Suppressed Under Skin: The Role of Women in the Fitness Industry

In the wake of this Donald Trump fiasco to the south, I figured I’d take this opportunity to express my feelings towards the topic of sexuality in my industry. As disgusting of a situation this is in the USA right now, it brings out some voices that otherwise may not have been heard or had a chance to speak up against some issues that have been a great source of pain for far too long, some times a lifetime. Also, being it Canadian Thanksgiving, I feel it’s important to remember what we’re grateful for and part of that is the right to express our views and especially in my forum, a good, honest discussion on the role of Women in the Fitness Industry.

Before I begin, I want to be clear that I have studied gender politics, sexual ethics and socio-economic trends at the post secondary level. So while I’m still expressing my opinion in the article, I’m not coming from left field on these hot issues. Now that that’s out there, lets crack on!

Who’s the Villain?

Okay. So Trump is a misogynist, womanizer, elitist, sexist prick. Does any of this surprise you? If so, it shouldn’t. The way we in the western culture have portrayed women (for the most part) sickens me at times. The fitness industry alone has a horrid reputation for mistaking strong, sexy and smart for “eye-candy” amongst both sexes (arguably not nearly as dominant with men, but it still exists). What I do know about the human condition is that we are a product of our experience. It’d be a cold day in hell if I were to ever defend such a tyrannical, gut-twisting, dumb-ass waste of space such as Donald Trump, but this Americanized culture likely has a lot to do with why he feels it’s okay to say “grab them by the pussy” in any sort of context.

Sex sells?

True. Sad, but true. I’ll admit, I’ve used it in my marketing. I’m not even sure why, other than because “every lady wants a nice bum from squats…” right? Wrong, perhaps. And just piling on the stigma that already exists, perhaps (until I figure out why I actually would use this style marketing, I will refrain from using it in the future).

The problem lays within the context though. We in the fitness industry are so fucking fixated on what it means to be “fit” that of course the scantily-clad supermodel holding 5lb dumbbells just off her hips which are covered in tight booty shorts as she’s leaning up against a smith machine (useless) with perfect hair, perfect makeup and a perfect smile looks like an ideal world. Clearly, this supermodel has never lifted a weight in her life if THAT is what she can honestly portray as an accurate representation of her experience in the gym. Like holy fuck! I’m no specialist but if I’m not soaked in 2 lbs of my own sweat, gasping for air, and looking like a disheveled mess… basically crying by the end of a weight session, I know I’ve done something wrong. That’s the reality. Not this super-sexy, everyone-is-gorgeous bullshit. Because I can even feel my legs, I’m happy. Never mind primping them up for a nice tush shot…

Altered Reality?

That’s exactly it. The societal norms have altered our perception of what it means to be fit and in doing so, unfairly painted a sex-fused, unequal standard of what it means to be a woman in the fitness industry. This spans not just enthusiasts, but also professional women in the workplace. I’m happy to see my fellow women colleagues keep on kickin’ ass despite the typical comments like “oh, she’s hot – she’ll do good.” Sometimes I have to give my head a shake.

“Oh she’s hot, so she’ll do good? Good at what, exactly “Mr. Rolex, BMW, clearly money-ain’t-a-thing sexist fuck?”

How about she’s a compassionate human being, with education and willingness to work harder for everything because of her drive to break free of the perception that she was hot and therefore successful as set onto her by ignorant, sexist asshats like yourself all her life? Besides that, she can out squat you by 45lbs already. Maybe that’s what will lead to her success?

If we want to inspire change, we should start to change the way we look at “normal”. Our reality is what we make it. I’m thinking we could be doing better at this in fitness. Let’s get away from women being sex-candy for the testosterone driven monkeys running the advertising campaigns.

Strong is the New Sexy.

I’m a big fan of this movement. And more than just the conventional “strong” as in I can ________ this much weight. No, no, no. I talk about the three pillars of a my self-improvement being movement, nutrition and mindset. So when we spend all our time improving one over the other, the castle crumbles. You want to be king or queen of your own destiny, right? Well, let’s start paying attention to a strong mind to be able to say “not right now” instead of “no”. Or maybe it’s a strong willpower to pick up the salad option and water, instead of the beer and wings when you’re out with the squad. It’s not entirely about movement and I think if we focus less on the physical results we can attain from leading a healthy lifestyle, and instead turn our focus into deeper rooted, less tangible but more fulfilling success (i.e.. sleeping 8 hours consistently each night, waking up excited for the day and removing the anxiety when you take public transit and have to be comfortable in your own skin amongst others that may judge you…) we will tend to see a shift in how our bodies represent this in social media.

Before you go…

I want to be clear that in no way am I suggesting that if you’re a woman you should be ashamed to dress the way you feel sexiest. That’s not it at all. I am actually quite encouraging of that. I am making a statement that I think it’s about time we turn our focus away from the idea of women being objectified in fitness. Not saying it’s 100% of the time, just like I’d never say “all dudes lift, bro!” and take selfies in the bathroom in between sets. But, there’s a stereotype for a reason and if we ever want to crash the walls down to promote awareness on hot topics such as sexual abuse, rape, underage trafficking and the like… we should start by looking at what’s already been desensitized in our culture. Oftentimes in fitness what’s “normal” isn’t what’s healthy. I think a parallel could be drawn for women and the role they have in fitness. Time to shape up, wouldn’t you say?

Remember, you don’t have to be a rock star to start, but you have to start in order to become a rock star. Stay sweet, folks.

Coach Schwartzy


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