Girl Power?

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.

prevost

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.

CrossFit Elite marilou-dozois-prevost

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?

Methinks no.

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…

crotch shot

chalk and bras crotch shot

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?

do what you love

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?

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What Works

Ever feel like you’re being haunted by a link on your newsfeed?

Maybe it’s just me, but today was one of those days for me and this link to an article called “Why Women Should Not Run” is one of those links.

When I actually read the article, I got a little worked up.

What came to mind?

Don’t tell me what to do.”

“What if I like running?” (and biking and swimming and spin classes)

In short, I read an article intended for people whose goals are different than mine, but it brought up an interesting question for me. It referred to the use of cardio as an approach that wasn’t working.

What if—radical as it may sound—there are reasons besides changing what you look like in a bikini or what size your jeans are for working out? What if there’s some bliss in running on a trail, along a river, up a mountain, etc.?

How do you decide if an approach is “working”?

This article would be a godsend to the woman on the elliptical logging her minutes to burn off the gluten free vegan paleo raw muffin she ate even though she should be watching her carbs.

But to me, “working” is defined as something very different than looking good in a faceless photo taken from behind wearing a pair of underwear firmly shoved up my butt while I deadlift. (I’m surprised the girl in this photo from the article isn’t wearing high heels).

deadliftw-e1366075137867

“Working” is being healthy, being happy, and enjoying what I do. It’s getting rid of the should and the should not—which is probably another reason why an article called “Why Women Should Not Run” is not one I should have clicked on in the first place.

My second indication could have been the website where it was written—“Dangerously Hardcore”. I don’t really want to be dangerously hardcore.  This is just a side rant, but here goes:  This is a prime example of needing to take things in context—and there’s always a context.

Remember something – this guy has a book and a program dedicated to what he’s promoting in the article. Of course people need to write about what they know, but it’s best to remind yourself when dabbling in the advice out there on the interwebs that people can’t help but write things with their own interests in mind. If someone has a book promoting something and you’re reading info “for the greater good” on their website, keep in mind that their idea of what would make the world a better place is probably pretty specific (and in line with what they write about, sell, promote, stand for, etc.).

Anyways, back to my original rant.

Maybe a gal who runs on the treadmill or hits the pavement a few times a week does it because she wants to. Maybe those fundraisers she got roped into are causes she cares about or maybe the fifth marathon the article pokes fun at is the one that she’s always wanted to run.

Here’s a radical thought: what if people run, bike, do “chronic cardio” for reasons besides the effects it will have on the size of their butts?

The gift in stumbling onto this article isn’t that I’m going to stop running and end up in my skinny jeans. To be totally honest, I cut running, doing spin classes, riding and swimming from 5 days a week down to 1 or 2 in favour of lifting heavy and doing CrossFit for the last half a year and I’ve gained about 20lbs—even with a switch to a paleo-ish diet. I think part of what pissed me off so much with this article was it was exactly the advice I took—and for what? I have hypothyroidism just like the damsel in distress in the article does—and my switch didn’t help. I still have abnormal levels as of last week. In short, I’m mad that I didn’t use my brains a little more a little earlier to listen to my own voice instead of what this book, that blog, this guru told me was the best thing for me.

The point here isn’t: don’t lift and go running. The point is: think about what your goals are. If something’s not “working” for you, be willing to figure out what the f*ck “working” means. Does it mean fitting in your high school jeans? Crossing finishing an Ironman off your bucket list? Having energy to play with your kids? Winning a competition? RX’ing your workouts at CrossFit? Enjoying what you’re doing?

There is a big difference between running because you think you should and running because you want to. I can speak from experience – whatever is supposed to “work” will not work if you don’t enjoy it. If you’re skinny or ripped because you put yourself through miserable months of dieting and slaving away at the gym you might get your dream body—but you’ll still be miserable.

I’m almost done, but I have one more bone to pick with the article.

The author’s beef is mostly with women who complain about not being able to lose fat by using cardio to make up for a crap diet. I’d like to suggest something different than saving this girl with his superior approach…What if someone asked those women why they’re going on these “regular weekend beer binges” or what’s behind these “amazing displays of gluttony”? I’d argue that no matter how hot you might look naked, is it “working” if you’re bingeing? Is that healthy? Happy?

I’m grateful that I decided to call my blog “happy is the new healthy” because it offers a reminder—at a time where I need it desperately—that no matter how “healthy” someone tells me that something is, if it’s crazy-making, it’s not healthy.

Healthy is doing things that you love. Healthy is living for reasons that are more important that fixing, controlling, or shaping your body.  Healthy is happy. At the end of MY life, I’m going to care more about whether I ran that trail race than if I got back into my skinny jeans. I’m going to care more about whether I deadlifted that supermassive barbell than if I had a beach body. I’m going to care more whether I liked myself enough while I was here to enjoy myself—NOT whether I was wearing a size 4 while I did it.

The moral?

Do what you love—no should or should nots allowed.

And if you’ve lasted this long, here’s a much happier link that’s been haunting me lately—to the Dove Real Beauty’s latest initiative.

 

What is something you do because you love it?
Where’s somewhere you tend to take advice without thinking about who’s giving it?
What do you think of the Dove video?