Manly muscles

Everyone has probably heard about athletes like Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey being called manly or masculine for having some pretty built muscles.

My initial reaction to this was rage, which is why I didn’t blog immediately. It’s difficult to put words into a sensible order when there’s a mini Hulk smashing round in my brain. But I gave her some rescue remedy and she’s currently working on some deep breathing techniques so hopefully I can keep the fury to a minimum. Here goes…

Dear muscle-shamers,

First up, having muscles doesn’t make you look like a man. It makes you look like a human being.

What, you think men move around using their muscles but women are powered by pink glitter?

I’m sitting up in this chair, moving my arms and hands to type and edit this post. I’m breathing, blinking when I need to, last time I checked I had a pulse and right now my breakfast will be slowly digesting. All through the magical power of lady-muscles. Otherwise knows as muscles.

I see what you’re doing. I remember the youtube video in which a mum told her little girl to eat a banana so she could grow up strong. The 4-year-old replied “I don’t want to be strong, I’m a girl. I will have a husband who will be strong for me.” I may have cried a little bit.

That’s exactly what you long-live-the-patriarchy men want, isn’t it? An entire sex made to believe that we should be less, that we are less, so you can feel you are more. You get to be the strong ones, you get to be in charge, while we are soft, weak and pliant.

And if any woman dares to step outside the box you’ve made for us, you try to beat her back by attacking the very essence of who she is: a woman with muscles is no longer a woman.

Actually you don’t have to. You’ve got this idea so ingrained that other women will beat her down for you.

And you’ve done the job so very well. I’ve been called every variation of ‘crazy’ because I do strength training. I’ve had complete strangers walk up to me while I’m lifting weights and tell me to go easy because I “don’t want to get too bulky”. I’ve heard female friends say they want to try a bootcamp class, but never have because they don’t want to “get muscles” (seriously, pink glitter?) from it. And look at all the backlash these incredible, talented women get because being brilliant at what they do means they have some serious guns.

It’s oppression, pure and simple. Hidden in plain sight as yet another thing that ‘everybody knows’.

I’ve never really thought of myself as a rebel but I’m rebelling the heck against this. I am a woman (I may have mentioned before), and I am not made any less of a woman by the fact that my deltoids are visible. Or the fact that I regularly swing 20kg of iron around my head for funsies. Or that it’s my dream to one day live somewhere with enough space for my own barbell and plates. I could go on.

And on.

I bet you didn’t think exercise could be a tool for breaking down your beloved patriarchy. I’ll be honest, I didn’t. Before this I was just building my muscles up because I love to see the definition and I love feeling strong. But as of right now I’m also building my muscles up to prove that muscular does not equal manly, to be a living example of strength and power and femininity all rolled into one.

You can hold onto your ridiculous stereotype of the weak woman if that makes you happy, but kindly keep it to yourself. I’m too busy working on pull-ups to listen anyway.

Your ideas are old, tired, and just plain wrong, and I’m not buying them.

Most sincerely,

A strong woman.

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