Feminism, Fitness and Me

I consider myself a left leaning, feminist. I like socialism, equality and justice. I regularly give thanks to my female ancestors for the work they did to enable me to be the independent woman I am today. I also thank my male ancestors for being progressive enough to know their wives and daughters were not just baby making house keepers. Being a mother, parenting and lifestyle is important to me, right now because I’m living it.

I was born in 1983, both of my parents born in the late 1950s. My parents both worked full time during my early childhood and I realise now in retrospect that this in itself was something quite unusual, considering only ten years earlier, had my mother and father had me, my mother would have had to give up work.

My family was always progressive. When I was a small child, it was never expected of me that I would get married and have babies. We were always told that we could go to university to get a degree, that we could go to TAFE and get an apprenticeship. My cousins and I would play games where we were doctors, school teachers, train drivers, fire fighters, police officers, hairdressers, super heroes, mothers and fathers, you name it. Not one of us were told that we couldn’t be anything we wanted to be.

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Obviously, women are still not equal in terms of pay and working conditions. I have given it a lot of thought as to why I think this is the case and also why I don’t believe women will ever be one hundred percent equal. It all comes down to babies.

I have multiple qualifications, including a degree, however I do not work full time. Not working full time is a choice my husband and I have made, however this greatly impacts on my earning capacity and also my retirement fund. Women tend to work in industries where there is the flexibility for part time or casual employment so that they may be there with their children as they are growing up. The unfortunate truth about these industries is that they do not earn the money that our male counterparts would earn working full time in an industry that does not offer part time or casual employment.

We may not ever be able to change this. I understand that businesses cannot afford to pay for people employed part time to earn the same as full time workers. That isn’t what I’m suggesting here.

One thing that I have noticed about feminism recently is that some people have quite extreme definitions of feminism. For me, feminism has no rules. There is no club for feminists with inductions and monthly meetings. We don’t have membership cards or a secret handshake. I see other women and I’m happy to know that they have the freedom to make their own decisions and choices in the world. Especially when it comes to their parenting and lifestyle choices.

Even though Australia certainly has its flaws in terms of legislative equality for marriage in the LGBTI community, there is also currently a bill before New South Wales state parliament that inadvertently threatens to remove easy access to abortion; Australia is a pretty free place to live. We have the right to vote, in fact it’s compulsory for all Australian citizens who register over the age of 18. We are not forced into marriage as teenage or prepubescent girls. We are able to work if we choose. We are allowed to drive. We are able to continue working after we get married or have children. We can wear a bikini to a shopping centre if we choose to. We have freedom of faith, whether this means believing in a church or not or wearing the religiously significant symbols of that church. Women are not shamed or shunned anymore for not being married or not being married before having children. We have even had our first elected female prime minister, an unmarried, atheist who did not have children of her own. We have had female state premiers, we currently a female Governor General, female chief executive officers etcetera, showing Australian girls of the future that there is no position impossible based in your gender.

Being a parent in my early thirties, working, I try to be open minded about choices other people make for themselves and their families. This is how I’m a feminist. Those choices range from how they deliver the baby, how they feed that child, to how they feed themselves and which lifestyle they choose to adopt. Whether or not they choose to have babies even. For me, feminism is allowing women the choice to live however they want, not how society pressures them to live.

Just recently a woman named Maria Kang posted this photo on her website:

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This one picture started thousands of conversations among women, about whether Maria Kang was being offensive or not. About whether she was inspiring to women or fat shaming them. About whether she has had plastic surgery or she digitally corrects her images to gain ‘perfection’.

I read passionate replies in response to her polarising photograph. That she is inspiring to all women, not just mothers. That she is fat shaming women, expecting them to think that her look was ‘perfection’. That she was not a good mother because she obviously spends all of her day exercising and not with her small children. That she is an inspiration for all people as she proves that you can have a busy working lifestyle and one which is healthy. The comments went on and on. However the ones that stood out for me were how she was not a good mother and how she made ‘fat’ people feel bad.

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It seems it was her headline What’s Your Excuse that most people had a problem with. They said it was inflammatory, that she doesn’t have the right to decide who’s excuse is valid or invalid. I’m still scratching my head over the whole ‘bad mother’ thing. In fact I’m offended for her.

Eve Vawter is the editor of mommyish.com and describes herself as a feminist. She wrote this article in response to the ‘fat shaming, bad mum’ accusations thrown at Maria Kang

“Meanwhile, back in the world of everywhere we never see men with strong bodies posing with their babies and being told they are BAD DADS for working out”

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Where is the mens fighting about his dad abilities. He has all the muscles and the child is being carried dangerously, damn it!

Just this small example alone proves that there is much more work to be done for feminism in our society. My feminism means I don’t have a care factor at all over what Maria Kang does with her body or her family. Her kids look happy, I assume they are loved, not neglected or abused. Isn’t that what is important here?

Spawning this argument, I came across a new term called Fitshaming. Clever, I think. I’m one of those people who facetiously and shamelessly post on my personal Facebook and Twitter every time I’ve completed a run. When I participate in fun runs, I post photos and multiple statuses about my achievements for the day. Because you know, if you don’t post about it on social media, the workout means nothing!

Fitshaming as a term has come about because people who do post their achievements online are now getting a backlash from others. Our society has become such a micro-society on social media that there seems to be little unwritten rules about what is appropriate to Tweet or post on Facebook.

Where does feminism fit into all of this? It’s women who overwhelmingly have complained online about Maria Kang’s photo. It’s women overwhelmingly who are Maria Kang’s target audience. Can you see the problem here? Women are the ones who are fighting among each other when they should be the ones supporting each other’s right to choose their lifestyle.

I started my weightloss/healthy lifestyle on January 5, this year, you may remember this . I primarily started because I was obese with a BMI of 32, but also because I was in such a bad headspace with depression, PTSD and anxiety, that I was desperate to feel better. Just about everyone knows this, so I admit I have not had any personal negativity from others, toward my personal achievements. I now have my BMI down to just over 25, so I’m still classed as overweight, but my new lifestyle means that I’m not going to stop once I reach my goal.

My exercise and healthy lifestyle does not make me a bad mother. I actually think it’s improved my parenting. My daughter and I get outside in the fresh air and sun. We can play together now without me being out of breath or so uncomfortable sitting on the ground that I can only tolerate it for a few minutes. I’m showing her that healthy living is the key to happiness. That fast food is an okay sometimes food, but just like my car needs a certain kind of petrol to run properly, if I put the wrong fuel in, the engine won’t perform well consistently.

Isn’t that the message Maria Kang is giving in her photo? Treat yourself well, live a healthy lifestyle, love life. No excuses.

Where are all the feminists? Why are we only allowed choice if that choice is to be the same as everyone else? Why is there such a divide between women, we should be joining forces together to create a feminist society where women and men are given equal opportunity to be whoever they choose to be.

You can follow me on Facebook Have a great week!

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