“You look like a man… You don’t want to build bulk, you want to be lean… Skinny is healthy and desirable, fit and muscular is not…”
“Women are weak and fragile and shouldn’t be allowed to serve in combat, or land a Yurchenko double pike vault in competition (and definitely shouldn’t get full points if they do).” We are told that we absolutely should not look overly muscled even if that’s a huge part of the reason we dominate at a sport. And that it’s not ladylike or pretty and no man will ever want us.
At age eighteen, I decided to become a whitewater raft guide. I was naturally skinny and had long nails. I was definitely too thin, weak, and feminine to be taken seriously guiding a boat.
I also had zero self-confidence, but a huge determination to prove I could do anything—especially if you told me I couldn’t. And plenty of people did.
That first year on the river, I gained a solid ten pounds of muscle. The next year I ran oar boats and put on another ten. My back and shoulders looked more like those of a small guy.
I could lift and load a boat overhead or pull 250-pound guy back into my raft. Being physically strong made me capable of taking care of not just myself, but a raft-load of passengers on a long river trip. I’d never felt more powerful, more confident, or more beautiful.
So why are women constantly told muscles are unattractive?
“We found children at a very early age – from the most conservative to the most liberal societies – quickly internalize this myth that girls are vulnerable and boys are strong and independent,” said Robert Blum, director of the
Global Early Adolescent Study based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore stated, “And this message is being constantly reinforced at almost every turn, by siblings, classmates, teachers, parents, guardians, relatives, clergy and coaches.”
The men in power have created and/or pushed most of our societal norms to benefit themselves. If we women believe we’re weak, incapable, and at risk of physical or sexual abuse—and therefore in need of physical protection—those in power maintain the upper hand.
I mean, you couldn’t make it without him. Am I right?
Sure, this was true when women couldn’t open a bank account, get a loan, or have a credit card without their husband or father signing off on it. Back when few of us went to college, and most that did went solely to find a husband.
While we still don’t earn as much as men, today we can run our own businesses and manage our own financial affairs. And our own strong, beautiful muscles can do the job just fine.
At 51, I’m still kayaking, skiing, mountain biking, and backpacking. Lifting weights three times a week keeps me strong enough to do all the sports I love. Having strong muscles makes me feel good about my body and myself. Developing my physical strength helped me discover my inner strength and beauty.
Luckily, I met my husband kayaking. I’ve now been happily married for almost 23 years to a man who loves my muscles. Because my physical strength lets me do activities we both enjoy. And because strong is sexy.
Now we just need more people to embrace that.
Stacy Gold quit her day job as Communications Director of a nonprofit mountain biking organization to write romance novels filled with strong, independent women finding love and adventure in the great outdoors. Her upcoming backpacking romance, Wild at Heart, comes out May 2nd. Visit https://stacygold.com to learn more, or follow her adventures @AuthorStacygold on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.