I have to preframe this post…
I do not have a problem with people posting what interests/motivates/excites them on facebook.
I do have a problem with the way women are positioned in the world of embracing our strength (recall a little post I wrote way back when about “strong is the new skinny”).
This week I feel like I’ve been bombarded with things that piss me off. I’m sure some of it is PMS but at any rate, here comes another rant.
After reading “Why Women Should Not Run”—an article written by a man with a personal opinion as well as a product to sell—my mind was off to the races. So when two articles along the same line—promoting women lifting weights—but both written by women came up on my newsfeed yesterday, I was a lot more hopeful when I clicked.
I should have been tipped off by the title of the first—“Why Weight Training is the Best Beauty Prescription for Women”—but I wasn’t. The article itself made some good points and I think made a good case for why weightlifting is healthy—but it also put beauty and having a particular body at the forefront.
It’s the little things that get to me—largely because they’re the things people don’t take note of since they’re so darn common. Take, for instance, the photo of the record-holding weightlifter that was in this article.
The article references Marilou Dozois-Prevost’s ability to snatch 87 kilos even though she only weighs 53. If you don’t weightlift, trust me when I say that’s impressive (I weigh ~70kilos and can snatch 35 at best).
So let’s see her do it.
I googled her to see if I could find photos of Marilou in the action. I gave the author the benefit of the doubt—maybe the photos of her in the bottom of her snatch weren’t out there or didn’t do her justice—but there are plenty of impressive images of Marilou doing her thing with a big smile on her face.
My question: If an article were citing a man for his ability to weightlift, would the picture of him be of him sitting on the ground, laughing?
This is common. Even ridiculously fit, strong, impressive women who can do amazing things with their bodies are often pictured in passive roles. This takes the emphasis off of what they do and puts it back onto their bodies and how they look—and I’d argue that it’s damaging. Rather than reinforcing this message that women should lift weights, it sends a quieter—but pervasive—message that women should lift weights in order to look a certain way. The emphasis is on how you look, not on what you do—which confuses and angers me as a woman who lifts weight but doesn’t look like a photo from CrossFit Girls.
The second article—the icing on the Cheryl’s losing her shit cake, you might say—was about embracing the body that training, particularly for a high level sport, gives you. “Empower” did a good job and I liked this reference to the bodies of the women on the Canadian National Senior Women’s [rugby] Team in particular: “Although they do not represent the same ideas of beauty that we see in popular media, these national level athletes illustrate how female beauty comes in many forms. Even if it comes in a 170lb form of pure blood, sweat and tears.” What I didn’t like was that it was referring to their bodies as photographed for a nude calendar.
You can bet those women weren’t playing rugby in those shots. “Empower” included a few photos…
We have the classic headless crotch shot and we have a group of undoubtedly badass women standing around a gym in their sports bras.
I invite you to swap in a men’s team—topless and standing around—or a similar shot of a headless man pulling down his boxers—and reconsider how “powerful” these athletes become.
Cue screaming into a pillow.
I’m pissed off because telling women that it’s good to lift weights because it will make them beautiful is no better than telling women to diet because it will make them beautiful. Telling someone to do this or to do that because it’s the best thing for them and for their body composition or weight or whatever the choice of the day is still suggests that what we get out of something—a certain body, in this case—is more important that what we become or who we are being while we’re actually doing the thing.
This whole “strong is the new skinny”/women should lift/strong is beautiful/etc. discussion might redefine beauty as something that more women can fit into—but what if there’s more to working out and more to living than the quest to finally be considered beautiful?
These articles all assume the same thing—that women want to be beautiful and prioritize that above other things. They’re all focused on the same thing: What will __________________ (insert hot topic of the day) do to my precious appearance?
I’d like to suggest a few alternatives to focus on.
Pardon my French, but what if you didn’t give a f*ck?
What if you did what you genuinely liked to do and trusted that a woman who does what she likes to do will be too busy enjoying what she’s doing to care if she has cellulite?
What if your body became a tool to do whatever it is you actually like to do instead of something to fix or shape or control?
Now I want to hear…
What activities would you do if you weren’t attached to what they’re doing to your thighs?
What lights you up and makes you feel alive?
What energizes, excites, and inspires you?