The Year That Was, Here, On This Blog

The formal two-year anniversary of this blog was sometime back in November; as I was traveling then I couldn’t put up a commemorative post; this year-end dispatch will have to do as substitute marker for that occasion.

2013 was a busy year for blogging here, though I blogged on fewer occasions than I did in 2012. (In 2012 I put up three hundred and twenty four posts; this year, only two hundred and ninety-four.) Like 2012, I took one long break–of four weeks–from blogging because of travel; last year, I had taken my furlough while I was out road-tripping in the American West; this year, because I was traveling with my family in India. I also took occasional breaks from blogging while I traveled outside New York City; this was not a luxury I had allowed myself in 2012, but I was more fatigued this year thanks to parental responsibilities, and I took any chance I could get to catch a bit of rest.

As I noted in my first-year anniversary post last year, this blog still lacks focus; I do not have a particular subject of focus and write on almost anything that catches my fancy. My daughter’s birth sparked a particularly self-indulgent set of posts responding to her presence; I presume those readers who were parents found this understandable, while other readers’ tolerance might have been severely tested. I also remained tardy in replying to readers’ comments; I hope they will continue to indulge me and reply to my posts as I struggle to improve my response time to them. I do not know what lies ahead in 2014; I think my frequency of blogging will diminish just a bit as I spend more time on other writing projects. Do stick around though.

The five most viewed posts this year–a series started last year–were as follows:

Alan Dershowitz, Pro-Torture Plagiarist, Deigns to Lecture Us On Intellectual Honesty: When Alan Dershowitz decided he wanted to interfere with Brooklyn College’s academic departments’ rights to conduct academic events on campus, I was incensed, and said as much. The posts on this ‘BDS controversy at Brooklyn College’ also brought in a record number of comments, which should not have been all that surprising given that they were, after all, about Israel and Palestine.

The Peculiar Allure of Blog Search Terms: This post, my nod at the peculiar, intriguing, fascinating, sometimes disturbing search terms that bring readers to this blog (and others), was picked by WordPress for their Freshly Pressed series. My thanks to the WordPress folks for that; their selection certainly brought in many new readers to this blog.

American Horror Story and Torture Porn: This post was quite popular in 2013, and sometimes I wonder if it’s for all the wrong reasons: are people looking for ‘torture porn’? I don’t have any to offer, unfortunately, just some commentary on the cinematic laziness and possibly problematic morals of the genre.

Crossfit, Women, and ‘Tough Titsday’: A Woman’s Perspective: This post featured a guest contribution by my wife, who wrote an impassioned rejoinder to a wildly skewed, superficial and misleading article on Jezebel.

Male Anxiety in the Workplace: The Case of Academic Philosophy: I continued writing on womens’ station in academic philosophy, and here, in this post, I addressed the anxiety their presence seemed to cause to men.

Crossfit, Women, and ‘Tough Titsday’: A Woman’s Perspective

I have often blogged on Crossfit here in these pages. In large part that is because I genuinely enjoy my experiences at Crossfit South Brooklyn (CFSBK), a very unique and distinctive space in which to work out and pursue the ever-elusive objective of being mens sana in corpore sano. It is also because I find a fitness phenomenon an interesting context within which to think about–among other things–the issues of masculinity, militarism, sexism, and misogyny. So, I’ve blogged here on Crossfit and strong women, the question of Crossfit’s relationship to the military, and for a long time, have wanted to write something on whether Crossfit provides a female-friendly space.

That last post will get written soon, but for the time being there is this: yesterday Jezebel ran a blog post that accused Crossfit South Brooklyn of sexism and/or misogyny.  I found the charge baseless, and so did many of the other folks that work out with me. Crossfit South Brooklyn, for its part, posted a rejoinder here. (The comments are worth reading to get a broad perspective on all the issues raised by the article and CFSBK’s response.)

My wife–who works out at CFSBK like me–and has participated in the Tough Titsday program and meet, was moved to email me the following:

If anyone could take something good and misread it completely, it is cheap and frivolous publications like Jezebel. That article, loaded with preconceived notions of what Crossfit is, and armed with the rantings of a single, incredibly imperceptive female visitor to the gym, actually does a great deal to strengthen a misogynistic view of women in its attempt to “expose” Crossfit South Brooklyn’s imagined affront by naming its female-centered strength training course and competition “Tough Titsday”.

As someone who has both participated in the course and who has done quite a bit of strength training at Crossfit, I find the article itself insulting. First, it is clear that the author, Ms. Katie J.M. Baker, could not be bothered finding out anything about the institution she seeks to criticize. Although each Crossfit affiliate is its own entity with cultures varying widely depending on the coaching staff and the location, Baker chooses to assume all participants and Crossfit gyms are some sort of stereotypical “bro-fest.” And despite the fact that the Tough Titsday class was actually created by an incredibly forward thinking and badass woman as a way to encourage other women, many whom were initially intimidated by heavy weightlifting, to get on the platform, Baker insists on creating her own imaginary universe, one where the “douchey bros” in the gym simply decided to form a class for us, their harem girls, in which they could sit around and comment on our tits or something. It insinuates that the women that participate in this course are perhaps too dumb or self-effacing to realize that they are being insulted. Perhaps Jezebel imagines us as a bunch of air-headed sorority girls all too happy to be on display at the meat market.

Well, Ms. Baker may get her rocks off with her fantasies, but if she took a couple minutes to get off her lazy ass and do some real journalism, she would have found out that I share the platform with female economists, philosophers, prosecutors, stand-up comedians, teachers, mothers, and other genuinely impressive women who find strength in each other’s companionship and are motivated by one another’s accomplishments. And, unlike our disgruntled visitor, we think the name is funny.

This is not to say that we are unaware of sexism. Context is everything. If you don’t believe me, think about this joke: three women go for a job interview, one with a degree in economics, one with a law degree, and one with 10 years experience. Who gets the job? Answer: the one with the biggest tits. Told by a 40-year old white man, the joke is crass and offensive, but told by a 40-year old woman, it becomes social commentary. Without placing CFSBK and its Tough Titsday training program and meet, in the context of what it is– a gym attracting a wide array of people of different backgrounds, genders, and body types–and refusing to find out what type of community is being created, the article misleads and misinforms. It seems too obvious to have to point out, but because programs like Tough Titsday go out of their way to promote women’s strength, the context renders the name inoffensive.

As a woman and a feminist, I begrudge Jezebel for carelessly demonizing something that gives myself, and many other women at our gym, strength and confidence. But frankly, I don’t really have time to get too bothered over half-baked writing like that in Jezebel, I’m too busy kicking ass on the platform and in the courtroom, and playing with my beautiful 4-month old daughter.