Monday, June 7, 2021

Women Are No Better

**Contains possibly triggering content related to fad diets, exercise, and weight.**

Underneath anger often lies sadness or fear. Other times, it's an appropriate response to that which is unjust.  -- Anonymous

I should do myself a favor by ignoring the hypocrisy and dishonesty, all the contradictions and inconsistencies that plague social media and the media in general, but what affects me more specifically is the deterioration of running publications. I'd probably spend less time in a state of anger if I could bring myself to look away, but I'm someone who was brought up to always try to do the right thing. Though I'm not perfect in many ways, having integrity is important to me, so when I see those who publicly stretch the truth or intentionally send the wrong message, it bothers me, even when it's something that looks minor on the surface. It would be easy to keep quiet or complain to friends and then move on, but ignoring wrongdoing doesn't feel right. Sometimes, it's better to take some kind of action, and writing is my way of addressing what I see as problematic.

General Dishonesty 

With the Olympics approaching, more people are commenting on the issues athletes face as they prepare to head to Japan where some hospitals are still struggling to treat COVID patients, and government officials are not exactly on the ball when it comes to rolling out the vaccine. Despite the uncertain state of affairs there, some women in the United States are complaining that mothers won't be allowed to bring babies to the Olympic track. If this were a general rule applied in the past and expected in the future, I would understand the upset, but we're in the middle of a fucking worldwide pandemic. That's it. The rule applies to the sons and daughters of all Olympic athletes, coaches, and officials, male and female. Nobody making this rule that isn't set in stone yet did so strictly to punish women, and according to the article people are linking to, "the IOC said requests to bring children will have to be resolved by individual countries’ Olympic committees." In other words, individual cases can be argued. 

The above posts point to a legitimate concern. Erin Strout and Lindsay Crouse are both journalists who remind others on social media that there's a pandemic going on, and rational people wonder if it's a good idea to travel to a place when the CDC is basically advising against it. But...

To note, Aliphine didn't become a mother before she became an Olympian. She qualified and then had her baby. The bigger issue is the contradiction between suggesting that's it's unsafe for the Olympic Games to be held at all, but then demanding the inclusion of babies and kids at the venue. Notice how Crouse leaves out the fact that this ruling is strictly in response to COVID. 

The above tweet is similar in its misleading take. It was in response to the tweet below regarding a volleyball tournament in Colorado. The restrictions were listed under the "2021 Crossroads Current COVID Procedures and Requirements." 

It's 100-percent dishonest to present these situations and omit the fact that the new rules are specifically in response to COVID. Safety precaution suggestions such as wearing a mask and avoiding gathering in close quarters or being in large crowds are fine when it comes to other people, I guess. Whether or not I agree, the rules were clearly visible on the website of the tournament. I can imagine how difficult it must be for new mothers in general and especially during a pandemic, but these guidelines are there for a reason, not to victimize women. Implying these are old rules specific to women is deceptive.

The Weight Game

Obviously, considering my history with an eating disorder, I'm probably going to notice potentially triggering content more than the average person, even if I'm no longer triggered by much, but I would hope that someone who wrote about an athlete who struggled with an eating disorder would be more sensitive. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Nor is it the case when it comes to women's running magazines, though one would hope some backlash might cause those in charge to be at least somewhat sensitive to the women with eating disorders whom they occasionally profile. The linked article is actually a very good one. I would definitely suggest reading it. 

Occasional good content aside, promoting weight loss is still more common than not in women's magazines. Back in the 80s, content in running magazines focused more on training and results. Today, a subscription to Women's Running Magazine offers you tips on diet, fitness, health & wellness, mental health, running, and nutrition, pretty much in that order. A subscription to Runner's world in 2021 offers you "exclusive access to the tools you need to become a better runner."  

From 2013- 2016, Women's Running Magazine was big on pushing diet plans for runners. If you subscribed back then, you would receive "even more weight loss tips!" You still get diet tips if you subscribe today, but they are often disguised as suggestions on how to "manage" your weight. 

In 2016, the magazine posted an article about weight loss that has since been deleted. They linked to it on their Facebook page with a comment about how great the "cough drop trick" is. This comment is referencing a suggestion to suck on a cough drop in order to curb your hunger. Think about that for a minute. In a world in which people like Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Tracy Tylka, Susie Orbach, and Geneen Roth encouraged or legitimized some form of intuitive eating long before the year 2000, a women's running magazine was publishing garbage fad diet tips in 2016, and they haven't stopped. Today, you can get advice about clean eating, diet and meal plans of all kinds, and lessons on how to eat a certain way or remove certain food groups. With all the information coming out about RED-S, does it make sense that an athlete should be trying to lower her appetite, especially after exercise? There can be serious health consequences from not eating adequately to fuel your activity level. 

In 2020, an article was published that taught readers how to manage their appetite, but if you look at the link, you can see it initially said "lower" appetite: 

Regarding tips to manage the out-of-control beast that is your hunger, the article states, "If you're feeling hungrier after increasing your training, it may be worth trying a few out to lower your appetite." Read that again. The idea is that if you increase your training and have the natural response of increased hunger, you should try to control that shit. I don't care that there are some additional sensible bits of information sprinkled throughout the rest of the article; I care that the bigger message to women is stated right there in the first paragraph: Don't trust your body. God forbid you end up giving in to your hunger. But body positivity! Just suck on a cough drop if you get hungry. Christ. 

Occasionally, a really good article will emerge among the typical reads that support diet culture. In 2021, they contradict their "control your appetite or all hell will break loose" stance with a much more sensible take about intuitive eatingManaging your weight is the new weight loss, though, and losing weight still seems to be the goal, even if you're cautioned to lose the weight sensibly. When the article is about mental health, there still have to be several mentions about the benefits of weight loss. In short, magazines, even those about running, always seem to showcase a mess of contradictory articles regarding weight, and tips about eating this or that way are constantly shoved in the faces of readers. It's almost funny that lists of articles about how and what women should eat are followed by one that suggests, "Can we just get back to how we innately learned to eat before there were any rules around our food and food choices?"

How does anyone sort through all of this contradictory bullshit? If you want diet advice of any kind, go see a registered dietitian. That's my advice.

It shouldn't be surprising that women's running magazines also present information on eating disorders, but it's odd that journalists who cover stories about those who struggle can't seem to understand what could be considered triggering content by the very individuals they profile. 

Strout, Erin

A constant focus on weight and size, jokes about binge eating, or suggestions about training that could easily be considered detrimental to anyone struggling with compulsive exercise are not helpful. In fact, it's insulting to that particular audience. I probably wouldn't address any of this if writers didn't aim to reach a specific audience. They want to be free to say whatever the fuck they want to get a few laughs or likes, any kind of attention, but also pretend to give a shit about those of us who struggle with eating disorders, compulsive overtraining, fear of not training, and body image. These types encourage fear around issues related to training, diet, and body, and they don't care to change or even acknowledge that what they are doing is harmful to some of their targeted audience members. 

Who Gets Support

I don't really like torturing other writers or being the critic's critic, but sometimes what I see makes me want to yell, "Don't make me be a bad guy!" I don't actually believe that calling out other people is bad, but it forces me to take a stance opposite that of the main running journalists and their followers. And these days, when you call out anyone, you automatically become the bad guy, even if you don't pop a guy's eye out of his fucking head. There's an old saying a friend shared with me, though, that if you don't want people to write criticisms about you, behave in a way that doesn't invite it. In other words, don't lie, don't cheat, and don't be an asshole.

I've already addressed transgender athletes, and Kevin Beck beat me to the punch when it comes to pointing out how journalists often skew the facts regarding intersex athletes. It's dishonest to address athletes who are intersex and fail to mention that the "genetic condition where she produces testosterone in higher levels than what is considered the normal range for women" is due to her XY chromosomes and the likely development of internal testes. Why would anyone leave that part out but to try to dupe her audience? Hell, the linked article doesn't even mention that Semenya is an intersex athlete. I'll repeat a quote from Amby Burfoot when he stated, "All clear-thinking individuals believe that transgender women and men should receive the same social, cultural, educational, financial, etc, rights as others. Not all agree about athletic rights." I would say the exact same about intersex athletes. I honestly don't have the answer when it comes to how to be 100 percent inclusive in sports without being unfair to either women or to intersex and transgender athletes, but intentionally misleading reporting is definitely not going to help. 

It's easy to want to support professional athletes no matter what their gender. Athletes work hard and most set a good example. Unfortunately, most professional runners don't make a living wage. Things have improved from the time I was running when we couldn't accept a dime or sponsorship, but if you're not among the very best of the best and even if you are, you might struggle financially. What's difficult to understand is the mad rush to support and sponsor influencers over athletes. Considering it's more about money, it's a little easier to grasp, but I don't get the overwhelming support around one influencer in particular who has lied, bullied others, and has suggested that she's in it for the money. When there are so many people in the world who actually want to help others and live an honest life, the crazy dash to fall all over someone who has no problem threatening others is bizarre. Seriously, how often does Latoya's name come up in articles, despite the fact that she is often the bully who plays the victim? 

Latoya Snell

Latoya Snell

Derek of Marathon Investigations is someone who has been criticized for simply calling out cheaters. He has also been praised by those who don't appreciate cheaters wrecking a sport. Unfortunately, he is also someone who has been harassed and bullied online, and he has been honest about how difficult it is to receive emails and comments relating to a situation in which someone took his own life. 

Below is a response from Latoya to Kevin Beck on Twitter. If you don't see how terrible this is, there's something really wrong with you. Who does more damage, someone pointing out that another person cheated, or someone really digging into a person's psyche by publicly throwing out false allegations in an attempt to shame him? Derek and Kevin aren't the ones who need to do better in this case, but despite this instance of clear bullying and another in which she told a person that she would "walk his dentures from his face", she's still sponsored by Hoka One One. Go fucking figure. 

Latoya Snell

In conclusion, it's really hard to stomach a lot of what goes on in the world today. Running used to be a way for me to escape or cope. As difficult and painful as my relationship to the sport has been, I still love it on some level. I just don't like seeing some of the more grotesque aspects of it like the dopers, the cheaters, the liars, and the bullies. I never thought running would be like this. I have to continually remind myself to look to those who are still inspiring and honest. They do exist. In fact, even though I have no real ties to New Hampshire, something that brought me great joy was watching the videos that put out. It's unfortunate they don't get more attention, but that's another story

1 comment:

  1. There is no question that everyone involved in turning running magazines into a joke realize how damaging and flat-out dishonest their behavior is. It is only a matter of the degree to which individual actors either celebrate this journalistic acid-bath outright (the inherent dirtbags like Latoya) or "merely" enable it (basic moral cowards who want to keep their jobs without dealing with any fuss).

    And someone shouldn't have to appreciate what running mags used to be like to grasp that lying, blatant self-contradiction, "silent edits," and so on are intrinsically inappropriate things to do or co-sign.

    Everyone will ultimately try to let themselves off the hook--even to themselves--by pretending that they were just going along with Wokism because they really believed it was about positive social change, not the obvious race-card profiteering of scumbags, an excuse for self-loathing middle- to upper-class women (including Ben Chan) to project their personal insecurities onto "structural oppression," a chance for anti-white racists and male-bashers to get in a few licks without consequence, and most of all a way for Outside/Pocket Whatever-the-Fuck and others to cash the Christ on in while the Wokish party lasts.

    Many of these same assholes rant about Nike for exploiting slave labor, about megacompanies like Amazon and Wal-Mart making money at the expense of social well-being, etc. while completely embracing shitty business practices of their own.

    They are willing to make a dollar on the back of an immoral movement while inflaming anyone with a conscience and shielding themselves from criticism with passive-aggressive actions, deleting tweets, and plain old hiding. And because so many neurotic and stupefied Gen Zers and Millennials are okay with this (seriously, how many people over 40 besides Alison Wade do you see pushing, or even approving of, this crap?), the status quo will continue until cultural forces, not character-driven forces, eventually damp it out.

    I may never be popular, but concerning all of this bullshit, I will have a clear conscience. It's a very easy choice for me but evidently a supreme challenge for a discomfiting percentage of the running (and at-large) population.