Fitness is a neglected concept in bioethics but fitness is of key importance to women’s health and well-being. Blogging at Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs have been exploring the connections between women’s bodies, the medicalization of women’s health, and the multimillion dollar fitness industry. Until recently the focus of feminist criticism was on diet and weight loss, while ‘fitness’ was thought to be benign. More recently feminists have been engaging with the rhetoric of fitness as well. Some of the issues discussed show that there are significant impediments to women’s flourishing associated with fitness talk: fat shaming, body image, the tyranny of dieting, the narrow aesthetic ideal of femininity and how antithetical it is to athleticism, the sexualization of female athletes, women and competition, issues about entitlement, inclusion, and exclusion, the way expectations about achievement are gender variable, the harms of stereotyping. Feminists have begun to interrogate the very assumptions about what constitutes “fitness” in the first place. How is fitness connected to ableism and non-disabled privilege? Sport and fitness provide us with microcosms of more general feminist concerns about power, privilege, entitlement, and socialization.
- Is there a role for medical professionals to play in women’s fitness?
- Do the norms of femininity and feminine socialization conflict with fitness?
- Doctors often worry about the suitability of women’s bodies for exercise. How should feminists think about the role medical professionals played in making women’s effort to exercise a matter of serious health concern?
- Pregnant bodies have often been the source of medical policing when it comes to physical activity. Women are told to be sure to exercise, but not too much, and in this way, not in that way, for fear of damaging their unborn child’s health. What critical perspective does a feminist analysis of prenatal fitness bring to bear?
- What should we make of the coercive nature of health claims? Is ‘healthism’ something that ought to be of concern to feminists?
- How should we define fitness? Is a feminist account of fitness possible? What would a feminist account of fitness look like?
- How do we balance the benefits of fitness against the dangers inherent in sport?
- Is fitness an inherently ableist notion, making troubling assumptions and presumptions about disability, normality, normal function, and fitness?