Discover more from Follow Friday
New episode! "Let's Get Physical" author Danielle Friedman
Cooking in the nude, human footballs, no filters, and four of Danielle's favorite people to follow online.
Welcome to the Follow Friday newsletter! I’m your host, Eric Johnson.
Every week, I’ll share full transcripts of each segment from the newest episode of the Follow Friday podcast. This week’s guest is award-winning journalist Danielle Friedman, the author of Let's Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World.
Before we get to Danielle, though, we gotta talk about Elon Musk buying Twitter. The deal hasn’t gone through yet, but people are already gaming out how the site might change under his stewardship. I particularly liked Charlie Warzel’s post in The Atlantic, “The Worst-Case Scenario for Elon Musk's Twitter.”
As I mentioned in this space last week, one of the fundamental values of Follow Friday is that “inclusion of and respect for diverse voices is everyone’s responsibility,” and it seems possible — maybe probable — that the future of Twitter will be less inclusive and less diverse. I’ve certainly learned a lot over the years from marginalized people who use Twitter to share their lived experience.
This is why I’m glad that Follow Friday swears no fealty to any one social media platform. Twitter already had plenty of problems, and TikTok and Instagram have them, too. Whatever happens next, wherever the best people you should be following go, our guests will always have the freedom to tell us how to find them.
Danielle Friedman (Let's Get Physical): Cooking in the nude, human footballs, no filters
On the internet, body shaming is alive and well, nutrition advice can be wildly inaccurate, and it's a lot easier to scroll through Instagram for hours than to get up and go for a run. But Danielle Friedman, who literally wrote the book on women's fitness, says there's one extremely good thing that social media has done for our bodies, which we shouldn't ignore.
"Body acceptance activist Virgie Tovar told me that social media has given a voice to the people who have always been the majority in number, but not in influence," Danielle says.
"You don't have to go through all of the traditional channels to be visible. You can just start posting selfies and find an audience and build an audience that way. And I know it's easier said than done, but in spending years researching this history, that is a significant shift."
ERIC: Today on the show is award-winning journalist Danielle Friedman, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, NBC News, The Cut, and more. Her first book, which came out earlier this year, is called Let's Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World.
You can find Danielle on Instagram @daniellefriedmanwrites and on Twitter @DFriedmanWrites. Danielle, welcome to Follow Friday. I'm so glad to have you here.
DANIELLE: I'm so glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
ERIC: Of course. In your book, you trace women's fitness culture back to the 1960s. And each chapter is about these different people who started movements between then and now, sort of advancing the culture. Can you talk a little bit about where we are now with online fitness culture? Was there any one trailblazer that you found who brought women's fitness culture online?
DANIELLE: Great question. Yes. We're currently living in a moment where fitness culture, in general, is sort of ubiquitous, all-consuming. Many people now consider fitness a way of life, and that sort of translates and holds true for social media as well.
There are many people that I could credit with helping to bring fitness online, but I'll just mention the one who I focus on in my book, who I think has had a tremendous impact on the next frontier for fitness. And that is Jessamyn Stanley. She is the founder of The Underbelly. She is a fat, queer yoga practitioner.
My book's first chapter is titled Reduce and the last chapter is entitled Expand because that sort of charts the direction that our thinking about fitness is going in; our thinking of what a fit body looks like, who fitness is for. Jessamyn has done and is doing a tremendous amount of work to increase body diversity and expand inclusiveness in fitness.
ERIC: This is something that I was thinking about, which is that, in my head when I think about online fitness culture, I think about people who are maybe posting gym selfies all the time. Obviously, it's great if you're able to go to the gym, working out is great, but that can perpetuate body image issues and that can possibly do more harm than good.
So do you think that we are making progress? Do you think that as a culture we are improving on that front overall?
DANIELLE: I think we're at the beginning of a very important and significant shift. Social media, obviously, can be such a minefield when it comes to body image. But I often think about something that the body acceptance activist, Virgie Tovar, told me while reporting my book, which is that social media has given a voice to the people who have always been the majority in number but not in influence.
So in my book, so much of what I explored was the cultural conversation that was happening between pop culture, women's magazines — influencers of their day — and women as far as how women believed they needed to look to be socially acceptable.
And now, one way of looking at social media is that it's allowed for more of a two-way conversation. There's a pushback. You don't have to go through all of the traditional channels to be visible. You can just start posting selfies and find an audience and build an audience that way. And I know it's easier said than done, but in spending years researching this history, that is a really significant shift.