On Being Naked



Is being naked a potentially radical and fulfilling act? Of course. What about posting clothing-less pictures of yourself online? Not so much, especially if you are a woman. Such photos are likely to reinforce the sexist status quo by portraying the female body as an objectified lump of passivity in need of judgement by trolls and everyone else. So why did I include pictures of me wearing only a g-string in my recent book, which will soon be available in both digital and print formats? (http://www.sunypress.edu/p-5981-feminist-figure-girl.aspx). Good question.   Continue reading

Listen to Fitbabe and FFG


This post features the voices of Fitbabe and FFG.

First hear Fitbabe discuss her fitness career and philosophy with Jay Scott at Full Disclosure Fitness. Listen to the podcast here: http://fulldisclosurefitness.com/fdf-072-deanna-harder-i-discuss-fitness-mindset-more/

Then tune in to hear FFG speak about body image with Gianmarco Visconti on CJSR Radio, the student station at the University of Alberta: https://soundcloud.com/cjsrfm/beauty-brains-and-brawn

The Politics of Fitness (Warning: Canadian Content. Sorry)


When healthy is conflated with wealthy.

When healthy is conflated with wealthy. Miranda Kerr, supermodel.

Normally I use the term “politics” in the broadest sense, to analyze how everyday interactions are produced within dynamics of power (i.e. visual politics, sexual politics, body politics). Fitness is certainly political in this way, especially now that it is increasingly linked with elite forms of consumption. Just look at how fashion model Miranda Kerr poses for a supposedly candid “healthie” that shows her working out in a luxurious beach home with a personal trainer. IMHO both of them should be doing legs instead of bis, but that is neither here nor there. This image directly links Kerr’s “healthy” lifestyle with privilege. It also rejects and remakes the conventions of a gym selfie, something I am tempted to say more about. I recently revised an article about gym selfies for a scholarly journal, railing against the way in which scholars lump all fitness images together and never look closely at them. This post is, however, more banal. It considers how politicians associate themselves with health and fitness as part of their election campaigns. Continue reading

Is Body Image Overrated?


Are these bodies "really" that diverse? Dove Real Beauty Campaign Ad.

Are these bodies “really” that diverse? Dove Real Beauty Campaign Ad.

In her book Becoming Women: The Embodied Self in Image Culture (2014), Carla Rice reconfirms the commonsense notion that North American popular culture—filled with images of thin white women—damages women’s self-esteem by sending narrow messages about what women should look like. Because the mass media’s standard of beauty excludes 99% of ladies, it encourages them to develop such issues as body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Rice predictably lobbies for more diverse pictures of women. About a decade ago she served as a consultant to Dove, helping that company develop its “Real Beauty” advertising campaign. It was begun in 2004 after surveys revealed that only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful. Rice urged Dove to appeal to women’s desire for acceptance rather than judgement, admitting that the final (highly controversial) advertisements continued to feature attractive women with flawless skin.

Jo Spence and Tim Sheard, Exiled, 1989. From Narratives of Dis-ease (1989).

Jo Spence and Tim Sheard, Exiled, 1989. From Narratives of Dis-ease (1989).

Yet Dove was late to the party. For decades artists and scholars have intervened in dominant image culture, offering alternative images of fat, sick, differently abled, and lesbian bodies, among others. Artist Jo Spence is well known for scrawling “Monster” across her chest, taking photographs of her cancer treatments in an effort to reclaim and de-medicalize her suffering body. Such transgressive images are much more effective than those produced by Dove, though they have less popular circulation.

While I agree that the current beauty standard is ridiculously limiting, and support the display of diverse female bodies, I think that image culture receives too much attention and has in fact become a scapegoat for women’s body problems.  Continue reading

From Sexy to Safe: How Being Fat Might Save My Life (Guest Post by Crystal Fraser)


Crystal 2007: Slim and Sexy in Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Crystal Fraser

Crystal 2007: Slim and Sexy in Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Crystal Fraser

I was walking down a dark bike path, cell phone in hand, noting the sound of every step and scuffle strangers made on the cold, wet pavement. I was in Ottawa undertaking the final phase of my archival research for my PhD dissertation and this was the evening of a particularly long and intense day; we had been in lockdown in a federal building after the murder of Nathan Cirillo and the dramatic events that unfolded at Parliament’s Centre Block. On uber-high alert, I consistently reminded myself why I needed to pay such close attention to every detail of my surroundings. “Okay self. First: last news update. There may be suspects still at large. Fuck. Second: You are an Indigenous woman and statistically have a one-in-three chance of being sexually assaulted. Fuck. Third: No one better mess with me. I have an umbrella, a set of keys, and a large purse and I am not afraid to use them. Double fuck.” Trying to dismiss all of the above, I attempted to rationalize the uncertainty of my situation. “Listen here self: you don’t have to worry about that strange man walking behind you. You’ll be safe you cause you are FAT! Hahahaha – joke is on him! Wait…what?” Continue reading

Five Fitness Mistakes I am Going to Stop Making Right Now


1. Bitching to My Personal Trainer

An intense plyo circuit releases sweat and produces endorphin rushes. It also makes me spew verbal diarrhea. I typically begin by moaning about my physical aches and pains. “I don’t like to complain, but… my Achilles, my upper back injury, my left hip…yadda yadda yadda.” Then I moan about my personal life. “I love my baby, but…my exhaustion, my laundry, my empty fridge…blah blah blah blee blah.” Why on earth do I do this? Continue reading

My Birth Story (Warning: Vaginas will be mentioned)


Me at 7.5 months pregnant. I worked out regularly, until two days before my water broke.

Me at 7.5 months pregnant. I worked out regularly, until two days before my water broke.

It started just before midnight on Saturday January 25, 2014. I was in a state of panic, frantically searching for my cell phone while amniotic fluid poured out of my body, leaving trails across the bedroom carpet. The bed was already soaked when I sat down to text the following message to my partner: “My water just broke. Come home and drive me to the hospital.” After a few minutes, I added: “I am not joking.” “Holy crap,” he responded. “Cashing in my chips and on my way.” “Are you drunk?” I bluntly asked. “No” was his one word reply. He later told me that he was indeed a bit tipsy, enjoying his last night out as a free man. Continue reading

The Feminist Conspiracy


Real feminists hate babies!

Hey wait a minute…. Real feminists hate babies, don’t they? And what’s up with that nail polish, missy?

I am standing in line for the “family bathroom” at Southgate Mall, waiting to use the nursing chair. Although I am pretending to be relaxed—chatting with the mother of a one-month old son—I am in fact terrified. Are there any feminists about? I scan the crowd for the tell-tale signs of bra-less tits, angry fists raised in the air, and armpit hair. Continue reading

ASK A TRAINER # 24: “Can I Lose Fat during a 20 Minute Workout?”


zzzzzzzz lift and bitch 033Ask a Trainer Question of the month!

Hey D! I just read your last post on Lianne’s blog about belly fat. Now there is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I had an idea for another topic, although I’m sure you already have thousands; it is something I’ve always wanted to know: “Do you need to exercise for more than 30 minutes at a time to burn fat?” There are so many different time saving exercise programs out there now, like Tabata, 20 minute interval training etc. As a busy mom, I’m intrigued by this concept of the shorter workout, but am not sure that it would actually burn fat.

Thanks D,

Continue reading

Getting Back into Shape


It's all my fault.

It’s all my fault.

It’s hard not to get upset when you start back at the gym after a prolonged period away. I was off for two full months while recovering from a caesarean section, forbidden by my doctor from lifting anything over ten pounds. I was inclined to follow his advice after reading online descriptions of post-partum women who had ripped their stomachs open by training too soon after surgery. Although I had worked out seriously until I was 8 months pregnant, and then in a somewhat lame-ass way until two days before giving birth, I was shocked by how quickly my fitness level declined. Previously I had done shitloads of full chin-ups, but now I am back on the assisted pull-up machine, managing five sets of five slowly with 50 pounds of weight counterbalancing me. And as for full push-ups? Forget it. I have returned to my knees. How the mighty have fallen. It is truly humiliating.

Continue reading

My Eating Disorder: Post by Deanna Harder, aka Fitbabe


Deanna Harder looking gorgeous during her last Figure competition. Photo and caption by FFG.

Deanna Harder looking gorgeous during her last Figure competition. Photo and caption by FFG.


Just eat.

How hard is that? Food is fuel silly.

If it were only that easy. I hate being hungry. I really hate being full. I am afraid of food. But food is fuel, right?

 When people are afraid of food they have strange eating patterns. We will decide, for example, that there are six foods that are safe. At least, that is what I did. Continue reading

Five Unsolicited Comments Made to a Pregnant Lady


I'm walking as fast as I can!

I’m walking as fast as I can!

Pregnancy has not changed my life that much, so far. It has, however, attracted more than a few remarks from both acquaintances and strangers. My increasingly evident belly—I am scheduled to give birth by induction in only a few days—leads people to believe that they know something about me and my future. While I vowed not to blog too much about my “ladylike” pregnancy (i.e. it is conformist in a way that reminds me of Edwardian pantaloons), I have a few funny incidents that I cannot resist sharing with you. Continue reading

Guest Post: Male Entitlement and the Pregnant Female Body


Figure 1 Travelling Alone While Pregant Invites All Kinds of Unwanted Attention [http://www.tallinn-airport.ee/upload/Editor/Reisijale/ lapseootel_reisija.jpg]

Figure 1 Travelling Alone While Pregant Invites All Kinds of Unwanted Attention [http://www.tallinn-airport.ee/upload/Editor/Reisijale/

By Hissy Fit

After attending two conferences in as many weeks, I have learned that strangers, especially white men, feel entitled to make unsolicited comments about women’s pregnant bodies.

These men can be from all walks of life – hotel staff, airplane travelers, and conference acquaintances.  Yet no matter their position, when they see a pregnant woman working or traveling alone, their response is to (a) notice the woman’s belly; (b) make a remark about it; and (c) engage in unwelcome behaviour. Continue reading

The Tanned and Butt Ugly: Photos I Cannot Resist Showing You


This gallery contains 32 photos.

After finishing my book, which is now in the hands of external referees, I realized that many photographs—taken by the incomparable artist and designer Patrick J. Reed—could not be included in it. I think his images offer feminist interventions in the often heteronormative, … Continue reading