photo: the unquiet librarian
Interview By Crabby McSlacker
So it's time once again for "Three Annoying Questions!" As you may recall, periodically Crabby likes to harass her favorite bloggers and make them answer difficult or overly personal questions.
This episode, I'm really psyched to get to interview Caitlin Constantine of Fit and Feminist. Those of you who follow her already are aware of how insightful and fun and kick-ass she is, but for those of you who aren't regulars, you need to check her out!
Caitlin totally rocked this with thoughtful honest answers and got me thinking all kinds of Big Philosophical Thoughts about blogging and feminism and stuff, and totally agreeing that jellyfish are assholes.
Anyway, so here are the 3 Annoying questions, please welcome Caitlin and enjoy!
Very few women seem to use the term "feminist" anymore. Nor do many write about the way that women are objectified, dismissed, and otherwise mistreated by mainstream media in general and in the sports and fitness world in particular. Yet you've got "feminist" right up front in your blog title, and I've noticed you frequently call bullshit on all kinds of sexism and hypocrisy.
So what's the deal? Didn't you get the memo that it's not cool to be a feminist anymore? Does this mean you hate men and have no sense of humor and have 47 cats and spell women with a "y"? Or are there other reasons you identify as a feminist?
None of my eight managers got that memo to me! (Sorry, can't resist an Office Space joke.) I knew something was up starting from the time I was eight and I said I wanted to grow up to be the president and the entire class laughed and said "Girls can't be president!" And then I was raised as a Mormon in Utah, so I was constantly exposed to the idea that I occupied a lower position in the hierarchy of power than basically all men, even 12-year-old boys, which I thought was bullshit even when I was a tween.
So to me it was never a question that feminism was necessary, because I felt I was constantly encountering attitudes that said I was either not allowed or not fit to do certain things simply because I was female. Not only is that not fair to individuals, who are cut off from the opportunity to become fully actualized human beings because they're too busy trying to meet a predetermined mold that may have nothing to do with who they truly are, but it's unfair to society as a whole to deprive it of the skills, perspectives and talents of one-half of the people who comprise it.
That's why I'm often puzzled by women and girls who will claim the benefits of feminism and who will complain about sexism yet shy away from identifying with feminist politics. They almost always seem to say that they aren't feminists because they don't hate men, as if I and other feminist-identified people just want to take a flamethrower to all men everywhere and make necklaces out of their testicles. (Seriously, my husband would be SHOCKED to learn that I hated him, as would all of my dude friends. Maybe I just do a really good job of hiding that supposedly seething hatred? I doubt it though.)
One of the reasons I'm a feminist is precisely because there are a lot of men in the world who I do love very much, and I want us to be able to have relationships with one another based on mutual respect and admiration instead of how well we think the other adheres to a collection of outdated stereotypes that aren't even really relevant to most people anymore anyways. The sadly ironic thing is that I've noticed that no one seems to hate men more than avowed anti-feminists, so I guess it's maybe a case of looking for that which you hate in yourself in other people? I don't really know.
That said, I am well on my way to having a billion cats - okay, I have two - so there's some validity to THAT stereotype.
You are prepping to run an ultramarathon, right? Which as I understand it, involves you running 50 miles all in a row on the same day--not comfortably spread out over a few months the way I would approach it. Are you quite sane? Why on earth does this appeal to you?
I am! And yes, I'm technically sane, although I think the truth is that a person has to be a little off-kilter to even think something like this seems like a good idea. But the truth is that the insanity of it is what appeals to me.
I was talking with my best friend the other day, about how I took this on because I wanted to do something crazy and scary and outside of my comfort zone. Over the past several years I've made a habit out of challenging myself to do scary things, and I almost always come out on the other end feeling great and excited about the experience. I used to feel pretty scared and timid of a lot of things, which led me to make some really poor choices out of a sense of self-preservation, so being willing to confront my fears and work through them has been a really effective way for me to deal with that and to grow as a person.
But I guess the real question is, why running? Well, I've found that I really love long-distance running, and that after a certain point, it becomes almost a spiritual experience for me. The sense of well-being I get while out on a long run that lasts for hours is incredibly powerful and all-encompassing, and I don't really get that anywhere else. A few weeks ago I did a 34-mile trail run, and while it was incredibly hard toward the end, I enjoyed the vast majority of the time I was on my feet. Plus I ended up doing fairly well! So I'd like to continue to explore this and see if there's something more for me here. And if not, well, I'm always up for trying long-distance swimming. That seems pretty cool too. Except for jellyfish. Jellyfish are assholes and I hate them.
You don't tend to pull punches on your blog and you express yourself honestly, yet you seem very approachable and engaging in your comments section. Have you ever had problems with disruptive comment threads or crackpots googling in already pissed at the word "feminist" or any other sort of blog controversy?
Yep, sometimes my blog will surface on the radar of so-called men's rights activists, and I will get flooded with some pretty nasty comments that are just appalling. Like, I honestly cannot imagine saying some of the things people have said to me to another person. It just doesn't even cross my mind. So I usually just delete all of them and block the senders, because ain't no one got time for that.
However, if I think someone is arguing a contrary point and doing so in good faith, I'll let the comment through and respond. A lot of times people have argued contrary points and have changed my mind about things, which I always appreciate, as I am fully aware that I only know a teeny tiny fraction of what there is to know in the world, so if someone can broaden my perspective about things, I'm pretty psyched about that.
There was one time, when I blogged about the recent kerfluffle surrounding The Biggest Loser, where things got out of control in the comments. I was disappointed with the way I handled myself, because I got pretty angry and bitchy, and it showed. I usually hate dealing with people in that way, even if the other person is being a total jerk, because I try to hold myself to a high standard of behavior. There's a lot of nastiness in the world, and a lot of it shows up in social-justice related internet spaces, and I'd rather not contribute to that as I don't find it that productive or useful. Plus I usually just feel shitty about myself afterwards, you know, after the electricity of telling someone to basically go eff themselves fades. It's a process though, and I'm always trying to do better.
For the most part, though, the people who comment on my blog are fabulous and I don't have a lot of issues with them, mostly just loooove. They are so smart and funny and accomplished and compassionate. I used to hear other bloggers talk about how they loved their commenters and readers and I didn't really understand it until I started blogging myself, and now I'm like, "I LOVE MY READERS!!!"
More About Caitlin:
Caitlin Constantine is a writer and athlete who lives in Largo, Florida, with her husband, Brian, their two cats and their rescued greyhound. She works as an editor for a TV news station and spends the rest of her time working on her blog (which is about to turn three!), reading anything with printed words on it, and training for races and triathlons. She is currently obsessed with Game of Thrones, teen-girl comedies from the late 1990s and early 2000s, classic rock from the 1970s and the Saved by the Bell-themed podcast "Go Bayside!" One day, when she finds some spare time, she'd really be into writing a book.
What do you guys think about fitness, and/or feminism, or running insanely long distances, or blog commenting? Or just say hi to Caitlin!