Wednesday, 16 October 2013

If you're not a 'real' woman what are you????

I'd be interested to get some thoughts on this one..

A well respected provider of fitness courses are running a Women's Appreciation month on FB where they're asking women to post photos/videos of them lifting to show that women can be strong etc. FANTASTIC idea, and a great way to quash notions that lifting weights makes us big and bulky, or that we'll all end up looking like Jodie Marsh.. Today in a post they used the expression 'real women, doing real training'....

This isn't a dig at those running the promotion, I honestly think it's a brilliant idea. It's a great opportunity to promote their courses, encourage women to get involved in strength training and educate people that lifting weights doesn't turn women into a body builder type.

However... I HATE the term 'real women'. It's an expression that has come about as part of a backlash towards the super skinny, supermodel era. After years of being told we should be super skinny, now we're being told we're not a real woman if we don't have curves??

The 'real women' campaign is basically just giving the middle finger to the fashion and beauty industry who have made women feel like they're not slim/sexy or perfect enough for years... That's fine. I hate that the fashion industry has the power to make women feel bad about themselves. However... I really don't like how this new term has become so popular, and is now creating a whole new notion of what a woman should look like. 'Real women have curves' implies that if you don't have a J-Lo ass, or breasts above a certain cup size that you're in some way less of a woman. If you're naturally slim, should you try to gain weight in the hope that you too can be a 'real woman'?  Should you be less content and confident just because your naturally petite?

Most commonly, the term 'real woman' is used to describe and justify a woman carrying excess weight. Now.. we all know I wasn't exactly slim before so this isn't me being a judgemental cow or anything like that.. Ireland has an obesity epidemic. Using this term is encouraging people to view being overweight as being the ideal, or the norm. It's not. It is bad for your health. Simple as that. We shouldn't be glamorizing being overweight in the same way as we shouldn't encourage being super skinny or underweight. These type of factions just serve to encourage disorders ranging from anorexia to body dysmorphia to compulsive overeating and depressive illnesses.

By switching from the 'super skinny' campaign, to the 'real women' team, we're basically just creating a new way to make women feel insecure about their body type. Being slim doesn't make you any less of a woman than being a size 14, 18, 24 or whatever. We need a new campaign.. one that focusses on women being healthy and happy, without pitting us against each other in a bid to have the 'perfect' body type.

In the same way, I'm not sure I like the mention of these so-called 'real women' doing 'real training'. I love lifting weights...the gym is where I'm at my happiest lately and I actively encourage women to get involved in strength training over running on a treadmill at every opportunity. However, I never ever belittle the type of training someone else does.. I'd far prefer to see women enjoying running on a treadmill for 30 minutes, than hating every second of a strength training program, giving up on it and going back to the sofa instead. Just because running isn't my thing, it doesn't make it any less 'real' than squatting or deadlifting.

People should do what they enjoy, what works for them and what they can stick to. There is no right way to train or eat.. everyone is different and I think if we all respected and embraced that, we'd be an awful lot happier..

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