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Jiggling Toward Inclusivity

“Wow. I never knew women could do sports,” K1ngCraft claims. “Get back to the kitchen, you’ve all clearly been eating too much anyway” writes Guy Man. “If they’re doing so much sport and exercise, why are they all SO fat?” questions diablodiablodiablo. The comments go on and on. Many male YouTube commenters question why women even need a campaign such as This Girl Can, when, unfortunately, these men are answering their own questions. Many women feel too ashamed of their bodies to exercise in a public setting, prohibiting them from making positive change and catalyzing an unhealthy emotional and physical cycle.

This Girl Can is a nonprofit based in the UK that “is here to inspire women to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgment is a barrier that can be overcome.” In their main video campaign, women of all races, shapes, and ability levels are featured exercising and enjoying themselves. They are proud of who they are and are proud of their active lifestyles. Whether these women are a size 2 or a size 12, they are all exhibiting confidence and skill in whatever activity they have chosen to partake in.  They are challenging cultural assumptions and breaking down both gender and body norms in the hopes that, in turn, other women will do the same. The #ThisGirlCan campaign is one of the first female health campaigns that strives for an inclusive, encouraging attitude. However, I find the video both empowering and deeply discomforting.

Growing up, I was chubby and insecure. At my twelfth annual checkup, my doctor sat me down and told me it was time to implement change. I was confused and she told me that, “Exercise and healthy eating are not an activity, but rather a mindset or a lifestyle. It should be part of your everyday life and should become routine.” She told me I could start with little things such as walking with my mom and eventually build up to more intense cardio.

So, the next day, my mom and I ventured towards the local reservoir. As we walked, stick-thin women ran by, clad in Lululemon. Many men would turn their heads, gawking at their bodies. To those men, the women running by were not athletes—they were sexual objects who had the ability to exercise. There were two things that left a lasting impression on me from this experience; that the only women running around in this public setting were those of a certain body shape, and the response they received from men.

To this day, I am still not comfortable running outside. I am highly active—I play on both the varsity cross country and basketball teams and spend countless hours honing my skills to be the best teammate and player I can be. I go to the gym often but, despite my athleticism, very rarely choose to run on the treadmill for fear of being ridiculed. It is clear from the YouTube comments on the This Girl Can campaign ad and the responses exhibited by men at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir that my fears and insecurities regarding exercise are not irrational.

My body is my own to critique and nobody else’s. If I want to “jiggle” or if I want my stomach to be rock hard, that is my choice and my choice only. How sad it is that we live in a society in which fat shaming is the norm, in which women need an entire campaign in order to begin to work up the confidence to exercise in public. Like not shaving one’s legs or working in a male dominated work place, choices that women make are solely their own business. As women, we must support one another in this quest to be comfortable in our own skin—whether that requires exercise or not, we must stick together. If we do, we can change the norm from fat shaming to body inclusivity, making the world around us a much kinder, welcoming place. 

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Woman Jogging
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Woman jogging.
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How to cite this page

Sinclair, Maya. "Jiggling Toward Inclusivity ." 24 February 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 14, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/jiggling-toward-inclusivity>.

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