I’ve had some experiences lately that have left me uneasy. Experiences where competition was not friendly, where potential camaraderie among my peers with common goals and interests was trumped by a need to judge, puff up their chests and flaunt their feathers. I then realized that this week we celebrated International Women’s Day and it’s the perfect time to shed some light on these experiences and share how much power we have among each other to enable or disable one another; what kind of woman do you want to be? (and if you’re a man, what kind of woman do you want your wife/mother/daughter/sister to be? Sometimes we ladies need reminders from the important men in our lives!).
So two experiences lately that left me feeling ugh! And I’ll finish with a most amazing story:
I got a week trial membership at a new high-end, gym in Toronto recently (yes, I have a studio, but it’s always coo to check out new “fitnessy” places) that’s marketed for hardcore types. I went in a few times, well I was thoroughly enjoying some of the equipment that’s not ideal for the boutique studio and having a great time. But the women in there stared and competed with one another in ways that were awfully uncomfortable.We’ve all had that feeling when you can tell you’re being judged with every move, and I not only felt it but could see it happening all over the gym among others. It left a terrible “vibe” with me. Then there were the few that were friends, but then they would collectively be judging and watching, which of course was even worse. Ugh!
In large part I kind of wanted to join a gym again in order the hire a trainer for myself (why do so many trainers not see the benefit of having one themselves?). This attitude of non-support and unhealthy judgment and competition turned me off though. As it turns out some of the friendly girls were trainers at that gym working out in their off-time. Perhaps that because I clearly knew what I was doing they wrote me off as “not a potential client”. That’s a shame for them, but really that attitude is a shame for all of us!
Recently on facebook and elsewhere on the web I’ve seen a lot of posts of women who are hot plus size ladies being compared to thin and/or fit women in a way that’s judging/bashing them as skinny and unattractive. I’ve also seen fit women bashing skinny women… The whole gamut, except of course bashing the plus size women because that’s just wrong and no one would dare! BUT WAIT! Why is it okay to bash anybody for a shape or build that in large part is not their choice, but genetic? Or maybe it is a choice, but if you’re healthy (i.e. not anorexic, obese, suffering from body dysmorphism or disordered eating) why should you be made to feel bad about it? And if not healthy, well why is anyone like that save for either starving to reach ideals or stuffing emotions and food often but not solely caused by this judgement and competition.
You see fat girls have gotten the dirty end of the stick since the thin trend decided to stick around for so many decades. Ironically, North Americans are now heavier than ever (that’s a whole other issue!), so achieving the “ideal” is harder than ever to boot! Yup, plus size lovelies have a tough time, no denying that. And if you are having a tough time with that body image why on earth would you try to make anyone else of any other shape or size suffer in their own skin?! Why fit girls would not inspire skinny girls rather than voice to the world “that” is not who I am and don’t compare me to it!” And why skinny girls would you make anyone not a size 00 feel huge?! Ugh!
Let’s face it, women are primed from childhood to compete with each other in ways that are less obvious and more insidious and isolating than men. Ways that cause us, rather than working as teams to take down another team in friendly competition, to tear each other down and break each other apart. Often in unfair matches of 5 to 1, without any rules (like competitive team sports), with simple words like fat, skinny, slut, prude, butch, priss, bitch, I’ll stop there. You know the words. You’ve used them or had them used on you, likely both. Sometimes it’s more than just words. Either way, it doesn’t matter: you get my point.
So now you’re feeling pretty UGH! Well let me tell you about 5 amaaaaaazing women. Jana, Esther, Marita, Femke, and Jenny; they were known as “The Girls” if you decided that the epic thing to do with your life in 2012 was ride your bicycle from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa.
Most of us came on the trip alone, only a few shared the experience with a partner or friend. None of The Girls knew each other prior to the trip, and in fact hailed from all different countries. But they bonded quickly and began riding together and supporting one another through the long tough days.
This wasn’t some kind of exclusive club, they would sometimes split up or someone else would join them, but overall they stuck together and supported one another. And in doing so they broke records, had a heck of a time (we all did, I mean come on, we rode our bicycles across Africa, but they rocked it!), and added a whole lot of awesomeness to the days: dressing up to cross borders (not something I’m going to recommend doing but in all scenarios turned out fine), an interesting take on the classic Easter Egg Hunt (designed for 60 adults, that’s planning), a group quiz night (what a bunch of laughs!). I could go on and on. But I’ll finish with they supported each other through it all, and they all finished EFI (every f***ing inch of Africa) without ever hitching a ride, grabbing a support truck, etc. One of them had several broken toes, one had a crummy bike and found herself borrowing anyone else’s any time she could, another ended up with some nerve damage to her hands due to lack of shocks and excess of bumpy road, it’s amazing she could hold her handlebars the whole time. 12,000km (7450 miles)! In temperatures that went from 2C to 54C (35F- 129F). And while they are all strong and devoted women, and I don’t doubt that given the right circumstances they could do it on their own, they were able to do it (mostly) gracefully, enjoyably, happily because of one another, and contribute to making it fantastic for everyone around them too!
So do you want to be woman who tears others down OR do you want to be a woman who bands with others to be amazing?! Together we can do anything… well maybe we can’t fly but I’ve seen 5 great women ride bicycles the distance of 1.5 times around the Earth in 4 months, and I’m certain that’s “anything” enough!
For more fitness awesomeness check out:
For more on epic cycling expeditions across continents I offer a 100% unsponsored shout out to Tour D’Afrique http://www.tourdafrique.com