Train Like a Woman, Look Like a Woman
Back in 2002 I was contemplating becoming a teacher. A health teacher to be more precise. As an undergrad I was studying Health Education with a concentration in
being awesome Health/Wellness Promotion, and as many of you can probably guess, a major part of the requirement for completion was to spend a semester student teaching at both a local middle and high school.
In my case “local” meant driving 50 miles (both ways) to Binghamton, NY. And while I could easily sit here and bemoan some aspects of the experience – driving 50 miles through the lake effect snow capital of the world during the dead of winter comes to mind. As does teaching human sexuality to a bunch of 7th-graders. Hey, you try to explain “nocturnal emissions” WITH A STRAIGHT FACE – I have to say, all in all, it was an amazing few months.
I learned a lot about myself during that time (like, how to properly tie a tie), and it was a wonderful opportunity to, as Chip and Dan Heath describe in their book, Decisive, get an “ooch,” or “taste” as to whether or not teaching was the right fit for me.
Turns out it wasn’t.
When it came down to it: I decided it was way cooler to spend my time hanging out in a gym making people stronger than it was hanging out in a classroom teaching kids what cell-mediated immunity was.
Still, I was reminiscing the other day about my student teaching experience and amid my thoughts of lecture plans, pop quizzes, and the differences between boy-down-there-parts and girl-down-there-parts (seriously, try to keep a straight face!), it brought me back to the day when I was asked by one of my students if I’d be willing to attend his poetry reading that he was organizing after school in the cafeteria.
While the Jaws theme music immediately started reverberating in my head as soon as the word “poetry” left his lips, being the good trooper and responsible teacher that I was, I gladly accepted.
Hopefully without sounding too mean, there’s Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off Broadway, the two homeless guys fighting over an empty Coke can in the park, and then there’s the poetry reading/one-man monologue/play that he put on in front of a group of 20 or so people.
I feel like a major a-hole for saying it (more than ten years later), but it was face palm bad. But I survived. And well, giving credit where it’s due: it’s not like I’ve ever done anything remotely as ballsy as that.
And because I really don’t have any other way to segue into what I actually wanted to talk about today, want to know what else is face palm worthy? The following story………..
It’s a Doozy
After linking on my site THIS post she wrote on why she doesn’t believe in barre classes anymore, last year my friend Emily Giza Socolinsky wrote a stellar guest post on this site titled A New and Better Butt? Why Not a Stronger Butt?
Note: before you continue, I’d HIGHLY recommend you read the actual post(s) because what follows won’t be nearly as vomit in your mouthish if you don’t.
Finished? Okay, good.
Great message, right? I felt Emily hit the nail on the proverbial head with that one. Any message which empowers and encourages women to not be afraid to lift appreciable weight, as well as any message which debunks the notion that lifting something heavier than a 3 lb dumbbell, bar, or purse will turn them into a Highland Games competitor overnight is alright in my book.
Apparently someone felt otherwise and took offense to Emily’s “tone.” Well, to be more precise they originally took offense that, unbeknownst to Emily, the photo she used in her original post was of an actual owner and instructor of a Barre class (that she snaked off of Google Images).
Emily gladly took the photo down. But it was the snide comment that the owner left in the comments section of Emily’s post which really grinded her gears:
” You have used the photo of barre class with out permission … Please remove it. This is a photo of my instructors at a barre studio and myself.. It is not stock for public consumption.
Separately, you are completely wrong about barre class. I don’t know what kind of class you taught at your studio but our clients are much stronger, much more confident, ski better, play tennis better, etc and aren’t just there to tone their thighs. Perhaps they can not pull their husbands out if a burning building – not sure whose overall goal that would be anyway – but they are not looking to build enormous muscles and look like a man either.
Remove the photo immediately.
OMFG – when will this ever end??????????????
Excuse me while I go face palm my face into a cement wall.
Emily responded like a champ:
“Thank you for your comment. I apologize for using your picture. I will remove this out of courtesy to you and your instructors.
However, what I cannot and will not do is apologize for my post. I am not completely wrong about barre classes and if you actually read my post, I am all for women doing what works for them and makes them happy. But I want to deliver to my female clients what I believe to be a better program for getting stronger and gaining confidence.
While I am sure that your clients have gotten stronger from your barre classes, I believe that my clients are served better by actually lifting weights that will challenge their bodies, minds and spirits. None of my ladies look like a man.
In fact, all of my women have dramatically changed their bodies into curvaceous, strong and fit women. Your comment implies that my goal is to make women look like men. Women can be strong, have muscle, lift heavy weight and still be women.
I want to deliver the best program to my women and for them and for me, this includes picking up weight that weighs more than 3 lbs. Sure, you can get stronger by doing anything….but in my world (and many others) building a stronger body means actually lifting weights.
And for me, I DO want to know that if I had to, I could pull my husband out of a burning building.”
The absolute best response I saw on Emily’s Facebook Page was this:
“Ski better, play tennis better” is the bougiest response to anything I’ve seen in a while. “
Our clients can handle many pottery barn shopping bags.” “She has the strength to open the hood of her own 3 series.” “Our clients look great in their cocktail dresses when they attend philanthropy luncheons.”
Well said by whoever said that!
I don’t feel I need to add any fuel to the fire here since most of you reading know my stance on this topic. I just find it disheartening that this is still the pervasive attitude which dominates much (not all) of the female psyche.
For the love of all that’s holy can you blame some of them?
I have a female client who’s a personal trainer on the side and she mentioned how she wanted to ween herself out of the commercial gym setting, and start working with younger athletes (particularly female) at the local high school where her son goes.
As it happened, she sent out an email to all of the girls athletic coaches at the high school telling them that she’d be in the weight room this summer to help out, and she asked the coaches to encourage their athletes to come.
She heard back from TWO coaches, one of which is the female PE teacher who also coaches the field hockey team.
This is what the coach wrote back:
“One issue is the lack of user friendly equipment for the girls. They are not interested in the heavy lifting machines. I wrote a grant for strength training circuit machines and cardio machines, but it did not get funded.
Well no shit they’re not interested if this is the mentality that’s being engrained from the get go!
For the record: my client noted that the “heavy lifting machines” this coach is referring to are the TEN squat racks in the weight room.
Since when do females need user friendly equipment? Since when do they need to be pampered with cardio machines?
It’s all BS if you ask me. Worse still, it’s a disgrace and woeful fail in judgement on the coaches’ parts. Way to go! You just pandered to the fears that every girl has towards lifting weights by telling her she needs to head to elliptical row!
If females are being “programmed” by their elders and coaches at such a young age to think that boys and girls need to train differently and that the squat rack isn’t “user friendly,” is it any wonder why this seems like a losing battle at times?
Why not, I don’t know, encourage young, impressionable women that the squat rack isn’t Mordor. That they don’t need to train any differently than the boys? That lifting appreciable weight can be a key to unlocking a treasure trove of beauty, athleticism, and maybe even more importantly, confidence?
Can we turn the page sometime in the near future? Please?