In a FB group I help run for female strength athletes, the lovely Meghan Leigh of Iron & Spice (check out the FB page while her website ironandspice.com is under construction) posed some interesting questions about what it means to be a woman in pursuit of strength. I thought the questions were great, so I wanted to share her questions (and my subsequent answers), and hear your answers as well.
- What, to you, is the value of pursuing strength as a hobby? Being strong is a basic requirement to function as a successful and capable human. Being stronger, faster, and harder to kill certainly has it's advantages. Beyond that, strength as a hobby means working hard for the things that you want and bettering yourself day in and day out and those are things that extend beyond the barbell.
- How does that coincide with being traditionally female (or non-traditionally female) in society today? While the acceptance of the pursuit of strength for women is certainly growing, it is far from "accepted". Traditional gender norms are based, in my opinion, on the path of least resistance. It's much easier to say "girls don't do that" or "girl's can't do that" for men because it reinforces the societal high place that men have in our culture (note: I’m not saying this done with the intention of a singular man putting down a singular woman or that this is a “men hate women” thing because it isn’t - it is a reflection of the gender dynamics engrained deep within our culture). It's easy for WOMEN to say that about their own gender because doing hard shit is scary and putting other women down invariably leads to feeling “above” those women thus elevating said woman’s status. The idea that women are supposed to be desirable above all else has been deeply internalized. The idea that a woman can be worth more than her cup size is terrifying to a large portion of society. For women, rejecting this notion involves a process of making peace with themselves after a lifetime of being inundated with heteronormative media idealistic bullshit. Being strong and pursuing strength means facing these things head on. Women realize that they are more than a number - they are powerful, wonderful, STRONG beings. Women have been confined to a very narrow margin about what is deemed “acceptable” in terms of appearance - it’s small, but not too small, toned but not muscular, etc. The pursuit of strength, for many women, serves as a tool to shatter that narrow range.
- How can you be strong and feminine at the same time? Simple. Be strong. Be feminine. Do those things in whatever way resonates with you.
- Have you had particularly negative or positive experiences associated with being a lifter, and if so, how did you react: Positive - Being a lifter made me empowered, it made me healthy, and it helped me developed a deep sense of peace and positive relationship with my body. It has also given me a chance to connect with people, to have people email me/message me/tell me I inspire them (which is an entirely mind blowing concept in it's own right), and to help people feel better about themselves. Negative - people think that I'm intimidating or violent or mean or just straight up odd. I've had the standard "don't get too big" "you are too muscular" etc comments from men and women. At the end of the day, the positive comments far outshine the negative comments.
Ladies, how would YOU answer these questions?