A Girlfriend’s Response To the Atrocity That Is Women’s Fitness Marketing
UPDATE: said girlfriend who wrote this post is now my wife. Holla!
It seems I ruffled a few feathers last week when I re-visited my 4 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know article.
For those who need to catch up:
1. I wrote an article five years ago.
2. It got sucked into some sort of internet blackhole, and no longer exists.
3. I used part of the article for another blog post HERE.
4. I had several people contact me to ask where they could find the rest of the article.
5. Since I had the original draft saved on my laptop, I decided to re-post the article on my blog.
6. Apparently, to some, I’m a chauvinistic a-hole who thinks women are dumb, and don’t deserve the right to vote.
7. Wait a second…..women can vote?????????
8. Just kidding.
9. See what I just did there? That’s called sarcasm.
Anyways, even though it was a piece I wrote a while go, it was obviously new to a lot of people, and I was surprised at how extensively it made its rounds throughout the blogosphere.
All told, the article was received very well. But as to be expected, there was some backlash, and that’s cool. I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with me.
Some women felt I was insulting them and they didn’t like my tone. Well, to be honest, the article wasn’t originally intended FOR women; it was intended (as another reader commented) for the men who hear a lot of the same complaints from poorly-informed women all…the…freakin…time.
More to the point: my goal was to convey that, when all is said and done, lifting heavy things = sexy (or whatever adjective you prefer), regardless of whether you’re a Victoria Secret model or just someone who likes to train for the hell of it.
Nonetheless, my girlfriend and I had a really great discussion about all of this over the weekend during our Saturday “date night.” As far as conversations are concerned, it definitely ranked up there as one of our most intellectual (poop).
Afterwards, we kept the momentum and went and saw a subtitled film. Totally not kidding.
She’s kind of smart, finishing up her doctorate in sports psychology in a few short weeks, so I asked her if she’d be willing to write down her thoughts and share them here.
This is what she said.
[Smoke bomb, smoke bomb, exits stage right]
Unplugged From the Matrix
Women’s fitness is controversial. Women’s fitness is confusing. Women’s fitness may or may not even exist. Learning that women and men should be doing the same basic movements to be fit, healthy, and in shape is the same as being unplugged from the “Matrix”, if you will.
For those non-sci-fi-readers, it is the same as learning that the earth is round, when you have been told your entire life that the earth is flat. Tony’s article on 4 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know is controversial because it unplugs us from the Matrix – it exclaims that the earth is round!
The beauty of the article, aside from its truth, is the passion and controversy it provokes. I say bravo, in small part to Tony, but more so to the men and women who responded to the article – who have feelings about ‘women’s fitness’ – and who, most importantly, are insulted by ‘Women’s Fitness’.
To ‘Yuck’, I am glad that you are insulted…. Say more! What language does the industry have to speak to women? To educate women? To help women to be healthy and efficacious in their fitness endeavors? At present, and in my humble opinion, the language of bullshit. Women, and men, harangue us on television, in magazines, and on the internet with promises of “toned” “thin” “longer” muscles and body parts.
‘Yuck’, are you insulted by Strippercize? By Yoga Booty Ballet? By the Pussycat Dolls Workout? I am. I am insulted that the industry has tried to convince me all my life that steady-state, low-impact, sexualized strutting is the key to me becoming healthy, sexy, and thin.
I am insulted that I am bombarded with false information at my every turn, and I am angry that I believed and followed bullshit advice for so many years. What I love about your comments, and your message, is that it is insulting to be spoken to as if we are “stupid”.
What it means to be a woman, and what is acceptable for a woman to be, has changed dramatically in the eyes of both society and the fitness industry since the 1960’s. Unfortunately, not enough. We may not sit back and wait for popular culture to hand us true, evidence-based, ulterior-motive free information. We must ask for it. We must demand it. And we must make it known that we are pissed off, indignant, and insulted when we are given otherwise.
“NOBODY EVER TAUGHT US!” I applaud “Ambition” for putting it so plainly, and truthfully. In light of the language of bullshit that pervades the fitness industry, how can we expect the average American women to respond differently?
I agree with Kelsey’s suggestion that Tony submit articles to Shape and Fitness magazines – several sources that insist, month after month, that the earth is flat.
Note from TG: I’ll actually be making my first cameo appearance in Women’s Health this Spring!
Indeed, there are more effective and nicer ways to unplug women, and fitness-ignorant men, from the Matrix.
Christine, I agree that Tony, boyfriends everywhere, and fitness professionals alike could all catch more fitness “flies” with sugar, than with vinegar – But that is another topic altogether.
Sweet or sour, women need to hear the truth
We deserve to hear the truth. How truth is served to us, is up to us, to flavor. “Yuck”, “Well”, Christine, and other readers, tell Tony and the rest of the fitness industry what you want – and how you want it. Don’t stay quiet. Influence the information you receive, and demand what you deserve!
One of the great blessings of my life is that somebody taught me. My father, a bodybuilding, protein-shake-drinking, Arnold Schwarzenegger-admiring man, taught me about and included me in his most beloved hobby for as long as I can remember.I loved him, and in turn, I loved lifting weights.
I was always interested in being strong, in looking strong, and in pulling, pushing, and pressing more. I was never intimidated in the gym, and was often labeled intimidating. I realize that my experience is outside the norm. Most women have never been taught how to take care of and strengthen their bodies, and that is a shame.
Lisa V. suggested that it is shameful for women to be intimidated to lift weights, but the reality is that many are, and that’s not their fault – it’s the fault of society and the fitness industry. We can judge intimidated women all we want, but until we influence them, and until we empower them, we are only part of the problem.
Judgment doesn’t make change… education, communication, and action make change. Bravo to Lisa V., and many other women, for getting to Cressey Performance to train (and Amen that many men are as ignorant as women about how to train!), but the fact remains that you are a beautiful, powerful, exemplary exception – not the rule.
For Lisa V., and “Ambition”, “Yuck”, “Well”, “Speed”, Kelsey, and all of the other women out there who are not intimidated by weights and strength training, who are hungry for the truth, and who are insulted by stupidity and Bullshit – I implore you to keep saying it! It is only through writing, talking, confronting and considering that we can evoke the evolution of the fitness industry – and in turn, of women’s fitness… Whatever that is.
Confront Tony, other fitness professionals, the media, and the images, programs, and bullshit that we are bombarded with.
“Well” expressed her belief that the pictures of the women on Tony’s article were horrible – and I think she may feel this way because these are thin, idealized models who do not appear physically muscular. However, the point of the pictures is to demonstrate that thin and thick women alike lift weights and strength train.
No matter what we look like, or what we want to look like, being fit and strong is elementary to our goal. Personally, I feel that Serena Williams has the hottest, sickest, most amazing body on earth. Will I ever look like her? Unfortunately for me, no. Do pictures of her speak to me? Encourage me? Inspire me? Hell yes.
Whether it’s Serena or Giselle, seeing images of women who weight train is important to women of every shape and size, who aspire to change their body into any shape or size.
Bodybuilders and others who make a career out of their musculature aside, in my opinion, there is no such thing as too muscular. If seeing lots of muscles on a lady is too much for you, than that is you. If a woman wants to kill it in the gym, build muscle mass, and create a physique “outside the box” of acceptable female appearance, good for her! I celebrate her. I admire her. I think she is a badass.
She is healthy, fit, and she sure as hell feels fabulous. As far as I am concerned, saying a woman is too much of an athlete, too masculine, or too far away from the societal standard is chauvinistic, and judgmental. It’s no different than suggesting we should all look like Victoria’s Secret models.
Prakash, and all the others frustrated by the topic of ‘Womens’ Fitness’ – don’t give up! We can create and change the language of the fitness industry – but only if we are active, only if we voice our opinions, and only if we are willing to say over and over again (sweetly or otherwise) that the earth is round!
There is so much more to say on this topic. Thank you for being some of the few who have unplugged from the American Fitness Matrix that is ineffective and insulting. I hope we will all keep talking – and criticizing, comparing, and kvetching. It is the only way to make change. To make it better. To make us stronger.