I want to know why the LBEB men never feel obligated to take a post sexy pictures of themselves.
I feel like the LBEB women are sometimes pressured to take these types of photos of themselves to show (once again) that strong women can be sexy. Yet, all we see of the men are pictures of them lifting heavy shit.
Because of the sexualization of female athletes. That’s why. -missdeejers
Short response: Yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times: yes.
Overly long and somewhat redundant rant that was unnecessary but incredibly cathartic nonetheless:
First off: I don’t even subscribe to the LBEB philosophy. In my mind, they’re somewhat of a joke because they embody all of the mouthy and egotistic but otherwise mediocre lifters that are ubiquitous on the internet. And if the problem of oversexualizing women who lifted ended on LBEB then I probably wouldn’t have much to say the matter. But we also tell women to do Crossfit because the chicks are hot. We recommend Jamie Eason’s Livefit and NRL4W to female novices because it will improve their appearance. Clearly, female fitness has an image issue.
Has no one else noticed that there is some irony in the fact that we tell women they are equal to men and they should lift like men because it will make them totally smokin’ hot for their male counterparts? Really, we were just kidding about that whole equality thing. Really, we say women should be empowered to lift – but they should do it to satisfy the male gaze!
Listen to me! I’m a raging feminist! Even though I’ve never been to a suffrage rally or anything. I just know that men and women are equal and that’s so self-evident I’m not sure anything else needs to be said. Plus, I’m a female powerlifter. That should tell you all you need to know about how much I care about gender norms. And yet, I don’t think my disdain for this whole topic stems from my feminist identity.
Rather, it stems from the fact that I was fat and now I’m slightly less fat. All those girls who say “Don’t worry about the scale! The number doesn’t matter! What matters is how you look!” are either lying or delusional. Because there are things that matter besides appearance and your weight kind of matters, too.
Like, if you are me from the past and you’re 5’3″ on a tall day and you weigh 252lbs, then you have no choice but to drop some weight because your body is literally screaming at you to take action. Because if squatting 250lbs is a feat for most women, imagine carrying around that weight on your back all day, every day. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that no 5’2″ woman is walking around with 200lbs of lean muscle on her frame.
So I can’t say that I train for aesthetics and that was an easy decision. While I am not immune to vanity and while no one ever set foot in the gym without the intention of improving their appearance, at this point in my life and for the foreseeable future, training to be hot would be an exercise in futility. Every couple of months, when I inevitably get asked if I’d ever be interested in bodybuilding, I just laugh in response. My own mother once hesitantly asked me, “So does this mean you look muscular now?” and I answered her quite matter of factly: “No. All of my muscle is hiding under a layer of fat. So I still just look fat.” And honestly, as a former fat person, I have the dreaded beef jerky stomach and that will probably never go away and will never look hot.
But back to the beginning: if the lifting propaganda machine is to believed, women have no reason to train other than to look hot. But if aesthetics are such a lost cause for me, then why the hell do I find myself obsessed with lifting?
I don’t want to be strong for a girl. I just want to be strong. That’s it. I am equal to men in and out of the weight room. Which we’ve already established, and which I happen to know for fact, since I outlift the vast majority of the men in my gym. I’d be lying if I denied that there’s a pretty big sense of satisfaction in that accomplish. One day, I want to post my lift numbers online and be mistaken for a respectably strong dude. That goal has nothing to do with my appearance.
But being strong has helped me in other areas, too. It has drastically improved my quality of life. Strengthening my back means that I no longer experience debilitating back pain when I have PMS. Strengthening my arms means I can move around office furniture at work while my boss wastes time looking for one of our male coworkers to do the job. I can even change the jug on the water cooler when I’m thirsty without batting an eye, while other women look on and say, “That’s so heavy. Are you sure you’re okay?”
Lifting is also very much a learning endeavor for me, filling the void in me that craves knowledge. I’ve gone to see coaches for a couple of hours of lifting and then spent weeks focused on implementing their advice to its full potential. I follow several dozen blogs and I enjoy the challenge of critically evaluating all the opinions from so-called experts out there and trying to figure out whether they can improve my own training. I receive feedback from my own body every time I step into the gym and I’m constantly learning where my limits are and then trying to push past them. As a skill, lifting challenges my mind as much as my body.
No one’s talking about these other aspects of women’s fitness, or if they are, it’s always as afterthought or as a footnote. And yet, these are the things that really spoke to me and continue pushing me forward. I can’t be the only one. The opening statement of this very post would suggest that I’m not the only one who sees the double standing of hypersexualizing women who lift as more demeaning than empowering, either. How many women are we setting up for failure if we focus exclusively on getting that bikini bod? How many are we alienating by selling the sex appeal of the six pack? And can we ever make the shift to acknowledge that strong women are strong role models, not just because they look good?