The Audacity and Bias of a Woman in Shape

The email below comes to you as an email originally meant for my eyes only.  It was written in the heat of the moment when our feelings about being challenged or being hurt are still getting sorted.

In other words, don’t you dare get hung up on misspellings and punctuation because the messages are too DAMN POWERFUL to ignore!

Your boldness, your audacity as a female lifter, as a female with muscles, as a female who believes in and loves the power of her body, can absolutely rub others the wrong way.  

In a matter of months, Raven’s femininity, sexual orientation, and capabilities have all been questioned as her body has changed from a lean and long softer body to a lean and long muscular one.

I want to point out that Raven is generally a very private person on social media, so I wasn’t sure she’d allow me to share her email with you when I asked.

To say the least, I am grateful because Raven displays the inner strength of a woman who can comfortably endure criticism about her body, her look, and her choices and still decide to do things her own damn way.

“Today, something was brought to my attention that bothered me, which is surprising. I was told by one of my long time friends that the picture I put on social media of me deadlifting 205lbs made her and other people think I was too masculine, enough to remark “does she like women now?” Even my sister made that comment a while back, but never really thought about it until now.

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What the hell, so a female cannot be strong and like it without having a stigma attached to them?
I have always been very slim but (not) toned.
But I actually love the way I look now.
And heaven forbid if you have short hair like myself…. so I must be full blown lesbian.
I guess it is ok to be a female with $50,000 of plastic surgery holding an expensive hand bag than a female that is healthy and strong, that deadlifts, squats and runs marathons.
Go figure, I will be 40 next year and I feel great. If the myscles in my arms make people uncomfortable now, than they will hate me when they see my abs!
I guess society thinks a woman is at her prime in her twenties. But I think that people expect women to become consumed with marriage, kids, work and life in general to not focus on her appearance and health.

I guess they thought they saw me at my best, thinking that was it.

Well I am tougher and stronger, smarter and happier, which in turn makes them feel some type of way.

Not apologetic for not being “normal”.
And no this is not what happens when you join the Army either.
It’s called being the best of yourself you did not know existed.”

 

I read this email several times before responding back to Raven because it left my brain swirling with important questions and messages which I have jotted down below!

I could easily turn each point into it’s own email in Sweat Unfiltered as this is generally the place we air out our juiciest stuff, but I’d rather hear DIRECTLY back from you first- jeidi@sweathuntsville.com or with comments directly underneath our Facebook post.

  •  Who are we looking to please in the gym?… because if it’s not ourselves, we’ve got some major mindset work to do!  You’ll never be happy with yourself until your journey IS ABOUT YOU and not “them.”
  • What is femininity?  Because if you don’t understand that it’s defined by BOTH social and biological attributes then you box yourself inside outdated boundaries.
  • What does femininity have to do with sexual orientation?  They are two very different topics and neither are none of your effing biznass any damn way.
  •  Why does the pride I have of my body, make others feel any sort of way?  Aren’t they projecting their insecurities on me rather than themselves?  Isn’t it easier to make a judgement than to sort through our own drama?
  • Is how you choose to workout limited by fear? I don’t care if you are not a lifter.  That’s your choice.  I do, however, object to anyone deciding not to lift out of anxiety based on stereotypes like “I’ll look like a man.”
  •  How are you defining your best?  Is your best in the present and in the future?  Are you unhappy with your body or journey because you are holding on to your past?  Are you in the process of creating your best self now that can totally be a best self in the future too!!
  •  Do you apologize for your body?  I mean… whether it’s muscular or soft or anything else you want to label it!  Do you find yourself feeling like your present needs to be excused?  I’m talking about the compliment given to you that you receive with a “thanks, but I actually have 15 more lbs to lose before goal weight.” or “thanks, but it’s been 2 weeks since I worked out and I’m just gross right now.”

2 thoughts on The Audacity and Bias of a Woman in Shape

  1. As a younger person I did gymnastics/ cheer/ aerobics, etc. and while I did lift weights along the way, it was not like I do now at SWEAT. At 5’1 and athletically built, I have always struggled to feel confident about build to size ratio. As a teen and gymnast, the size of my legs and deltoids use to bother me. After having 2 c-sections I no longer cared about my legs because my abs became my obsession. In my mind, they were never flat enough. I’m embarrassed to say that the scares from pregnancy/birth, which blessed me with the two most wonderful human beings, left me feeling less than as a woman. However, now after spending the last several years learning to push my body in waysI never thought I could, I finally really like it. But I want to be clear, I don’t like my body because I love how it looks necessarily, I it because of how it feels. I lift more than I ever have and I weight more than I ever have, yet I feel solid in ways I can’t explain. At almost 50, I am finally feeling confident about my body and I think it’s because I no longer care what other’s see, it’s about how I feel when I push myself to lift more or sustain the intensity of my workout when I really want to quit. I have muscles that make some of my shirts feel tight and that makes me happy! I can do push ups and other shoulder movements that previously I could not do with my torn rotator cuff. Do I have muscles? Hell yeah, and I work hard for them too! What makes me the most grateful though is that both of my girls also love to lift, and l hope love their bodies. They also have both experienced the mental benefits that comes with pushing themselves to push and/or pull more weight. And when my youngest (who had reconstructive knee surgery and never thought she could do what she does now) is asked how did you get that butt, her response “squats and dead lifts” , which she proudly posts. So I say screw the critics, and pump as much steel as you can! Strong is feminine.

  2. As a younger person I did gymnastics/ cheer/ aerobics, etc. and while I did lift weights along the way, it was not like I do now at SWEAT. At 5’1 and athletically built, I have always struggled to feel confident about my build to size ratio. As a teen and gymnast, the size of my legs and deltoids use to bother me. After having 2 c-sections I no longer cared about my legs because my abs became my obsession. In my mind, they were never flat enough. I’m embarrassed to say that the scares from pregnancy/birth, which blessed me with the two most wonderful human beings, left me feeling less than as a woman. However, now after spending the last several years learning to push my body in ways I never thought I could, I finally really like it. But I want to be clear, I don’t like my body because I love how it looks necessarily, I love it because of how it feels. I lift more than I ever have and I weight more than I ever have, yet I feel solid in ways I can’t explain. At almost 50, I am finally feeling confident about my body and I think it’s because I no longer care what other’s see, it’s about how I feel when I push myself to lift more or sustain the intensity of my workout when I really want to quit. I have muscles that make some of my shirts feel tight and that makes me happy! I can do push ups and other shoulder movements that previously I could not do with my torn rotator cuff. Do I have muscles? Hell yeah, and I work hard for them too! What makes me the most grateful though is that both of my girls also love to lift, and l hope, love their bodies. They also have both experienced the mental benefits that come with pushing themselves to push and/or pull more weight. And when my youngest (who had reconstructive knee surgery and never thought she could do what she does now) is asked how did you get that butt, her response “squats and dead lifts” , which she proudly posts. So I say screw the critics, and pump as much steel as you can! Strong is feminine.

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