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What we read: January 10, 2020

Oh dear, America realized, “it’s just as bad as we feared.” While the US president is escalating on literally every front, I’m wondering why I’m even continuing to worry about the little thing like whether or not to wear jeans to teach and if the bump on my chin might be the beginning of a spot. It does still matter, of course, kind of—but does it, really? I’m determined not to let the impossible pursuit of women’s beauty standards distract me from the very real things I need to fight for and against. And that starts, for me, by breaking down this week’s news and sharing the good work being done by our fellow compatriots. Come along, spinsters.

First, three fantastic posts to fill your reading list for 2020. Electric Literature posted their fourth annual list of books to look forward to written by women and non-binary authors of color. It’s a great list, and you can also cull the lists from the last three years if you need a book to read right this minute. Second, Bitch Media posted their list of memoirs to read in 2020 and a list of essay collections to read in 2020. I’ve already updated my cart with book preorders.

Reposted this week was the Huffington Post’s article exploring how everything that has been told to us for decades about obesity is 100% wrong. Even though I’m writing a book about eating disorders, which includes a chapter on the myth of the obesity epidemic so none of this information was new, exactly, reading this article made me mad, again. I’m mad that I spent the first 35 years of my life feeling like my body was wrong. I’m mad that my mom has spent her entire adult life believing this myth and inculcating those values in her children. I’m mad that I’ve lost valuable hours where I could have been changing the world worrying instead about my literal bottom line. It is timely to talk about this, since it is the prime season for new year’s resolution “get healthy” and “lose the holiday weight” posts popping up everywhere. Da’Shaun Harrison write about the scam that is diet culture, which explains why the obesity myth is so dangerous and disproportionately impacts persons of color and non-binary and differently abled folx. When body perfection is an ideal, the obesity myth reinforces dangerous neoliberal discourses that tell everyone who doesn’t match the ideal that they are personally failing and/or will never be accepted because they can’t achieve the impossible ideal. And it’s all for nothing.

Of late, awards shows have become the en vogue place for political commentary, and this year’s Golden Globes were no different, as the Australian wildfires prompted numerous comments about climate change. I’m on board with calls to save the environment—how could I not be?—but I found myself wondering how much of these calls to action were evidence of concern about the climate (or, in previous years, about sexual assault or women’s rights, or…) and how many were evidence of an impulse the follow the trend of outrage over a specific issue. From a utilitarian standpoint, I suppose the outcome is the same – more awareness is brought to the issue, in this case, an issue I care about. But, in the case of the deeply privileged individuals speaking up about this Sunday evening, I wonder how they could be more effective in this fight. Are they also donating money? Perhaps providing suggestions with their criticisms would be useful (e.g., we need to focus on the climate now, and here’s how you do it). There is no doubt that we need the voices of the privileged to bring attention to things that disproportionately impact those most marginalized in society, but there needs to be more. If not, it’s just lip service to the trending issue of the day that will be gone by the next award’s season. After writing the above, I read s.e. smith’s piece at Bitch Media about the importance of environmental activism that makes a difference (without a differential impact on minoritized communities) in contrast to trendy environmental activism that signifies a commitment to the environment to others without actually influencing change. The piece provided important insight into my discomfort with the activism expressed at the Globes and put into writing some of my concerns about trendy environmentalist signifiers that I don’t think have an actual impact on our planet’s longevity. It all feels performative. We need performative+action.

Speaking of unsustainable outrage, the BAFTA nominations were announced, and despite a year of excellent films from non-white folx, the nominations were largely for white men and some white women. Did the outrage over the Oscar award nominations being #sowhite have any impact at all on the awards nomination process? These nominations suggest that they did not.

From Jezebel, the desperate trail to safe haven abortions was a well-researched and compelling article that raised my awareness about differences in women’s rights and abortion access across states in the USA. I’m also reading Kate Manne’s Down Girl, and seeing evidence of the impact of misogyny so evident in state policy is stark. Even though Roe v Wade is still legal precedent, the erosion of those rights is evident in differential state laws, state laws that, in some cases, have been upheld by the Supreme Court. While much of this is systemic and structural, with misogyny built into the fabric of the US constitution, some of it can start to be addressed through political elections. It is a critical year to be politically active, and everyone (who can) should vote. I’m not sure how to prevent issue fatigue, especially when everyday brings a new threat, but we can not afford to be complacent. Fight every day.

On the running news front, Women’s Running posted their list of 20 women who made news in 2019 and are accompanying that list with profiles of each woman. The strides being made by women in the sport is inspiring, and I love seeing their hard work and activism recognized.

In running and nutrition news, I’ve written a few times about the problem of scientific research that has been done on 18-22 year-old-men being reported as findings that should be applied to women. That is problematic, as Stacey Sims reported, because women are not small men (although I find that statement reductionistic, too), but the point is that if a dietary or training strategy hasn’t been tested on groups of people who look like me, I should be very cautious about applying that research to my training. One of the biggest recent trends where research indicates that the impacts are less positive and even negative for women are the keto diet and fasting. Take a look at the research, and review the actual studies behind any new fitness fads before jumping in.

And that’s just the first ten days of 2020. I guess we didn’t know how good we had it in 2019?

What good news+important writing did I miss?

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