In the 1960’s the women’s right movement coincided with the sexual revolution, leaving my generation and the subsequent generations to enjoy more freedom to dress as we choose, dance with abandon, and in general no longer be held to constraints that we must be covered head to toe and speak only when spoken to.
Pioneering women broke further taboos: Barbra Streisand wearing a see-through pantsuit to the Oscars, Madonna dancing on stage in a bra and garter belt, and play-boy bunnies becoming mainstream icons. Since then there has also been a steady loosening of what’s considered sexual vs. sensual and where the line is between being an empowered woman that chooses to be scantily clad (Cher, Madonna) and an unclassy tramp who shows off her body for National attention (Anna Nicole Smith, Kim Kardashian).
That classy vs. slutty line is so blurred now, it’s hard to teach our girls the difference between being comfortable with their bodies and in their desire to be attractive, with knowing what is too much and what sends the wrong signal. My gym has several TV screens always mounted on the wall and yesterday I watched the current music videos channel as I was on a treadmill. I saw back-to-back videos (at yeast 5) where the singer was a young women (in both pop and country music genres) who paraded around in lingerie, employing stripper moves as they danced and writhed around in very sexually suggestive positions, all the while singing about love and/or betrayal.
As these are all current and popular performers, I realized these videos are telling young girls that is what is sexy, this is what boys want. Of course, ask any real man (even a high school boy if his head’s on straight) and they’ll say that type of girl is not at all who they want as a girlfriend, but they sure do like lusting over them just them same. So sadly, mixed signals abound, and what we’re left with is a large populous of girls and women displaying their bodies as nothing but devices for sex, not even realizing that many of our pop-culture icons have a brain in their head and are using their musical talents to build business empires (Rhianna, Beyonce, and even Miley Cirus).
If you feel my blog today is a bit “soap-boxy” well I’m preparing my daughter to enter sixth grade. I’ve heard my share of horror stories about girls being coerced to perform oral sex on boys as early as 5th grade, and my stomach spins, and even the age-old spin the bottle has evolved to be heading into a dark closet for an imposed 5 minutes of making-out. I feel it is imperative that I prepare her to understand the confusing hormonal impulses that are going to rear their ugly head for the next several years of her schooling, and paramount to that preparation is that I help her to understand the deference between been attractive vs. sexual. That’s very difficult with all the images around her saying this is what is normal and right.
Essentially today’s post is food for thought for all of you and hopefully we can open a mass dialogue as to how to not go backwards in women’s rights and sexual liberation, but not to keep going so far that we can have a president who says it’s okay to “grab women by the pussy.” Oops, guess we’re already that far gone!
Over two years ago I posted Stop Competing, Start Caring which focused on the rampant issue of women putting each other down through mean-spirited acts of unspoken competition. From the gym to work environments I see women continuing to combat jealousy via negativity and attempts to feel superior. Sadly, I suspect if my gender was more supportive of each other on the whole, if we’d have a woman as president today instead of the misogynist we’re stuck with. But I digress…
I recently joined a new gym, the kind of gym where everyone is very fit and focused on hard core workouts. This is no meat-market pick up joint, or Planet Fitness where you cannot grunt or show too much skin. Despite being a fitness professional I found clientele on the workout floor a bit intimidating, so I decided the best counter-action was to smile sincerely at everyone, especially the women. Not surprisingly, but too my renewed dismay, only one out of every ten women smiled back. Even with deliberate eye contact and my broad and welcoming smile, they looked away with down-turned mouths. I even attempted to strike up a conversation with one woman in-between sets and she answered me quite curtly and sauntered off.
So here is the post again, with slight updates, in my hopes to remind all women that we do not need to compete or be jealous of each other. The grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and only if we work together can we continue the improvements to our role in society that the Suffragettes’s started and the 60’s feminist movement continued.
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Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.
I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that we’re offering your bodies and not our brains, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.
The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match our own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem – and we usually know nothing about this other girl’s character and/or life other than her “cover” which we judge.
It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.
I know in my youth I did my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is rarely greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.
So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other.
If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are not only equal, but in some areas might even be superior? Just food for thought.
2016 was a tough year for a lot of us, and as I look forward into 2017 to formulate my goals and targets I have come to realize that a three-pronged ideal can help us find better physical and emotional health. Therefore, this year I suggest we all adopt the following mantra: “Stand Up. Stand Up Straight. Stand Up Strong.”
These words double as a fitness reminder and a social cue. Anyone with a goal of improved physical shape and health should simply stand up more, walk more and sit less (or at the very least stand up and move every 30-minutes). Likewise we should all stand up for preserving our own personal values as well as America’s tenuous democratic values as we forge into unknown (and for many of us very scary) territory with Trump at our helm.
Stand Up Straight:
I often address the rampant increase of postural distortions in adults and children here in my blog, but this year I am on a personal mission to help everyone improve their health by observing and improving their posture. Your spine is the gateway between your brain and the rest of your body. If you have curved-in shoulders or hips, and knees or ankles that rotate inwards (pronate) you are cutting off and/or shorting out a lot of nerves that bring signals to and from your brain. So set a phone or watch reminder, or buddy up with a friend and remind yourself several times a day to stand up straight and tall, keep your shoulders squared and relaxed, and remember to breathe low and slow.
Stand Up Strong:
This one can be taken both literally and figuratively. First, you must remember no matter how tough your path is currently, this too shall pass. But the key to improving your emotional or circumstantial life is to stay strong emotionally (and physically) and remember how strong you really are. Stand up for yourself and show your strength! Second, we must all stand up in a show of solidarity and strength so we can change that which is not working for all of us. We truly need to stand up strong together against racial, gender, and LGBT discrimination, double-standards of wages and rights, religious persecution, women’s rights, and the general bullying of anyone who disagrees with the “moral majority’s” opinions (that starts with the Oval Office)!
For those of you who find this post a bit too soap-boxy, please indulge me as I am a child of the 60’s and it’s in my nature to stand up for my rights, my health and my peers. So if you agree, repeat after me (and then DO IT): Stand Up. Stand Up Straight. Stand Up Strong!
With society being so focused on enforcing “politically correct” language these days, I’m constantly surprised at how many standard statements are not deemed rude or demeaning. For instance, I saw a woman at my daughter’s school yesterday carrying a 4-week old baby. The woman was slender and in workout clothes. She was surrounded by other women all saying how incredible she looks after only 4 weeks! (Believe me when I say not all of them had sincere tones to their “compliments.”)
The issue I have with this example is that it is implying that women after childbirth (and pregnant women as well) do not look good. Stretched out bodies or extra fat is viewed as “unattractive” and although the majority of women take 6 months or longer to get their bodies back to pre-birth shape (if at all), the idea that a woman who doesn’t look like she just had a baby after only 4 weeks is incredible (i.e., special and/or coveted) bothers me.
Where does that leave the rest of the women, and how they feel about their bodies? This rides tandem to my pet peeve of people asking naturally thin women if they ever eat. You would never walk up to an over-fat woman and ask her if she ever eats less or diets, but you can walk up to a skinny woman and tell her she needs to eat more! We’re constantly judging each other’s bodies.
I’m also surprised by how many women will comment about a woman who clearly has spent a lot of money on her clothes, hair and purse (i.e., appears to have large amounts of discretionary money) as if it’s a put down. Yet we don’t know her story, and the irony is that America loves the idea of working just enough to make lots of money and then spending it as a blatant indication that you HAVE it. But these same women get their panties in a bunch if a clutch of “wealthy” woman looked down on a woman wearing sweat pants and carrying a purse from Target.
The bottom line is that there’s just too much judgment and negativity going around where women are concerned — towards women and BY women. Despite the fact that we almost had a woman as President of this great Nation, women still only hold 4.6% of CEO Positions in S&P Fortune 500 companies (23 out of 500 to be exact). We (women) are still holding each other back with our pettiness and constant need to compare, judge, and find ways to feel superior (or make others feel inferior).
So take a hard look at how, where and why you judge other women and decide for yourself if you can improve your perceptions, and think about what the affects of what you say. Just like last month’s historical election, it takes all of us, one-at-a-time, to make a change!
Despite not enjoying the American past-time of watching any sport teams on TV, when it comes to the Olympics I’m obsessed. I DVR every single moment of coverage and for two-weeks every two years I’m glued to the set. As a personal trainer, it should not surprise you to know that I’m also addicted to the show American Ninja Warrior.
But lately, as I watch ANW and the Olympic trials I have noticed that comments to the likes of “that’s incredible for a woman” or “women can’t usually do that as well [fast or strong] as men” are thrown about constantly by commentators. At first I got my feminist panties in a bunch, until I remembered that they’re right. Even if you compare apples to apples – a professionally trained woman and man of equal size, weight and body composition percentages (muscle and fat), the men will still likely be a touch faster and stronger simply because of the difference in our physiology.
While there are always exceptions to every rule, the reality is that women’s bodies are not built the same as men’s and those differences come strongly into play where sports are concerned. Our pectorals (chest muscles), forearms, and grip strength, even on a superior female athlete, are never going to be stronger than most men’s.
Look at Olympic sprinters: men still hold faster world records – why? Well you take the length and girth of their leg muscles compared to a women of even the same height, and they will simply have more muscle strength to speed them down the track. It’s physiology, not sexism.
Olympic weight lifters have the same issue – the men constantly lift heavier than women. Again, that doesn’t mean that many women can’t lift more than many men, but it does mean pound for pound the men will always be able to lift past our strongest women.
As for ANW, clearly if you take an professional female rock climber and put her next to your average body builder, she can out maneuver him on any obstacle course. But put her next to the top male rock climber and the odds are against her being able to be as strong as him. (But it’s important to note that sometimes cleverness and agility wins out over strength in those areas women often prevail!)
On Monday night’s ANW episode Jessie Graff went farther than all but one man (out of 28 men and 2 women). She did this through strength, agility and using her brain to overcome an obstacle that scores of men had been defeated by. The commentators praised her though their voices held such shock: “Jessie just bested all those guys!” As annoying as that was, I full well that it is rare that a woman goes further than 99% of the men. Every year only one-to-three women even get to the finals in Las Vegas, and it’s not because of lack of training or trying.
When women’s inequality generalizations are bantered about we must also remember that often the women competing are not apples-to-apples to their male counterparts. Over 95% of the women who compete on AMW are under 5′ 7″ and weigh less than 125 lbs, while the average male competitor is 5′ 9″ and weights 155. It’s simple math to know that the men’s muscle weight will help them go further (endurance-wise) than the women, and their arm and leg length being longer also helps. Again, I am not saying a tiny woman can’t go far in this (or any) sport — look at 5′ 0″ 95 lb Kacy Catanzaro the first woman to beat the 14′ warped wall obstacle and earn a place in the Las Vegas finals. Take that men!
While it’s disheartening to my gender to hear constant quips of our inequality (which on all other issues is bull), on this issue I think it best that we continue striving to be better, faster, and stronger, but let go of the idea that we need to be equal to men.
I have been preparing my 9 year old daughter for several years now for one of the less favorable rites of passage that elementary girls encounter as they grow towards teen years … that of mean girls. Sadly the inherent competitiveness of females towards each other starts this early and I have recently realized that for some, the feelings of petty jealousy do not stop at any age.
I see signs of this girl vs. girl competitiveness from the playground to the workforce and at parties and social gatherings. It starts with the physical assessment – are they prettier than me, is their body in better shape, are they dressed too provocatively? Then it progresses into a fevered quest to find out some personal information that will prove their life is not better than yours, or that they are NOT as good as you – commonly known as gossip. Lastly communication breaks down into a series of anecdotal recounts of one’s life to one up the other – often using voice inflections heavy with condescension and superiority.
I watch this in action frequently at the gym and restaurants. A 20-something “hottie” will saunter past a group of over-weight “mom” types. First come the glares, then the whispers, and finally loud encouragement from the “pack” that they’re each doing great. Of course, this dynamic happens in the reverse too. Often it’s the heavier girl at a nightclub who is subjected to a gaggle of anorexic Barbies walking past with their noses in the air, and their I’m so pretty hair flips. (Yes I’m generalizing and stereotyping, but I’ve seen it happen repeatedly enough to use it here.)
This constant competition between women has saddened me for years. I get that it feels like we’re all in competition for the few good men, but we’re really not. Men have just as much at stake when searching for true love, and they receive just as much rejection as we do. But the difference is that men (and boys) don’t seek to tear each other down the same way women (and girls) do.
The feelings of jealousy and inadequacy that you feel when you see someone you think is better looking or happier than you is not their fault. You should all know by now that the grass is NOT always greener on the other side. That “beautiful” person may in fact be miserable on the inside, or maybe battled cancer, or was abused by someone. Your life is your life – your body is your body. It’s up to you to make your life and body be the most it can be and then be happy (and satisfied) with it all. When you’re not up to snuff – fix it – don’t make yourself feel better by enjoying the knowledge that someone else isn’t perfect too. Bringing someone down doesn’t lift you up. These are the lessons I’m sharing with my daughter.
I have more than once met women who were absolutely beautiful on the outside only to find that their insides were shallow or mean, and that their lives were not as envious as I had thought. But this knowledge never made me feel better – it made me sad that someone with such gifts wasn’t all that I had admired initially. It made me strive even harder to be happy with what and who I am and to appreciate all that I have, and go after all that I want.
Women we shouldn’t compete – we should complement each other. My many girlfriends and I do just that. If you are missing this kind of support in your life, perhaps it’s time you got better friends – or became a better friend yourself.