This week I had a bunch of ideas for blog posts–things like how to tell if your “healthy” obsession with exercise has gotten out of hand. Or why I don’t like the phrase “strong is the new skinny”. Those posts will likely come soon enough, but this week they just seemed kind of petty. In fact, most of my perceived “problems” have kind of dimmed in comparison to the events in Charlottesville, VA last weekend. It’s rare for me to speak out about my political views because I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. I like it when everyone is happy. I may be a bit late to the conversation, but right now I’m setting my fears of judgement and criticism aside and keeping it more real than ever. Because I realized that I have no right to be upset with the president for his response to last weekend’s blatantly racist events if I also remain silent.
I might not have much authority on the topic, and am still learning every day. Regardless, I feel a strong pull to call it out. I may be a white woman with a whole lot of privilege, but I’m going to do my best to stay informed about what I can do to be a good ally. You should too. Racism and neo-Nazis and white supremacists have no place in our county. At this point you may be asking what place this discussion has on a body positive fitness blog. Here’s the thing I realized:
I can’t call myself “body positive” if I can’t call out racism.
None of us can. A few months ago I wrote a post listing all the things I want my students to know when they come take my class. This was my attempt to make everyone, regardless of their fitness level or body size, feel welcome. One thing that I didn’t make clear, is that there is NO place for hate in my classes. And when I say that all bodies are welcome, that means all bodies of all colors, races, and religions. While I’m at it, all abilities, genders, and sexual orientations too. (I should state that by saying “all” I’m trying to be as inclusive as possible. I’m NOT ignorantly stating that “all lives matter” because I get why that’s offensive.) It sucks that I have to specify that, but it’s unfortunately where we’re at. I want to practice what I preach. And I can’t play the Sanskrit chant “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” (may all beings everywhere be happy and free) in my yoga class and not believe in my heart that it means EVERYBODY. (Well, everybody except Nazis…)
As someone in the fitness industry, helping people with their health and wellness is part of my job. That includes not only physical wellness, but also mental and emotional wellness too.
Everyone needs a place to go where they can feel relaxed and safe. I want the space I hold in my classroom to be just that. I think about the teen contemporary dance class I taught this year–one of the most racially diverse group of 13 dancers I’ve ever had. Those kids need to know that dance is a safe space for them. I teach a corporate yoga class where most of the participants are Mexican immigrants. I don’t know much Spanish, and many of them speak little English, but I want them to know how much I value them. When I see yoga and fitness portrayed in the media, it’s usually a pretty blonde girl in her 20’s with a 6 pack wearing a sports bra. Then I think about all the times someone comes to take one of my yoga or group fitness classes who feels like they don’t fit that mold. I want them to know that they have just as much a place in my class as anyone else.
The more I learn about body positivity, the more I realize that it’s about more than just accepting the size of your thighs. It’s a social justice issue.
It’s not enough for me (a thin/medium sized, straight, cisgender, white woman) to encourage other women who look like me to ditch their Fitbits and scales. Sure, that’s great for those people, but it doesn’t help everybody. And until ALL these bodies have justice and equality and can walk around without fear, none of us can really be free.
“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”
― Naomi Wolf,
THIS. Scary, but true. I know that many (but not all) of you, my readers, co-workers, and friends, are a lot like me. You are really good people, but don’t have to worry about being outwardly discriminated against on a daily basis. You are not a target of hate crimes. Because of this, you have the mental bandwidth to fret over how many calories your burned in the fitness class you just paid $25 to attend, or how your butt looks in your lululemon. This is not a bad thing, and does not make you a bad person. It just is. But when I read this quote, I get fired up. At this point in time, the last thing our county needs is politically sedated women. So this week, I’m putting my usual message on pause. Let’s push aside the importance of squats and self-compassion for a moment and focus on the bigger issue at hand.
I am by no means an expert on fighting hate, racism, white supremacists, Nazis, or any other sort of discrimination. I’ve been reading up on what I can do in real life (not just behind my computer screen) to help make it clear that events like those that happened in Charlottesville this weekend are NOT acceptable. If you are on board, below are some of the resources (in no particular order) that I’ve found inspiring and helpful. Please feel free to add any others you may have in the comments.
AND if you are still kind of wishing for some words of wisdom on health and fitness this week, click here to sign up for my email list. It comes with a nice little freebie, and you’ll get notice every time I post something new. Next week I’ll be back with my usual tips on how to help you stop complaining about your thighs or something similar. I believe its my job to help other women do that, so that we all have the time and energy to focus on making the world a better place.