Tag Archives: feminism

The gym, the f-word and the mama

For me as a mother, besides fighting against racism and sexism, besides homework, besides working with her school on issues large and small, besides cleaning and keeping food in the house–there is my own body.  I know a number of mothers who go to yoga and zumba classes and my sister gets up at a ridiculous hour to go to boot camp.  I do none of it so far.  I do know for many of us women/ mothers– there is a real battle to even get keeping our physical selves in good shape– onto the to-do list.  What I’m trying to say is women’s health is a feminist issue and I am slowly coming to realize that this is an important frontier in my busy, all-female household.

Over the Passover holiday I asked my sister, who was part of the out-of-town Pesach team, to go with me to the gym– where I’d gone exactly once since I started my job in February 2012.  My sister has been very into exercise in the past year or two.  She goes to boot camp and doesn’t do her thing at a gym– she doesn’t even like gyms, but for me, she obliged.  We made several trips to the gym.  That routine fell off the map after she left but will be back on again starting this weekend when I meet with my new trainer.  I am trying to bring some semblance of regular exercise, strength and flexibility back into my life.  I want to be in better shape, I really want to be stronger and much more flexible and I want to model being a woman who does this and who enjoys it– for my daughter and the other young girls in my life.  I want to take better care of my own female body.  For me.

So the other day, I called the male general manager of my gym to clear up something about a few personal training sessions that I bought but haven’t used.  He was very nice, much nicer than the last general manager I had dealt with at that gym.

After we got clarity about personal training sessions I said, “By the way, I’m a woman, I’ve been a gym member for two years now and I really want some of your regular groups and classes centered on people over 45– for strength and stretching and cardio.  I don’t need to be only with people in their 40s and 50s and 60s– but I’m tired of being the only one over 45 in a sea of 20’s and 30’s.”  He still sounded interested and courteous and he said ,  “There’s a class on Tuesdays and Fridays at 9:30 a.m. called, ‘Aging with Elegance'”.  We were on the phone so he didn’t see me wince and roll my eyes.  I think I also actually snorted a little.

In his defense, he sounded like he knew this wasn’t really going to fly when the sentence started out of his mouth but he didn’t have anything else.  I decided I would set aside sarcasm and try to educate him.  He seemed attentive and earnest and was being nice to me.  He had only just begun to seem to me the littlest bit condescending but maybe he didn’t make up the name of the ‘Aging with Elegance’ class.

I said, “Look–I am sort of out of shape, and I could use to shed some weight but I want to give you a picture of where I am in terms of my physical activity level.”  I wasn’t defensive– what do I have to defend?   I said– “I have an 11- year-old daughter and she weighs about 110 and I play-wrestle her often.”  I went on.  “Also, I live on the fourth floor of a walk-up with no elevator (really the 3rd floor, but we park and enter in the basement)– therefore, I carry ridiculous amounts of groceries and laundry; I carry small and not-so-small pieces of furniture of all kinds; cases of seltzer water, potting soil and other things up and down three flights of stairs about every day.  But I’m not a 28-year-old who pumps iron four days a week or runs marathons.”  With that I heard him wince a little and felt him listen with renewed respect.

I paused so he could digest all this.  I closed with, “And one other thing is this.  I work a very full-time job for our legislature and I am definitely not ever available at 9:30 a.m. on weekday mornings.”  I could tell he was embarrassed by the class he had offered and he said he’d think about it and talk to some of their early morning teachers.  He meant he would try to figure out something that might  work for laundry-grocery-trash-hauling-wrestling- moms like me.  Obviously I don’t know where this will go– so we’ll see.  In the meantime I’m heading off to see Trish, my new trainer, on Saturday.  She just had a baby I hear, so she will either be a little on the stiff, sore, exhausted side herself– or she’ll be a remarkable female specimen capable of having a baby and returning to spinning class that same afternoon.  Either way, I hope we’ll like each other and once in a while I’ll write about my progress on this– another feminist project.

Fifty Shades of… Let’s start with this– a feminist comic strip!

A few months ago, I was talking to my very much beloved mom friend, J., about the pros and cons of getting my daughter a Kindle or some other E-reader– which is a gadget she (daughter) wants and which I have not gotten her.  I have debated the purchase in my mind and out loud with my partner, because on the one hand anything that would make the joys of the written word and reading more appealing to my daughter gets a huge five-star review in my mind.  On the other hand, what she has wanted is not a Kindle, but a Kindle Fire with internet connectivity and I wondered if she would use it to read at all or only to find and play games that would distract her and that more importantly I wouldn’t know how to play with her and would never get good at.

In the course of my short discussion with my friend J. — she listened carefully then raised with me the fact that if you give a child a Kindle Fire, which apparently allows you to skip the step of downloading the book via computer and allows you to download directly onto the Kindle itself– that if you go that route, you have less knowledge and less control over what your child is reading.  This was a concern I hadn’t thought of the least, littlest bit.   (Do I sound like someone who has never actually been to Tokyo, awkwardly and vaguely accurately but very off-the-markedly– describing the sights and sounds and how you get from place to place?)   Then she went on to tell me that the 12 year old son of a friend of hers had a Kindle Fire and finally the mom figured out that he was reading Fifty Shades of Grey at which point my friend had to advise me about the nature– as in best seller and the nature– as in soft (or not so soft, from the description) porn– of the book.  Which I’d not ever heard of but which is apparently being read by women by the thousands and more.  Anyway, I came across this comic– this morning as I set out to write a very different post and I loved it.

So, I’m back at the blog.  I am a feminist and I’m proud.  We don’t own a Kindle.  Fire or otherwise.

Adrienne Rich 1929-2012 & what feminist bookstores gave us

I got word last night that Adrienne Rich, our much-needed, beautiful,  female, Jewish, lesbian, mother, U.S., poet-of-conscience, died Tuesday.  I was at work today and I didn’t find an opening to say to my colleagues, “I suspect none of you know her work, but Adrienne Rich died on Tuesday—and know it or not, the world is a poorer place without her. Your world is a poorer place without her.”  Perhaps more importantly I didn’t bring them and read them a poem.  Nor one for you here.  But her death has been on my mind all day.  Through a public hearing that I staffed and while sitting at my desk and while walking around.

For me Adrienne Rich was a poet whose voice I truly relied upon; a teacher, foremother, and sister from afar.  The times (which were quite a few, but once someone like Adrienne is gone, turn out to have been not nearly enough)  that I was in her presence in person date back to the 80’s.  I remember a particular moment, standing in a huge, standing-room-only room at the Memorial Union in Madison, Wisconsin where I was a student– listening to Adrienne read—about being a Jew and then poems from Twenty-One Love Poems—and thinking “I am happy.  Alive.  How lucky, lucky I am to be born in a time and place where I can read and hear this poet.”

I remember arriving home relatively late from work last night to my daughter and partner sprawled on the sofa, reading a very excellent young people’s book about a Chicana girl—a story about racism and classism and family and triumph called, Esperanza Rising,  together.  The phone rang and my daughter answered and handed it to my partner,M.  It became clear that it was my friend Deb—and that someone had died.  Someone in Deb’s small family? I stage-whispered, worrying.   M. shook her head no.  And then she mouthed, Adrienne Rich, and she started to cry.  I have not yet cried.

I remember several times hearing Adrienne read in my partner’s feminist bookstore in the 80’s and 90’s—listening to her words, watching my partner’s careful caretaking of Adrienne (she had rheumatoid arthritis)—and Adrienne’s genuine, spoken, warm affection for bookstores and for feminist bookstores and for feminist bookstore owners and for my partner in particular.  I loved their relationship and I loved listening to Adrienne.

Poetry and poets have been a lifeline for me in times of loneliness and confusion and have also been a source of deep, abiding hope and pleasure and engagement in the best sense, with life and the world, in all it’s harshness and beauty.  Adrienne was typical, to me, of what Jewish women are.  In her case, she was very small in physical stature– and a woman with an enormous mind, command of ideas and language and issues.  She also had a powerful command of the difference, increasingly difficult to discern in this world, between truth and falsity.  And she had a powerful understanding of the interconnectedness of us.

She wasn’t the only–but  she was one significant moral compass for all of us living with and hoping to see clearly and to untangle racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, every day, in our midst, here in the US.  And she brought us words, beautiful and hopeful.

Before I end, I really should say a special thank you here too– to my beloved M. You, my love, did your own labor of love, working with a great vision and with much joy, for so long, for almost no pay.  Your important work of running your wonderful feminist bookstore for so many years.  Adrienne did the writing and you dear, so deeply understood the power of words and the importance to all of us– of bringing Adrienne and other important women writers to me and to some of you who read this and to so many women.  I heard Adrienne do this on more than one occasion and if Adrienne could, she would thank you again one more time.  I do.