No, You Can’t “Slip” Fitness Into My Life

July 19, 2010 § 5 Comments

by KATIE E.

I was really disturbed to find this article on skirt.com, a website claiming to be pro-woman. The article, titled “5 Ways To Slip Fitness Into Your Daughter’s Life,” claims to be easy ways to encourage a pre-teen or teenage daughter to exercise, but it simply promotes the concept of a parent controlling all aspects of their child’s life. Not to mention the fact that it manages to be sexist, ageist, classist, ableist, and sizeist all in one short article.

The author states in her opening paragraph: “Startling new research has revealed that our kids are spending about eight hours a day in front of electronic devices like computers, TVs and cell phones. This most certainly is contributing to the 17 percent obesity rate for kids in the U.S.”

First of all, she perpetuates the idea that obesity always equals unhealthy, which, I’m sure you’re aware, is false and hateful. That needs to stop, especially in reference to children, as their self-image and self-esteem are often very fragile and still developing. Plenty of heavy children are healthy, and many skinny ones are not.

What really stood out to me, though, was the fact that while she talked about how kids don’t exercise and kids are obese, the article only focuses on females. To me, this seems like a subtle way of promoting the idea that women always need to work to stay skinny and sexy for men. I can also see it promoting the idea that daughters are property that you can do whatever you want with. Male children are not immune to this, of course, but things like purity balls/rings, parental consent for abortion laws, etc., show that females are generally worse off in this department.

The article doesn’t get much better from here. To take it point by point:

1. “Walk the talk.” Require that she pace or walk round the house for at least one hour of her phone or texting time. This can burn almost a calorie a minute.

Sounds nice. Unless you don’t have enough class privilege to afford a cell phone or have an hour of spare time between school and work. Or if your daughter is disabled. Or if *gasp* you have one of those teenage girls who actually has interests outside of texting, like we aren’t all stereotypes!

2. Replace her computer chair with a simple balance ball. It builds core strength and improves posture.

Because stealing the personal property of your children is totally different than stealing that of an adult! Again, note the classism-not everyone can afford a computer or a new balance ball-and the ageist stereotypes-teenage girls spend all their time on the computer.

3. “Plant” items in the TV room, like a mini trampoline, Bosu or hippity hop/balance ball – and require that kids use one of the items for an hour of their TV time. One hour can burn around 150 more calories than sitting.

Do I even need to say it? Classism, ableism, and ageism, right there.

4. Harness her inner entertainer and let her play “So You Wanna Be A Rock Star?” with her friends. She can make her own rock video by picking one by a favorite musician for inspiration and reenacting it. An hour of dancing and singing burns 123 calories.

Because micromanaging what your daughter does with her friends is so normal! And boys never want to be pop stars!

5. Let her give you a “halftime show.” Every time a commercial comes on TV, press the mute button and ask her to give you a floor show. She can sing, dance or act out what just happened in the show she was watching.

Translation: All teenage girls are out-going egoists and aspiring performing artists who love to have all eyes on them. They would never consider being forced to “perform” degrading or humiliating. Also, maybe I’m just reading too much into this, but does anyone else get the creeps reading “give you a floor show?” With the constant objectification of women in society, when I here “give you a show” I automatically think of a sexual performance of some kind. That could just be me, though.

Overall, I find the concept of forcing a daughter to exercise, especially through these ways, to be intrusive, and, as I stated before, promoting the idea of women and children as property. Girls and young women might actually have a good reason for not exercising, and they are capable enough to figure that out on their own. The daughter in question may have an invisible disability the parents don’t know about or fully understand, be too tired from work/school to exercise, or may simply not enjoy traditional exercise. It should be her decision, not something for parents to invade and change.

§ 5 Responses to No, You Can’t “Slip” Fitness Into My Life

  • mirandanyc says:

    “The article only focuses on females. To me, this seems like a subtle way of promoting the idea that women always need to work to stay skinny and sexy for men.”

    Definitely. Growing up, it seemed that chubby boys were often described as “still carrying baby fat” or “going through a phase” — descriptions that are rosy in comparison with the strict language we use to police fat women’s (and girls’) bodies.

    Though society encourages individuals to hate on any and all fat people, in my experience the attitude differs based on the fat person’s gender. Guys should lose weight for themselves, for their “health,” etc., while girls should lose weight to please men (and to please the patriarchy overall).

  • Phoebe says:

    This. Is. BADASS. And right on.
    Welcome!!!

  • Elena says:

    This is extremely aggravating, and you really hit the nail on the head. Especially since it’s the parent’s role to have their daughters excersize, but they are the judges rather than participants. Why isn’t the emphasis on parents excersizing together with all of their children?

  • Okay, I’m totally with you on most of this. These are incredibly creepy ways to make your child exercise, and I think they’re all pretty awful ones, too.

    However. It really depends on how young the young girls are. No, girls are not property, but they are children for at least a little while. And parents are responsible for their children’s health and well-being until those children are old enough to take care of this themselves. Yes, teenaged girls are probably old enough to take care of their personal fitness themselves to an extent, but pre-teens? That can mean as young as ten years old. How many ten-year-olds do you know that are health-conscious? And what about younger girls? Is it objectifying if parents are concerned about their small children’s health and take steps to make sure that their children won’t grow up to have health problems later? I don’t think so. I do agree that these methods are inappropriate for any age, but I think saying that parents showing an interest in their children’s health is too controlling is going a little far.

    Umm…and I hate to point this out, since you probably just used the wrong word, but “obese” is a clinical term used to describe a medical condition in which an individual’s health and life expectancy are negatively affected by an excess accumulation of fat in the body. Obese actually IS unhealthy. Now, saying that any child who isn’t skinny or trim, or any kid who’s a little heavier than the so-called “ideal” is unhealthy is just stupid, but obese? Yeah, that’s what your doctor calls you when you’ve gained enough weight that it’s disrupting your health and your chances of living a long life.

  • katiee says:

    Required reading about the obesity thing:
    http://kateharding.net/faq/but-dont-you-realize-fat-is-unhealthy/

    Other than that, I critiqued the articles focus on girls and implication that children are property. I never said showing an interest in a young child’s health was innapropriate, and I support parents who ENCOURAGE their daughters to exercise, which can be effective. I do not support forcing them to exercise in this way.

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