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Monday, June 3, 2013

Let's all get in a one size, fits all, neat box... NOT!

Strong, fast, rambunctious...
Still a beautiful girl!
Zia, 2013.

Upon seeing my gym pictures, someone recently told me: "You look top shape, but... if women start getting that ripped, how are we gonna tell them apart from transgendered men?"

(Gym pictures here.)

Wow. I had no idea I had crossed over to the Drag Queen side.

The comment was said to me with humor. And I am not one to be easily offended. Good sports as always, I replied "Er, thanks for the compliment?!?!?" and laughed.

Still I wondered, humor or not, where does this judgement come from? There is always some truth to all jokes. And I am pretty sure there are a lot of people out there who really think a woman shouldn't be muscular.

We're not talking "extreme body-building" here, just a female body that's firm and with some subtle cuts. What's wrong with it? Nothing if you ask me. But apparently it makes some people uncomfortable.

I think it originates from a limited view of what a man and a woman should look like.

One friend once told me, about a man who was pursuing her and whom she really liked, "But when I sit next to him my thigh looks bigger than his!" This echoes the discourse of my tall female friends who would rather die than date a guy who's shorter than them.

(I tell them to look at Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman pictures, back in the days.)

Just like they won't accept that a man be on the small side, a lot of people are uncomfortable with a woman being on the big side.

And when she is, there are specific criteria to make it "acceptable".

Everyone these days is fighting for the right for women to come in all shapes and sizes (look at the Dove campaigns among others), but interestingly enough, this usually is done towards the acceptance of curves and extra fat, which are traditionally feminine attributes. The official discourse goes something like this: "A woman with no curves is not a woman". Other analogies have been established to re-empower women about their curves. See, for example, the whale-mermaid comparison.

I totally agree that we need to account for all kinds of shapes and sizes in our concept of beauty. Absolutely. If I had to draw the line I would draw it at healthy: we could argue that past a certain level of curves, it's not femininity anymore, but rather an increase of risk factors for all kinds of diseases. A good tool to draw the line is BMI; it offers a lot of wiggle room as to what a person can look like while still being healthy. For example, at 5'6'' it tells me I can weigh anywhere between 120 and 150 pounds. I find that interval pretty reasonable (and generous).

(Interestingly enough, no one ever said a thing to me as I dangerously approached 120 pounds a few years ago - cause: a depressive episode. No one ever said a thing either as I dangerously approached 150 pounds a few years later - cause: probably the same. Now that I'm happy and healthy at 130 pounds, I get disobliging comments? What's going on?)

My question, today, is the following: who's fighting for the right for women to be strong and muscular?

And if most people don't like the sight of a muscular woman, why is that? Is is threatening? Does it make people uncomfortable that women could actually be powerful and "hard" instead of soft and curvy?

(It's not mutually exclusive, either; despite my strength and cuts I still do have curves and softness, thank you!)

I've discussed "female 6-packs" on some Internet forums... it was enlightening. It takes all kinds, and we all have our preferences when it comes to the type of morphology we find attractive. My friends laugh at me because I like the "stick-figure" or Kenyan marathoner body type (OK, slight exageration). But you should see some people's reactions to female 6-packs (which I don't have; at best I have a very subtle 4 pack): people think abs in a woman are disgusting! Why! What is the underlying reason for that?

Then again I recently read a comment made by a guy on some blog, who claimed that "getting laid doesn't count if it's with a woman who's either a) ugly b) fat c) over 35 years old."

I should have found it sad or offending (I fit in the "c" category as I'm about to turn 37 - oooooh, SO old! LOL), but it was so ridiculous I just laughed and laughed.

Interesting to know that I don't qualify as a potential sexual partner anymore!

Interesting that so many people all over the planet are happily engaging in sex that is actually not sex!!! (What is it, then, is my next question.)

And this guy has obviously never heard what they say about "women in their thirties"...

Better laugh than cry about it!

What do you think about the body image acceptance campaigns? Do you tolerate visible fat or visible muscle, or both, in a woman? What about men's morphology? Do you think there is a double standard? And why the hell are we so obsessed with our looks, as opposed to our overall health?


  1. We are obsessed with looks because it has been driven by evolution. Check out those red-butted monkeys sometime and just be grateful, lol!

    Personally, I like the fitness model look. Sleek and strong. I do not like the body builder look nor the fat look, but that's just me. There is someone for everyone as evidenced by my OB experiences :-)

    I also do not like some of the stuff I've read on the Internet lately where women talk about how men think and feel about stuff, incorrectly in my opinion. You have not done that yet, and I hope you won't. That is not the same as understanding how a man might feel about something, as in, it's a man thing you wouldn't understand. I think you can.

    PS: As a surgeon, if I see viable fat or muscle, I need to do a better job in closing the wound, lol!

    1. I would not try and guess how men think and feel, but I will quote them when I judge relevant, and hope they own what they say! :-)

      When it comes to body image, I think women are the hardest on themselves. In my experience, men don't see half of the flaws we see in ourselves. The trick is to not tell them we have those flaws, and hope they won't notice. LOL

      Looking at magazines aimed at men and women is very enlightening: the women pictured in women magazines are thinner than the women in men's magazines. Food for thought...

      I think the fitness model look is the best too. :-)