Feminist thinkers at Western are giving women in fitness a voice – and now, they’re receiving recognition for it, too.
Western professors Tracy Isaacs and Samantha Brennan were recently nominated as one of OptiMYz magazine’s Top 100 Health Influencers. Their blog, Fit is A Feminist Issue, was ranked fifth for its positive messages and community discussion around issues related to fitness and health.
OptiMYz magazine is a Canadian-owned magazine focused on health, fitness and lifestyle media that encourages active, inspiring and healthy lifestyles. Other nominations for top influencers include dietitian Leslie Beck, Olympian Andre De Grasse, broadcaster and health advocate Marilyn Denis, among other entrepreneurs and leaders in the health community.
Fit is a Feminist Issue started in 2012 when Isaacs and Brennan were both 48 years old and wanted to dedicate a blog to their journey of getting fit by 50. The blog began as a commitment to critiquing diet and fitness culture from a feminist approach.
“We’re philosophers, so we interrogate everything. We wanted to think about how our feminism has influenced how we think about fitness, athleticism, and sport,” said Isaacs, Associate Dean (Academic) in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities who also teaches in the Departments of Philosophy and Women’s Studies and Feminist Research.
The blog now has almost 19,000 followers and features new posts each day. Several guest bloggers contribute regularly, and Isaacs and Brennan, who teaches in Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, is a member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy as well as the graduate faculty in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science, post twice a week. In 2014, the blog’s content shifted towards a more general critique of health and fitness culture, as well as responses to relevant media and news stories.
Fit Is a Feminist Issue first began receiving notice from other media sources from fitness websites such as Spry and Ms. Fit Magazine, who reached out within less than a year. The real turning point for the blog came at the end of 2014, when 1,000 new followers started to pour in every month.
In the winter of 2015, Brennan and Isaacs signed a book deal. Their book will be published Spring 2018. They have also been asked to do talks on their blog’s topics, the most recent being at St. Joseph’s Hospital for the Endocrine Residents Grand Rounds. In the talk, they challenged some of the approaches doctors take in encouraging their patients to lose weight, and suggest motivating patients to find something they enjoy doing, instead of just trying to keep weight off.
The blog started with an outreach that mainly included friends and family. Now, with almost 19,000 followers, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page with close to 8,000 page likes, a community has sprung up around the blog and the topics it covers. Readers are encouraged to share their opinions and personal experiences in the comments and on the Facebook page, where the authors also include posts from other relevant blogs and sources. The writers of the blog posts are diligent about responding to comments and the discussion is lively and inclusive, Brennan and Isaacs explained.
The nomination of a top health influencer in Canada, a book deal and the presence of a community that has sprung up around the blog provides tangible evidence for the influence of the blog and its topics. Most motivating for Isaacs is the audience.
“When you know you have an audience, it inspires you to keep writing,” she said.
The blog’s most popular post “She May Look Healthy, But… Why Fitness Models Aren’t Models of Health” has more than 100,000 hits. It outlines the extreme diets fitness models have to endure leading up to a competition. Many of the blog’s most popular posts are about weight loss and body image.
“Women of any age can relate to a feeling of inadequacy and want to accept themselves as the way they are,” Isaacs said.
With a book coming out soon, and a team celebration planned when they reach 20,000 blog followers, Fit Is A Feminist Issue will continue to feature new articles every day and touch on the issues affecting women in the fitness industry today, she added.