Our #ThisIsActive Q+As are part of an ongoing series to show how plus size women live their active lives. Share your active life with us on social media by using #ThisIsActive on Instagram or send your story to social @ junoactive.com for a chance to be featured.
Samantha Brennan, along with co-author Tracy Isaacs, is the author of the new book Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey. Samantha is Dean of the College of Arts at the University of Guelph, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. As an academic, Brennan has broad ranging research interests in contemporary normative ethics, applied ethics, political philosophy, children’s rights and family justice, gender and sexuality, death, and fashion.
In addition to her interests in parenting and in philosophy, Brennan is also an avid cyclist (road mostly) who also likes to move heavy weights around in the gym. She blogs about feminism and fitness at Fit is a Feminist Issue, a blog she co-founded with Tracy Isaacs.
1. What inspired you to write Fit at Mid-Life?
The story begins with a Facebook post. At the age of 48 I said I wanted to be the fittest I’d ever been in my life by the time I turned 50. Tracy chimed in and said she did too. We’d been friends who had been talking about fitness for more than 20 years and so the “fittest by 50” challenge started us not just on a fitness journey together but also on a conversation about what it means to care about fitness as a feminist. We were both really tired of the same old messaging about fitness. “Lose weight, look great, blah, blah, blah.” Contemporary fitness culture is obsessed with thinness. So much so that people think that looking ‘fit’ and looking ‘thin’ are the same thing. This focus on weight loss and on feminine disciplinary beauty practices made fitness ripe for feminist critique. That’s one of the things we do in the book. We were also ready for a new approach. So we talked and we blogged and invited others into the conversation at htttp://www.fitisafeministissue.com. We wrote the book because we both wanted to share a message about body positive, inclusive fitness. We encourage people, to think in terms of joyful movement, and to think in terms of celebrating what our bodies can do.
2. What is the book about?
A uniquely feminist approach to how women can break free from what society thinks and get active in their forties, fifties, and beyond.
3. Why do you think it’s important to stay active, no matter your age?
Physical activity, whether that’s dancing or rock climbing or playing soccer with your grandkids, can be a source of pleasure in our lives. Thanks to all the focus on weight loss and appearance lots of women come to think of fitness activities as a duty, rather than a source of joy. Thanks to all the gender based restrictions on women’s movements (don’t look too sexy, don’t look too sweaty, don’t get muddy, don’t be so aggressive) lots of us never get the chance to connect with our inner athletes. We’re missing out!
4. Tell us a bit about your background and why you’re interested in writing about fitness.
My four word bio on Twitter is “Philosopher, feminist, ethicist, cyclist.” I’ve been in love with riding my bike for years. And I’m also an active outdoorsy person. I got interested in writing about fitness once I realized how many women feel that physical activity isn’t for them. Tracy and I both cried when we read about women in the UK exercising in backyard sheds because they don’t feel their bodies should be seen moving in public. Likewise, in North America we hear of women running at night (even though it’s less safe) because they don’t look like runners. We both feel the need to get the message out that physical activity isn’t about disciplining your body. Success isn’t measured by the tape measure or the scale.
What would you like to see change in terms of how we talk about our bodies in society?
Um, where to start? We could start by putting an end to men yelling at fat women who are exercising outdoors. I’ve been called “fat b****” more times than I can count. Or we could stop objectifying women athletes and talk about their performance rather than their looks. We could stop using “fit” as a synonym for “thin.” We could stop thinking and talking about our bodies as unruly things to be tamed, as works in progress, as improvement projects.