Subtle messages to my daughter: What is exercise for?

I notice more of the world. That’s the best way I know to describe how my world has changed since last June when my daughter Aliyah was born. A big part of that are the subtle societal messages that I now see being delivered to her, about how to act, think, what is right and wrong, what is beautiful and what is ugly … about everything.

Raising my own family’s, and Aliyah’s, consciousness of these messages is realistically all I can do about this directly, absent becoming a hermit. But I can’t resist being a little activist and evangelical about what I’m learning, so I’ve decided to start a series every time I come across something with this theme. Hopefully, this contributes in my small way to the system changes that are needed.

What is exercise for?

I love exercising. It makes me feel energized and creative, and it quenches my thirst for competition (often just against myself) in a healthy way. But I’ll also admit that my relationship with exercise is not always perfectly healthy — sometimes it’s about negative body image crap.

Where does that come from? Who knows really. I’ve been deluged by 38 years of messaging saying that I should work out to look better, to get a summer body, to get the girl.

And Aliyah is about to be deluged by the same messages. Some of them are subtle, some really obvious, but they have totally penetrated how we talk about exercise.

What’s a healthy reframing of exercise? I loved this post:

Come on!  Get that body ready for your winter beach vacation!  Think about how you want to look at those holiday parties!  PICTURE HOW YOU’LL LOOK IN THAT DRESS!

I’ll never talk to my daughter about fitting into THAT DRESS.  But I will talk to her about what it sounds like to hear pine needles crunching under my feet and what it feels like to cross a finish line and how special it is to see the world on foot.  I will talk to her about hard work and self sufficiency.  I will teach her the joy of working out by showing her I love it.  And I’ll leave the rest up to her.

Great advice.

(Thanks Sari for sending it along.)

The Emmy’s were going so well until…

The Emmy’s were going so well until…

This is appalling. It’s tasteless and I would find it very hard to agree that it’s satire or a harmless joke. Satire would have been Vergara reading the speech while Rosenblum spun around on the platform.

I’m thinking about the not-so-subtle message delivered to all of the young women and girls, and young men and boys, watching last night: women are objects of our attention and distraction. This honestly makes me terrified of bringing up my daughter Aliyah with the onslaught of these messages, everywhere, and equally terrified of their effect on my nephew Cooper.

I can only hope that people’s reactions over time will continue to drive progress, and that my own conversations with all the kids in my life will help them resist the pressures they will face and ask tough questions of the society they live in.

She arrived!

Dear Friends,

As the sun crept up into the beautiful clear sky over Toronto Saturday morning, our daughter Aliyah Davida Elena Rotman was born.

George was crying, Sari was smiling and Ali snuggled up to mum ― everyone was healthy, and it was so … human.

“It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.” ― Ursula Le Guin

So what is the power in Aliyah’s name?

First, the universe told us that we chose wisely. Aliyah Elena means “ascend, shining light” ― she was born right at sunrise.

Aliyah is a Hebrew, Arabic and Persian word meaning to ascend or go up. Our central wish for her life is that she ascends to her highest self.

Davida is the name of George’s late-aunt ― an artistic, political, iconoclast and teacher, who also strangely loved the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. Just as Davida ― and the two of us ― have followed our passion, so to will we encourage the same for our daughter.

Elena was a name that we both just loved, meaning to shine a light. In our hearts, we hope to raise a lovely human being, who through empathy and optimism will light people up.

And finally, her surname, Rotman. Aliyah is part Sari and part George, part Stillman and part Roter. So rather than stick with patriarchal tradition, or establish a new matriarchal tradition, or burden Aliyah’s children (if she choose to have any) with a hyphenated name, we’ve chosen to create a new last name. We know that this is strange, a bit radical, and perhaps a bit foolhardy. But Rotman it is ― a little bit of each of us.

Thanks to all of you for your support and advice over the past months.

With love (and a great deal of fatigue and new baby induced giddiness),

Sari and George
P.S. – Pictures to follow, but only if you click here to let us know that you want them.