Body Positive

Internalized Misogyny: Stopping Girl on Girl Hate

I think it’s safe to say we all know what sexism is, right? When a woman doesn’t get hired because of her gender, or when a mechanic charges a woman more for his services because she “doesn’t know anything.” Unfortunately, there are more insidious types of sexism, and when they are spouted by women they become what’s called internalized misogyny. Need some examples? Do you have a female friend that thinks she’s cooler/better/smarter/etc. than other women because she doesn’t do “girly” things? Or a female friend that says she’d rather hang out with guys because they’re “less drama”? (Read a history book, bro) What about the woman who scolds other women who are emotional, like it’s a flaw?

Tina Fey had a poignant moment in Mean Girls where she discussed girl-on-girl hate.


These are examples of internalized misogyny. It’s the sexism we hear every day and we start incorporating into our own lives. The idea is to reject the feminine as “bad” and “weak” in an attempt to be the opposite -strong. Like a man.

I know what you’re thinking. “That’s fine and dandy, Courtney, but what does this have to do with fitness?”


I’m going to take a huge, huge problem in this post an examine it through a smaller lens: memes. We can all agree that we’ve seen a meme or two in our life, probably posted one, probably laughed about it. Memes are a cultural phenomenon that speak volumes to the way we think about certain classes in society.

Now, let me take you down the “Wall of Shame” for just a second.

Ah, yes, a very typical meme. You’ve probably heard this before from a friend on Facebook or at the gym. “Who does she think she is – wearing MAKEUP to the gym?! Doing her hair?! Doesn’t she know she’s here to WORK OUT? LIKE ME? I WORK SO HARD.” This is an underlying theme in a lot of these memes – girl on girl crime/hate. The recurrent theme is

  • Girls as competition – if another girl is doing better/more than you/looking better than you/etc. she is competition in a bad way. She should be torn down at all costs. She lifts more than you? Yeah, well she’s ugly. She runs faster than you? Well, good, she has no life, she needs something in her life.

These “better than x” posts are also very common too. The recent popularity of Crossfit has brought a ton of women into the lifting community – which is great! For far too long many of us have been the only girl at a powerlifting meet, or maybe were met with strange looks when we explain that we put hundreds of pounds on our back and squat it. With this came the barrage of “better than x” ideas. Suddenly doing something “masculine” like lifting heavy weights makes them better than you. Again – girl on girl hate. “Haha you dance for an hour? WELL I LIFT WEIGHTS FOR AN HOUR SO I’M BETTER!” This is the equivalent of the girl who says “The Bachelor? Gag. I’d rather watch Sports Center!” There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something “out of the norm” but the minute you put down another woman for her preferences (which are “typical female” preferences) you’re furthering this girl on girl hate.

And men, you’re just as guilty of this! Here are some memes that I’ve seen posted by men AND women alike.

Yes, please never grow up to be a multi-million dollar pop star that enjoys things. Cultural appropriation aside, that’s an entirely different discussion.

Large boobs are not optional. Also insert endless “MY FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE BAR HAHA” and “GOING DOWN LIKE A SQUAT NOT LIKE A SLUT” memes

Do you see a theme here? Most of these are trying to empower a certain type of woman by tearing down another – and usually solely based on looks. Don’t believe me?

You can run a marathon? Who cares you don’t have 10% body fat haha!

I know science is hard, but genetics…I mean really. And photoshop. OH GOD PHOTOSHOP.

Every time you say something about “that girl” who works out and drinks.

Every time you tear down a woman for wearing makeup or doing her hair before the gym.

Every time you put one type of “non-traditional” exercise over another.

YOU are contributing to a world of GIRL ON GIRL hate. These memes often have a deeper, darker motive as well. Sure, on the surface they may seem motivational, but they actually reinforce a gender norm a lot of these women try to steer clear of. Notice how all of these women are skinny, white and conventionally attractive? These women all embody what is conventionally attractive to the modern man (and please, let’s keep the #notallmen to a minimum). A big, firm butt, low body fat, white, etc. These memes reinforce the current beauty standard under the disguise of a new, “healthy” one. Don’t believe me?

Lift hard and heavy! …but only to an extent, that’s gross, right?

Re-affirming conventional beauty standards. If these memes were REALLY about “internal strength” or “Bettering yourself” they’d focus a range of body types and skin colors. They would show the top woman and say, “Suns out guns out!” or “Work hard, play hard!” or whatever other catchy saying currently spewed by fitness people. Instead they work to tear down women who stray from the idea of what’s “accepted.” And don’t be too shocked by the comments on these pictures – women and men alike will tear down the top image. Post a picture of Dana Linn Bailey on Facebook and wait and count how many people (women included) tell you “not to get that big” or read her countless “Ew you’re a man!” comments.

So, basically, when you post these memes you’re 1) reinforcing the beauty norm, 2) tearing down other women (you don’t think that top girl has seen this image before? How do you think she feels?), 3) negating the hard work of the individual…just to name a few.

A lot of girl on girl hate, right?

(And, on a tangent, how many of these memes are thinly veiled thinspo? How many of these reinforce guilt about food and eating disorder ideas – which is a predominantly woman’s issue? Yeah.)

So – what can you do?

  • Build other women up – don’t tear them down. Find your competition and praise her for her strengths. Find a sisterhood in your shared struggle.
  • Call out other women for their internalized misogyny. “I don’t understand why the hair style of the girl on the treadmill has anything to do with your workout?” or “Maybe she likes pink nail polish, why do you care?”
  • Accept that not everyone wants to do Crossfit or lift weights and some women just like to dance with their friends, or cycle, or run. And remember it has NOTHING to do with you.
  • Praise other women. Lift them up. Empower each other in EVERY facet of your life. Other women are NOT your competition and if they’re doing “better” than you it’s not a personal affront to you.
  • Don’t post this garbage.

Team Anti-Squeem – how the newest fitness fad is just dangerous

The squeem is the newest fitness fad that’s been seen on Instagram and other social media sites. A “squeem” is a modern day corset you can wear at the gym (or for 5-6 hours during the day) with the intention of “training your waist” to be smaller.

First of all, let’s examine how insane that sounds. Wearing a constricting device around your waist for a few hours will not change the genetics or shape of that area in a permanent sense. If anything, the minute the waist cincher is removed your waist will return to its normal size. Since it just provides an insane amount of pressure on the area there is no permanent change happening. It’s like saying wearing skinny jeans all day will shrink your legs – no.

(The only exception to the rule I will admit is Cathie Jung, who has been wearing a corset for 24 hours a day since 1959. In 1959 she had a 26″ waist, now it’s 15″. Plus, she is unable to drive a car or do many every day functions because she can’t move.)

Speaking of skinny jeans – have you ever worn a pair of skinny jeans a size or two too small? You remember how parts of your leg and hips would go numb, how you’d get pain and tingling sensations as the nerves were compressed and the blood flow restricted in those areas? Imagine doing that to your abdomen, where just under the skin and muscle lay important organs. Dr. Orly Avitzur, a neurologist, has written several articles about the dangers of Spanx, Squeems and other restrictive shapewear here.

Ah yes, improves circulation by cutting off circulation! I see.

These restrictive items make you sweat a lot, though. Removing water from any area of your body will help decrease the inches – just look at those scam body wraps that people sell. They don’t lose any -true- weight, it’s just the water leaving the tissues. The moment the area is rehydrated the inches return with the weight.

Additionally, these waist trainers apply pressure along the bottom of your rib cage which may disallow for full expansion of your lungs. When the lung cannot fully expand you run the risk of not fully oxygenating your blood. Additionally, a very severe side effect of a lung not being able to expand is collapse of the lung lobe itself. These are very severe complications that can occur, whether they’re common or not. The best question you should ask yourself is “Why should I wear something that restricts my ability to breathe while I work out?”

Now, I know we’ve all seen those images of women who’ve worn corsets back in the day. It’s important to note that these modern day squeems do not have the metals that those corsets do. Any conclusions we drew from the extreme restriction of those corsets won’t necessarily transfer over to modern day. In my research I found one modern day corset wearer who underwent an MRI to compare her organ location and size to the average person. They found shifting of organs (the liver and spleen shifted upwards, the large intestine shifted downwards) but no significant changes in the anatomy of the organs. They argue that a woman undergoes similar shifts during pregnancy with her organs, so how is it different?

My argument? 9 months of your organs moving slowly is quite different from wearing an artificial device that cinches down on your waist 24/7. Additionally, the slow growth of a fetus allows for organs to adapt to the changes. My question isn’t about how the organs look, but rather how they work. You cannot simply look at an MRI of an organ and determine that it’s working well and fine. Without blood work or biopsy there’s no way to assess if the constant pressure has lead to ischemia, pressure necrosis, re-perfusion injuries when the squeem is taken off, etc.

If you want to lose weight, you need to get into a caloric deficit. If your genetics tells you to hold onto weight in your abdomen, you’ll lose it there last. There’s no good way to “beat” genetics, especially not by wearing restrictive clothing in hopes it forces your body to remodel. It doesn’t work that way.

Want a smaller waist? Take a hint from the bodybuilding pros – create an illusion. Focus on building a larger upper and lower body that accentuate the X shape of your midsection. Dress in clothing that flatters your shape and either hides areas you’re self conscious about or simply draws attention away from it. Try to work WITH your body, not against it, and you won’t have to worry about the long term effects of compressing vitals organs.

Is Social Media Destroying Fitness?

This may seem like a funny topic for a fitness blog to cover.

See, without social media I would have never turned down the fitness avenue that I did. Without the influence of Tumblr I never would have known about powerlifting or figure competitions or any of the sports I compete in. I would probably still be that girl that eats 1200 calories a day and tries to run 5 miles through horrible shin splints.

But with great power comes great responsibility. For every social media maven out there that’s changed someone’s life for the better there are 15 that spout absolute bullshit that is harmful and problematic. Think of Tracy Anderson telling women not to lift more than 3 pounds, or the constant recycling of fitness myths that have long since been busted (like eating every 2 hours to “rev your metabolism”) or the shaming of non-able bodied people. Think of fitspo images, which are just poorly disguised thinspo images, with their endless white thin women highly sexualized with horrible slogans over them.

Really, though, is social media destroying fitness?

Social media has helped the average Joe with a great body become internet famous and suddenly a guru. Instagram accounts become collections of fitspo and Twitter rehashes the same 180 word catch phrase every morning.

Social media has also helped bring people together. Future fitness competitors find their coaches, a newbie can have their squat video critiqued by those who know more, and you’re suddenly a click away from your fitness idol.

By the same stroke you have anonymous Internet “experts” telling you that squatting below parallel will destroy your knees and that benching with an arch is cheating. IFBB pros update their accounts with videos of them performing exercises with horrible form or talking about their dangerously low calorie diet like it’s absolutely normal.

Social media is a blessing and a curse and, I think, needs to take responsibility for its actions. If someone on social media is doing something harmful (like stealing pictures off Instagram and Pinteresting them tied to their weight loss site) they should be called out for it. Social media sites should remove things with harmful content – like diet plans with 900 calories or people without any nutritional background selling diet or exercise plans. While it may be common sense for some to not take advice from a fit 18 year old it’s not that way for young, impressionable men and women looking to lose weight and fast. As a fitness community we should be charged with wanting to keep the name clean and doing no harm. Support, encouragement, blocking those who make harmful comments on pictures, and taking an active role in the content we share.

Fitness has changed our lives for the better – why wouldn’t we want the same for everyone else?

A Case For Letting People Diet

Whenever a friend or family member (or Facebook friend) mentions starting a new diet – vegan, vegetarian, paleo, Atkins, whatever – there’s always a knee jerk reaction to say “Diets don’t work!” Those of us who’ve made peace with our eating habits are the first to scoff and say things like, “Just eat less crap” or “Just eat less” or even “You’re going to gain it all back.” But here’s the thing – how many diets did it take us to reach these conclusions? How many times did we “start over” with our diet or choke down salad 500 times a day? Some of us were born into families with happy balances with their food and bodies that never needed to “diet.” In reality, though, majority of people struggle with this.

So why should we let our poor friends go through this?

First of all, think of yourself some two, five, ten years ago. For some of you the “Eat less crap” would have been a light bulb moment that lead you into a life of health and happiness. For others, it would have been met with blank stares.  Remember the first time you proclaimed you were going on a diet. Imagine if one of your well-meaning friends told you, “You’re doing it wrong, idiot!” How many of you would have taken their advice? How many of you would have punched the jerk in the face?

To a lot of people the journey is really where they pick up invaluable information about themselves. Sometimes it takes going on a ketogenic diet for someone to learn that their body NEEDS carbs (or that going low carb was fantastic for them). Maybe they fall off the wagon because it doesn’t work, but when they decide to diet again they have the background knowledge. They’ve learned that they can’t do diet X against because of Y and Z, so next time they find something else.

It’s this long, often frustrating journey that people have to embark on to gather their own series of experiences to shape their eating and exercise habits in the future. When they eventually find their inner peace it may or may not be with a mainstream diet. Maybe they did just “stop eating crap” or maybe they’ve decided Paleo is perfect for them. Who are we to judge? There are plenty of people who stick to these mainstream diets that we parrot “fail” because it falls in line with their personal preferences. A lot of these diets come with cookbooks and meal plans that can save our friends time, money and energy. They give guidance and direction in a diet industry that throws out so much conflicting information.

Next time a friend goes on a “diet” try to avoid being THAT asshole that tries to convince them otherwise. Let your friends experiment with food and recipes and exercise and be supportive. Let them see how their body reacts to different types of food and support them when they’re low. Don’t try to sabotage them to make a point – they’re your friends!  They need to embark on their own journey to reach the same inner peace that you have.

Why Do We Place SO Much Emphasis On “You Won’t Get Bulky!” ?

I admit: I’m guilty of this.

When I first started exercise I was a cardio bunny. I didn’t know how to do anything else. I took a weight training class in middle school but basically abandoned everything I learned there and replaced it with a few hours on the elliptical a week. Unlike most females, though, I didn’t avoid weight training because I feared I’d become bulky. To be completely honest, I avoided weight training because I had no idea what to do. Getting on a treadmill or stairmaster with all the other girls in the gym just made more sense to me. It actually wasn’t until I was a senior in undergrad when I overheard the following exchange…

Girl 1: “Oh my god, are those 15 pound weights?”

Girl 2, doing bicep curls: “Oh god no, I don’t want to get bulky!”

Me: What the hell is going on?

As I got more and more into fitness I realized that this thought is very common amongst men and women. As I started getting into powerlifting and other compound lifts considered “heavy” I felt personally offended by this. How DARE people accuse me of something so “un-feminine!”. I wrote articles about how women don’t have enough testosterone, how hard females in body building trained, how much you had to eat, I made graphics about strength training and its aesthetic benefits. And I parroted the same thing everyone else was: You won’t get bulky!

Now, though, I realize this is kind of in vain. If anything, I was perpetuating a lot of the myths involving weight training by being so “proactive”, and I was perpetuating a lot of internalized misogyny in the meantime.

I was acting like bulky was something to be avoided. I was acting like bulky was bad, or that everyone had the same idea of what it meant to be bulky.  If you showed me a picture of a WBFF bikini model three years ago I would have said, “absolutely not!” Now? My opinion has changed.

Gisele, Dana and Susanne all show different body types that are equally respectable for their hard work and dedication. Why do we warn against them?

Gisele, Dana and Susanne all show different body types that are equally respectable for their hard work and dedication. Why do we warn against them?

So why do we have this knee-jerk reaction to correct people in an offended way? The more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s because bulky is something I wanted. When people acted like lifting a 15 pound dumbbell for 30 minutes twice a week was going to get them bulky I felt personally offended. If it were that easy, then why do I look like a wet noodle? Why can’t you see the separation between my muscles? WHERE IS MY GLUTE HAM SEPARATION?! I’ve been lifting for a year now, where’s my bulk? You never hear someone say, “Oh, I only play mini golf. If I played regular golf I’d become Tiger Woods – yeck!”

Putting aside the fact that “bulky” (god, this word is getting redundant) is highly subjective, by acting like it’s a horrible thing to be avoided for women we cause a problem. We’re perpetuating the “there is only one idea of beauty and fitness, and this is it!” crap. We might as well be those assholes who put “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” on the picture of a random girl we went to high school with. Who CARES if you can or cannot obtain a certain body type from a certain type of exercise? No one warns runners they’re going to increase their cardiovascular capacity. No one warns sprinters they’re going to get explosive power. We think of these as positive side effects, so there’s no need to mention them. But this bulky stuff? RED ALERT.

Whatever an individual person’s goals are, we should be supportive. My sister wants to lose 10 pounds and look like Jennifer Lawrence. My best friend wants to look like Giselle. Some of my internet friends want to look like Jamie Eason. When we encourage women like them to lift weights, we should do so by talking about the non-aesthetic benefits, like decreasing incidences of osteoarthritis, or the fact that you burn more calories throughout the day after a lifting session.

All in all, it’s great to encourage people – women especially – to incorporate weight training into their exercise regime. As we do this we’re going to encounter people who feel that it’s going to give them a body type they don’t particularly want. We absolutely should reassure them that their fears are unfounded, but we should do so in a way that doesn’t tear down other females with different goals. We should focus on the positive aspects of weight training and steer away from the same word vomit we all seem to spew: bulk bulk muscle muscle bad bad!