Ponterotto, Diane. “Resisting the Male Gaze: Feminist Responses to the ‘Normatization’ of the Female Body in Western Culture.” Journal of International Women’s Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2016, pp. 133–151., https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9a9b/570ebdc3687ebcb3af0044ccb98fdce04484.pdf. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
Ready, Lauren. “How the Worst Moment of Her Life Revolutionized Women’s Running.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 2 Oct. 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/humankind/2018/10/02/how-worst-moment-her-life-revolutionized-womens-running/1489818002/.
Scholar, Judith Butler (2006), discusses hegemonic femininity stating, “gender is a performance with clearly punitive consequences” (Butler, 139). Butler believes that society has cultural guidelines for how genders should perform and when they do not conform to their gender normative role, they are punished through negative social sanction.
A study was conducted on hegemonic feminity in women’s sports and found that women runners often find themselves balancing femininity and athleticism. Krane (2012) states, “Consequences of nonconformity to hegemonic femininity in sport often include sexist and heterosexist discrimination” (115). While these studies offer scholarship on hegemonic normative images for female athletes, I question if these same principles apply to the recreational runner. The recreational runner is not under the same pressure to balance athleticism with femininity, however, they are under pressure to conform to the hegemonic normative ideal female body image.
Megan Hull (2018) studied body image in long-distance runners and found that female athletes face a double-edged sword in regards to body image, as they feel as if they need to conform to hegemonic normative femininity, which is an hourglass figure with big breasts, and the ideal runner body, with well-defined muscles. The risk in female runners feeling this combination of social and sports pressures may lead to developing eating disorders and body image issues. A study by Byrne and McLean (2012) found “females perceived that they were subject to more intense pressure than males to conform to a lean body ideal. In line with this continuum effect, the groups who perceived themselves to be subject to increased pressure to achieve a lean body shape showed higher rates of eating problems. (87)
As such, we need more visual representation of women runners with larger bodies to embody the value that being active doesn’t necessarily mean having a thin body and being larger doesn’t equate to the lack of physical fitness. We need to reframe the hegemonic normative image of the thin woman runner and inactive, lazy fat person. We need to show that women of all sizes can run, be active and fit. We can do this by showing up and sharing images of normal bodies running on social media.
A larger runner may be reticent to share a photo of their running body on social media for fear of ridicule. A runner may also be reluctant to ‘check in’ to a race on social media for fear of judgement of not fitting the image of a runner. Many runners have a fear about not finishing a race or having a slow race time and being judged as a result. The ‘runDisneyrun’ Facebook group shows the worry many runners have over ‘getting swept’ (a common running term for being taken off the course for not meeting the minimum minutes per mile pace during a race), coming in last or looking bad in race photos (RunDisneyRun). As a member of many of these social media running groups, I can see the fear increasing as race day nears. In these running groups, runners can feel free to share their fears, as other runners are often facing the same thoughts, however, many are reluctant to share their race photos, location, or thoughts on running publicly for fear of ridicule. It’s also important to note that there is a difference between how recreational runners use social media as compared to competitive runners. While competitive running is represented through speed, and the desire to achieve quicker times, recreational running is often represented as a way for people to take back the reigns of their health. Some representations and motivations can be seen as positive, such as feeling healthy, however, others are not, touting running as a form of punishment, such as a need to burn calories from eating (Cook and Simpson 2015). But as runners use social media to check into races and running locations, they will encourage other runners to participate in these events.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. Routledge, 2006.
Byrne, S, and N Mclean. “Elite Athletes: Effects of the Pressure to Be Thin.” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, vol. 5, no. 2, 2002, pp. 80–94., doi:10.1016/s1440-2440(02)80029-9.
Carter, Kiera. No, I Don’t Want to Run With You. Here’s Why.11 Mar. 2019, https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a25422964/running-solo/.
Cook, Simon, et al. “Jography: Exploring Meanings, Experiences and Spatialities of Recreational Road-Running.” Mobilities, vol. 11, no. 5, 2015, pp. 744–769., doi:10.1080/17450101.2015.1034455.
Krane, Vikki. “We Can Be Athletic and Feminine, But Do We Want To? Challenging Hegemonic Femininity in Womens Sport.” Quest, vol. 53, no. 1, 2001, pp. 115–133., doi:10.1080/00336297.2001.10491733.
In 1921, the influential psychologist, Carl Jung published the book, Psychological Types, popularizing the terms introvert and extrovert as the central building blocks of personality (Waude 2017). Jung believed extraverts direct their energy outwards, towards other people, and gain energy through those interactions. Meanwhile, introverts focus inwards and gain their energy from solitary activities. Introverts prefer a minimally stimulating external environment and prefer to focus on a single activity when. The power of quietness has recently come into the limelight, with works such as Susan Cain’s Quiet (2012), Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introverts Year of Saying Yes (2019) by Jessica Pan, The Thriving Introvert: Embrace the Gift of Introversion (2017) by Thibaut Meurisse and The Quiet Rise of Introverts: 8 Practices for Living and Loving in a Noisy World (2017) by Brenda Knowles.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet, stated that historically societies have preferred individuals of action rather than contemplation (Cain 2012; 11:33). As she describes it, Western society comes from Greco-Roman ideals of the person that can speak well, a rhetorical ideal. The preferential treatment of extroverts has grown exponentially, as we are in a society that uses charismatic movie stars as a guide for developing our self-image. But activism needs introverts. Just because individuals are introverted doesn’t mean that they don’t have a passion for causes. And everyone can make a change in society through quiet activism.
Take for example, the quiet activism of Rosa Parks. In 1955, Parks quietly refused to give up her seat to a white passenger that evening of December 1. After her arrest, Dr. Martin Luther King organized a successful Montgomery Bush Boycott. As he spoke to the crowd with passion, Parks stood quietly alongside him, not needing to speak a word as her act of quiet activism sparked the civil rights movement (History 2010). What do Al Gore, Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Ghandi have in common? They are all introverts that have changed the world through their activism. Gandhi once said “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
Research exists on the connection between introversion and activism. Bratich and Brush (2011) conducted a study on ‘fabriculture’ the craft culture associated with domestic arts, such as knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking and more. The authors evaluated three dimensions of ‘fabriculture’, including the gendered space of production around new domesticity, blurring of old and new media and how digital and tactile crafts merge and new modes of political activism through folk art. The authors make the argument that the practice of crafting is power. Bratich and Brush (2011) make the argument that the emphasis of slow production in craft work can be regarded as a direct response to the pervasive and oppressive form of craft labor, specifically sweatshop labor. Crafting creates a slow space, at odds with the hyperproduction of sweatshops.
Hackney (2013) contributed to the research on ‘fabriculture’, as she explores quiet activism of craft making. “In contrast to much recent work on the resurgence of interest in DIY craft culture, it takes a historical perspective and argues for the emergence of a new, historically conscious, socially engaged amateur practice” (Hackney 1). Hackney specifically explores ‘craftivism’ as a form of activism through handicrafts. American writer and crafter, Betsy Greer coined the term “craftivism” in 2003. “Craftivism,” is a form of activism incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism, solidarity, or third wave feminism (Craftivism).
Sarah Corbett, an award-winning campaigner, started the Craftivist Collective. Their motto is “Changing our world one stitch at a time.” The Craftivist Collective is a group of individuals who according to her website are “an inclusive group of people committed to using thoughtful, beautiful crafted helps themselves and encourage others be the positive change they wish to see in the world” (Craftivism Collective). These groups use tools and projects to drive change. Sarah started this movement because she was feeling burnt out and questioning the effectiveness of activism conducted through confrontation. This group is now extremely successful and Sarah has delivered talks, workshops, and events to over 12,000 people around the world.
In an interview with Sarah Brown on the Better Angels podcast, Corbett states, that one of the most effective ‘craftivist’ achievements she has had was when she organized a quiet craftivist campaign to get Marks & Spencer, one of the largest retail companies in the UK, to pay employees a Living Wage (Brown 2019). For years, the company wouldn’t budge on the issue, but when Corbett engaged a thoughtful, quiet group of craftivists to stich handkerchiefs personally embroidered with messages customized for each board member, their message was heard. In May 2016, M&S made an announcement that they were going to pay above the current Living Wage rates and 50,000 employees had their pay increased. Following the successful change, Corbett heard a ShareAction trustee who said their handkerchiefs had had a profound impact on the entire board, and the Living Wage wouldn’t have been on their agenda without their gentle protest (Corbett 2019). Corbett gave a TedTalk about crafting as activism and stated that it can help introverts because it allows a way for introverts to be involved in activism without having to maintain eye contact, talking to big groups or being loud (Corbett 2017). She states there is space for all types of campaigning styles to make a difference.
Researcher Laura Pottinger (2017) conducted ethnographic research on quiet activism as it relates to the communities of seed savers who cultivate fruits and vegetables and then select and save seeds to provide future generations of plants for themselves. Pottinger calls for the need for scholars to differing embodiments called for by various modes of activism in order to trace their particular impacts, emotions, and affects.
Cain, Susan. Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Springer Verlag.
Cain, Susan. “The power of introverts.” TED Talk, February, 2012, https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?language=en.
Rosa Parks Ignites Bus Boycott. 9 Feb. 2010, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/rosa-parks-ignites-bus-boycot.
Rampton, John. 23 Of the Most Amazingly Successful Introverts in History. 20 July 2015, https://www.inc.com/john-rampton/23-amazingly-successful-introverts-throughout-history.html.
Pan, Jessica. Sorry I’m Late: I Didn’t Want to Come. Andrews McMeel Pub., 2019.
Waude, Adam. Extraversion And Introversion. 2 Feb. 2017, https://www.psychologistworld.com/influence-personality/extraversion-introversion.
Raglin’s (2007) study on The Psychology of the Marathoner highlights findings of psychological research involving marathoners distinguishing characteristics among groups, including elite and non-elite competitors. Psychology contributes to athletic performances. Psychologists define personality traits as: “relatively enduring differences among people in specific tendencies to perceive the world in a certain way and in dispositions to react or behave in a specified manner with predictable regularity” (Raglin 1). A psychological study of 80 female long-distance runners found that the female marathoner was twice as introverted as compared to norms (2:1) (Russell 1977). It’s important to understand the personality traits of the female runner, to understand the type of activism that will resonate. Given that female distance runners are more likely to be introverted, this stands to support my claim that running can act as quiet activism. Introverted runners may feel more comfortable with this quiet activism than more demonstrative acts of resistance.
Raglin, John S. “The Psychology of the Marathoner.” Sports Medicine, vol. 37, no. 4, 2007, pp. 404–407., doi:10.2165/00007256-200737040-00034.