I watched an advert recently for Always, called #LikeAGirl. In the ad the Always crew asked a variety of individuals of all ages and ethnicities to ‘run like a girl’ or ‘throw like a girl’ or ‘jump like a girl’. Without fail everyone performed the task like a wilted dandelion flopping about in the wind….except the little girls. They ran as fast as they could and jumped as high as they could, putting maximum effort into the tasks they were given. Of course, when this is pointed out, all the participants ask to re-do their task and performed it much better the second time around. But why did they need the chance to re-do it? When did being a girl become synonymous with being weak?
Always suggest that this belief blossoms in puberty when girls develop the destructive idea that they aren’t as physically capable as boys. I would definitely agree but I think it goes much further than that, following on into adulthood when this idea is cemented not only by the girls themselves but by the society around them.
I’ll use an example that happened to me this year to illustrate this.
Being a relative newbie, and a girl, in the weight room is intimidating for me and I don’t mind admitting that. But, thankfully I am part of a very supportive and welcoming gym community. Even so, I clearly remember on one of my very first leg days I asked to share the squat rack with a fellow gym goer only to be told ‘girls don’t lift real weights’ and would I mind waiting. Feeling rather embarrassed I scurried away and skipped squats that day, vowing to come in earlier on leg days to secure a quick squat set in before the ‘real weight lifters’ came in.
Would he have done this if I was a guy? I don’t think so.
Most of my experiences in the gym have been incredibly positive and I am so grateful to everyone that has made me feel welcome but this one incident always sticks with me. I am a grown woman and that man, with a few choice words, made me feel completely inferior not because I was a newbie, not because I wasn’t as skilled as him, but because I am female and therefore am not supposed to achieve in the same way.
I spoke to my would-be intimidator, after I racked up my PB of 75kg on squats and had built up a bit of courage, he was completely devastated that he had made me feel like I wasn't welcome. He’s actually a really nice guy, which just goes to show how embedded this ridiculous belief is.
One gender finds it easier to build muscle than the other but good training is good training, good exercise is good exercise no matter what your chromosomes look like. Women can be physically adept; we can train with as much dedication as a man if not more. If you entered a race with Jessica Ennis, I know who I’d bet on.
When I step up to the squat rack for my target 100kg weight at Christmas, I am going to take a lot of pleasure in stacking the plates on each side because I’ll be visibly breaking away from this ludicrous mentality that ‘women are weak’ and I’ll prove that I’m not strong for a girl.
I’m just strong.
(Here's the link to the Always advert https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs).