Good for a Girl, by Lauren Fleshman (audio)

Subtitled: A Woman Running in a Man’s World

Fleshman is a retired world-class professional runner, and this book is both her memoir and a treatise on the way women are approached and treated in the sports and running world. In particular, she takes us through the way the industry has changed over the last 30 years, both in good ways and in not-nearly-enough ways. Along the way, Fleshman discusses biology, puberty, eating disorders, athletic apparel, press coverage, professional contracts, injury, and the state of being female in the competitive sports world.

Let me preface this review by saying that my running days were amateur at best – I never even broke a 30-min 5K let alone the 15-min mark of the elite female runners – and that with the badly-healed, arthritic bone in my left foot, it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to run in any capacity again. So why read a running memoir? Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m just drawn to running nonfiction (particularly by women), or if I’ve just stumbled upon quite a number of good ones that address a wider scope than just running itself. As a fat, no-longer-running, middle-aged woman, I still found this book relatable. I may not have ever been anywhere near a professional athlete, but I did compete (in swimming) through my adolescence, and beyond that, I’ve lived as a woman through roughly the same time period as Fleshman (who is two years younger than me). I’ve watched the way various women’s sports have changed over time, and also the ways that the perception of women’s sports have stayed the same. If you see the inherent problems in women’s teams being fined for not wearing bikini bottoms, or the various controversies over whether female tennis players must wear skirts, or even the stark difference of both outfits and performance standards in male vs female gymnastics, there is something in this book for you.

I really enjoyed the book, and I’m generally not a memoir person. Fleshman integrated the memoir and non-memoir portions really well, probably because she lived through the environment she’s critiquing, so they dovetail perfectly. She also did an excellent job of acknowledging her failings – the times when she judged others in secret, the later-in-life realization that her fight for women ignored intersectional aspects, the moments that she let her desire to succeed win over her decision to make healthy physiological choices. All these things made up a perfectly imperfect narrative that was quick and easy to listen to.

There was one particular line that I actually stopped my audiobook to transcribe, because it impacted me more than I can describe, given the very fretful relationship I had with my body for almost 15 years post-first-pregnancy:

Women face immense pressure to experience pregnancy like leave-no-trace camping, with the goal being zero evidence on the body that it occurred at all.

It’s not really about running, and it’s only tangentially related to women in sports, but I think that’s a quote that could resonate with nearly every mother I’ve ever known. Immediately on hearing this, I decided that I must set up a personal photoshoot for my own scarred, damaged, never-be-the-same belly, in defiance of the pressure so many of us feel. Even if I’d gotten nothing else from Good for a Girl, that one sentence would’ve made the listen worth it.

Performance: Normally, I’m not a fan of authors reading their own books, but Fleshman did a fabulous job reading hers and I have no complaints.

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About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2023, Adult, Prose and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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