A woman’s physical presentation is an often discussed and carefully analyzed topic. I consider myself very aware of the double standards, the unrealistic expectations, and the issues for our daughters. Despite my education on the topic, I had a wakeup call today that I need to think a little more critically.
I went to buy a pair of jeans and took two into the change room. The first pair was a size smaller than I normally get- it is the end of the week and so my brain only functions sporadically. I thought “these won’t fit” but of course I started hiking them on. But they buttoned up? I was legitimately too excited about these jeans. Or sorry, excited about the size of these jeans. I tried on the other pair in my normal size but found I was going to need a few weeks of hamburgers to make them work. I was giddy to drop a size as I did my victory dance that is usually reserved for actual victories.
How exciting right? Well not really because then my brain started working again.
I am healthy and my weight is very proportionate to my height. So going down a pant size is actually not ideal considering my fitness goal of building muscle. I have been trained so well to celebrate a smaller number on the tag that it took delayed conscious analysis to see the stupidity. Then I didn’t want the pants, but it is getting cold and I like to wear pants. How is it possible that my gut reaction and my conscious thoughts are so conflicting?
I have been doing some reading (and the processing has been slow apparently) about the new trend of “strong is the new skinny” ads. I will be honest and admit I have one of these saved on my computer. I liked the way the model looked and I find visual goals to be motivating. After an article prompted me to pay more attention, I started reading more reactions from others.
Let’s acknowledge that strong means many things and it is entirely subjective. The issue to be discussed is that these models are by most definitions skinny. If strong means clean and jerks like female weightlifters then yes these ads are gross misrepresentations and nothing else. If strong means having muscular definition and the ability to train at a high intensity then these women are likely very strong.
I don’t want to preach what people should do with their bodies, particularly because the capabilities of the human body are nearly endless. My opinion is that we should endorse this trend of women’s fitness and appreciate the transition (however slow it may be) from the beauty ideals of visible ribs and spaghetti noodle limbs. These ads are trying to convey an image of sexiness which is a woman who is healthy and fit.
Opinions on “strong is the new skinny” being irrelevant, we need to keep topics like this in debate. Although the ad could be more accurate to display a woman with more size to her, I think the fact that fitness, muscular definition, and women’s health are being promoted is moving in the right direction. What is most important is that we can recognize the standards of women in advertising and the beauty of real women. If you define strength with building muscle then yes, being a smaller size is counterproductive and misleading. If strength is getting through the day without fatigue then that will result a completely different body type.
I am going for fit and whatever size that makes my body. Maybe I will go back up another pant size or maybe I won’t- but I will do my victory dance for only the right reasons.
Hey. I stumbled across your blog, and I wanted to add a few things. This is, in no way, meant to be critical you. But i have a little problem with “fitspiration” and “strong is the new skinny” and I’ll tell you why: It still places and emphasis on women’s bodies being the most important thing bout them. The fitspiration movement tells us that only healthy, strong, muscular bodies are good bodies. I can’t get on board with this. Women don’t need a “new skinny” to be. Pushing skinny as an ideal has harmed many women (and, as a naturally thin women, i have received a lot of backlash as if I myself were representative of this ideal.) Portraying certain body types as “ideal” hurt everyone. Women need to be accepted for who they are, not for what they look like. Not for how much they can dead lift or how many miles they can run. What about disabled women and elderly women? Not everyone is capable of having a tough workout routine. And not everyone is really interested. And that should be ok.
But i do appreciate that the image you used is not of an impossibly fit, slender woman with a fake tan in tight, low cut, and cropped Nike workout gear. Slender women CAN be strong, of course; I practiced Krav Maga for almost two years. But I never was muscular. I never looked like most of the women in the fitspiration images. I think Olympians are a better representation of what well-trained bodies can look like. Because this woman is much different from a gymnast, who is much different looking from a sprinter, who has a different body type than a diver. They’re not cookie-cutter.
Hi kyotoredbird, thanks so much for your feedback.
I really do agree with your comments. I think that it is absurd that there is a standard for women’s bodies in any way but I think that endorsing a healthy body is better than being skin and bones. I don’t disagree with what you said, or the fact that all these fitspirations are strong women that are also skinny, and that is probably not a coincidence.
Any good intention can be taken to a point of obsession and can turn detrimental, including being skinny or being fit. It is hard to promote being strong when strong is different for everyone but I do appreciate that strength and fitness (to a degree) is being promoted.
Thanks for commenting and making some great points.