Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another day, another woman body shamed...

Total steps yesterday:  18,826
Exercise plans for today:  60 minute walk

It's been a rough week to be a woman in America.  First there was last week's efforts by a misogynistic blogger to make the week in to "Fat Shaming Week", because it was his responsibility to make women feel bad about themselves so that they'd change for the better.  You can read more about it here, but be aware that it will make you weep for humanity.

Following closely on the heels of that issue, this woman is now getting all sorts of Facebook flack for daring to get back in to shape after having had three babies in close succession.  Now, to be fair, I actually think these two different issues might be tied together.  Maria Kang's photo that started this controversy has the heading of "What's Your Excuse?" above a photo of her three boys, showing how quickly she got back in to shape after having her children.  And I honestly think that the current vitriol toward her might be part of the backlash against Fat Shaming Week.

But to me, the extreme response reads more as fit shaming, and as mother shaming.  One of the comments directed at Ms. Kang said, "Those precious little things need their mommy more than they need you to have glamour muscles". This irks me in several ways.  One, it suggests that the mother is doing something wrong by taking one hour a day / six hours a week to take care of herself, and doesn't acknowledge that the peace that working out brings her probably makes her a better wife and mother.  It also drives me crazy because I can't imagine a father having this same criticism thrown against him.  A dad going to the gym = no big deal.  A mom doing it = probably her kids dying, since that's where every choice in motherhood leads us.

This all got me thinking again about women and body image issues.  It's a funny thing about pregnancy - it's really the one time in a woman's life when it's socially acceptable to gain weight, and even then it's critiqued.  I told someone at the gym the other day that I was five months pregnant and her response was, "There's no way you're five months - you're not nearly big enough!".  And this was a week after my doctor told me I was too big.  And this is on top of all of the other invasions of pregnant women's space and choices - the belly touching, the dietary questioning, the fitness kerfuffles - it all seems to add up to a way to control our bodies when they're out of control.  Also, "kerfuffles" is a fun word.

Back in college, I was in a "class" with my advisor and three classmates.  The class was an independent study on feminist literature, and was fairly informal - that day's class took place in a local pizza parlor and focused on a fictional book about eating disorders.  The professor stopped us in the middle of the discussion and quietly pointed out a couple sitting in the booth across the way.  The woman was sitting cross-legged, with her top leg held as close as possible to her bottom leg, and her arms held tightly to her sides.  The man sat with legs spread akimbo and arms lounging casually over the back of the booth.  The professor pointed it out not to make fun of the couple, but to show how women were subconsciously trained to make themselves as small as possible, whereas men felt no such compunction.  Also, "akimbo" is a fun word.

(Random sidenote:  in editing today's blog, I looked up the word "akimbo" to make sure I was spelling it correctly, and found that, technically, akimbo refers to a specific body position where the hands are on the hips and the elbows are spread wide, and that legs cannot actually be "akimbo".  I'd always thought it just meant spread wide.  So I should technically go back and change that last paragraph, but instead I'm going to leave it as is and we'll all learn something new today.)

I noticed as I squatted / fell on to the couch this morning to check my e-mail that my pose was very similar to the  pizza parlor paramour of years back - legs spread wide to accommodate my bump, arms spread to support myself as I leaned back.  I just take up so much more space than I did before pregnancy, and it's not comfortable for pregnant women - I imagine it's subconsciously even less comfortable for those around us.  A pregnant woman is such an undeniable thing - even if it's annoying to get lots of attention, it's also unique to not be trying to blend in to a crowd.  I have to admire the moms who bring this attention on themselves through their fitness actions.  It's not easy to be physically noticed for something other than your beauty, and whether it's "too fat" or "too fit", I think society will always judge us a little bit. 

I doubt I will ever be an internet sensation due to my mom choices.  And luckily, no one in my immediate life has made any super derogatory comments about my working out while pregnant.  But stories like Maria Kang's make me realize how unlikely it is that the anger against women for making their own choices will ever go away.  I have this tentative dream that I'd like to run a marathon within a year of Lil W being born.  I feel lucky that I have a supportive spouse, and will hopefully live near a doting grandmother, both of whom can take care of Lil W while I pursue my own fitness goals.  I also firmly believe that those choices will make me a better mother.  Give me an hour (or two or three on long run days) to escape in to my own fitness world, and I will be happier and better.  Anyone who could question or criticize that is just wrong.  I will continue to exercise because I love my child and want to be around as long as possible for her, but I also love myself and want to take care of me.  I was my own person for 28 years before Lil W became part of my life, and I anticipate that I will continue to be my own person, with a new little Mom hat, for many years to come.

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