This semester I included a video about fitness binaries along with our other readings including a reading about women's health, a chapter from bell hooks' Feminism Is for Everybody, "My Fight for Birth Control" by Margaret Sanger, "If Men Could Menstruate" by Gloria Steinem, and the preface to Inga Muscio's book, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence. These diverse readings provide some historical background and some contemporary issues related to women's bodies and women's health.
This was the first time I have formally introduced the idea of feminist fitness via my research and the ideas developed in my book, Women and Fitness in American Culture. I have given several talks using a version of the power point I made into a video, and have found that while feminism continues to be an "F word" in our culture, people generally respond positively to ideas about feminist fitness.
There is still some confusion over the term, particularly when people assume that feminist is equal to feminine, a common misconception about the term feminist as well. Feminist fitness is not about different approaches to fitness based upon one's biological sex, or even one's socially constructed gender. Feminist fitness is an ideology about fitness--a critical lens for considering mainstream ideas about fitness and a tool for creating fitness beyond the superficial ideals of size and the trends of "elite" fitness.
I asked my students what they think feminist fitness is, and here's what they shared:
"I would say feminist fitness is not working out because someone wants to achieve the body view media portrays women to be, but because they want to be in a healthy state. Feminist fitness helps support one another in achieving a goal and it realizes that everyone’s body is different and we all aren’t going to have the same body type. It is helping others find out what will work best for them and knowing that something that works for you won't work for everyone."
"That is what feminist fitness should be. Taking care of you so that you can live life to its fullest as it comes along, feeling happy with who you are now."
"I believe 'feminist fitness' is about living a positive life. Striving every day to have a healthy body, mind and spirit by being physically active, consciously in the moment, taking care of yourself by getting enough rest and consuming food that is good for your body."
"I had never heard the term 'feminist fitness' before this class. The most important message and what I found to be at the very core of feminist fitness is the connectedness of the mind, spirit, and body. In general the components are viewed separately and the whole is not taken in consideration for its connectedness. This principal makes me reflect on the idea of synergy and how the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. My idea of feminist fitness is a personal and unique level of ability that is idiosyncratic and results in a life full of pushing ones limits and remaining in a state of constant challenge and activity."
"I think 'feminist fitness' is teaching all women young and old that being healthy physically and mentally should be the sole purpose when seeking to become fit. It's saying getting fit shouldn't be about visually pleasing anyone and not to take what the mass media says is fit or acceptable into consideration. It's saying we shouldn't need to look a certain way either when we go to the gym and that we should only dress to be comfortable not to look like we came out of a Dick's Sporting goods magazine. After watching the YouTube video I think the slide stating 'Ultimately, fitness beyond body, beyond binary calls for a feminist approach' hits the nail on the head as to what women's fitness should be about."
"Feminist fitness means many things to me, a healthy life style and body building are my immediate thoughts. When a women works out to maintain a healthy lifestyle that ideal for me. It should not be about the inches in your waist or the size of your butt. We all have different body builds, and should all do some sort of fitness to maintain a healthy balanced life. But, I also think of body building because I find it so fascinating to see the female form pushed to its boundaries. It’s the extreme of what I see in glamour, and it is great in my opinion for a woman to express herself in a way that she sees fit."
"I think it is a women’s intellect and her ability to enjoy quality of life. Thin does not mean fit as noted in the video and as noted in real life. Feminist fitness offers a constant contradiction in our society. I have chosen the idea of mindfulness by adding a daily log of sleep patterns, food and water consumption, exercise and other self-care practices. I have developed a plan of care for myself, by setting goals and discussing my journey with online classmates in my nursing course."
"I think 'feminist fitness' is the confidence of a woman. A woman can be physically fit and still be unhappy, she could have straight A’s and still be unhappy. Any woman that is confident with herself and what she does with herself to me is feminist fitness. I watched the video, and it analyzed women in the fitness world, which basically just talks about the sex appeal of a woman. Women are much more than that. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, co workers and overall human beings. We shouldn’t be judged upon appearance, but unfortunately, we are."
"I think feminist fitness is a reality check. The truth verses the myths employed by media. I never realized that fitness was a tool once again being used to deconstruct a women's body image. Why do we continuously have a target on our back??! I swear it seems no matter what the topic is concerning a women, it is taken and deliberately used against us for destruction.......it's making me very f#$%^g tired! Enough already! We need to wake the fuck up, sleeping women and men (myself included)!!... Ok, now that I have taken a deep breath of release, onward I will go :/"