One reaction: “If white people did something, it means it was white supremacy!”
Olivia Waxman at Time interviewed Natalia Mehlman Petrzela about her book Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America’s Exercise Obsession.
Here’s the thing, though. One part of the interview mentions white supremacy. The rest…isn’t bad.
But of course, Time emphasizes white supremacy in the title!
I want to apologize for participating in white supremacy this week by getting back into my workout regimen.
TIME Magazine tries to top The Babylon Bee by arguing the "white supremacist origins of exercise." The ratio on this one is glorious, my friends. https://t.co/JC3ZFecrXl
— Not the Bee (@Not_the_Bee) December 29, 2022
The White Supremacist Origins of Exercise, and 6 Other Surprising Facts About the History of U.S. Physical Fitnesshttps://t.co/SRwSLRpnCV
— TIMEHistory (@TIMEHistory) December 28, 2022
I hope Mehlman Petrzela cites this tidbit in her book because she didn’t in the interview:
It was super interesting reading the reflections of fitness enthusiasts in the early 20th century. They said we should get rid of corsets, corsets are an assault on women’s form, and that women should be lifting weights and gaining strength. At first, you feel like this is so progressive.
Then you keep reading, and they’re saying white women should start building up their strength because we need more white babies. They’re writing during an incredible amount of immigration, soon after enslaved people have been emancipated. This is totally part of a white supremacy project. So that was a real “holy crap” moment as a historian, where deep archival research really reveals the contradictions of this moment.
So not only white supremacy but to make women baby machines.
However, Mehlman Petrzela went on to praise exercise and the importance people place on it:
In the 1980s, there’s a huge boom in the fitness industry, connected to this “work hard, play hard” mentality. I was also really moved speaking to gay men who had lived through HIV/AIDS and talked about how they exercised to display that they had a healthy body at a moment when there was so much homophobia. Some gyms became like community centers, sharing medical information, almost like mutual aid societies.
Another big turning point is 9/11. You see a boom in the CrossFit mentality of almost like militarized fitness and girding yourself and your body for a fight—not necessarily, by the way, in the 1950s/1960s way of fighting for the U.S. Army—but more like “you need to know how to perform functional fitness to protect yourself if things go wrong.” At the same time, you see [an emphasis on] wellness, self care and healing and being meditative in an increasingly traumatic and unpredictable world.
I’m glad Mehlman Petrzelo mentioned Richard Simmons:
He’s really important in terms of shifting who was welcome in gyms. One of the reasons that he ended up starting his own studio is that he went to this very famous studio Gilda Marx, and he absolutely loved aerobics, but he was asked not to come back because women didn’t feel comfortable working out with a man who was singing and so emotive during his workout. And I think he opened a studio where everybody felt welcomed there, including fat people, who felt like they couldn’t step foot into a health club or a studio to take an aerobics class because no one looked like them there.
Today, you see quite a few fat people in the fitness industry, who are operating from a better perspective, which is that your body size does not necessarily dictate your fitness level. We should not presume that because you are fat, that you are not fit or that you want to lose weight. And I think that we probably couldn’t have had that without Richard Simmons.
But since Time stressed white supremacy in the title, everyone gave them the reactions it deserved.
— Mostly Peaceful Memes (@MostlyPeacefull) December 29, 2022
“If white people did something, it means it was white supremacy!”
— charlie (@bbqchucken) December 29, 2022
— Charles X Proxy™ (@Charlemagne0814) December 29, 2022
I knew I was wrong to exercise. Never again. I’m listening and learning. 🙏
— Bonar Jams (@BonarJams) December 29, 2022
— Sameer reTweet King Mohan (@sameerMohan2) December 29, 2022
— Broken Chess Piece (@brokechesspiece) December 29, 2022
332.6k views, 131 likes https://t.co/hh0MUY5mOa
— Original Roland Rat ☯️ (@OGRolandRat) December 29, 2022
— 𝕷𝖊𝖌𝖊𝖓𝖉𝖘 𝖔𝖋 𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝕭𝖗𝖆𝖛𝖊 𝕭𝖆𝖗𝖉 (@TheBraveBard) December 29, 2022
— Prison Mitch, Great Meme Wars Vet (@MidnightMitch) December 29, 2022
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