And I always want to point out here: women, on average, possess more lower-body strength, while men, on average, possess more upper-body strength. There’s a lot of overlap and it isn’t always individually applicable, but that’s the generalization, averaging across the population.
But we SOCIALLY value upper-body strength, and upper-body muscles. So we construct women as weaker, because we refuse to measure them on the body parts where they may be stronger, we devalue those.
Lifting is mostly done with the legs. So women may be as good or better at heavy lifting as men. But we socially construct lifting as having to do with large, muscular arms and chests. You don’t really need powerful arms and chests to lift—you need powerful thighs, otherwise you’re gonna throw your back out. We actually lie about what makes a person strong and capable to favor men.
Push-up and pull-ups are upper-body strength exercises. So they’re socially valued. The military doesn’t tell you to do 20 squats as penance. No one is fucking impressed by all the squats you can do. Squats just sound stupid, hah, squats. We laugh at them because women might be better at them than men, on average. They’re worthless.
This stuff plays into all sorts of other body image problems, too. The body weight that’s regarded as ideal for women, for example, is really only achievable for individuals suffering from mild to moderate muscular atrophy. You literally can’t get there just by shedding fat - you also have to let your muscles waste away. We actually regard it as “normal” for a woman to be suffering from muscular atrophy.
I see a lot of people reblogging fitspo as a “healthy” alternative to thinspo, but it’s important to realise that there isn’t that much of a distinction between the two. Idolizing anyone’s body can lead to unhealthy thoughts and behaviour, and if you choose to look at these images it’s important to do so with an awareness of their potential problems.
- I’m sure you’re familiar with the issues associated with pictures in the media. Makeup artists, hair stylists, professional studios and photoshop ensure that most of the time even the models don’t look like themselves. Even if they really do have the type of figure that you covet, this is a product of their lifestyles. It’s part of their job description to look a certain way, so they can dedicate a substantial portion of their lives to maintaining their body. This probably isn’t practical or advisable for most people. Furthermore, these models are subject to so much pressure and insecurity - you don’t know what unhealthy extremes they might go to in order to keep their jobs.
- But you see normal tumblr users in fitspo all the time, and they don’t have those advantages, right? Well they do have the advantage of being represented in a single snapshot of their lives. They can choose to take a picture when they’re not bloated, or when they’re tensing their muscles, or when they’re standing in a particularly flattering way. These people do not necessarily look that way in day-to-day life. People with visible abs don’t necessarily have them all the time (or even most of the time). It only takes a little bit of normal bloating for them to disappear - the photos they take might just be well-timed.
- The person in that picture is not you! You could follow their meal-plan and exercise regime word-for-word and you’d still never look like them, because you are two different people. So many factors come into play, such as height, bone structure, genetics, body type, etc. If you look at somebody else and say “that’s my dream body”, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Don’t try to look like someone else, because you probably never will. Instead, aim to look like the best version of you, whatever that may be.
- People tend to think that fitspo represents people who are healthier than in thinspo, but that’s simply not true at all. In both cases you have no idea what lifestyle the model leads in order to look the way they do. Sometimes people assume that if someone has muscles then they must be fit and healthy, but this is just wrong. In the same way that the “unhealthy looking” slender person in thinspo might be perfectly fit, the “healthy looking” girl with abs in fitspo might have starved herself in order to make them show. If your aim is to lead a healthy lifestyle and become fit, it’s not productive to idolize people who are the opposite.
- Fitspo promotes the idea that there is an ideal type of body. This can alienate a lot of people, especially when you consider the percentage of people that actually look like (or even have the potential to look like) the people featured in fitspo. Every body is beautiful, but we live in a society where everyone is brainwashed to think that certain traits are desirable. Being constantly bombarded with fitspo both on tumblr, in the media, and in day-to-day life can shred people’s self-esteem for no good reason, and lead to an unhealthy mindset.
I’m not going to tell you to stop looking at fitspo, because there’s nothing wrong with appreciating beautiful bodies, whatever their shape or size. And of course there is nothing wrong with looking like the people featured in fitspo do, just like there’s nothing wrong with looking completely different. Just be critical of the media you view, and try to keep a healthy mindset.