Friday, March 04, 2011

The Feminine Ideal - Frailty or Strength?

While flicking through my Tumblr feed I noticed a great comment from a young woman (someone on a journey of battling her weight and becoming more healthy) along the lines of "I don't want to be a skinny girl with bones sticking out....I wan't to look strong, not empty and frail..."

I thought about this a lot...

So much of the modern archetype of women involves looking looking frail and weak (aka dis-empowered).

This doesn't make sense!

In a natural setting a woman would be physically active and would therefore show the effects of regular, varied physical activity (including walking, intermittent running, pulling, pushing, lifting, dragging and carrying things).
So anthropologically we can assume that a woman looking healthy, fit, functional and strong should be the norm. We obviously don't live in a primal world anymore though (probably on balance a good thing!) but like many other areas of modern life we have taken the 'good' that progress has given us, whilst losing the benefits of more natural living and embracing much of the negative (sedentary living, poor food, lack of connection with nature). In essence we've thrown out the baby with the bath water.

We have perpetuated stereotypes of beauty that dis-empower women, and these should be changed. Thankfully now many women are taking this upon themselves.
I am loving seeing the huge growth in women's kettlebell lifting, All-Round lifting and Cross-Fit.

At our own peril we ignore the fine interplay between the mind and body:
mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a sound body) is not only a call to develop the mind and the body optimally, but I think also serves as a reminder that the health of the body affects the health of the mind and the health of the mind affects the health of the body. The morphology we create in either also has a marked effect on the other, and the physical strength, power and wellness we create within the body must by extension affect the mind and the emotions (positively).
It contributes to a 'power mind-set' and this is so much more powerful than vague and hokey notions of 'girl power' ('girl power' seems a little condescending and contradictory anyway...I mean I loved seeing the Spice Girls jump around in lycra back in the 90's...but powerful? Ha ha ha...)

Women worry that if they train with weights they'll become masculine.
- They won't. They will simply become lean and muscular (in a very feminine and sexy way!)

Many of my patients come from a generation that was told: "Girls just don't do those sorts of things" [physical activity]
But who on earth decided that?
A: A patriarchal society that had a systemic culture of oppression of the TRUE feminine. A culture that decided that women were second class citizens...

So who cares now what was said, and why do we continue to carry around the vestiges of this system?

In the words of the great Zac de la Rocha "Yo, we gotta take the power back!"

Ladies - it's time for strong...


Strong, healthy and functional is the new sexy. 


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