When Nutrition Analyst & Farm-to-School Coordinator Asta Garmon asked me to do an interview about women and the stigma of women who lift heavy, I really got to thinking about my experiences.
It amazed me when it really dawned on me that I’ve gotten more crap from women about lifting heavy and being bulky than I have from men.
Yea I’ve gotten the occasional comment from men about whether or not I’m worried about being bulky. But really most of the trouble comes from men when I then try to give them advice about how to lift better or when they find out how competitive and driven I am (which is honestly a blog for another day).
BUT the true perpetrators are women!
Women are the ones that perpetuate the lie.
Yes…They perpetuate it by saying things like, “I don’t want to lift heavy because I don’t want to get bulky!”
But more importantly, they perpetuate it by telling women, who lift heavy, but look feminine, “Oh wow…Your arm is so…muscular.” (They say this in a way that makes it an insult NOT a compliment.)
YEP! The worst crime is committed when women say to women who have worked hard to look amazing and toned, “You look so…buff/muscular/jacked.”
They say it in a way that HINTS that these words really aren’t a good thing. They even use those specific words because they know that most women associate those words with masculinity.
Most likely these women give these backhanded compliments because they have some insecurity themselves or because they are jealous.
And honestly, you can’t really do anything about what or how other people say things. You will run into women like that. There may even be a woman or two like that in your friend group…You may even call them your “frenemy”…you know them…you love them…and yet…
But anyway, while I would love to change those comments, I can’t. There will always be people out there that will use any social stigma to put someone else down.
BUT what I can do is change the way we, women, interpret those comments.
When comments like those are made to us, we can choose to do one of two things.
We can choose to become self-conscious and bothered by the comment. We can stop lifting and then tell anyone who asks us about heavy lifting that “we don’t lift heavy because it makes us bulky.” We can be afraid that we did, in fact, become bulky from the lifting. We can then perpetuate the stigma that lifting heavy makes women bulky.
OR we can choose to ignore the comment and know that we do in fact look AMAZING and that those women have their own issues. We can break the stigma and help other women find the strength and beauty that heavy lifting can bring!
I choose to do the second.
I wasn’t born with self-confidence. I fought a long uphill battle to get it – the fake it till you make it battle. (And sometimes I’m still faking it, but no one knows the difference!)
As strange as it sounds, what you have to do to be more confident is to pretend to be confident. To act like you are confident even when you aren’t.
So when you get an underhanded comment hinting that your weight training has made you masculine or bulky, when you know you aren’t and have even had compliments about how great you look, what should you do?
You should smile and say, “Thank you! I’ve been working out super hard and lifting heavy! It just makes you feel so good! You should come with me some time.”
That’s what I say every time.
And guess what!?!
I instantly feel better and completely erase the negativity of their comment from my mind. I may still remember it enough to shake my head at them, but I’ve taken all of the venom out of the comment.
I played the part of a confident individual, which in effect, basically made me confident.
And on top of that, they will never have any clue that their comment may have made me even a teensy bit insecure. (If it even does!)
PLUS, every time you respond that way, you start to destroy the lie that women will get bulky if they lift heavy. You won’t be giving credit to their comment AND you may even convince them to become a woman who lifts heavy!
So while it may not be easy, the key to changing the stigma is by believing that in fact you AREN’T bulky or masculine even though you lift weights. The key is believing that you are healthy and strong and beautiful because you do!
You can’t change the other person, but you can change your reaction.
Let’s start there and maybe then we will silence the haters!