Idiocy: Time magazine promotes book claiming exercise is 'white supremacist'
The wokesters at Time have found a new idiotic idea to promote on the cultural front, and it's a doozy.
It begins this way:
How did U.S. exercise trends go from reinforcing white supremacy to celebrating Richard Simmons? That evolution is explored in a new book by a historian of exercise, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, author of the book Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America's Exercise Obsession, out Jan. 2023.
Nowadays, at the beginning of every New Year, many Americans hit the gym to work off their holiday feasts. This momentum usually starts to fade in mid-January, according to a 2019 analysis of data on fitness tracking apps by Bloomberg. But such new year's resolutions are pretty new—as is the concept of exercise as a way to improve bodily health.
So exercise is now a white supremacist thing? And encouraging black people get to fat and die early, as the alternative to avoid all that white supremacy, is somehow not...racist?
How racist can you get?
The author of the book cited, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, gets interviewed gushily by Time, and spews one historical distortion after another. There are so many in that interview that they can't be addressed in just one blog post, but suffice it to say they are all fueled by a wokist view of the world superimposed on the historical one, rendering it into something unrecognizable. It's pure historical revision of the worst sort, a smear of an age, done by a substandard scholar who seems new to basic history and can't taste it, or feel it, with any sympathy without a syrupy coating of wokeism.
I will attempt to identify at least the biggest fallacies.
First, Petrzela gets her facts distorted, starting with the white supremacist claim:
The ensuing interview characterized health and wellness as an instrument of white nationalism. According to Petrzela, early fitness enthusiasts of the 20th century promoted exercise for the sake of growing the white race.
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.
We never learn who "they" is in the interview.
Yes, there was an anti-corset movement; there was a rebellion with women in bathing suits getting arrested on the beaches in their burkini-grade numbers; which were considered revolutionary at the time; and there was a broad reaction in fashion as women entered factories and earned money of their own, leading them to back away from the Victorian hoop skirt era, first in the pared down styles of the Edwardian era and then full blast in the roaring '20s era, where women became flappers in loose shapeless and short dresses, bobbed their hair to the scandal of many, and embraced boyish figures to repudiate the impractical and overpriced styles of dress of the past. The suffragettes were active around this time, and women won the right to vote in this same era. G.K. Chesterton lamented that boyishness in his writings even then, and yes, he was kind of proud of being a fat guy himself, once arguing that "inside every thin man, there was a fat man trying to get out." Chesterton enjoyed being a contrarian from the dominant conventional wisdom — which rather underscores that fitness craze at the time was what would be called now a pan-civilizational megatrend, not a white-supremacy movement.
It came during a broad global trend for physical fitness, too, as anyone who reads F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, or Evelyn Waugh's many books, with their female tennis players, would get a whiff of. It's obvious enough in the retro-style Ralph Lauren fashion ads of recent years. The physical fitness movement emerged at the turn of the century, actually, and was wide-scale and broad, a reaction to decadent trends in the culture, as Eric Hoffer once noted in one of his books, hailing the move toward fitness as positive (and Eric was very, very, very against Nazism and anti-Semitism). He noted that the Olympics were reintroduced in that era, which he considered a revitalization of the culture.
Was it rooted in white supremacy? Not a movement that's that big and that international, ushered in by the great Industrial Revolution and its changes in the roles of women.
To claim that it was white supremacist requires someone who considered the entire culture, the entire Industrial Revolution and all its economic progress, white supremacist.
Sure, some white supremacists embraced it. Hitler loved physical fitness — and a vegetarian diet — but he was appropriating ongoing cultural trends and calling them "nationalist." It was his logic that since Germans have always been all in on their volkswalks, well, he called that part of his movement, since he was able to appropriate it in a nationalist-socialist image.
But that doesn't mean it was "his" movement. Nor does it make it white supremacist.
The culture, in fact, was a mixture of trends — positive and negative. Chesterton (and C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters) criticized the boy-ification of women as negative, and there was also a "white food" movement centered around the wokesters of the time in the Boston area, the Boston Cooking School, which called itself "scientific" and brought us gross things like Wonderbread, marshmallows, mayonnaise, Waldorf salads, gelatin numbers, and other high-carb "white" foods that are so gross to think about that nobody of any sense would ever eat them today. It may have been a reaction of sorts against all those Italian immigrants and their colorful Mediterranean diet — which is all the rage, and I think rightly so, now. For a gander at this, read Laura Shapiro's excellent, highly readable Perfection Salad, available on Amazon.
The author quoted by Time also gets annoying by claiming that Richard Simmons was the great equalizer of exercise, happily welcoming fat people into exercise studio.
This is bee ess. The pioneer of that was the great Jack Lalanne, who lived a long and productive life, exercising well into his 90s. As a little kid, I remember the fat ladies on his show as toddler me, my toddler sisters, and my mom all exercised with him, doing jumping jacks in front of the black and white television set in the 1960s. Before Richard, there was Jack.
Richard Simmons was a popularizer, and perhaps he did good for many people, but Jack Lalanne was the pinnacle, and certainly the first.
After that, the third biggest fallacy of the author's argument is the flabby and counterproductive argument that being fat is not evidence of being unfit.
As Tristan Justice points out from the article in The Federalist:
Petrzela went on to give credence to the pro-fat movement by admonishing common-sense assumptions about overweight people in fitness spaces.
"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," Petrzela said. "We should not presume that because you are fat, that you are not fit or that you want to lose weight."
This is nonsense. If you are fat, you have many more times than the average thin person the chance of heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer. A recent study has pointed out that the cancer risk from being obese is equal to that of smoking.
People didn't use to be fat on a wide scale four decades ago, but they are now. To call that a virtue, to call that "normal," and a positive thing when most fat people would gladly make themselves into thin people if there were an effective method (see the stories about the race for semaglutide medicines in the news), is pure rubbish. Fat is not healthy, and those who stay fat face long-term health consequences as well as early deaths. To promote that fat itself is acceptable, when the aim ought to be that people recognize people beyond their fat appearance (which I always view as a temporary state), is a disservice to fat people. Fat in fact is dangerous, and the author's bid to normalize it just because many black people are affected by obesity due to poor diets and not enough exercise (note to author: nobody requires a gym to do it) is a disservice to black people, a racist thing, actually, given that the ultimate result is that black people will die early.
The world is full of woke whites who have bad ideas about what's good for black people — and they always leave them worse off. This author is at the forefront of that movement, with Time magazine boosting her nonsense right along.
Image: BruceBlaus via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.