For most of the 20th century, breaking a sweat was seen as unladylike. Popular opinion considered working out dangerous and de-feminizing for women, who were told that the activity could result in their uteruses falling out. But in the 1960s, a trailblazing group of women began to fearlessly move their bodies, and in doing so, translated physical strength into other forms of power.
Danielle Friedman, an award-winning journalist and a former senior editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, illuminates the complicated, understudied history of women’s fitness culture, and its relationship to feminism, in her new book, Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). Each chapter spotlights a fitness trend, such as the invention of the barre in the ’60s or jogging as a form of liberation in the ’70s, and profiles their often little-known leaders along the way. Readers learn, for example, about Judi Sheppard Missett, the endlessly sunny founder of Jazzercise, and Bonnie Prudden, a rock climber, mountaineer, and descendant of Davy Crockett who became one of the first exercise instructors on TV. Friedman deftly connects these people and ideas with subjects currently influencing women’s exercise culture, such as beauty, body image, and food.
We recently spoke with the author to learn about some of the sources she consulted during her research, and the other media that keeps her informed and entertained. Friedman’s selections—which include a fondness for comedy and for comic-book superheroes—indicate a firm belief that, as her book demonstrates, seemingly shallow subjects can provide deep insights into the past and present.
How do you start your mornings?
I give my brain at least thirty minutes to wake up while I’m drinking my coffee before I dive into anything that requires much brainpower. I tend to read Instagram first thing—that’s where I get a lot of my news.
Daily go-to reads?
After so many years of working in newsrooms, where I had to be reactive, I’ve really enjoyed being able to set my own media agenda. I don’t visit the same outlets every morning, but I closely follow publications that I admire—The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York magazine, The Cut, and Vogue—on social media. I always like to check The Atlantic, too. I’m a longtime fan of its in-depth coverage of feminism, health, women’s issues, and gender.
What are some of your favorite newsletters?
I’m partial to one called Brass Ring Daily, which was started by journalist, playwright, and productivity expert Kara Cutruzzula, who is a close friend of mine. She calls it a “no-news newsletter.” It’s a very grounded source of motivation for creators, and for people who want to live their lives with intention. I also love Anne Helen Petersen’s newsletter, Culture Study. She writes about so many issues that are relevant to me and my work. She’s absolutely brilliant.
Virginia Sole-Smith’s newsletter, Burnt Toast, is another great one. Virginia is a writer and food activist who talks about intuitive eating, body positivity, and anti-diet culture, and who also co-hosts a podcast called Comfort Food. She has young children, so she often talks about teaching kids how to develop healthy relationships around food and their bodies. She comes at everything from a feminist and journalistic perspective. It’s really smart.
I was an O.G. podcast obsessive, so my favorites have evolved through the years. Like so many people, I’m a devoted Fresh Air listener; I really enjoy The Daily. But my favorite podcasts are narrative nonfiction ones. I like character-driven podcasts that keep you on the edge of your seat.
I recently listened to, and loved, Welcome to Your Fantasy, which is produced, hosted, and created by Natalia Petrzela. She’s a historian at The New School, as well as a fitness historian. The show is a fascinating and smart investigation into, on one level, the Chippendales phenomenon of the 1970s and ’80s, but also looks at a murder that took place and involved the club. Before that, I listened to Wind of Change, which has to do with the C.I.A. and rock music. It had a lot of the same elements as Welcome to Your Fantasy: a fun, juicy topic approached in a thought-provoking way. I tried to apply some of what I learned from those kinds of podcasts to writing Let’s Get Physical in terms of strategic storytelling and, more than anything, the blending of a high/low mix—of fun, with deeper meaning.
What about magazines?
I’ve witnessed the feminist evolution of certain women’s magazines over the past twenty years, since the birth of Jezebel. When Jezebel launched, women’s magazines had nowhere to go but up when it came to empowering women. From Vogue to Self, I try to keep up with the big features that come out of them. I sort of consider myself a scholar of women’s media to some extent now, because I’ve spent so much time in the archives, tracing the ways in which women’s media has evolved. I’m fascinated by the current state of women’s media, and how there are still, sometimes, mixed messages that slip in.
In terms of other titles, I have a Real Simple subscription. I read it purely for home organization inspiration. I also love Runner’s World. It makes me feel like a part of a global running community. I’ve read it off and on for most of my adult life.
What books are you reading?
I’m currently reading Doree Shafrir’s Thanks for Waiting. It’s about being a late bloomer and how her career and her personal life began to flourish after 40. I turned 40 last year, so I relate. Plus, she’s just a fun, conversational writer. She’s a little self-deprecating, and she comes across as very candid and honest. She also has her podcast, Forever 35, on which she and Kate Spencer have smart conversations about things like beauty products and grooming. I like deep takes on seemingly light topics. The comedian Jessi Klein’s book You’ll Grow Out of It is great as well. She’s a role model for me.
I’m always interested in reading books that cover overlooked chapters of women’s history. So Come Fly the World, a nonfiction book by Julia Cooke about the stewardesses of Pan-Am and the roles they played in international diplomacy in the 1960s, was really absorbing. Next up on my list is Bess Kalb’s Nobody Will Tell You This But Me.
What TV shows are you watching?
I gravitate toward comedy in my TV viewing. I find it to be more of an escape, and more relaxing, than some of my heavier media fare. I recently watched Only Murders in the Building. It’s very meta, because it’s actually a commentary on podcasts like Serial. Like the rest of the world, I very much enjoy Ted Lasso, as well as an unsung treasure: The Good Fight. And I got really into the docuseries The Beatles: Get Back. I loved the glimpses it gave into the band’s creative process, and how it showed the messy aspects of creating something.
What do you read, watch, or listen to for fun?
My husband and I both really love classic movies. There’s The Thin Man mystery series, for example. William Powell and Myrna Loy, who play a married couple on the program, have terrific chemistry, and the films have a surprisingly contemporary humor and edge to them. I also adore certain Alfred Hitchcock thrillers—The Lady Vanishes, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest—for the suspense, the glamor, the action, and the many twists and turns.
A major curveball in my media diet—and this traces back to something that I have bonded over with my dad—is that I have seen every Marvel movie. Some of my favorites include Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and, while it’s not a movie, the television series WandaVision. I found the latter to be both clever as well as a thoughtful exploration of grief.
I like to think about why we gravitate toward the superheroes we do at a given time, and the ways they allow us to work through real-life anxieties by watching them successfully prevent the literal end of the world. Superheroes are a fascinating lens through which to view life.
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Eating ramen is a multisensory experience: the fragrant steam coming off of the broth, the slurping sound of enjoying thThe Art of the Ramen Bowl” (March 18–July 5) that’s on view at the Los Angeles location of Japan House, an initiative with additional hubs in Londonburi, the porcelain receptacles in which ramen is traditionally served, and renge, the compact, teardrop-shaped spoons that often accompany them, made by 30 leading artists, architects, and designers.
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Born in Grandin, North Dakota, in 1904, the artist Clyfford Still was among the first generation of Abstract Expressioni
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Thick, wobbly lines branch out across a wall of Pace Gallery’s global headquarters in New York. Follow each stroke to itwomen, grandpas, and singers craning toward the ceiling, and donuts, hairs, and holes reaching into the ground. Part absurdist diagram, part heart-melting poem, and part consciousness-shifting artwork, thiDavid Byrne: How I Learned About Non-Rational Logic” (on view Feb. 2–March 19), a restorative survey of drawings the musician has made over the past two decades.
With their audacious, gravity-defying forms, skyscrapers have captured the public’s imagination for more than a century.Skyscraper Page, a zany website with a skyscraper discussion forum that has spread to some 100,000 threads. But what’s the point of obs
In the early ’90s, artist, aesthetics expert, and writer Leonard Koren was bathing at a hot-springs resort near the Japa
“Magazines may be a dying breed,” says Jon Kelly, a former Vanity Fair editor who founded its politics, business, and technology website, Hive, in 2015, after working as a staff editor for The New York Times Magazine and as a founding team member at Bloomberg Businessweek. (His career in media began at Vanity Fair, as an assistant to the legendary editor Graydon Carter.) “But magazine-style writing is always in vogue.” With this coPuck, a subscription-based website where elite writers tell insider stories that lie at the nexus of Hollywood, Wall Street,
At this and at every moment, the Earth, and all the species who reside on it, are pushing through time and space, surrou
The exhibition “AORA V: nature/nurture” (on view through Feb. 27, 2022) takes place within four tranquil galleries that, thanks to ample room-length skylights
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Bernie Krause and United Visual Artists Translate Nature’s Sonic Landscapes Into an Emotive Spectacle
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As a stylist, Kate Young has a particular affinity for well-designed things—that is, iconic items that stand the test ofknow what Cartier is. It’s sexy. It’s French. It’s sort of, always, for me, rooted in the seventies.” To kick off Season 2 oHello Fashion, her YouTube show created in collaboration with The Slowdown, the stylist walks through some of the famed French jewelr
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The underlying vision for “A Diagnosis of Time: Unlearn What You Have Learned,” a collaborative exhibition between the ASavannah Centre for Contemporary Art (SSCA) in Tamale, Ghana; and the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (on view through November 3), is both literally and This is Not Africa: Unlearn What You Have Learned,” currently on view at ARoS through October 24, challenges stereotypical Western notions of African-ness.)
Omer Arbel, an Israeli-born, Vancouver-based artist and designer who creates boundary-defying objects and architecture, Omer Arbel (Phaidon), edited by Stephanie Rebick, an associate curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery, celebrates the depth and bread
As Paris emerges from lockdown and its streets come alive, the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, an art center Cherry Blossoms” (on view through January 2, 2022), an exhibition of expressively impastoed, large-scale oil paintings by British artistold the BBC. “My mum used to say, ‘There’s enough horror in the world. Why can’t you just paint flowers?’ So maybe she got to me.”
Los Angeles–based journalist Doree Shafrir sees beauty in the particular challenges faced by those who find their footin, pours her lighthearted yet critical perspective on her experience into Forever35, a self-care podcast she co-hosts with her longtime friend Kate Spencer, and into her new memoir, Thanks for Waiting: The Joy (& Weirdness) of Being a Late Bloomer (Ballantine Books), out this week. In the book, she interrogates the often overwhelming pressure that people—particular How do you start your mornings?
“Social Works,” a group exhibition that opened this week at New York’s Gagosian gallery on West 24th Street, explores space—and the m
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Several years ago, Claus Sendlinger began contemplating ways to address his concerns about overdevelopment in the boutiqSlow, a hospitality venture dedicated to creating places that draw upon their locations’ culture, environment, and history aagriturismo (farmhouse retreat) called La Granja. The working farm practices regenerative agriculture, and teaches visitors how it
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The first Monday in May is synonymous with the Met Gala, a benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume InstitutVogue. “Designers live for it.” This year, the affair hasn’t happened yet—it may happen this fall—but to mark the annual occathe eighth episode of Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown.
To stay healthy, we know that our bodies need nourishment, hygiene, and exercise. According to those who study neuroaestEp. 34 of our At a Distance podcast) who runs the International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab)—an initiative at John Hopkins University’s School of Medicine that connects brain scientists with artists to Arts + Health & Wellbeing, an immersive online tool kit that offers visitors an engaging dose of art, and consequent mental fitness, from anywherEp. 11 of our Time Sensitive podcast.)
“A question I get asked a lot is, ‘How do I get your job?’” says stylist Kate Young. “That answer is complex, because pe10th episode of Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown.
Practically everything the artist, master potter, and writer Edmund de Waal touches turns to dust. Or at least toward the idea of dust. In each of his books—2010’s The Hare With Amber Eyes, 2015’s The White Road: Journey Into an Obsession, and the just-published Letters to Camondo (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), out this week—dust serves as a profound metaphor. Throughout his work, whether in pottery or prose, de Waal explores various notions a
From a fashion perspective, the Golden Globes stands apart from other award shows for its timing: The event, during whicleft at that point,” says stylist Kate Young in the ninth episode of Hello Fashion (created with The Slowdown), noting that she usually starts working on Globes outfits around Halloween. For the episode
Julian Sancton knows a thing or two about bone-chilling temperatures. “For a while, I’ve been visiting a friend’s uncle’Departures magazine for nearly a decade. Despite the getaway’s frigid conditions, he continues, “It’s just so beautiful, and gave Belgica spent a sunless winter frozen in the Antarctic ice. Sancton traces the historic voyage, which wasn’t exactly smooth saiMadhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey Into the Dark Antarctic Night (Penguin Random House), out this week. We recently spoke with Sancton about what he read during his research, and the ne Tell us about some of your favorite books on polar expeditions.
Arts education opportunities faded fast for kids in the learn-from-home fog of Covid-19. That’s where The Look Make Show, a new TV program by New York City’s Children’s Museum of the Arts, hopes to come in. The cartoon, of which the creatorKickstarter campaign through May 14, focuses on Rod and Coney, two rotund, charismatic artists who refuse to let the pandemic get in the way
Seasoned stylist Kate Young never arrives at any event unprepared. Whether it’s the red carpet, a shoot, or a press funcOn the seventh episode of Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, Young shares some of the essentials she places inside every travel bag, along with insider
Debates about whether encyclopedic museums—institutions that collect and contextualize cultural artifacts across time an—should act as more than mere repositories date back decades, but have taken on a new urgency as of late. Now, institutioEp. 12 of our At a Distance podcast), tackled these topics through interviews with nearly 30 leaders, and compiled the conversations in a new book, Under Discussion: The Encyclopedic Museum (Getty Publications). We recently spoke with Grau about the future of institutions and the layered, ever-evolving narra What central issues do encyclopedic museums face today, and what prompted you to explore them?
When attending runway shows, stylist Kate Young keeps her eyes peeled for premiere dresses—gowns to be worn by actressesOn the sixth episode of her YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, Young talks about her process for selecting and securing premiere dresses, and highlights f
New York–based stylist Kate Young devotes her YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, to explaining the ins and outs of celebrity styling. Her wide-ranging explorations about whOn the series’ fifth episode, Young answers various audience questions, submitted in the comments section of her YouTube channel and on her Instagram.
The Covid-19 pandemic, by its very nature, has led to a universal turning toward—or even retreating to—home. The very noTadao Ando: Living With Light (Rizzoli), out this week, that presents 11 extraordinary residential projects designed by the Japanese architect, who has created more than 100 ho
Frustrated by the high cost of wellness in America, Brooklyn-based journalist Annie Daly set out to find meaningful alteDestination Wellness: Global Secrets for Better Living Wherever You Are (Chronicle Prism), out May 11. What may sound like a travel writer’s cushy, decidedly pre-Covid boondoggle in fact offer
Italian jewelry designer Elsa Peretti, who passed away on March 18, is a constant inspiration to stylist Kate Young’s lifourth episode of her YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, surveying some of the brilliant things Peretti made in her lifetime. Young begins by discu
The British-born, Brooklyn-based philosopher Simon Critchley has no shortage of interests. He’s written, in his refreshiThe New York Times, where he moderates its contemporary thinkers opinion forum, The Stone. For his forthcoming book, Bald (Yale University Press), out April 27, Critchley—who teaches philosophy at The New School for Social Research, and was tEp. 42 of our Time Sensitive podcast and Ep. 3 of our At a Distance podcast—compiled 35 of his favorite Times essays, forming an engaging series of short reads that suggest new ways of understanding the world. We recently spoke w
Isolating at home during the pandemic, New York–based stylist Kate Young longed for the hallmarks of awards season: fancthird episode of her new YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, she details three of her favorite awards looks: a saffron-colored Vera Wang dress, which MiBrokeback Mountain; a red Prada dress, which Selena Gomez wore to the American Music Awards on Nov. 20, 2016, when she won the Favorite FeI, Tonya.
When Goodnight Moon was first published, in 1947, the chief children’s librarian at the New York Public Library didn’t like that its story—Goodnight Moon’s honest presentation of sleep and solicitude still resonated with readers, who’ve since purchased more than 48 million