Body politics & the fitness world
How can we expect to appreciate our bodies for what they can DO and achieve when the fitness industry touts the female body as a sexual object? It’s time to take a stand
Everywhere you look nowadays, from women’s fitness magazines to the millions of female personal trainers on Instagram and Youtube fitness videos, there are so many female fitness ‘professionals’, clad in hot pants, and barely there sports bras.
Whether it is a personal trainer photographing her tightly honed abs, or a trainer on a video channel such as Body Rock TV, the focus is the same. How a woman looks, not what their body can achieve through exercise (and I’m not saying that the men’s fitness industry is much better).
I’ve worked journalism for over 15 years and I understand that images have been used to market to something or someone for years and that will always be the case. In the fitness industry, images are used to help inspire and motivate someone to get fit. ‘Work hard, and you too can look like this,’ is the sell in.
Taking aside the fact that looking like the images you see also requires dietary regulation boarding on the extreme, most mages are no longer even inspiring.
It started with the ‘Strong is sexy,’ slogan born from the CrossFit movement. I found it disturbing that so many people across the world thought that telling women to look a certain way, even if it was swapping muscles for being skinny in a bid to look sexy, was empowering.
But in the last five years, the sexualisation of women’s fitness has got even worse.
Everywhere, the female fitness form is presented similarly to those in a lads mag. Worse, it is aimed at us women, as something that we should aspire to be like through exercise. And what is disturbing is that it is not just publishers (with one eye on a different market for financial gain) but many personal trainers themselves.
Perhaps Instagram and YouTube are partly to blame, where success is measured by how many views and likes you get, helping to fuel the posting of images that are more porn than pull up prowess.
The saddest thing of all? This will only turn away so many women from accessing exercise. And it will give rise to a whole new generation of young girls, raised on the idea that we should exercise to create an unrealistic body shape that is not really about anything but living up to someone else’s ideal of who and what we should look like.
Of course, most people’s reason for starting to exercise is to look better. And there is nothing wrong with that motivation. We all want to look our best. But even aside from the sexualisation of fitness imagery, STAYING inspired to be fit comes from enjoying exercise. Hanging on to the image of a honed six pack or shapely bottom as motivation will last as long as a diet based on drinking maple syrup and lemon.
Not ALL personal trainers and fitness companies are the same. There are some incredibly, inspiring women in the fitness industry who train and inspire by what they choose to do with their fitness gains, whether that is to compete in running, cycling, triathlon, boxing or just to be a fit, well balanced woman.
But to those personal trainers who post endless photographs of their tummies, bottoms or breasts, enough already.
Be an inspiration for what your workouts can help your bodies achieve. Not what you look like.