Does contemporary fitness in the United States fit in with feminist empowerment narratives, or is it all about the size of your jeans?

Fitness in contemporary society can often be accused of working in diametric opposition to celebratory expressions of physicality. So often, physical endeavors are linked to pursuit of an aesthetic, with no focus on empowerment and strength. The National Eating Disorder Association estimates that ten million Americans suffer from some form of disordered eating. Physical activity has the potential to provide happiness and to celebrate the female body outside of dictates about what it should look like. If strength and movement are beautiful, not punishing, can the field of professional health promotion do a better job of communicating that?

To make wellness a useful construct, one has to deconstruct the vantage point from which it is currently, commonly viewed. Does pursuing self-care really mean color-coordinating sports bras and critically assessing waist size? When promoted in a healthy, feminist fashion, wellness can be a vehicle for individual, community, and social empowerment. One only needs to sit in stillness and take a few deep breaths to innately feel it – wellness is about physical practice. Inherently selfish, personal endeavors, physical motion and meditation provide pathways to connect the external with the internal, and to revel in what can be found in that space.

Our thoughts on the topic in leading Feminist Theory journal Gender Forum are out –

Re-thinking Wellness: A Feminist Approach to Health and Fitness

Written by: Kate Hendricks Thomas, PhD, E-RYT200 & Sarah Plummer Taylor, CHC & RYT500