Examining messages about the body #1: Women’s fitness media

Throughout my life I have avoided the fitness industry because I have always felt excluded, slightly horrified and straight-up confused. The fitness media is full of mixed messages, judgmental or shaming words and images, product placement and false claims. Outright lies such as “Get ripped abs in 6 weeks” or “Get boundless energy with Skinny stix” piss me off.
I loathe “before and after” photos, as if any one photo could represent your entire after? Besides, any fool can see that in many cases they just oiled themselves up and sucked it in.
And I hate this shit:
The shame! The stupidity!
The airbrushing!
But I love bodies, I love exercise and I love reading shitty magazines.
So what’s a gal to do?
To me, putting it out there, examining these attitudes and images and talking about it helps. It is harder for an industry full of excellent marketers to have power over us if we are silent, if we don’t discuss how we feel about this input, our bodies or our culture. It is easier to just ignore how many bodies are NOT represented with the majority of fitness media. (ok, all media) It is easier to feel left out, alone, than to speak out.

This is not a great squat.
This is not a great squat.

I also regret the promotion of a binary system of women’s fitness-you are either one of a very few super-strong women, or you are lifting 3-pound weights in fear of bulk. The reality is, most exercisers are somewhere in between. Many women are getting into lifting and building muscle. But I still see a lot of magazine spreads and books suggesting we should swing the tiny kettlebell my 9-year-old works out with, and the others assume we are training for Mrs. Olympia contests.
And, people, what is all this fitness for? What good is a toned arm anyway? I want to feel powerful, generate real force and defend myself if needed. Don’t be afraid of the ability to take out an attacker, outrun an alligator, stack some rocks or throw a roadkill deer into the trunk. Why aren’t the ladies in shape magazine ever doing that, eh? There is no need to deny our own strength in order to perform someone else’s idea of femininity. What I am saying is, if learned helplessness will help you “get a man”, he may not be the kind of man worth getting.
Workin real hard
Workin real hard

Ok, while I am at it let’s stop obsessing over looking young and throw a few elders into the fitness paradigm, let’s stop including a diet in the back of every freakin women’s exercise book and let’s get real about promoting healthy movement and inclusion.
One of the greatest powers of movement is to help us generate ideas, to integrate our mind and body as one, to help us think and process the day–and let it go. Exercise can make us smarter and stronger and more able. And it can be fun.
All bodies have a right to that, my friends.
So how are you promoting body love and movement practice and talking back to the fitness industry? I’d love to know.
Flawlessness is highly overrated.
Oh, and…Hating your body is a waste of time.
Um, forever?
Um, forever?


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