Thanks for this -- I found the same article through the Carnival. I definitely need to blog this too...


Hah. I do think that this is improving, since it's been a while since I got any such comments, but a few years ago my roommate and I were both pretty serious athletes and we would often lift weights together. Men would constantly approach us and suggest that we lift smaller weights because "don't you think you're getting a little big there?"

First of all, fuck off. Second of all, when you're actually in the process of lifting weights your muscles DO swell, and they appear a lot bigger than they do when you're just hanging out in a tank top outside of the gym. So while both of us had pretty substantial biceps *while they were flexed*, once we were out of the gym and the blood went back to normal circulation, neither of us had anything that would be remarkable. Toned, yes, but nothing that drew attention. I'd be interested in seeing what the woman in the original post looks like when she's not flexed, because I suspect it's the same.

Not that it should matter anyway - I feel a little guilty making this argument because it suggests that I buy into the "muscular is bad" argument. Which I don't. I just think I should point out that it's a false dichotomy, that "feminine" and "weight lifter" are not mutually exclusive. For the record.

But, like I originally said, I think this attitude is improving, or at least men are getting the clue that it's not their place to comment. I haven't heard anything like that in a while. It might also be that there are more serious female athletes at my current gym than at my old one, so guys are more used to it. And (also for the record) every guy I've ever actually dated has liked my muscles just fine, and never have they found me to be "manly" because of them.


"every guy I've ever actually dated has liked my muscles just fine, and never have they found me to be "manly" because of them."

They were probably just scared of you. (I am kidding.)

I swam growing up and in college. I was around plenty of women who had significant muscles and who were tremendous athletes.. I heard them complain often about the comments that they got from people. Personally, I thought they looked good.

The question of attractiveness is a long and complex topic. But I do agree that there should be nothing wrong with women developing all of their physical gifts. (Have you seen the butts on those short track skaters??)


I had to add her to my blogroll after that- it was such a great post.

I don't do weight lifting, but in my kung fu lessons one of the things we do is punch a pad held by another student, and I noticed how I and the two other female students found it difficult- not because we were 'weak', but because we felt strange doing it. None of us were putting in the effort we could have done if we'd felt at ease. I personally was worrying about how I looked, and if I was making a stupid facial expression or whatever, or if I looked pathetic for trying at all. (I should add here that the attitude of our instructor and our male classmates has always been welcoming and friendly, so it's nothing to do with reactions we were getting from anyone else. It's a really great class in fact, and my instructor rocks). Eventually we eased up and managed to do it 'properly', but it took a good few weeks for me to lose my uneasiness. It really got me to wondering about how much 'weaker' females are than males in reality, and how much of how we perceive that difference is to do with social conditioning. Wearing tight clothing, heels, keeping clean, being 'pleasant' and 'nice' (I mean submissively so as opposed to general politeness) are all restrictive behaviours and do not encourage the female body to develop in strength.

Woah, didn't mean to ramble on so long. I'm on chocolate overload :)

The Happy Feminist

Will, I am not such a fascist that I would presume to dictate to men what they should or should not find physically attractive. But I do have a tough time with the notion that women need to make conforming to those standards their top priority. I like being found attractive (depending on when and how it's expressed), but it's a matter of self-respect and pride to me that I won't compromise my health or my ability to accomplish things for the sake of appealing to men.

And stop looking at those track skaters butts, you pig you.


"I am not such a fascist that I would presume to dictate to men what they should or should not find physically attractive."

Exactly! Men should able to decide who they are comfortable being around naked!

"And stop looking at those track skaters butts, you pig you."

I cannot admire them for their athleticism? Why do you always have to make it sexual?!?!??!?

You and I are on the same page.


oops. I meant about the physical strength part being acceptable.

The Happy Feminist

Ha! That reminds me of the swimsuit competition in the Miss America pageant: it's just about judgint the contestants' fitness, really, we swear!


A new book to check out! Thank you!

Laurelin, I know /exactly/ what you mean. It's nigh impossible to completely lose yourself in a physical activity when you're used to being 'on display' 24/7. I've been thinking about how much women must be "on display" recently during renovations at our workplace. Our cubical dividers had to be removed temporarily and suddenly we were completely exposed. It resembled an old-time secretarial pool. The experience prompted an older woman I work beside to remember one place she worked at years ago where all the acct staff (all female) were all exposed and facing the (male) supervisor's glassed-in office. She loathed it. In the law firm I work at, 100% of the secretaries, legal assistants, and acct staff are female. The secretaries' workstations are especially open, so they are constantly 'on display' while the (mostly male) lawyers can be invisible in their offices. We have very little privacy. It all ties into the notion of women being expected to be "public facing" or on display at all times. It really is constraining and a bit exhausting at times.


I read an interview with Marion Jones once where she was complaining about how impossible it was to find pants that fit her, since she had big legs and a big butt and a tiny waist, and pants are just not like that. I, while certainly not solid muscle like Ms. Jones, have the same problem with pants, and so I have this huge beef with the clothing industry essentially dictating what body types are acceptable. Even the Gap's new "curvy" pants are not that curvy - they're still too tight in the thighs, flatten my ass, and the waist is huge. Curvy indeed. Marion Jones, in that article, talked about her self esteem and how she felt fat -- FAT! -- because of this problem. I don't think that woman has an ounce of fat anywhere on her body. It's ridiculous that women are all supposed to be string beans with no hips. I think the clothing industry could do a lot more toward changing the beauty standard just by making cute clothing available for curvy women. Jeez.

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