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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, May 28, 2013

So-Called Femininity

     Somehow, sometime, things got all jumbled up. Somehow size, sport, and our personal choices have all gotten mixed up with all these "traditional" ideas of femininity, sexuality, and gender roles. I don't know why, and I will not understand these molds that we are all put in. Some us will not ever fill the mold and others of us will get bored or hate the mold we're in and bust out.

     I truly believe if we were supposed to fit the mold, God would have made us all exactly the same. He would have created us in a world without things to deviate from the "ideal." We are all created differently for a reason whether it be by what some believe to be a divine being or by evolutionary means. Either way, we're different.

Is this beside the point? Probably. Anywho...

I speak for myself obviously but, I am sure many, many, women will agree with what I have to say.

     I tweeted recently, "Yes, I am stronger than you. Yes, I'm still a lady." This was brought on by a person in my own gym who said, "I would say ladies first but, you're stronger than me." As if my strength somehow meant I wasn't a lady. I said, "I'm still a lady, though." The week before that, I was squatting and someone told me, "Show them how a REAL man squats!" He wasn't implying that he literally saw me like a man but that I was as strong as a man. Still, why does my strength, appearance, size, etc. have to do with my femininity or lack-there-of? My strength doesn't change who I am. It is not who I am. It is something I possess. Something I have earned through years of hard work.

     Let's take weightlifting out of the picture for a minute. I'd like to take you back to my childhood. During my potty training time, my mom was working and I was at home with just my dad and brother all day. Somehow, I learned how to pee standing up. My mom came home and saw me doing this and had to back track on how to "train" me properly. Even from that young of an age, I did things differently. I guess you could say growing up I was a tomboy. Whatever. I played with dolls, I wore pink, I listened to the Spice Girls, I painted my nails, etc. All the typical girly stuff. I also did "boy" things too. I watched WWF wrestling, I played with stretch armstrong, caught bugs, watched scary movies, and one year for Christmas my brother and I both got all the same presents. 

I never really played sports but, of course I would gravitate toward non-traditionally female individual sports requiring size, power, and aggression. During my time throwing in highschool, I cut my hair short. In hind sight, it did look really terrible. Haha

     One day in cooking class, a girl came up to me and asked, "Do you know what a 'dyke' is?" I said, "Sure. It's this thing built to prevent flooding." Then I thought, "Ooooooooohhhh. That's what she's asking." She and her friend laughed at my expense, and sat at the table next to me. On and off over the years, I have had short hair. I really like it. After a while though, I got tired of being called, "Sir." Whether it was on accident or on purpose. Even if I was wearing makeup and jewelry and spoke softly, etc. I underwent the long, arduous, and always awkward process of growing my hair out. Hoping this would help. It did not. One day I thought, "Screw it! I'm going to get confused for a dude no matter what so I may as well just do whatever I want." So I went and got my hair cut again.

     My coach was surprised at the haircut and asked me why I did it. "Well, no matter what I do, I will be confused for a man so I may as well just do whatever I want." His response was not surprising. "What's wrong with being a man?" "Nothing. I am not a man, though. How would you like it if I called you ma'am? How are you today ma'am?" "Don't call me ma'am?" "Why not? What's wrong with being a woman?" "Nothing but, I am a man." See what happened there? haha

     At the Olympics I had my hair braided and it was in a cute up-do. I did my make-up and nails. I wore huge, darling, rose earrings. I was told by someone after the games, "You were the most feminine lifter out there! Even out of the lighter weightclasses."

     Somehow size is now related to femininity as well. The bigger you are the less feminine you are? As a bigger person myself, I don't understand that thinking. Maybe people think because we are bigger we then become "less desirable" or "unattractive" to other people which diminishes or deletes our femininity. However difficult dating and finding "the one" may be for a lot of us, I believe that way of thinking is wrong. 

     I do not have a "feminine" shaped body. I have small breasts and hips. I have broad shoulders. I am tall. I have fat. I have muscles. I do not behave traditionally "feminine." I spit, I cuss, I compete in a male-dominated sport, I usually wear men's clothes to train in, I'm "one of the guys" in the gym, I prefer to surround myself more with men. That's "Gym Sarah." Outside of the gym, the same me, wearing a different outfit loves mani/pedis, shopping, wearing dresses, make up, watching romantic comedies, cooking, and I enjoy the thought of a future home, husband, kids, and maybe even a Girl Scout troop of my own. I cannot change the way I look, I will not change my career, I will not change my interests/passions. I will not conform to what traditional femininity is. I absolutely refuse to do so. I also refuse to apologize for it.

      I personally do not pass judgment about people's sexual orientation, the gender they lump themselves with, religious preferences, career choices, the way they dress, etc. I have never understood why and how sport/career, size or appearance, dictated our very being. It really does not. The sport I'm in, the body I have, the choices I make daily is not a gauge of my womanhood. I will not allow another person to tell me who I am or who I should be. I hope other women feel the same.




Diane said...

Wonderful post!

Jen said...

Great post! Yesterday as I was walking a little girl called out of her car window, "Hi, Boy!". I waved back, and I wasn't upset to be misgendered, but I hope that she'll grow up knowing hair length only determines how long it takes to dry, not how feminine or masculine one is.

KathrynMcKay said...

God this is amazing. And inspiring. And 100% TRUE.
Nicely written and well said. You are truly an inspiration to all woman and all athletes, big and small.

Audax At Fidelis said...

You tell em lady! You can be ALL of those things and you are inspiring others to break down those stereotypes jusy by living out your dreams :D

Shawna Lynn said...

Brava! Brava! *standing ovation*

This is very true and very inspirational! I am going to share this!

Mel said...

Amen! I had short hair in high school, and I was (and am) an accomplished jazz & classical saxophonist - not the "girliest" of instruments, either. A director in an all-star band called me "Sir" a couple of times... Then I was/am smart / slightly aggressive in school & performing. Small boobs, some body fat... AND I rebuilt a VW Beetle from the ground up. Men fled from me and everyone decided, somehow, I was a lesbian. It was easier to wear baggy clothes when I was working on cars or going to class in college - might as well be comfortable, right?

When I met my boyfriend 6.5 years ago, he repeatedly asked me to grow my hair out... so I finally did & now it either needs to be short enough to stay out of my way when I lift, or long enough to stay in a ponytail!

PS you look TOTALLY cute in that picture with the braids / earrings! :)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post. As a man I've never understood masulinity/femininity. When you get into the details there is NO trait, ability, disposition, or anything else exclusive to one gender besides the strictly physical ones related to reproduction. Masculinity and femininity seem to try to define gender roles so that we can either shame or promote people that conform. I think the terms are useless and I'd be happy to move forward with a society that sees no inherent differences between men and women, and assigns no value to terms like masculine and feminine.

Evergrey said...

I absolutely agree! 100% for the choir here. I am fat, and a knockdown fighter. I am strong and I have strong boundaries. And I am all woman, too!

Mary Wilson said...

What a fabulous post. Thank you!

Cori said...


When I was younger, I always had my haircut super short. And I would wear a hat and shorts when I played tennis.

People thought I was a boy all the time just because I didn't like wearing tennis dresses and had really short hair.

It annoyed me all the time, but I was also too stubborn to change. I hated skirts and that was that.

It so crazy we have to do certain things or wear certain things to be considered feminine. Style is such an arbitrary thing yet to so many people it defines femininity!

N. said...

First of all, I loved this post.

I'm not an athlete. I work in a traditionally (but not exclusively) female career. I'm pretty, and I'm fat and I don't wear makeup, get mani-pedis or enjoy shopping for clothes for myself. I love flirting with men, and arguing with everyone, and I have a very dominant personality. I'm also very loving and affectionate, artistic and generous.

Like "Anonymous" so wisely said, there are no attributes that exclusively belong to one sex or another. We don't owe anything to each other in terms of making ourselves fit into a mold defined by the other. We do owe it to _ourselves_ to make ourselves fit what we want to be. What makes us happy. What makes us unique.

I think it's tragic that, with the wide and incredible range of human potential, human beauty, human value and worth, that our society has narrowed in on this very particular and specific, (for most of us) unattainable and (for many of us) undesirable definition of what is beautiful. And I think it's even more tragic that our worth, as women, is primarily considered based on our adherence to this supremely unimportant quality.

So... stick with being you. It is an incredible and impressive thing to be an Olympic athlete. It speaks volumes about your determination, dedication, skill and passion, and your writing speaks volumes about your intelligence and compassion, and all of these are so much more important than fitting into someone else's concept of "beautiful" or "feminine". You're healthy? That's beautiful. You're a woman? That's feminine. You're fine.

HLR said...

Fantastic post and so true, there is no one definition of beauty or femininity. As a woman you define your femininity.

Tashauna McKee said...

Wonderful post Sarah. I too grew up a tomboy playing Cowboys and Indians in the woods with my brother, going hunting but still playing with barbies and doing my nails. I too steered away from most group female sports. Softball was the only thing in HS that I participated in that was a "team". Power-lifting and shot put were my favorite because I was good, real good and no one could take that away from me.
I would say that I wish that you and I and countless other women had not endured such hurtful ridicule as children, but at least for me; I would not be who I am today if it were not having to deal with and overcome those situations.
The only thing that I do not agree with from your post "I cannot change the way I look". There is a lot that we can change about our bodies. It may not be conducive to your training, strength goals, etc. but we can change.
I am happy to see such a down to earth and well spoken woman represent AMERICAN WOMEN'S WEIGHTLIFTING. :)

Anonymous said...

Love the way you think girl! Who set masculine/feminine standards after all? You are developing your personality/career/passion not a look, which IMO is so much more important. What's feminine or masculine is a matter of individual taste or appeal, and don't we all have different tastes? We can't please everyone, so be yourself and you'll please the right person ;)

Anonymous said...

I was sent a link to this post. It's the first time I've visited this blog.

Wonderful post. I'm in awe of you, think your attitude is amazing and powerful, and you should never, ever change a thing about yourself.

Thanks for the inspiration! XX

Melly Testa said...

Thank you. I love this post, it has me weepy. I am a breast cancer survivor and I had mastectomy and do not wear breast forms. I am getting used to this. It does not diminish my femininity, or make me less of a woman. I just could not submit my body to reconstruction and I do not want the discomfort of fake rubber to shape my body in an "acceptable" form. I am new to weight lifting and am growing muscles. My body looks boyish. Young girlish. To me, my body is beautiful. I oftentimes wish this "look" were more previlent, known by society at large, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I look forward to a stronger sense of self, and a fuck all attitude like yours. I am getting there. I am being annealed, strengthening my mind to go along with the muscles.

Leah said...

Thank you Sarah, thank you for saying it. Much love.