Femininity/masculinity division can be perceived from two points of view; appearance and action. They are substantially different yet influential and linked. My femininity is challenged on a day to day basis so let me explain why those who only see masculinity in myself, and other female lifters, are naive and narrow minded.
I absolutely do not want to inflict any ideals of what femininity or masculinity physically looks like as this is a subjective opinion which varies from person to person. The concept of femininity has most certainly varied and developed over the years; traditionally skinny and narrow waisted has been perceived as society’s ideal of a feminine woman, more recently curves have become more common. Therefore whether or not you have to “give up your femininity” in respect of appearance is by and large a subjective choice. My legs have doubled, at least, in size and I feel more feminine. I personally enjoy being thick and I know men and women who love thick women too. Equally, I know men and women who prefer smaller and more petite women. Weightlifters truly do come in a whole range of sizes and heights.
Whether or not weightlifting will make you thick, is a harder question to answer. I, at least, guarantee that you will not wake up dench if you lift some weight one time, or even a few times. No, building mass (in the absence of steroids) takes time. I know this because I have been actively trying to build muscle for a long time and it is a slow process. Women generally have much lower levels of the hormone testosterone, a male hormone that encourages muscle growth, so it takes more effort to get big. There are, however, other factors that impact how your physique will change when lifting. Everyone has different genetics which will respond differently to different stimuli.
Our genetic makeup determines our ratio of testosterone to estrogen, where we store body fat, what body type we have, what types of muscle fibers we have and where our muscle fibres are distributed amongst others. So one woman may be more susceptible to gaining muscle and/or fat than another woman. One woman may hold their fat more in their stomach whereas another woman will hold it more in their arms. Some women can build big backs easier than others who can build a big pair of legs easier. And, of course, how much and what you eat will make an impact on your physique, regardless of whether you lift or not.
Now for the meat of my blog, and the part that I actually care about. Take society’s stereotypical masculine-looking man; we are talking huge muscles, plenty of facial and body hair and a deep rough voice. Yet if he acts feminine, it is a whole new story and vice versa.
By evolution, certain traits have been categorised as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. Masculine traits include confidence, direction, strength, courage and violence, whereas feminine traits include sensitivity, free-flowing, smoothness, gentleness and empathy. Males typically exhibit more masculine energy and females typically exhibit more feminine energy, hence the name of the terms. However, everyone has both energies and can exercise both at will. These traits have not changed and will not change; they will always be classed as either masculine or feminine.
Displaying the right energy in the right scenario will determine whether you are successful at something or not. One of the reasons for why the business and financial markets are predominately male-orientated is because they both have competition at the heart of them, a very obvious masculine trait. Throw in competition into any activity and you’ll instantly see an increase in the masculine energy. This is why the best way to introduce more females into senior positions is to teach them how to be in their masculine energy, which generally does not come natural to women because of evolution, and NOT to eliminate competition as this would create a weak society. Feminine energy is best used elsewhere.
Indeed there are many other situations which require a feminine energy for a more successful result. For example, a child’s development would be best assisted if mother and father were both in their feminine energy during playtime. Cooking and some arts benefit from a feminine energy because it encourages creativity, comforting a friend when a family member has just passed a way is best done in the feminine energy and so forth. Weightlifting, however, requires solidly masculine energy. I can prance around like a little girl, wiggle my bum to the music and be as feminine as I desire but as soon as my hands touch the bar, I want to be anything but feminine. For 5 seconds I’m in my masculine energy, otherwise, that bar isn’t going up.
The point that I am trying to drive home, is that you choose when and which energy you want to be in. Therefore, do not be fooled into thinking that successful female weightlifters only know how to be masculine. We know how to be feminine. We simply chose to be in our masculine energy when lifting because being feminine would make us suck at the sport, and if you only see us in the gym, then you will only see our masculine energy.
Appearance influences action
Your physical appearance can influence how you feel about yourself and therefore make an impact on how you act. I became consciously aware of the masculine and feminine division when I sat in on a senior commercial team meeting. There were four men, a woman and myself present. I noted everyone was wearing suits, including the other female, and I was wearing a pretty floral dress. Perhaps appropriate for day-to-day office wear but I realised my outfit screamed no-authority. I put myself in the shoes of a client and considered who I would take advice from; everyone but myself simply because of what I was wearing.
It amuses me how when I leave the gym changing room in a dress, heels on and hair down ready for work I get a lot of ‘wows’ from my fellow CrossFitters as though I have morphed into a different person! The same when my salsa peers appear surprised when I tell them I am a lifter and they claim that they ‘would have never guessed’. These thoughts are processed largely on what I am wearing at the time of contact and the situation from which people know me from.
I have always desired a cute booty singlet for the stage but I now believe it would negatively impact my performance. I would not feel confident, strong and focused. I would most likely, unconsciously, drift into my feminine energy and not give my absolute all at a time when it is most needed. I also perceive stage time as an opportunity to impress and grab the attention of potential coaches and weightlifting peers who can further my progression in the sport. If I want them to take me seriously, then I must dress accordingly; a little fluffy pink suit will not cut it. Instead, I will save my pretty clothing for parties and the dance floor.
So do you have to give up your femininity to be a weightlifter? Temporarily, at times, but never indefinitely.