the spaz of fitness has arrived

So Mother****ing Badass

In Rhetoric, Training, WOD on April 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Here’s the thing… though I am a woman blogging about fitness, I’ve actively avoided posting about “women in fitness.” There are several reasons for this. One, I’ve misstepped and misspoken often enough that I don’t feel as if I have any right to criticize anyone. Two, there are so many articulate, intelligent bloggers out there who’ve already said what needs to be said (the problem is putting those words into action). But, in all my strength program research, I’ve run across so many inane posts that I’m going to abuse your patience, dear readers, with a little verbal musing.

I’m still consistently surprised by how many women are genuine afraid of building muscle. The amount of “will this program make me bulky” questions out there make me laugh. Firstly, because I don’t see the rationale behind the muscle-aversion, but secondly… do they think it’s that easy for women to bulk up? I love the image of some unsuspecting girl waking up like she-hulk because she accidentally squatted too heavy and drank a protein shake. And hell, even if she were some lucky genetic freak of nature who put on muscle easily, it would never be an instantaneous process. She could easily decide that she didn’t like her newfound strength (god knows why) and back off the lifting and resume… Zumba, or whatever it is people do for fun that doesn’t involve moving heavy things.

That said, I’m also wary of people who too readily disparage these women. I balk at the idea of women who are afraid of muscle because it says something to me about the image we’ve built of women and their relationship to strength– physical or otherwise. But on the other hand, I don’t like the ways in which people feel as if they have a right to judge others and their relationships to their individual bodies. After all, it’s her body and if she wouldn’t be comfortable as a firebreather with a 4 minute Grace, what right do I have to disparage her for it? I may be sensitive to this issue because there are still individuals in my life around whom I’m uncomfortable wearing short sleeve after one too many unpleasant remarks about “muscle” (even though I’m far from she-hulk, I promise). And then I feel guilty about the self-censorship as if I’m “caving” to some sort of outside pressure, but sometimes it’s easier than repeating the same arguments…

Last summer, I was at a cafe with a few of the other women in the English Department. One of my coworkers– who is usually a very pleasant, considerate individual– hissed an appallingly judgmental remark about a random girl in the restaurant. The girl was thin, but not dramatically so. I wish I remembered her phrasing, but my colleague made some very derisive, snarky “joke” about how the girl must never eat. I was taken aback for a moment– that she was so quick to judge someone based on how she looked, and… on the off chance that this girl actually had an eating disorder, that it would be an impetus to jeer at her in passing.

I attribute her (my coworker’s) perspective to the collective knee-jerk reaction to the unrealistic portraits of women painted by the media/etc/every other straw man we like to burn in the name of our societal fuck-ups. I suppose it might be a necessary step in the rejection of these paradigms and the adoptions of new ones, but… why combat negativity with negativity?

It makes me think about some of the rhetoric that comes out of CrossFit. For the record, I love that CrossFit promotes strength in women– that it sees beauty in figures for their functionality rather than abstract aesthetics– “My butt is awesome because it can back squat a small car” (I wish… I’ll get there… give me a few years :p) I appreciate the sentiment behind “Strong is Sexy,” and I love the CrossFit Women’s Creed. But, “Strong is the New Skinny” makes me laugh. The reason we even want a “new skinny” is because there were so many damn things wrong with the old skinny. The old skinny glorified unrealistic (and honestly, unattractive) portraits of undernourished models. The old skinny inspired crash diets and compulsive cardio and stigmatization of strength in women. The old skinny prompts snarky criticisms of unfortunate girls in downtown cafes who might just happen to be genetically skinny rather than self-starved, aspring-model skinny. Strong shouldn’t be the New Skinny. It shouldn’t be any kind of skinny. But I suppose “Strong is so motherfucking badass it doesn’t need a slogan” makes for bad t-shirts.

Whoo… Okay, I suppose that’s my rant.

I’ve now completed one week of the 70’s big S&C program, which means it’s still way too soon to make any evaluative marks, but I’m feeling good about my squats. Coach Jefe said that I’m at least squatting deeper than I ever have before, which means that I’m at least achieving priority one– improve my form. Also, I did 3 sets of 5 at 90% bodyweight today, which felt okay. I’m getting nervous though as the weights increase. I wish the box had bumper bars. I feel troublesome having to ask for a spotter twice a week, but I’m trying to do my squats on open gym days so I don’t have to distract a coach from a class, at least. Also, my strict pull-ups are up to 3 sets of 6… I hope that translates into good things for my kips. A quick cool-down of skill work today… a very moderately paced six rounds of

6 wall balls

6 American swings


6 pistols

6 pull-ups.

Waiting for a meeting with my thesis adviser now. Then porchside drinks with friends to enjoy this (long-awaited) summer warmth!

  1. “But on the other hand, I don’t like the ways in which people feel as if they have a right to judge others and their relationships to their individual bodies.”

    There’s definitely a line between encouraging women to think of their bodies as more than just ornamental objects for the pleasure of others and disparaging them for buying into traditional ideas about femininity. I sometimes wonder if I cross that line. I try to be cognizant but I don’t think I’m always successful.

    I do however make a concerted point not to judge anyone for their bodies or their appearances. I think it’s one thing to say that, you know, our culture encourages women to think of themselves as weak, but it’s another thing to say that women who don’t lift weights are somehow worse human beings because of that.

    Also, you did six pull-ups?! *bows in awe*

  2. Haha hey Caitlin, I was hoping you’d weigh in. I think that’s well-put. I try to be wary of imposing my values onto others, though I worry that I cross that line as well… I’m also just.. baffled by some of the women I know who are powerful, naturally gifted athletes who still hold back because they’re “afraid of getting bulky…” and it’s not like they buy into any bullshit conception of the “weak” female. I suppose they must find that muscularity unappealing… though I can’t quite wrap my brain around it. It makes me a little jealous because I want that strength and talent and would be working my ass off to cultivate it, but it’s their choice and their happiness…

    And yeah six. If I’m allowed to kip, I think my record is 20-some unbroken, but don’t be too impressed. My upper body strength is freakishly disproportionate to my lower body– hence the squats. 😉

  3. […] posted about the CrossFit Women’s Creed before and you can read more on my opinions here and here. But when he made that remark, I was reminded of the line “I am as proud of my […]

  4. […] sport. Particularly, I have a gripe about “Strong is the New Skinny”– elaborated here and reoccurring here. Another token phrase that’s troubled me is “Death before […]

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