That felt so good to write.

Title Nine is a company who, in my opinion, make really great clothing for women athletes and for women who just don’t want their clothing to get in the way of doing stuff. Their catalogs and ads typically show real women, not models, doing the sports they love. Still, they’re always women who look strong nad fit, lean though not skinny, mostly young. They wrote a challenge to their customers:

Perhaps you think the real women on our pages are super women. Perhaps you think their lives are unattainable. Perhaps you think the whole thing is just a marketing mirage. You would be wrong. To illustrate, try this exercise: Take a minute to think about what your own caption might look like, a caption that gives voice only to the good, a caption that does not let negativity or self-censorship creep in. Could you even see yourself in your own caption? Jump on www.titlenine.com and post your caption. See if you recognize the woman in the words. If you don’t, I hope you’ll start to. She’s pretty amazing.

Which is nice and inspiring and all, but I don’t think it goes far enough – because the problem with woman today is not too much modesty. The problem, for too many of us, is internalized self doubt stemming from too many outside messages about how we don’t measure up. I appreicate what Title Nine is trying to do, but they need to take it a few steps further. So I wrote back, but instead of coming up with a caption for myself, I said:

Dear Title Nine: if you really mean that challenge, then why not show women of all shapes in your catalog? OK, OK, I understand that you’re trying to sell clothing and you want to show your clothes off by showing how great they look on young healthy women with bodies that fit our perception of what an athlete looks like. Well, keep those women – they are us too, “us” being the women who buy your clothes to fit our active lives. But include the rest of us too. One thing I’ve learned as a masters rower and someone who’s been to the World Masters Games, where masters athletes (people from 25 or 30 all the way to 80s, 90s, even a 101-year-old swimmer) compete in nearly 30 sports is that athletes come in all shapes. Let’s see some people with saggy breasts, and how your bras let them run. Let’s see people in your swimsuits. Or someone who does yoga in your yoga pants to keep arthritis from locking up her joints. And how about maybe some wheelchair cyclists or adaptive rowers, competing in their chosen sport despite not being able to use their legs. Yeah, I can come up with a caption for me, no problem. But can I see people like me in your photos?

I’d’ve attached a photo, bu I’ve drunk too much of the Kool-Aid myself – the only ones I like to show are the ones where my belly isn’t showing, which kind of defeats the point here. (And also, all my good rowing photos are in rowing-specific gear, not T9 clothing, which would rather defeat their point, I think.)