This is not the post I had planned for today! But we’ll put that post on the back burner for now, because I just saw something that made me realize need to cover another aspect of health that’s just as important as eating well and exercising– if not more! One of my favorite resources for banishing fitness boredom is BodyRock. The “home workout movement” features free daily workout videos, and their challenging moves fall under the category of high intensity interval training. Their instructors are encouraging and upbeat, although it feels a little gratuitous to see the female trainers only work out in sports bras and very brief shorts.
I also follow them on Facebook, and today they posted “like this post if you feel the same way!” with a picture of a very zaftig lady wearing lacy pink briefs. The picture was captioned “a woman without curves is like jeans without pockets: you don’t know where to put your hands.”
First of all, this message isn’t about the woman, it’s about the person wanting to put their hands on her. Why is she just an object? Second, I don’t want soft-core images from my workout gurus. I want pictures of people challenging themselves, pushing their limits, and being active, not come-hither. Third, women come in all sizes and shapes. They’re all capable of being happy, healthy, and attractive, although I’m more concerned with accomplishing my personal goals and less concerned with which men want to put their hands on me (actually I’d prefer not to think about that… otherwise I’d never walk down the street).
Men come in all sizes and shapes, too, although I’ve never seen an image that says, “a man without muscles is like jeans without pockets: you don’t know where to put your hands.”
Your sense of self matters more than having six-pack abs. Call it inner health, call it self-esteem, confidence, or whatever makes sense to you. I’d rather be happy and comfortable in my own skin than obsess over every morsel of food that goes into my mouth. I never want to feel that I need to work out to maintain my dress size, rather than just exercising because it makes me feel good. Yes, I admire my arms (frequently), but I don’t beat myself up if I skip a day, or if I can’t lift as much as the woman at the next bench. Each and every athlete is different, and I’m not in competition with them. I’m not even in competition with myself!
The problem with being interested in health and fitness is that you see a ton of health and fitness messages by companies who want your repeat business. Magazines want you to keep subscribing. Stores want you to keep buying. Gyms and trainers want you to keep up your membership. There are some great people out there who really do have their customers’/students’ best interests at heart, but at the end of the day, that magazine/clothing store/gym is a business, and they need you to make a profit. What sells?
Insecurity, that’s what.
There have been many studies done about the number of messages women receive in a day. Ads, articles, commercials, TV, internet, movies, magazines. You’re bombarded with people who are Photoshop-perfect, smiling with white teeth as they effortlessly glide through life. These unattainable, aspirational images are meant to sell you on the product, whether it’s deodorant, pink razors, diet pills, or shapewear.
I try to avoid generalizations, but I think it’s safe to say that most women have something they’d like to change about their bodies. Ads used to blatantly dance along the edge of women’s desire to lose weight. Then, finally, women started fighting back with body-positive messages like “I love my curves” or “kiss my big butt!”
Did companies respect this message? Did the people behind the ads say, “hey, we should stop telling women there’s something wrong with them?”
If you believe that, I’ve got this great bridge for sale…
The message is still there. It just has a new face, or a more subtle hook. Some companies, like Nike actually do a pretty decent job with positive motivation:
“A WOMAN IS OFTEN MEASURED by the things she cannot control. She is measured by the way her body curves or doesn’t curve, by where she is flat or straight or round. She is measured by 36-24-26 and inches and ages and numbers, by all the outside things that don’t ever add up to who she is on the inside. And so if a woman is to be measured, let her be measured by the things she can control, by who she is and who she is trying to become. Because every woman know, measurements are only statistics and STATISTICS LIE.”
Great message, right? Although they’re still trying to sell you shoes/pants/sports bras, this is at least a step in the right direction.
What I have a problem with is messages that try to play women against each other, or elevate one body type by bashing another. The biggest weapon in this body battle royale is one simple word: “curves.”
Having curves used to mean that you weren’t as thin as society thinks you should be, and you were okay with that. That you were proud of your womanly figure. That in itself was problematic (you can still have a womanly figure if you’re not terribly curvy, right?) but it was a stand against the “thin is in!” tsunami.
Then curves became a gauntlet in the face to any woman who wasn’t voluptuous enough. “Real women have curves.” I’m pretty sure a real woman… is anyone who identifies as a woman. Curvy, not-so-curvy, two X chromosomes, transgendered… if you feel like a woman, you’re a real woman.
I’m simply not a fan of this body-conscious trend. What does it matter, as long as you’re happy and healthy and comfortable in your own skin? And when did curves become the new C-word? Women get enough messages telling them they’re not ____ enough (fill in the blank with young, sexy, skinny, successful, etc.). We shouldn’t be encouraged to turn on each other and judge who gets to be a woman and who’s left out.