Strong women are stronger with their clothes on

This post wins the award for “Longest Time Sitting in Draft Folder”. It’s one of those occasions when I write, re-write, edit, trim, tweak and delete, in order to make my point without shitting all over everyone who doesn’t follow the same code of life conduct as I do. But the strength of my opinion is such that it was never a question of when it would come out, but rather in what form, and how much vitriol would spew forth along with my words.  So, ladies of the internet, fitness bloggers, professionals, trainers, models, and everyday chicks who like working out, here they are…

1. having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks.
2. able to withstand great force or pressure.

It started with a friend who posted the subject of this post as a Facebook status. I liked it – short, simple and to-the-point, and it taps into the downside of a current trend: mental or physical, “strength” is a very big word in the female world these days. “Strong is the new sexy” seems to have launched itself into the unenviable position of being “Slogan Most Likely to Be Printed on a Skimpy, Ill-fitting, Neon Pink Gym Top”, and has spawned an unwelcome rash of “fitspo” images (for the benefit of my mum and rock-dwellers, “fitspo” is short for “fitspiration” – supposedly inspirational pictures of fit people). However,  seemingly half the female population of the internet, or at least the ones that fill my social media streams, appear to mostly be celebrating the “sexy” part, still doggedly clinging onto the idea that they must always be alluring and attractive, even when training, competing or otherwise furthering their physical (and mental) aptitude. 

sexually attractive or exciting.
“sexy French underwear”

Now, let’s get something straight: there’s sexy and there’s strong. The two are unrelated. You do not need to be sexy to be strong. You do not need to be strong to be sexy. Being sexy doesn’t make you strong – you may have muscles but flaunting them in a bikini doesn’t mean shit. You may look strong, as a result of a careful bodybuilding-style training regime and a micro-managed diet, but when it comes to the true tests of strength, say deadlifts or pull ups, you can’t do shit. You may even be able to do pull ups, lift twice your bodyweight, and look good in a bikini, but you know what? Unless it’s part of your job, being so vain, needy, insecure and/or arrogant as to spend your time shovelling as many selfies as you can down your Instagram feeds betrays a lack of true strength within yourself, which is pretty much of the point of this post.

beccasswansonThis is one of the strongest women in the world, Becca Swanson. She’s strong as fuck, can deadliest 310kg, and I doubt word “sexy” crosses her mind when she’s lifting heavy shit up in the air.

One of the reasons I’m passionate about strength training for women is because of the confidence it can bring – suddenly you find yourself capable of doing things that you couldn’t before – picking up heavy boxes, effortlessly opening that heavy glass door on the main entrance to your office, or even just noticing how much lighter your eighteen month old seems. And that feels awesome. Confidence comes from inside, from having knowledge of your skills, and is developed by spending your time and effort doing something that you were once crap at and are now better at.

strong-v-sexy-compilationA page of Google Images results if you search for “strong is the new sexy”

On the surface “strong is the new sexy” sounds like quite a feminist phrase, especially as it’s usually accompanied by words like “fierce” and pictures of “empowered” women with big muscles, but it’s just the same old shit all over again: turning it back to being about looks, rather than ability, something which sadly women seem to be just as ept at doing (if not more so than men) by embracing the sexuality – showing off their body, sticking their ass out, pouting and posing like a stripper on her way to the yogacise class. 

In reality, strong has nothing to do with how you look, but everything to do with how you think and how you act. It’s to be respected: something that you work hard for – both physical and mental strength require a long process of forging, a lot of effort, suffering, dedication and, especially in the case of physical strength, WORK. It is this last point which I, and I suspect many others, respect and admire. The ability to graft to get the results. 

If you’re a woman, unless you’ve got unlucky genetics, you’ve had to do sweet fuck all to get a pair of tits and an ass with a reasonable layer of fat deposited on it (and don’t start whining about all those squats because let’s be honest: half of you aren’t doing them regularly, heavily or properly enough). Endlessly posting pictures of yourself on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter performing exercises in what basically mounts to your underwear doesn’t make you strong, it just makes you look like an attention whore with an insecurity complex.

strong-v-sexy2Fitspiration (*retch*) or wank fodder for the armchair “fitness fan”? Motivational or just breaking down women into a sum of their body parts?

Genuinely strong people – of mind and body – do not need the admiration of others to live their life and continue on their path to being more awesome. They don’t need guys fancying them, or to live under the illusion that other women look at what they do and envy them for it. They don’t get their gratification from what others think, but rather thrive on the striving to be better than they were yesterday. By flaunting your body – your exterior, the bit the wraps up the shit that actually matters – you are undermining yourself, and the hard work you put into becoming that better person. 

Let’s think about who is looking at these photos: your fellow womankind. How do you think they will respond to seeing you do a handstand in your knickers, or push-ups with your cleavage popping out? Do you think they’ll want to emulate that? Do you think they think that they could, even if they did want to? Is it inspiring? Does it educate or motivate? Will it make them get up and shout “fuck yeah! I can do that!”? And, really, is it necessary? I think you can guess what my answer to all of those questions is.


And what about guys? Seeing a girl in a sports bra and hot pants do a pull up, their first thought is likely to revolve around the principle of their cock, her ass, and the little gap that could be created in said hot pants with a strategically placed finger.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re outraged! “OMG! How could you say such a thing?! Men respect strong women!” Actually, no, they don’t, not unless that woman’s proven herself through hard work and dedication and has some results to show that are actually impressive, instead of the ones that happened to come about when she took some clothes off. When that happens, they’ll see the fruits of your labour first, and the fruits of your body second.

Anyhow, although it’s my blog, my opinions, blah blah blah, I don’t want to use it to rant about things that annoy me without trying to add something positive, after all, it’s not like I haven’t succumbed to the ego buzz of posting videos and pictures of myself (as I have written about very recently).

Part of training (and life) is the right mindset, and a part of that is finding ones own motivation. The only true place that can come from – true in the sense of right, sound and solid – is oneself. The burning desire to do better, get stronger, push yourself and break through your limits, to go faster, jump higher, or simply just to make sure you’re healthy and fit enough to run after your dog. Everything else is a load of bullshit: because you want to look good naked, you think doing fancy tricks will impress your friends, and definitely in order to show off your half-naked self for the gratification of people who are not worth your efforts to gratify in the first place. Part of it also is managing yourself:  your time, your recovery, your potential embarrassment at doing stuff in front of other people, and most definitely your ability to deal with it when your ego creeps over and takes a sneaky shit in the corner without you noticing.  Stop and think about what you’re doing. Are you really doing things for the right reasons? Are you chasing the approval of others? Does it make you feel better about yourself if men think you’re hot? Or if women think you have a nice ass and a damn fine pair of leg…gings?

As in a previous post, there’s a line on which you must balance. The line between, say, posting your weight-loss photos to show your friends what can be done by someone just like them, or a video of yourself squatting 120kg to show your PT clients what they could achieve, or even a photo of you on-stage having nailed your category at a bodybuilding competition, and between pointless photos of your legs in hotpants, or of you doing a back bridge in your Victoria’s Secret lacy hotpants, or of you just standing in front of the mirror at the gym, sticking your arse out and pulling a duck face. Again.

And guys, don’t think this doesn’t apply to you. Cuz I see you in front of the mirror at the gym, lifting your shirt and looking at your abs, I see all those gratuitous selfies you posted on Facebook the day the sun came out (although I don’t see them any more, cuz I blocked yo’ ass) and I see that, like in so many things, you are just the same, and as neurotic, as us girls when it comes to matters of our own bodies.

So fight it – don’t be like everyone else and let your insecurities push you around, and please: stop sharing any more pictures of your ass with a duck face on the other end of it.



You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. toby channon says:

    Very enjoyable read. It’s a strange modern selfie taking world. It’s human nature to rarely question the norm and thus, easier than ever to think a red bull cures tiredness, cows milk is for humans and a selfie a day is warranted. These things can happen because more people do this stuff than not. Every now and again we need a slap. Someone to say “everyone does this, but it’s still fu**ing stupid”. This was an awesome reality check or reminder that thong deadlifts aint got a thing on genuine self improvement or helping people. The old bird giving up her time in a charity shop deserves way more “likes” than the duck faced girl showing us her kidneys. Cheers dude, keep up the good work.

  2. Xandra Williams says:

    Hello, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You….this was hands down THE best read about weightlifting and women I have read in a long time. I totally agree with you 100%…I just started weightlifting so that I can be a better Roller Derby player but I have found that I really enjoy it for what it it rather than just something I do to “cross train”…So thanks again…

  3. Michelle says:

    Bloody fantastic. Glad this made it out of your Drafts folder :) x