Thursday, 24 April 2014

Vagenda Strikes Again

Oh you took the words right out of my mouth. It must have been while you were kissing me.

Wait, no, that's wrong. That's Meatloaf, not me. But that's exactly what played through my head when I read this article by Vagenda Magazine. (Disclaimer: clearly I didn't think that the website was kissing me. That's just strange. The second line just flowed right out after the first, okay?!)

I love fitness, it interests me, and I love magazines, and I'm a woman, so surely a fitness magazine for women should be the perfect fit. WRONG. Totally wrong. The kind of wrong that happens when I pick up a Primark dress on a size twelve hanger and try it on, only to find it's actually a mislabelled size six. I'm sure that if I'd properly read those magazines and applied their logic those accidents would never happen: I would already be a UK size 2, existing on a diet of lettuce-infused water, hunger pangs, and a side of I-only-worked-out-for-6-hours-today guilt.

Can you imagine the misery? Unfortunately, a worrying percentage of people can. A quick glance over this HSCIC article and this one from KCL give a number of statistics that are much better read all together (hence why I'm not listing them here). I'm not about to write an article on eating disorders because that would take a lot more research and I'm already very late for bed, but could we please just take a moment to reflect on the gender gap in fitness?

Perhaps I've been a little too harsh on Women's Health (I'm also going to include Women's Fitness, although they are not dealt with by Vagenda. See my comment on the original article). I don't mean that they start eating disorders, because we all know that this doesn't happen (if you are under the illusion that celebrity gossip magazines and fitness articles cause eating disorders then I suggest you go and educate yourself. Pronto.), but I would suggest that they have played their part in the societal trend that women are only worth their looks, and a size eight figure brings in the big bucks. Even the articles that don't hint directly at this are often ever-so-slightly demeaning, downplaying the fact that a lot of women just want to be strong and healthy. Skinny does not equal healthy, my friends.

I don't have much more to say than what's in the Vagenda article, which might get you asking, why write this blog about, well, nothing much? Because I wanted to bring the article to your attention, and also because I'm sick of the importance put upon and the way we scrutinise women's bodies: eat healthily but not too much in case someone sees you, run a lot but not too much so that you don't get muscley legs, lift weights to tone up but don't lift too heavy otherwise you'll look like a man. The final straw really came last week at the gym. I booked a training session with one of the male trainers because I wanted some tips on my deadlift technique. He wasn't able to do the session in the end, so the female trainer stepped in instead. When I asked her how many reps/sets I should be doing to progress beyond my current 30kg, she gave me a look and said that if I wanted I could do 3 sets of 8 reps of the highest weight I could handle, but that she usually just did 10x10 of a lower weight to stay toned but not get bulky. Sigh. Subtle body shaming from a fitness instructor. Loving life. (Yes, she has the right to her own opinion, but she didn't need to give me that look. I asked for tips, not her life story.)

I'm going to stop my late-night rant now and go to bed. In the morning I'm going to go and buy all the men's fitness magazines I can find, and when I no longer fit into my jeans because my quads are too big, I'll just go and buy a bigger pair.