Reviews for Good For A Girl

by Lauren Fleshman

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A former national champion distance runner discusses her experiences as an elite female athlete in a system built to the measure of male bodies. Fleshman became aware of her athletic gifts during the “girl power revolution of the 1990s.” Equal access provisions of the 1972 Title IX law allowed her to engage in sports in ways her talented mother could not. Throughout childhood, the author routinely beat boys at running. Then puberty made her and other girls aware that they and their bodies were now “subject to the dominant male gaze.” Still, her compact frame still made Fleshman competitive with the male runners she both admired and envied. She became a champion courted by universities all over the country, including her alma mater, Stanford. Then her body began to change her sophomore year, and suddenly she found herself under pressure to maintain a “race weight” to keep competitive. As a college and professional athlete, Fleshman also suffered a series of stress fractures in her feet. The injuries raised her awareness that diets for women athletes could impair key bodily functions like bone production and that, physiologically, females did not gain their peak athletic power until their late 20s. At the same time, she learned how corporate sponsors like Nike objectified women athletes for profit, demonstrating how “sport and femininity were at odds.” In 2009, Fleshman began an advice column for female athletes to address issues like “body image, eating disorders, depression, lost periods, stress fractures, mysterious injury cycles, [and] anxiety,” all of which she had seen or experienced during her career and that later propelled her into her second career as a women’s running coach. As the author lays bare the price women pay for success in an athletic system that still favors males, she offers a thoughtful, much-needed plea for a more humane, gender-neutral sporting system. Inspirational and impassioned. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.