Blog Archive

Search This Blog

About Us

My photo
Jessica is our 2016 Olympic Hopeful and Sarah is our 2012 Olympian in Weightlifting. We're setting out to be "Pretty Strong" and we encourage you to do the same.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Portrayal of Women's fitness

     So last night, I was looking through photos on a Facebook page called, "Fitness Girls." Needless to say, I was not surprised at the results. This is what brought up my question this morning of, "Do people actually want to be 'healthy' or in 'shape?' or just skinny?"

     I am going to post some of the pictures I saw, some of which made me question the intelligence or character of the posters, and subsequently my reactions. I'll probably rant here and there.

     I was hoping to see a lot of pictures like this one. What an amazing feat! But noooooooo, I subjected myself to borderline nude photos. I understand that this page is for "fitness models" but, it irritates me that women look up to these women as their "ideal" image. These women workout to look a certain way so they can model for fitness magazines, websites, ads, videos, etc. That's their chosen path, and that's cool There are exceptions of course but, most of these women do not compete, have not had significant life changing weight losses, and have access to fantastic photoshoppers/make up artists/ hair stylists/sponsors etc. Some of these women are in completely different circumstances than us regular folk. So how are we to expect to look the same way or garner the same results when all things aren't equal? Why is there body-type always the ideal when it comes to fitness and how women are portrayed in it?

I saw a picture similar to this one of a woman using a kettlebell with the quote: "Lift Heavy. because the barbell won't wake up one day and tell you it doesn't love you anymore."

That's not heavy. That's not even a barbell!

Champions also take their tops off and press their boobies into punching bags.

     In a lot of these photos, the women are posed so passively and are so objectified. No girl I have ever seen trying become a champion or get fit, wears booty shorts with a perma-wedgie bent over the dumbbell rack, or their shirts cut so the bottom of their breasts are showing, or they're wearing high heels. Be real! If you want to talk about people being champions or working hard, show that. Not models posing sensually. It's not proving your point.

I know she's not using those dumbbells. (rolls eyes)
So is having bad technique
     I also get irritated when these pictures and articles talk about being strong and over coming expectations yet, they are doing something ridiculous, not challenging themselves and in the end just fall right back into the stereotype placed on the woman. I understand that we all have different goals and we all start at different places but don't talk to me about being "strong" and you're only curling 5-10 lbs. 

I'm pretty sure that rack is too high for her...

Is she seriously squatting like 45 lbs max on the EZ bar?

Ridiculous quotes to get you motivated to work out....

False: Animals are incapable of opinions. The tiger and sheep also do not share the same habitat.
I think for me, the most insulting picture was this one:

     This makes me think the person who took this photo thinks, "It's OK fat lady, at least you're trying." All of the other women are portrayed as being sexy and in shape. This woman is clearly out of place. Which is probably how a lot of us feel when we are working out in public anyway. No need to remind us of that when you are attempting to inspire us. As I have already stated and most of you know, fitness comes in various sizes. You can be in shape while being different shapes. I am an Olympian who weighs 275 lbs. I have been training seriously since I was 15 years old. I do not have a 6 pack. I cannot fit into a size 0. I train anywhere from 6-20+ hours a week. I have never looked the way these women do, will not ever, and do not desire to. I find remarks like this to be condescending. This does not show a plus sized getting in shape or already in shape woman in a positive light.

Here are some videos that do!

Sarah- mini hurdle agility drills

     In a previous post I talked about how sometimes I feel I don't fit in places. The fitness world is one of them. How many times do people pick personal trainers because they want to look like them. When looking for a coach or a personal trainer do we make our choice based on how the gym or the coach looks, or the results of the program, the qualifications and experience the trainer has? When people think of all-star athletes, who comes to mind? Why?

     Why do we have to feel that our physical appearance whether "good" or "bad" determines our worth?  If we are skinny, athletic, pretty, have fabulous hair, etc., we are valued people. A good appearance gets us boyfriends, good jobs, and nicer treatment. A bad appearance means a person will most likely end up in the friend-zone, have different job opportunities, a lack of wealth or lack of personal care.

     No one should have to feel this way. We are all valuable, fantastic people who all supplement each other. I really don't appreciate pages like this where it is initially perceived that the separations between people can be equalized to realize that it only further pushes us apart. Ultimately, this helps stifle our progress as a gender...and some of us are OK with it. How?!

     Let's be real with ourselves and our audience. Let's not care about the number on the back of our shirts or on the scale. Let us be self-respecting, fit women. Let's love ourselves and care about how well we function and feel inside and let our hearts, minds, and bodies be strong in the endeavor.


Meg said...

Thank you for posting this and being such a fantastic role model! I wouldn't hesitate to hire you as a personal trainer-- you went to the OLYMPICS, for goodness sake!

Meagan said...

My biggest objection to most of those pictures is the sexualizing on the women in them. The only one that is not terrible is the one with the women in a red shirt captioned "Weights aren't just for the boys"--and it still has problems of sexualization (reducing her to a body part). At least it isn't overt (the booty shorts, high heels, etc, of the other images).

All journeys do start somewhere. But they don't all end in short shorts. (Heck, I didn't wear those when I was in high school and college and could have gotten away with it!) Notice those images were not created for women; they were created for men to ogle the women in them.

I have no desire to be skinny. I have curves that aren't going anywhere. I am trying to be stronger, more flexible, improve general fitness.

timaree said...

stellar post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this!

Believe me, I understand. I am a super heavyweight fighter, and people all over the world try to make my weigh their business. "did you know you need to lose weight?" "Are you going to get fit?"
"You need to eat less and get off your butt!"

Really? Really? REALLY?

I'm always tempted to ask them to step into the ring with me, to see how "fit" they are compared to me, heh.
I weight train about 4 hours a week, I train in the martial arts about 6 hours a week, and do cardio and the like probably another 4 hours. I'm sure not at the level of an olympian, but man oh man, I feel you.

There's this facebook thing called "yes I'm a girl, and yes I have muscle" and it seems to be all about image, too. There was one post where people were asking "what's the most annoying thing at the gym?" A lot of people answered "fat ppl lol!"


Were I a lesser human being, I would introduce them to the the effects of mass in motion as a striking force multiplier.

saborm said...

I agree with every word you posted!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


I was one of the super-thin bikini "fitness" competitors, and quit because my coaches basically insisted that I starve myself, do excessive cardio, and scale back my strength training so that I was working with light weights at high reps. I looked anorexic, and I had absolutely no energy at the end of the day.

I went back to eating tons of healthy food and doing proper Olympic lifts while challenging myself to go heavier every day, and I feel amazing and am pretty darn strong now.

My friends who stuck with the bikini girl lifestyle look thin and miserable to me - I love FEELING strong and still looking good in a swimsuit (hey, it's important to me... no judgement, right?). :)

Virginia said...

Oh, but Sarah, don't you realize -- we girls don't work out so we can feel better, or do more, or accomplish something. We just work out so we can be PRETTY and find a MAN, preferably before we're 22. That mom of those hot Princeton boys said so, and she MUST know what she's talking about.

/sarcasm. Sorry, I'm feeling a little bitter today.

Chloe said...

Awesome post. I totally agree! Why are all the images of women working out/ lifting heavy ("heavy" for that EZ bar squat picture) all about being sexualized and objectified?
I don't go to the damn gym wearing booty shorts and a sports bra, I'm wearing a baggy man's tee-shirt to protect my shoulders from the bar and pants that aren't going to crawl up my behind while I'm squatting!

This post was awesome, dude. I loved your reactions and captions.

Brute Force Sandbags said...

Spot on. As a guy, I even get tired of seeing it.

Brute Force Sandbags said...

Spot on. As a guy, I even get tired of seeing it. I don't think wearing shorts up to the butt-crack gives any kind of advantage.

Anonymous said...

The woman in the first picture is Jen Grasso Ferruggia. She is a trainer, a figure athlete and insanely strong. Her husband is a well known strength and fitness coach. I get that she's not holding a barbell as she is being made fun of in the meme, but to pass judgement on someone who is a very strong and fit athlete and just assuming she or any of these women are weak and dumb and non athletes is pretty judgmental. I get the point of your post and I do like your message, but I think it does show a little judgement on your part to assume all the models aren't athletes.

Sarah and Jessica said...

Dear Anonymous,

To be clear, there is no assumption that the women I discussed in this blog are weak, dumb, or non athletes. My opinions are based on how these women have been portrayed. They have been portrayed to be weak, they have been sexualized, the phrases that they put onto the pictures can be dumb, and they are often not posed doing anything athletic. I believe it's not helping our case as women to comply into having our pictures taken this way or to view these pictures as targets for our own fitness goals. Lift heavy weights, run hard, be flexible, and kick some butt!


Kristin said...

Awesome post! Thank you for inspiring and challenging women to open their minds to the wide variety of "being fit". It has taken me many years to embrace my body type and be proud that I am naturally muscular. It's exhausting hoping to become the women in those photos. My energy is better spend on becoming the athlete my body was made for!

Boris said...

Great, great post. Well done!

Samantha Angela said...

Yes! Thank you!
This sexualization needs to stop. Fitspiration needs to stop. Fitness and health come in many sizes, and shapes, and abilities.
These sorts of fitspo images just trade one beauty ideal (thinness) for another (leanness). Not only do these types of pictures perpetuate the sexualization of women's bodies but they also narrowly define womens' fitness such that it only exists in very lean, very toned women.

It doesn't.

I can run long distances, I've mastered a headstand in yoga, and I lift heavier weights than most people I know. I look nothing like those women and yet I am fit.

Helen said...

"The woman in the first picture is Jen Grasso Ferruggia. She is a trainer, a figure athlete and insanely strong."

That just makes the first picture worse, what you are saying is that she is actually capable of holding a true heavy weight and yet the photographer has her holding 7kg....because we don't want to scare the men?

Fitspo is as bad as thinspo, it's not about fit, it's not about healthy it's about having abs, a brown stomach and a thin layer of sheen from what I can tell.

When will health become the goal rather than what we look like?

Derran said...

Sorry; whilst I agree with the facts you point out with each picture, I know MANY women (some clients, some friends) who LOVE these kinds of pictures and use them the motivate them to work hard in the gym and eat well. I think that saying they are all objectifying or belittling women is very misleading, and simply supports the view you already held?

Fi said...

Yes yes yes. The sexualisation of female athletes is one of a small number of things that make me want to start ranting. Agree with everything you said.

Sadly, though, many women get their self esteem from men wanting to sleep with them, so it's a problem that some of the more insecure members of our fair species will perpetuate.

Unknown said...

LOVE THIS! Great job please keep advocating for real strength and fitness TinaMarie Lugo: LugoFit

Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

"So is having a bad technique"

Not getting what you are on about here. Here we see Andreia, a really strong woman and amazing athlete, power cleaning what looks like 90 lbs to me. Less hating, more constructivism please

Kathy said...

Brilliant, Sarah. I love your insights.

athletic shorts women said...

Awesome post. valuable post for women in the wohle world.i like the creativity of ideas of Blog. appreciative and a knowledgeable work.

Sarah and Jessica said...

The woman cleaning whatever weight she's lifting, has her elbows down, and she's looking at the floor. That is clearly bad technique. Good technique s always important to have. A.) For injury prevention and B.) Efficiency

Anonymous said...

love your post. totally right. especially the sexualised pics with "weights" in them... idk. sad. as is the woman squatting on the kettlebell - silly, stupid, dangerous (ankle roll anyone?!). go use something safe if you must do overhead squats on something not stable. even better, go and snatch that barbell or kettlebell. while standing on the ground.

Mandy @ fatgirlgonehealthy said...

Great Post! These types of images are always very frustrating for me. This is the stuff that made me start my blog in the first place. I want to promote that skinny isn't everything. You rock for this post!

Anonymous said...

I always feel sad when my friends post these images (as "inspiration!") but I've never been able to put together the why nearly this well. Thanks for a great post.

Yanis Michelle said...

I also follow that page, just for inspiration. Still I totally understand what you are saying. I have fitness goals and a body I want to achieve but just for the pleasure and see how much I can commit to something. The page totally sucks and I realized that I don't wanna look like those women, why?

I can just look like a fit strong version of myself. I would use actual athletes for a body or fit level I want to achieve...e.g Serena Williams

Muhammad Waseem said...

health is wealth is famous proverb so fitness is must for beauty look so its really good posting.
sandhi sudha plus
Fight With Cancer

Zvezdana said...

Love what you guys had to say. Amen, again and again and again!

Anonymous said...

Also, you're just envious of these muscular, buff women. You don't look muscular yourself, as you train fasts-twitch fibers mostly. I'm sorry for you being so full of envy. These women look a lot better than you and they're hardworking athletes putting-in a lot of time and effort. Sure, some of them use steroids. But let me how far you'll get competing against overseas weightlifters without these :)))) haha.

How to fitness said...

Outstanding work.

The SavVy Bitch Lifestyle said...

Everything is very open with a precise description of the issues. It was really informative. Your site is extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Great article. Keep writing and shower your readers with such useful information. Keep it Up! Womens Fitness