“Strong Is The New Sexy” = Objectification

In the modern lexicon, words tend to change meaning all of the time. Societal stigma also changes and because of that, we hear more “this is the new that” statements everyday. Forty is the new thirty! Forty years on earth is still forty years. Society has just decided that it will place less judgment on 40 year-old humans. “I thought by the time I reached 40 I would have [fill in the blank with whatever cultural influences lead one to believe about their 40th year].” Cheer up, Friend! Forty is the new thirty!

Strong is the new sexy! That statement, in and of itself, is a sexist form of motivation. I’ve heard women say it, I’ve read it on magazine covers, and I’ve seen it on T-shirts. I find “strong is the new sexy” to be sexist. The phrase is packed with thinly veiled objectification.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I write that women are often viewed as property. To be clear, I am not in agreement with this mentality. However, as a cisgender male, raised by cisgender males, the misguided thought has been passed down to me. I challenge myself daily to think against my indoctrination. When someone is dehumanized into an object to be attained, the selection process resembles that of a Farmer’s Market fruit selection. Do you want her firm or soft, long or short? Either way, look past all human emotions and just see her body as an object to be obtained. As men, that’s how we’re socialized to think of women. That mentality generates scrutiny that women face regarding their appearance and it’s a never ending shit storm of annoyance. No, I’ve never been a woman. I’ve never experienced such scrutiny first hand. But, 90% of my friends are women and I hear the stories that drop my jaw in disbelief. The scrutiny happens with the elevator eyes and the long distance decision by the pursuer as to whom they will “spit game.”

“Forget about game, I’mma spit the truth! Won’t stop ’til I get ’em in they birthday suit!” -Ludacris

When a woman’s strength (read: muscular definition; not to be confused with her mental fortitude) starts being labeled as a determination of her worth (again viewing her as property) then society starts saying, “Strong is the new sexy.” I’ve been a Personal Trainer for over a decade and in all of that time, women still make the same request to me when we begin working together. “I don’t want to get too muscle-y!”, they say. I find it difficult not to roll my eyes when I hear this, for two reasons. 1.) Women, generally, have less testosterone and will not gain muscle as fast as men. 2.) So, what if they did gain muscular definition? Why would that be a bad thing? Throughout history, weak men have been threatened by the (mental or physical) strength of women. When you think of the term “ladylike”, what image pops up for you? She’s not muscular, is she? When you think of the term “butch”, what image pops up for you? Women have been socialized to look/act like ladies. It’s because of that socialization that some women apologize about their bodies.

I went to look at a friend’s tattoo on her leg and she said, “sorry, I haven’t shaved my legs.” When I asked why she was apologizing to me, she replied, “some people are weird about bodies.” I said, “Yeah, but it’s YOUR body. It’s not my place to have an opinion on it.”

Back to my point on socialization. Women have been socialized to not appear (physically) strong. Instead, they’ve been conditioned to be sex objects. Now that more women are working out with weights*, there are more women that are accepting their muscular definition. I applaud that acceptance. I think it takes a dark turn when the acceptance of a strong physical form must be diminished into “sexy”. The definition of sexy belongs to the owner of the strut. Culture should not define it. “The eye of the beholder” should not define it. Women should be able to look however TF they want without apologizing for hairy legs or objectifying their muscular definition as “sexy.”

I spoke with my friend, V, on the matter and here’s what she had to say when I asked her, “What are your thoughts on the phrase, strong is the new sexy!?”:

“…this phrase is simply jam-packed with interesting undertones. It always raises so many questions in me when I hear it. For instance, was strong not sexy before? Who is making this proclamation? How does one define “strong”? Are we now excluding other characteristics that used to be considered sexy in the past and replacing them with this image of “strength” instead? If I don’t look strong because of the particular characteristics of my physique, then am I not sexy? On a personal note, I live with a chronic disease and pain, which limits my capacity for many kinds of physical activity, and my muscles are smaller and relatively weaker because of this…so, am I not sexy? Often, when I hear this, it rings a similar bell as “Real women…” and “Real men…” Because, for the same reason that all people are real and you can’t define “woman” or “man” in a single, restrictive, exclusionary statement, neither can you define “sexy” in just one way. There is no definitive The Sexy- new or otherwise. So if a statement like this must be made, then I much prefer, “Strong is sexy.” Because it doesn’t preclude or exclude other ways of being sexy. I tend to struggle with phrases that attempt to raise up one physical ideal by knocking another one down- overtly or implicitly. Because to do so feels like an attempt to invalidate other ways of being and put a box around an experience that ought not be bounded.” -V

The next time you read, “Strong Is The New Sexy”, just repeat after me.
I don’t need anyone else to define my brand of sexy.
I don’t need anyone else to define my brand of sexy.

See you next week, Friends!

*-If you’re beginning a fitness program, study the overload principle. Lifting tiny weights for fear of gaining too much muscle mass is not going to make you stronger.

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Have You Started To Love Your Body Yet?

“How does it affect you?” It was a simple question that changed the way I thought (about everyone else). Some years ago, I was blathering on about how that person over there was doing that one thing that was annoying me. My GFATT (Girl Friend At The Time), asked the question that stopped me in my tracks. I don’t remember what I was complaining about. But, I do recall that I was in the habit of expressing (misdirected) anger through criticism of others. That was about a decade ago. I make better use of my energy these days. I still hear her voice in my head, repeating the simple question. I hear it when I make an unnecessary judgment. I hear it when others judge people.

“She is too old to be wearing THAT! I mean come on!” How does it affect you?
“Is he really wearing THOSE pants!?” How does it affect you?
“Is that a man or a woman?” How does it affect you?
“Are you really going to eat THAT?” How does it affect you?
“I hear that they have one of those open marriages!” How does it affect you?

“Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay? Controversy.” -Prince

How does it affect you? *spoiler alert* It. Does. Not. None of our judgments of other people’s habits, fashions, lifestyles, sexual orientations, dietary choices, etc. are worth the mental effort. I care if other people smoke, litter, or jaywalk. Those are just a few examples of things that have an indirect effect on my life. But, I have three challenges for you.

First, acknowledge your judgments. Yes, I am judging that person. What insecurity of mine am I using as a weapon with which to judge this person? Perhaps the judgment you make on others is a subconscious judgment you’ve made on yourself. Are you unhappy with your body? Acknowledge that if you find yourself criticizing someone else’s body.

Second, ask yourself the question. How does it affect you? If it doesn’t, then remind yourself that your energy could be focused on much more positive things. Try focusing the energy of judgment on yourself. No, that does not mean that you should judge/criticize yourself in lieu of strangers. It means that you can take that energy and uplift yourself.

Third, uplift others. Find the (aesthetic) good in others. As I walk through any crowd, I find it easier (read: less stressful) to seek the positive in everyone’s appearance and/or disposition. I’m usually the smiling face that’s swimming up stream thinking about what I like about the people I see. I’m not going to type any false sunshine and claim that *insert mocking tone* “I find everyone beautiful in their own special way”. While I can find something that makes me smile in every soul and on every body, there are times that I meet a donkey (read: jack ass) and I choose to keep my distance. Sometimes, I meet someone that has a penis growing out of his forehead *untrue story*. When that happens I remind myself in rhyme, “if I can’t think of anything nice to SAY sometimes it’s best to look AWAY”.

“Have you started to love your body yet?” It’s a question that I ask potential clients. I make it a policy to only accept clients that are focused on long-term fitness, self-love, rehabilitation, and training to be prepared for anything. The saying goes, “workout because you love your body, not because you hate it.” I’m not sure who said it. But, in my experience, I’ve never seen success come from a negative motivator. Will you run faster if a dog is chasing you? No doubt. Should you imagine that a dog is chasing you every time you go for a run? Please don’t. You’ll hate running faster than it will take you to finish a mile. Love your body, love your effort, love your motivation.

The most beautiful people I’ve ever seen were naked. Every so often, I find myself in a “clothing optional” environment. In those environments, I see self- love whenever someone sheds their clothes. The nudists realize that nothing on their body will affect the eye of the beholder. How will it affect them? The nudist gives zero fucks. In that apathy, I see beauty. The most attractive person is the person that finds themselves attractive. I’d like to re-type that, “The most attractive person is the person that finds themselves attractive.” You can’t just say, “I know I look good, Honey!” No, you must live, breathe, and embody self-love. Have you ever met a confident human with a strong will and positive self-esteem? If you have, then you know what I mean. That human is s-e-x-y. Not because of hair color, fashion sense, height, weight, muscular definition, or any other aesthetic. Nope. That human is attractive because they have no self-doubt. They hear the phrase “clothing optional” and rejoice in the freedom of nudity. The nudists are those humans that don’t concern themselves with the judgments of others. Now, before you assume that all of these nudists, to whom I refer, fit into some societal standard of beauty check yourself. The majority of the naked people that I’ve seen at these resorts would never be asked to grace the cover of a magazine. However, they were the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen because they found themselves attractive enough to not be concerned by the opinion of others.

The never-nudes were the odd balls. Walking through a group of naked people with your clothes on highlights your insecurities. There are many places you can visit with clothing requirements. Why make the journey to a place (that’s not easy to find) just to leave your clothes on? One person even wore a sweater… in August. This person wore a goddamned sweater! How did it affect me? It didn’t. I just found it confusing. Being beautiful begins (and ends) with self-love. Have you started to love your body yet? Have you taken the time to celebrate your naked and lovely body in the mirror? Well, maybe it’s time that you found yourself sexy. Just a thought.