach, with blue sky and sea in the background. Aaaaahhhh...
two rocks balancing on a flat rock, which is balancing on a triangular rock, sitting on a beach, with blue sky and sea in the background. Aaaaahhhh…



Why I’m Trying to Break Free of the Uniformity of Activewear

Nike Uniformity
Women’s activewear, while meant to be functional, often tends to all look the same. 

I decided last month to get back to the gym. It had been a while since I’d regularly attended, despite being in a good groove last winter. Going to the gym was about my alone time, my unwinding time. I’d put on a podcast and rather than rush to get there by taking my bike or transit, I’d walk the 30 minutes from my place to the YMCA on College street.

But, I always find getting back into gymming after time away to be challenging. And then there’s the gear. I’ve got to pack a bag complete with gym shoes, gym socks, sports bra, tights and gym shirt, Bluetooth headphones, a snack, protein shake, ball cap, iPhone, and a lock. It really becomes a whole “thing” to go to the gym.

So last month I decided to do something differently—what if I just didn’t make it a thing? What if I just worked out in whatever comfy home clothes I wore that day? What if I stopped by the Y as one of my various errands I had to do in the area? What if it wasn’t about getting a “good workout”, but just about going and doing the exercises I’ve been craving?

I was excited about this new mindset, but when I arrived in my baggy sweatpants and loose Homer Simpson t-shirt, I definitely noticed that I stood out from the other women there. Most women my age wear the same gym uniform: black or patterned tights and a snug sweat-wicking tank top. In fact, that’s what I normally wear too. But something felt different this time going dressed as “myself.”

My Homer-Simpson-as-the-Godfather t-shirt. One of my favourite workout t-shirts, (or hanging around the house t-shirts, or going grocery shopping t-shirts, or writing my dissertation t-shirts…). 

I think that, on some level, when I was dressed in the usual workout uniform, it was very easy for me to look to other women and their bodies and compare myself. After all, when we’re all wearing the same thing, it becomes pretty easy to notice the differences. Shes thinner. Shes more muscular. Shes got bigger x, or she’s smaller y. I know I’m not supposed to do this sort of thing. It’s bad for self-esteem, self-image, and generally doesn’t help with my own fitness goals or accomplishments. But it happens. Even when I don’t intend it to. Actually, especially, when I don’t intend it to.

Outside of the gym, I’m the kind of person who places a lot of my self-expression in my sense of style. Having fun with fashion is a big part of who I am. But donning the gym uniform felt to me as if I was stripping away a part of myself when I’d go workout. And while the clothes are also about function, I’ve just never been the sort of person who enjoys skin-tight clothes in any context. (So why did I think I’d enjoy it at the gym??)

Diane Keatonstyle
Diane Keaton, one of my style icons! I wonder what she wears to the gym? (Probably just regular gym clothes…)

Unfortunately, the activewear industry is for the most part fairly uniform these days, apart from some advances in certain areas (as with the launch of the Nike Pro Hijab). I was hard-pressed to think of other types of self-expression or diversity in activewear. Even a quick Google search of “diverse activewear” pretty much shows the same sorts of things: bright and tight.

Ah well, for now I’ll stick to my oversized Homer Simpson t-shirt.

Nike Hijab
Earlier this year, Nike announced upcoming release of it’s Nike Pro Hijab, a sweat-wicking, breathable Hijab for female Muslim athletes. 

What about you? Do you care about what you work out in? Is it about comfort physically or psychologically? Does it feel like “You” or an extension of You? Or do you feel self-conscious?


What does it mean to look my age?

A few years ago, I was sitting in a crowded waiting room to renew my passport and I fell into a conversation with a man sitting next to me.  He had immigrated to Canada from Chile in the 70s, and told me a little bit about his life here.  “Then suddenly one day, you’re looking in the mirror and shaving the face of an old man,” he said.

I had my moment where suddenly felt I “looked my age” a couple of weeks ago.  I looked in the rearview mirror of my car on a grey dim November day and thought “you don’t just look tired, you look middle-aged.”  Followed immediately by the thought, what the hell does that mean, anyway?

It was actually a complete coincidence that Sam wrote about this the same week — I’d been mulling over aging and looking one’s age for a while.  Like Sam, I have generally tended to not “look my age” — which I think is usually shorthand for “you have funky shoes and you look fit enough and still somewhat fuckable and not like the toll of your years is really showing on you.” But over the past year or so, I’ve realized that “don’t look your age” is a concept that only exists when people are thinking “oh, I know you’re a middle aged woman but you look pretty good…  considering.”  Which is… very different … than a simple “you look GOOD!”

NGU3ODE2MGFjNjE3NzQ3ZjI1OWFmNTc2ZDRmYzliOGIxNWY2MzExNGM4MDdjNGNkNzhhMWZkMjRkNGVlODp7ImRzIjoiaW1hZ2UiLCJmIjoiXC81XC84XC81ODg5ODhfZGVmYXVsdC5qcGciLCJmYSI6dHJ1ZSwiZmYiOnRydWUsImZxIjo5MCwiZn A younger (female) colleague recently commented that my arms and my other colleague’s arms “looked so toned.”  (Implied: for women in your 50s).  My aunt told me I looked good because I have “kept my figure.”  Yoga teachers and massage therapists frequently compare me to their mothers.  One of my students told me recently I reminded her of her bubbe.

I don’t really know what I feel about this or what it means.  There is a wide spectrum of the meaning we make of aging, from seeing it as inherently carrying deficit (I can’t do things any more! I am closer to death, which terrifies me!) or as a natural shift, possibly even one to be savoured (I have so much more wisdom and know the value of slowing down! I feel good about what I’ve accomplished in my life!).

416418724_5403169779001_5403162873001-vs I think, culturally, we are in a significant shift around aging.  There is still a deep undercurrent that Aging is Scary and Bad —  in a quick scan of most birthday cards commercially available, at least half of them are mired in deficit (“Fifty — the new F word!”  “”Don’t sweat turning 50 — no one likes a sweaty senior citizen!“). Lifestyle magazines are constant reinforcing the desirability of looking younger, and ageism is still very much alive, in many contexts.  I had a colleague tell me a few years ago that she found a teaching job because she thought her years as a consultant were limited, because people “don’t take older women as seriously.”  Sam and Tracy have both written about midlife invisibility, which like most women my age, I’ve experienced over and over.

At the same time, there has been a strong force for the past couple of decades or so to redefine aging as a zone of vitality.  There is what scholars would call an emerging discourse about “successful” aging — i.e, aging as an opportunity to respect and revere natural life stages, live every decade as fully as possible, destigmatize old age. This blog is part of that movement in many ways:  the very premise is about recognizing that aging doesn’t mean being unfit, acknowledging that it’s a powerful stance to claim our strength and agility and physical ambition — whatever that means to us as individuals — as middle aged and older women/non-genderconforming people.

This shift in the social construction of aging is emblematized most memorably, perhaps, by Gloria Steinem resisting being told that she was “aging well” by stating  “this is what 40 looks like — we’ve been lying for so long, who would know?” She repeated that kind of assertion at 50, 60 and most recently, 80.

Being 50-something meant something very different when I was a kid. This is a picture of two of my great aunts in the 1960s.  They would have been in their late 50s or very early 60s at the time.


They are old ladies.  Below, this is me at almost 53.  I have visible crow’s feet and a certain softening of my features, but I don’t think I look like an “old lady.” I look like me, but a bit softened, a bit weathered, fatigue registering on my face more quickly and eloquently, thicker around the middle than I was a couple of years ago.

Feminist-ily (it’s a word!), though, this claiming-of-vitality is a bit of a double-bind. Looking to Julia Roberts or Gloria Steinem as the avatars of “what 50 (or 80) looks like” might not be the most self-preserving stance.  Bodies DO start wearing out in our 40s and 50s, and knees and hips and metabolisms can be stubborn and uncooperative.  A lot of my peers are wading through thick pools of stress and loss — empty nest transitions, ill parents and spouses, deaths, work pressures, loneliness, existential questions about the impact of what exactly our sense of purpose is here on this earth —  and it shows up in their bodies and on their faces.  Placing emphasis and value on “looking young” could easily become a way to avoid integrating and being comfortable with the inevitable changing experiences of aging.

My life doesn’t have built in transitions at middle age — no kids to wave off, and I don’t have the kind of career where I’m counting down the years to a pension in single digits.  But I’ve experienced that growing invisibility, the pragmatic clarity that some doors are just firmly closed now (I will never go to medical school, or be a mother, or celebrate a 40th wedding anniversary, or ever again run sub 5 minute kilometres as a matter of course) — and there is a trickling fear of irrelevance that comes along with the closing of doors.

One of my colleagues, a geriatric psychiatrist who works with people in their 80s and 90s, says that all of them talk about feeling like themselves, like the people they have always been.  The New Yorker piece linked above notes:

The young can’t grasp that most older people don’t feel so different from their youthful selves. When Florida Scott-Maxwell was living in a nursing home, in 1968, she wrote in her journal  “Another secret we carry is that though drab outside—wreckage to the eye, mirrors a mortification—inside we flame with a wild life that is almost incommunicable.” She felt like the person she’d always been.

That’s the fear, I think, that continually pushes us to wanting to look younger — the fear that the things we value about ourselves the most will disappear, will become invisible, will be rendered undesirable.  That we will suddenly look in the mirror and see someone we don’t recognize, whose body doesn’t match how we feel inside.  And realize that others can’t see anymore the us we feel inside.

I keep coming back to the word “congruence.”  Equanimity comes when we feel some congruence between what we yearn to do, our ability to do it, what we feel like, what we look like.  Aging is a biological process, yes, but I think it also should be a reflective practice of finding a way to live comfortably in the tension between continuing to pursue strength, dreams, fitness, agility, learning new things — and accepting the inevitable changes in our biology, our life circumstances, not as losses but as natural shifts, opportunities to re-engage with what it means to be ourselves.

Like Sam, I think I’m okay to “look my age.”  I’m not quite ready to go grey gracefully, but I won’t sweat the wrinkles.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto, and who regularly blogs here on the second Friday of every month.









Tracy takes her new camera obsession to personal training


It’s a busy time of year to develop a new obsession, but whatever. I have gone through various stages in my life where I got into photography for a while. But I’ve only ever owned one SLR camera, a hand-me-down Canon from my Dad. That was about 20 years ago, before digital. I threw myself into it for awhile, even set up a dark room. But then I moved and I couldn’t get the dark room set up again, and the next thing I knew I had a digital point and shoot, and I shelved the other camera.

But I never lost my fascination for photography or my desire to take pictures. I just didn’t foster that with anything more than a decent smart phone. Fast forward twenty years. Oh has the world of SLRs changed! No longer do I have to wonder how my shot turned out, either taking my film in for processing or rushing home to develop it myself. Today, with digital cameras, I can take as many shots as I like. This has proven a good thing. Since last weekend, I have probably taken about 600 pictures with an incredible Canon D80 that I borrowed from the Arts and Humanities Equipment Loan desk in my Faculty (I didn’t know about this until last week, and I was on it the very next day).

My Dad is loaning me his Canon, which is similar to the one I’ve been borrowing, for the winter. I’m getting it from him on December 17, on our way to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, I’ve got the D80.

So I kind of can’t put it down, which means I took it with me to personal training the other day. And it turns out that the studio is pretty cool to take pictures in. So here’s a little sampling of what I shot that day in the personal training studio with Paul, my (and Sam’s) personal trainer. (I do understand that not everyone has to be on board with everyone else’s obsessions, but photography seems to be one thing that captures people’s attention, so here it is).


An Ongoing Food Adventure

I normally blog about activity but since I’m not exactly active right now and don’t want to talk about it (grumble), I thought I’d talk about an interesting food experiment I’ve been engaged with this last year.

I looooove food, I loooooove cooking and I haaaate grocery shopping. I also hate having to decide what I’m making, although once I do decide, I seriously enjoy the process. I am conscious, also, as many of us who write on here are, of what I am putting in my mouth and the mouths of the family for whom I am responsible food wise. I want fresh, tasty, nutritious, fun and interesting food on the table. It is my belief that if it meets those criteria most of the time, then the other looming adjective that I ignored  (“healthy”, whatever that means, I just seriously can’t stomach defining that any more, pun intended) just kind of follows along for the most part. I also like the idea of eating less meat even though I love meat.

I was intrigued through my good friend by a service that delivers meals weekly to my house. These meals are not pre-prepared. I have to do the prep and cook them. However, they are pre-measured and contain only what is required to cook the meal. I’m not going to name the company here but you can look the services up easily. There are a few now. I order three meals per week and they are meant to feed two people per meal. The servings are usually generous so we often have left overs for another meal or two out of it.

Here is my evaluation of the experiment. Total success.

Things I love are as follows:

For the most part, they are totally tasty and satisfying. I love that I don’t have to go to the grocery store as much. I love that I don’t have to think of what to cook. They give these lovely instructions with each meal and the description of the food just makes you want to eat it that second.

Vegetarian Pad Thai

With its familiar mountain of rice noodles, Pad Thai is probably the most popular and recognizable Thai dish the world over. Our vegetarian version is bursting with perfectly seasoned cubes of tofu, cashews, bell peppers and edamame. Tossed in a Sriracha-spiked sauce, our well-balanced twist on a beloved classic won’t disappoint.

That isn’t even the best description. It’s just the one I have in front of me. They never ever talk about calories, or “light” meals, or low fat or any of that crap. “Well balanced” here is talking about taste. The taste is well balanced. It totally is.

I have acquired new skills through this process and an appreciation of prep work that accelerates the cooking. Most meals take a half hour to prepare. I also never knew how important vegetarian demi-glace could be, nor did I realize that lemon or lime zest is, like, EVERYTHING.

The down sides include too much grilled tofu. I don’t care how long you marinate it, it’s boring as a main protein. I have also forgotten how to cook otherwise, lol, just kidding, sort of.

A photo of a page of instructions for Vegetarian Pad Thai that includes picture of each step.
Is this Yum or What?

Enjoying food is joy. This is a total win.