Please welcome today’s guest writer, Morgan Anderson (’19). Morgan triple majored in English (writing), strategic communication, and Spanish. She’ll probably end up living in Chicago, IL. If the whole job thing works out, that is. You’ll most likely find her riding her bike to the nearest coffee shop to fill up on scones and overpriced coffee.
Let’s take a hop, skip, and a jump back in time to June 5. I was scrolling through yoga deals at a local hot yoga studio (the Funky Buddha). $39 for a month of unlimited classes. Tempting.
I’m recently graduated, job hunting, saving up for a trip to Europe, only working part-time right now, living in Grand Rapids for just a couple more weeks before my lease is up… Maybe I should wait.
But, if I went at least eight times in the remaining couple weeks I have left, it would cut down the price to less than $5 a class.
No, no, I should definitely wait.
I’m not a super yoga-y person. Sure I’ve been going to community yoga classes, every once in a while. Maybe I do enjoy hot yoga, even if I end up sweating like it’s Mexico in July. But do I consider myself a “yogi”? Nah
You should also know that I’m a runner. I ran the Grand Rapids marathon this past fall, and ran the Metro Health Riverbank Run 25k this May. But I’ve been experiencing pain in my left heel for the past month. So I’ve reluctantly cut down my weekly long runs of 13-15 miles to 8-10 miles. Most likely, it’s a sign of overuse, of not incorporating enough cross training to strengthen my body and let it sufficiently recover from runs. That and a healthy dose of bad luck.
In other words, I’m like a bike with air leaking from the wheels. If the wheels aren’t patched, I won’t be able to last in the long run.
But, giving up running is hard. One aspect I enjoy is the mental clarity. Running clears your thoughts, allowing you to accept the finitude of your limits; you can’t do everything and that’s ok. But do what you can wholeheartedly.
Another aspect is the physical benefit. I like being strong, athletic, having full use of motion. I enjoy the privilege of trusting my body to support my active lifestyle. I also like being fit.
Does that phrase feel veiled? It should.
I used to be a competitive gymnast. If you know anything about gymnastics, the training is extremely rigorous, includes lots of flips, and wearing a skin-tight leotard. In eighth grade, I competed in Level 6, practicing twelve hours a week. In high school I was on the varsity team (fifteen hrs/week) and acutely aware of how my body looked in comparison to my thinner, willow-ier teammates.
Now, this mentality isn’t entirely my fault. Mainstream culture permeates our lives with copious and often conflicting ideas on what femininity should be. It takes active resistance in order to assert one’s own body positivity.
But to be fair, there is progress in recent years. Brands such as Dove, Aerie, and Nike to name a few have been more actively participating in body positivity campaigns. This consists of including more diverse models, vowing not to retouch or Photoshop their models.
On contributing cause of women body and beauty standards is the infantilization of women in advertising. We see this in advertising as women dressed to become more childlike, presented as little girls. Signs of this are pouty lips, hands in mouth, dressed like young girls, hiding behind objects, smooth legs and armpits of prepubescent girls, over-valuing lithe body types of prepubescent girls.
The documentary “The Codes of Gender,” written and directed by Sut Jhally addresses this issue of infantilization. It concludes that the infantilization of women ties womanhood and childhood too closely together, while young girls are pushed too close to womanhood too soon. Basically, it undermines the maturity of women and contributes to the sexualization of girlhood. With this perspective, the USA gymnastics sex abuse scandal with Larry Nassar suddenly and unfortunately does not seem outlandish anymore.
Also, the New York Times article begins “In a sport where girls are militarily broken down physically and emotionally…” In gymnastics, body and beauty standards are the tip of the iceberg.)
I’ve never considered myself thin or willowy, but am I self-conscious about my body type? Yup. Do I feel more confident about my body in a sports bra than in a dress? Yeah. Do I want to be considered athletic and stereotypically, relatively attractive? Yes. Does running help boost my self-confidence? You betcha.
Perhaps now you can see why, even though my foot is potentially developing into a long-term injury, I’m extremely apprehensive about easing up on running.
But apprehension be damned; I bought the yoga membership at 12:24 a.m. Later that morning June 6, I was so excited I woke up, ate breakfast, and started driving only to realize it was 2:45 a.m. and not 5:45 a.m. (I went back to bed, and later went to the 6 a.m. class. Which was sweaty and lovely by the way, thank you for asking.)
It takes active resistance in order to assert one’s own body positivity.
Women must not forget this as long as we continue to dodge a culture booby-trapped with double standards.
In this season of my life, going to yoga and easing up on running is my form of resistance and asserting body positivity. Resistance might take on a different form in your own life.