glow notes

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Claiming my space

I've heard a lot of women say it:

"I don't lift weights much, I don't want to bulk up."

Dude, I've lifted weights steadily for 4 years, and have gone down 5 sizes. Where's the bulk? I'm de-bulking.

I'm curious about why so many women believe that they shouldn't be strong and have muscles.

To back up a bit - I am fully in support of any aesthetic an individual wants to have. I mean, people wear those crazy tribal ear . . . things (what are those called?) and I figure that's just none of my business. I think skinny girls with straight-up-and-down arms look anemic and sad, but who asked me? Not everybody would agree with me that this is about as gorgeous as a female body gets.

Amanda Savell didn't get that body by curling 10-pound dumbells a couple of times a week. She did it through assiduous and targeted bodybuilding techniques, a nutritional regime that would blow your mind, and probably an intensive cardio training program. And that photo is of her in competition condition, which she'll probably maintain for a few weeks, just long enough to get through the season before macking on a burger, fries, and large milkshake.

OK, back to taking up space. I don't believe that media images have much to do with an adult woman's estimation of her own attractiveness. After all, most straight women have discovered that real men like real women, with flesh, blood, and pretty bits to tease them with - not that we need masculine approval, mind you. The media annoys me for many, many reasons, but I don't hold them responsible for reflecting back at us a cultural obession with a rather odd feminine ideal.

Where am I going with this . . . let's see . . . individual aesthetics, Amanda Savell, media images . . . oh yeah! While I respect every woman's right to make choices about her body, I wonder why so many think that muscles are unattractive or unfeminine on a woman.

What's unattractive about slowing the aging process down by increasing cell mitochondria, improving blood lipid profiles, decreasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and maintaining good bone mass? What's unattractive about maintaining a healthy body weight well past middle age? What's unattractive or unfeminine about being able to haul a package or pick up a child?

My literary theory days are long over - it makes my head hurt to even think of discussing the heuristics of the post-structuralist gender politics innate in the boundary transgressions of the female athlete, or whatever, but Krista's got some interesting analysis on her site.

I'm just here to tell my story, and maybe I'll even tie it up into some kind of a point at the end.

I spent the first 12 or 13 years of my life just living in my body, eating and moving like a normal kid, enjoying being in human form. At 13 somehow I got the message I didn't have a right to take up space on the planet.

Or something.

To make a long story short, I dieted my way down to a good 15 pounds below a healthy body weight. I wasn't ever sick, but I was too thin, I was hungry all the time, and I was annoyingly obsessed. I don't honestly know how anybody could stand to be around me. And yet, I've never gotten more positive feedback. Not for anything I've done with my brain, not for any creative work, not for graduating from college, getting a Master's degree, or landing my first real job.

Certainly not for being the glorious expression of God that I am.

I'm all grown now, and I don't need external feedback to feel good about myself (though compliments are always thoroughly enjoyed). Yes, I still am into my body, that's true. Actually, I'm into ALL bodies, I love the complexity and primacy of the human machine. I am a very physical person, and you know I like to push myself hard. But now that energy is channeled into doing something for myself, not in an attempt to chisel away at my own being.

I can't say what women are feeling or thinking inside when they express that they don't want to build lean, healthy tissue. Are they seriously concerned that they'll wake up looking like Lisa Bavington in competition form? Do they just not want to do it? Is their aesthetic just plain different from mine?

Or did they, too, get the message that they aren't allowed to take up space?

It's true, my pants size has gone down dramatically over the past four years, and my body fat percentage is getting lower daily. But you know what?

I take up more space now than I ever have.

And damn, it feels good.


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