The female body image – 2 quick cents

December 8, 2011 — 98 Comments

The recent new article about Hope Solo being told she was “too muscular” for dancing with the stars got me annoyed, so I’m venting a tad. What demographic is DWTS for? Women.

I’m not gonna write about why women should put down the little weights and lift bigger weights-plenty are doing that already. JC Deen, Girls Gone Strong, Strong is the new Skinny, Rachel Cosgrove, Nia Shanks – that’s good for now-but there is lots more out there.

Instead I wanna touch on all the silliness about how women should look, how they think they should look-and what things are big influencers.

First, I think it’s complete bullshit that men are generally made the evil enemy in why women are “pressured” into trying to be skinny etc. I’ll agree that marketing campaigns can objectify women (beer, cars, etc)-but the idea that it is just for men is silly. Women’s magazines show the same ads, portray skinny chicks as their models, and do more to keep the negative body imagine problem alive than men’s magazines do. Check out this quote

The Culture of Thinness

Researchers report that women’s magazines have ten and one-half times more ads and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines do, and over three-quarters of the covers of women’s magazines include at least one message about how to change a woman’s bodily appearance—by diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery.

In addition to this-let’s stop and think about our own lives, people in our lives, and who we are really trying to look good for. I say we, because men and women both are doing all the primping, beautying, and readying for women’s’ opinions. Example: Had a cousin of mine tell me about how proud she was that she was recently complimented on her legs. I said “cool, from a girl or guy?” to which she replied “a girl, and so it meant more”. Yep-just as I suspected. Yet we men are blamed for this obsession with how you need to look when in fact you are mostly trying to impress your friends and other women you don’t even know….and men are called too competitive. Ha. I’m not even trying to pull references for this past paragraph-it’s fact and you know it. Stop ONLY blaming men, no matter how you look there are lots of men who are going to hit on you. Even if it takes a couple beers 😉 Bottom line: women are the bigger influencers in regards to creating body image problems. **

Continuing, my biggest irritation is that in the “fitness” industry we have so much shitty information for women to follow. A very very cool movement is the one that is encouraging girls to lift heavy, and not be stupidly afraid of bulking up. Again, see the first paragraph for many links which will take you to loads of good articles about this. Even still, We get knuckle head trainers telling girls that they should only train with small weights because that’s what ladies do, we have all the silly ass “shape” style magazines which only show women lifting silly ass little pink dumbbells, we have this type of article (note the comments). Now, Check out this Men’s Fitness survey (78% say athletic or curvy) of what is mens’ ideal female body type-it 100% correlates with my 29 years of talking with other dudes about what we like in women. AND hey you shallow ladies….I bet that the men who like fit (not saying skinny) girls are in fact generally fit and attractive themselves. Basically this survey shows we are attracted to women with small waist to hip ratios-note the key word being ratios. This article over at Evolvify discusses attractiveness more smartly than I do-read it.

Now, don’t take this “we don’t like skinny” talk to mean that we like fat. Nobody really likes fat, (and when i say fat i mean obese-not thick) I’m just being honest here- no matter how much that may be getting to be politically incorrect (another article entirely would be our culture’s stupid ass acceptance of unhealthiness-which is hugely influenced by people becoming huge). What we men do want are fit and healthy women. And healthy comes in a variety of shapes, ranging from thinner, to thicker. In fact check out the urban dictionary definition of thick – not fat, not skinny, but just right. healthy means so much more than scale weight (nobody cares about this by the way, except you girls). Healthy means skin firmness, color, and “glow”. I mentioned in my recap of the Ancestral Health Symposium how generally hot and healthy all the people were there-so basically eat healthy and don’t train like assholes. Fit and healthy shows a respect for one’s self, and that’s attractive. Healthy means mentally healthy-and worrying about losing lots of weight and trying to impress your friends isn’t healthy, and that’s why strong and fit girls are so damn awesome-they gain confidence from actually getting strong in the gym, from actually having the ability to change how their bodies look-they gain confidence by taking ownership of how they look and how they want to look rather than relying on everyone else-and that’s sexy.

I’d also like to point out that I’m not even trying to say “lift heavy no matter what”. If you don’t want to, you don’t enjoy it, or it scares you, then please do whatever it is that makes you happy. Just understand that what you are doing MAY not yield the results you want.

Now ladies, please go do the following things: work up to going heavy for 3-5 on deadlifts and squats. Do more volume with hip thrusts, lunges, step ups, and KB swings. Do pushups, pull-ups, dips, horizontal rows, and press weight overhead. Go for hikes and walks, and do sprints every so often. Go to pilates/barre/dance/zumba if it’s fun. Enjoy yourselves! That’s all you need to do. Don’t get fancy, get strong. Like Jessica Biel (who got voted as too muscular on this site-which I don’t like as IMO it perpetuates the bulky fear).


This is healthy. It’s from film, so its not photoshopped. Biel works her ass off (well on it seems) in the gym.

Also read this, as it’s uncomfortably hilarious and much more brutal than what I wrote.

**Note here-the sites and groups dedicated to accepting obese people for who they are, are in my opinion borderline stupid. Enabling a fat, unhealthy life is ridiculous. (note, this is too extreme to be helpful…but still I’m linking it-because most of what he writes is hilarious)

Editor’s note: i don’t edit. this is an unprofessional blog.

98 responses to The female body image – 2 quick cents


    Those last two links crack my shit up. And my girlfriend trains like what you described and is hot as hell.


    If by accepting your body the way it is means you aren’t beating yourself up about how you look now, then that’s a positive. When people feel bad about themselves, they just sit and eat and don’t look for solutions.
    If it means that weighing 300 pounds is fine and you should stay at that weight, then, um, no.


      You’ve got word there


      Well, think of it this way. I weigh about about 130 lbs. I’m not fat, in fact I’m quite thin. In recent years I haven’t been very healthy (I’m working on that — I’ve started eating healthier and exercising more) but I’ve never had to worry about my weight because of my natural high metabolism. Granted, I’ve had to deal with the occasional twinge about my tummy “bulge”, but honestly? Nobody but me would ever notice that.

      On the other hand, I have this friend — we’ll call her “Katy” for privacy’s sake. Katy’s a big girl. She’s, you know, round. Big face, big hands, big chest, big stomach, big butt, and big smile. The thing about Katy is that she doesn’t have a high metabolism like I do, so she weighs a lot. But she isn’t necessarily unhealthy. That’s just her natural body shape. And there are lots of women like that. I don’t think that she’s overweight, or anywhere CLOSE to obese, she’s just a big girl with an even bigger heart. And the best part about her is that she loves and accepts her body the way it is. That doesn’t mean that she gorges herself on McDonald’s and cake. She eats healthy, exercises, gets lots of sleep. But she doesn’t let herself stress about it because she knows who she is and she likes how she looks.

      I really don’t want to offend anybody, but I think that if somebody weighs 300 pounds, before they can do anything about it they need to learn to love themselves, from the inside out. Once a woman knows that no matter what she looks like she’s beautiful, it’s easier to want to change the outside. I’ve watched first-hand what confidence can do for a person. I know a woman who used to be almost morbidly obese, but once she learned to love herself, she began to eat right and exercise. She’s still overweight, but she looks amazing, and she’s never been happier. So don’t rag on obese or overweight people. They’re still people, just people with problems that can be fixed with unconditional love.

      And anyway, when one sees an old gal-friend, the first thing one comments on should NEVER be her weight. It should be how much one loves her, and how excited one is to see her. If the first thing I said to the woman I talked about before when I saw her was “Wow! You lost weight, you look great!” she will easily be able to translate that to “I lost weight, so I look great now, but I was ugly as heck before” which is NOT true.

      All that to say (and I know I post the longest comments EVER — sue me :P) that it’s all about what’s inside, and NOT what’s outside. That’s why women hate themselves so much; because they’re told they’re ugly on the outside (when they aren’t) and that works their way into their hearts and they end up believing that they’re ugly on the inside, too. And every woman — no matter how young, old, big, small, dark, white, rich, poor, married or single — wants to feel beautiful.


    I don’t think Leigh’s article perpetuates the bulky fear, but exposes it. The results come from her readers’ opinions, not hers. Check out her follow up article too.

    There’s no way we fitpros can bury our heads in the sand and hope the misconceptions will go away; it’s a re-education process. Since we’re up against decades of BS, every individual won over is hard fought.


    Thanks for this post, Cliff-

    I agree that a guy who is healthy, strong, and confident, regardless of the exact package he’s in, is attractive.

    It sometimes takes years of learning to get to this place for ourselves, I think. In my 20s I didn’t have a grasp on what I was putting out to the world in terms of confidence about my body and the resulting sex appeal (or not). I think it’s hard for girls/women to really OWN their looks when they’re constantly beating themselves up for not being skinny or perfect or whatever unattainable aesthetic they’re constantly putting themselves up against.

    I think it’s healthy to have a competitive spirit and want to constantly improve, get stronger, faster, and even perhaps more fit. But I have felt far too often that a goal of a certain aesthetic has overshadowed more appropriate goals, and so, hopefully by leading the way in owning our bodies as they are- strong, healthy and fit- we can continue to set the right example for girls and women. And I think it’s just as important for women to stand up and say they are owning their bodies and loving them as it is for us to hear from men, as we are here in this post, that we are being RIDICULOUS when we strive for something that makes no sense.

    A recent post of mine on this topic:


    Quick note, in the UK, they say, “she’s fit” rather than, “she’s hot”. Never thought about it but it seems much more appropriate. I think you are on to something with the source of body image pressure. Men have never changed. We are by far the more simplistic of the sexes when it comes to the object of our sexual attraction. Men get turned on by the visual while women need abstract complexities like security, power, confidence, humor, etc…and then looks to get them in the mood. Despite us being so unidimentional in this area, what is accepted as attractive for women changes almost as much as fashion. Look at all the chubby women in pre-modern art. That was considered beautiful because in a time when most were starving and infirtile, a thick chick with childbearing hips and huge baby feeders was something to which they could aspire. Sexy even changes with fashion. Look at the pin-up era. If you saw a girl at a bar with those pointy missle boobs today, we’d all look at her funny. Women know what they are doing. They know how to use their sexuality and how to define attractiveness. When men retake that control and seek to objectively define sexy, they start in with all this oppression bs. I’m no misogynist, just speaking what I understand to be truth. Here’s a video I posted today. It’s no scientific experiment but I think it’s indicative of the power women knowingly weild over men while claiming to be oppressed.


    Hey, thanks! I get told I’m too bulky and look like a man pretty frequently, but it’s always other women saying it. Men love me. Great stuff.


    Groovy post. More thoughts on women and strength (and, not surprisingly, Biel gets mentioned as well):

    chick from the thing December 8, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Read Naomi Wolfe’s The Beauty Myth for an in depth look @ why women feel compelled to compete with each other in this life-is-a-beauty competition society. Really, really interesting read. As an academic type of person, I needed a better reason than “Love Yourself Because You’re You!” self-esteem self-help bullshit to actually get over my body image issues which ran rampant throughout my teens and early 20s. This book gave me solid theoretical and practical reasons to work through them, which I did in about a year. I ditched bodybuilding & anorexic competition diets for olympic weightlifting and now when I prepare to compete, I get stronger and more awesome instead of weaker and miserable (but hey it looks good right?).


    I’ve said it a million times in public and private. WOMEN are their own worst enemies!!! I can say this because I’ve been guilty at times. We are so worried about what other women think…and we compare….and instead of building each other up…many times we do just tho opposite and then we blame men. MOST guys I know have surprised me when they said they don’t like women to be crazy “ripped” or stick skinny. I read a funny article once on what girls think is “hot” and what guys think is “hot” and I’ll say this…if half of it was true…we ladies are seriously misinformed and need to quit putting so much undue pressure on ourselves! Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying be out of shape and look terrible and men will love it, but it can get taken to the opposite extreme! Being strong (whatever form that may take for you) and being happy and healthy physically AND mentally is where beauty lies!


    I love this blog so effin much. I am a fit, strong, healthy woman with curves in all the right places. I train hard, lift as heavy as I can, eat healthy 80% of the time, and enjoy some pizza, a cocktail, and/or a piece of cake when I want to. I enjoy life, and THAT is sexy! The BMI chart still says I’m overweight, but WHATEVER. I have shapely shoulders, glutes, quads, lats, and calves. I have a waist-to-hip ratio of .68, no “rolls” anywhere, and I have never experienced a want for male attention. Moreover, I have never blamed men for society’s female-body-image woes. Fashion models are skinny – fashion designers are mostly gay men and fashion consumers/fashion-mag-readers are mostly women, and I don’t really care whether or not gay men or other women find me attractive. So there. 🙂


    Hi. I am male. I am also attracted to women.

    That being said and out of the way, relating to body style: I have seen beautiful women of every size and shape. There is not ‘perfect’ formula for a perfect body. I have been attracted to short, tall, thin, curvy, people with less than a model’s face (surprise!) and I can say with absolute certainty that the only traits that continually attract me are inside. Confidence, a ready smile, the ability to be happy in one’s own skin, and the ability to trust and care for others make a person beautiful. Your body may be ‘perfect’ but it won’t be pretty unless you make it become so by becoming beautiful.

    Remember, beauty is a social act. You can’t be beautiful without an onlooker (even if it is yourself in a mirror). Social acts incorporate the personality. In many ways, the personality defines it. I can’t find a person hot or sexy without first finding them attractive. Now I’m not saying don’t work out, don’t define yourself, far from it! Those acts create a healthier you, and physical health does in many ways become mental health. Build your power, create your strength, but don’t let my opinion create it for you. Become happy with your own skin, and people will find the beauty.

    Natasha (Domestica) December 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

    I agree! And you know, me doing unassisted pull-ups in the gym is way hotter than a girl curling her 2lb’ers. Let’s be honest!!


    Love this article. over four years of triathlon training have not made me skinnier but healthier and more athletic. I doubt skinny legs and arms would have gotten me through an Ironman.


    I know gay guys who would bang Hope Solo. She’s that hot.

    Thanks for the link, bro.


    Hah – I was just about to post the drywall article – all kinds of truth up in here.


    Okay I’m gonna rant for a second…This is not a issue that is solely held by woman. There are probably just as many men suffering fro body image issues or lack of self confidence as women. It’s just most men are to macho to admit to it. In my case it has been a prison that has keep me from living life. As the years go by I’m slowly getting better, but it makes me mad when I hear people dismiss this type of thing as just a “women’s problem” when it’s been my whole life. I’m 5″-6″ tall and have been obese most of my life and morbidly obese for about six years. I Started to turn my life around just over 2 years ago and have lost over 140lbs. I’m learning that a strong healthy body is directly linked to a strong healthy mind. I still suffer from lack of confidence that isn’t made mush easier by the high standers that some woman have toward the physical form. This is a reality that I live day in and day out. This is a type of thing that has happened all to often…their is a attractive women that works out alot of the same days I do at my local gym. One one occasion I was a couple cycles over from her and a friend. My Ipod had gone dead during my run so I hand no head phones on. I over heard her talking to her friend saying that she was frustrated that she felt guys didn’t approach her because of her looks “Which was probably accurate., she is quit attractive” Not just 20 min from hearing that, or paths had crossed walking through some equipment. I stepped aside to let her by and smiled and nodded my head…with out even skipping a beat she looked at me a told me that she wasn’t interested and stormed off! Whats funny is it’s women like that, that have told me my whole life to “just be more confident.” I’m not going to lie a life time of rejection such as that doesn’t do your confidence any good. I just want everyone men and woman to realize the next time they slam the opposite sex for being to harsh a critic when in comes to physical appearance just make sure your not a part of that double standard.

    P.S. You rock Marsha keep up the great work that you do! Sorry for the ran but I had to get it out. 😉


      I agree sir, us men have become almost as sensitive to how we need to look as well. We do get somemorewigglr room to be sure, but certainly no free pass


      Eric- that lady at the gym probably won’t get guys showing an interest because she has such an attitude problem- sounds like she really loves herself and flatters herself too much by seeing all friendly males as fancying her- that really was so rude of her! Don’t let shallow people like that make you feel inadequate, inferior, embarrassed or otherwise! You were just standing aside to let her pass, not asking her for a date and if she has a problem with someone being polite, then she is a very poor excuse for a human being .


    I love your unapologetic attitude. I don’t think it’s wrong to promote more conscious decisions and a healthier lifestyle. Some people are naturally “thicker”, but that doesn’t mean unhealthy. I know everybody doesn’t have the time to work out three hours a day and spend a fortune on “health” foods, but we can at least be a little more mindful about how we fuel our bodies.


      Exactly-I’ve seen some negative comments floating around about how Biel has all the time and money to get into shape. Those can make it easier, but using that as an excuse as to why someone can’t eat healthy, make healthy lifestyle choices, and workout intelligently is pathetic.


    now my 2 cents might not mean much but as a guy, i will agree that women’s perception of what is attractive in a female is all over the place not to mention just insane on many levels. Now my list of women in hollywood that i truly think are attractive begins with Jessica Biel, Hilary Swank, Cameron Diaz and one thing all these women have in common are they are NORMAL, they work hard to have what they have and that is all…. NO SURGERY, NO STARVING, NO CHEMICALS just HARD WORK … i really don’t know where females lost their perception on true beauty but ill take a confident hard working woman over a self conscious bone rack of a body whose idea of athleticism is walking on a treadmill reading a magazine ANYDAY of the week… Honestly ladies look in the mirror and appreciate yourselves and simply WORK HARD n stop looking for easy way out because there aren’t any …


    Awesome Clifton. thanks.


    I am so glad that a man is writing about this and not a woman. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear a man say that healthy is sexier than tall and thin. I am a 24 yr old mother of a 2 yr old and a 5 yr old. I do insanity 3x per wk and a do Zumba once a week, run once a week, and lift heavy ass weights the other two days. I’m talking Body Pump classes people, and they’re hard. I’ve been incredibly happy with the increase in the amount I can lift, and frequently crack myself up when I stare at myself flexing my biceps in the mirror. I do agree with my whole heart that “getting healthy” is way sexier than “getting skinny” and altho I am constantly trying to improve the look of my physique, I personally never step on the scale because that’s not what matters to me. When I was heavier after my second pregnancy I blamed my husband for my image issues and how I felt like crap in the body I had after gaining 40 lbs. Really I just had to get in gear and workout and quit eating junk. It was me, not him, not anyone else but me. Thanks for posting this article, I’m glad that people are starting to be honest about this issue.


    make no mistake it’s the result of the american culture of weakness and mediocrity. We’re taught to compete at everything with someone else and if we can’t favorably compete than we “know our role” and go do something else with which we have a competitive advantage. This is how they distinguished nerds from jocks…if you were a nerd you coulnd’t be athletic and vice versa with a jock. It’s a society that breeds selective attention instead of promoting an overall healthy organism. It’s a society that breeds worker ants in their pre determined fields. It’s a bullshit society from top to bottom. So women who could never be models were told to learn to cook and clean real good etc, etc, etc.


    I have a hunch (entirely uninformed) that women generally rag on those other women who are fit and strong because of a passive-aggressive (maybe subconscious) sense of jealousy and competitiveness. They know that the fit woman is more attractive, and thus attack them and the idea of strong women.

    I feel like this is the worst for female-athletes, especially in high school. They get picked on by the “popular” skinny girls, but in reality I’m positive the popular girls are envious.

    But then I could be entirely off base, and it could be that most women actually believe looking waifish and weak is attractive.


    You know, I was lucky to have a coach, and train in a gym, where I learned from the start that by lifting heavy I wouldn’t somehow come out looking like a man. Because of that I’ve never been worried about getting bulky but as I’ve become stronger and definitely more muscular I’ve been more attuned to the ridiculous stuff I hear about women and weights somehow equaling manly or ‘too muscular.’ It’s so infuriating because it’s probably keeping far too many women from picking up a real weight, and learning how amazing it feels to get strong!


    I’m a heavier girl myself. Even when my life isn’t out of control like it is right now, I can’t get smaller than a size 14 because of my bone structure. I strive for healthy and fit instead of skinny, because for me, skinny just isn’t an option. When I took up bike commuting this past summer and lost sizes faster than pounds, I knew I was onto something. My (gay, male) best friend reinforced this for me as much or more, even, than my husband. Neither of them could stop telling me how good I looked, how much happier they thought I seemed, and so on.

    Healthy is HOT! End of story!


    Great article well said – sharing this hope you don’t mind 🙂


    Clifton, this is awesome. I tell my female friends to lift heavier weights (or just to lift weights, period) all the time but the conventional wisdom that this causes “bulking up” is so ingrained that not many take my advice. Kate, above, is right. If MEN talked about this more, maybe we could start to change the whole conversation.


    Great post. It’s about time someone convinces women deadlifts and squats will make them hotter.

    Thanks for the link and thanks even more for the Jessica Biel picture.


    True, true. Girls are certainly more concerned with looking good in front of other women rather than men. Men are easy to win over quite frankly. I’m sure that the female competition at our former workplace wasn’t lost on you. And I’m sure the guys there didn’t care one bit as long as they were in the running to “get some”.

    I liked drywall’s article. It was harsh, but true. The more I try to deal with random body issues, the more I see how lame it is to focus on them in the first place.


    Spot On. FTW, Biel’s body is exceptional, in my opinion. 🙂


    Yup, intrasexual (women-women and male-male) competition seems to be the main influence for both sexes. I’d say that advertising taps into this mate competition motivation for the advantage of the advertisers rather than arbitrarily constructing it. Oh, and… so does Science™…

    Results indicated that for heterosexuals, intrasexual competition cues led to greater body image dissatisfaction and more restrictive eating attitudes for women…” – Intrasexual competition and eating restriction in heterosexual and homosexual individuals. Evolution and Human Behavior

    “Men overestimate the degree of muscularity that is attractive to women, and women overestimate the degree of thinness that is most attractive to men.”Do representations of male muscularity differ in menʼs and women’s magazines? Body image


      I’d like to point out that while Andrew has a bigger brain than I do, I have bigger boobs.


        I’m not going to try and compete with Andrew’s brains or Clifton’s boobs – that would just be a hiding to nothing – but I’ll add this to the debate anyway…

        Intolerance of Sexy Peers: Intrasexual Competition Among Women

        Intrasexual competition among males of different species, including humans, is well documented…Recent nonexperimental studies suggest that women are intolerant of attractive females and use indirect aggression to derogate potential rivals… Using independent raters, blind to condition, we found that almost all women were rated as reacting negatively (‘‘bitchy’’) to an attractive female confederate when she was dressed in a sexually provocative manner. In contrast, when she was dressed conservatively, the same confederate was barely noticed by the participants.

        From the discussion…

        Baumeister and Twenge [2002] hypothesized that women ‘‘stifle each other’s sexuality’’ as a way of maintaining advantage in the negotiation of resources. Females who make sex readily available compromise the power holding position of the group. It is therefore in the best interest of the group to punish those who violate this unspoken rule/convention.

        I can’t help but wonder whether the drive to get everyone to conform to whatever happens to be the socially acceptable body type of the moment (currently, being skinny), is the group strategy for keeping everyone on a level playing field, all whilst attacking those who step outside of this “norm”. As Clifton notes, men rate curvy and athletic women highly… and for the athletic women at least, they have to invest a considerable amount of time maintaining this body type – an investment that perhaps the majority of women don’t want to make. Far easier to be a bitch to those who step out of line than to have to bust one’s own butt lifting heavy things.

        Come to think of it, most of the athletic women I know tend not to have too many girlfriends compared to all the skinny ones that have a tendency to “hunt in packs”.


        I can’t have you guys coming on here and making this sound all legitimate and stuff…

        Thanks dude!


        In response to that paleo guy,
        Come to think of it, most of the athletic women I know tend not to have too many girlfriends compared to all the skinny ones that have a tendency to “hunt in packs”.

        Couldn’t be more true – and speaking as an athletic woman, I don’t mind keeping it that way!


    Self respect = trying to be fit and healthy.
    Muscles, stamina, conditioning – all good – for women the same as men.


    Well done. Just wrote a rant about this on my own blog, called “Women, you need to get off the damn treatmill”…

    And the site I just launched with a bunch of fit ladies (like Nia Shanks) is ALL ABOUT female strength:

    Personally it’s strange to me to value “skinny” over “fit”. Jessica Biel, to me, looks absolutely perfect. (I say that as a mainly-hetero female.)


    Just dropping by to say that this article is awesome. I can’t agree more with your opinions. Fit girls are sexy. Nuff said.


    I like most of this article; however, your universalizing of “men think” and “you girls think” is unreasonable, also your example of the female friend is anecdotal at best. That is not to say that many are not critical of each other, but these women are critical of most things. Yes, women are worried about “bulking up” but the source is neither recent nor the female magazine, but thousands of years playing the role of a (supposedly) weak helpmeet. It will take longer than a hundred years of voting rights for women to stop self policing one another into their culturally expected role.

    I work as a personal trainer at a gym and my own (acecdotal) experience has been that most of my coworkers (all of whom are male) deride my attempts at hypertrophy gain. They admit to chasing women who are petite and skinny (low bmi). My assumption is that they want women who allow them to play the protector role.

    Finally, maximum strength and size gain are not necessarily the same thing and the training is quite different. It is notable that regardless of sex or goal, one should regularly do isometric holding exercises (which are remarked on sarcastically in one of the links) and eccentrically focused exercises in order to have a more functional and less injury prone body.


      brava, Nicole! you make excellent points.

      though never really fat, i’m a mesomorph who has always looked chunky, and as a result very self-conscious of my “beauty failings”. and my rejection issues came straight from males, not other girls/women.



        Hi Tess, if you are a true mesomorph, you are exactly what ectomoprhs (skinny, lanky body type) and endomorphs (round, big boned, stout body type) wishes and aims to be! Hope you are not considering your body type a “beauty failing” as mesomorphs have the best of both worlds, with women being able to more easily maintain a trim, shapely, strong, hourglass figure without extreme dieting (weather to gain or loose fat) and without extreme training over the other two types. Embrace it, you are LUCKY!


      Thank you for summarizing your issues with this far more succinctly and rationally than I was able to when I saw this pop up on Facebook. There are few things that get my goat more than someone taking the sum of their personal, anecdotal experience and extrapolating it out to apply to the entirety of the general population. Statements like “all men think healthy women are attractive,” and “all women are like this,” and “no one likes fat people or thinks they are attractive” with primarily anecdotal evidence to back them up are as good as baseless – they’re unreliable, they show cognitive bias, and so on and so on, ad nauseum, ad infinitum – the plural of anecdote is not data. It’s one thing to say “I find women who look athletic and are objectively strong and healthy attractive” and “the women I know are competitive and a lot more active in creating a culture of thinness and weakness than men are” and “my friends and I and the people in my community don’t think anyone who’s fat is attractive,” but saying it’s true for you personally does not mean it’s true overall. Look around you – the world is full of “chubby chasers,” women like Nia Shanks who go out of their way to create a positive community of strong, healthy, capable, beautiful women, and men who pursue “tits on a stick” exclusively.

      The underlying issue in all of this for me, which is illustrated nicely with your photo of the strong, athletic, healthy, capable Ms. Biel hanging out in her panties, is that at the end of the day, it’s about appearance, and that her primary value is still that, her appearance. Not what she can do with her body, but what her body looks like. And that, to me, is not a whole lot better than a female-policed culture of thinness because it’s still based almost entirely around appearance, not function. If a woman’s primary value is her appearance, this same body policing bullshit that you mention (and it’s real, I’m not saying it’s not) will just morph into women policing each other into a different, slightly more muscular size 2-4. It’s a little better – but not by much, or at least not in my opinion or experience since at the end of the day, it’s just a different variation on the same theme.


        The reason I posted a Biel pic wasn’t to say “look like her”-it was pointing out that she had been voted, by women, to be too muscular. I then state that healthy body styles range from thinner to thicker. The pic of Biel is just to show how ridiculous saying she is “too muscular is”. I understand there is more to it than intrasexual competition, self policing, or any one thing at all. this wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive exploration of all things female body image related-just 2 things that had me irritated–that fit women are being called “too muscular” and that we seem to be moving as a society towards fat acceptance. And I think both those things are unacceptable. Fat acceptance is a huge health problem, and therefore a huge financial problem-especially if we are going to start a universal healthcare system. I’m not interested in paying for irresponsible peoples’ health problems.


      “You girls” always have that ace in the hole, don’t you. It’s so easy for you to blame the ” thousands of years playing the role of a (supposedly) weak helpmeet” rather than take action to improve. Were the men at work mean to you? Who cares!? Do what you want to do. Personally, I would’t generally advise “hypertrophy gain” for women. I don’t think large muscles on women is attractive. But again, do whatever you want. Just stop blaming those “evil” men who “ruled” for the last thousand years and those “bad” men at your gym for all your problems.

      Maybe I’m reading too much into what you said, but that is an argument I see far too often for too many things, and I think it is usually just an excuse.


    Sorry friend, I would more agree with Je Sen than with you, but that’s just me, and who am I to judge.


    I liked the article and I do agree with pretty much all of it but I think adding in a picture of a beautiful, “perfect” as you say, actress in her underwear just makes it look like another ad to compare ourselves to.


      The reason I posted a Biel pic wasn’t to say “look like her”-it was pointing out that she had been voted, by women, to be too muscular. I then state that healthy body styles range from thinner to thicker. The pic of Biel is just to show how ridiculous saying she is “too muscular is”. I understand there is more to it than intrasexual competition, self policing, or any one thing at all. this wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive exploration of all things female body image related-just 2 things that had me irritated–that fit women are being called “too muscular” and that we seem to be moving as a society towards fat acceptance. And I think both those things are unacceptable. Fat acceptance is a huge health problem, and therefore a huge financial problem-especially if we are going to start a universal healthcare system. I’m not interested in paying for irresponsible peoples’ health problems.


    I truly believe we all are beautiful in our own ways. I may not be the thinnest or the most beautiful woman in the world, but I if being a healthy fit woman is bad then what are we teaching our children. Everyone was not meant to be a stick thin model. If everyone looked exactly the same, really, it would just be boring. Being physically fit should be what people want to see!


    I think one also needs to look at the fashion industry and who exactly is deciding what is attractive and fashionable for the masses. Let’s face it, most male designers are gay. They design clothes that appeal to their aesthetic that favors skinny, boyish girls. The newest “hot” model is an androgynous man. The clothes are made to fit ultra skinny, boobless bodies. And women look at the magazine covers, ones that are generally photoshopped to death, and think that’s how I’m supposed to look. The fashion industry wasn’t created to appeal to what men think is attractive because men aren’t buying the products. It’s all about creating a desire for whatever the designer is selling– and they’ve done a fabulous job of manipulating the masses.


      That’s a pretty big generalization about what gay guys want. I’m a gay guy whose standard answer about who he’d hop the fence for is Serena Williams.

      Then again, my type of guy is kind of the male equivalent of the curvy, athletic girl — plenty of muscle, but with some body fat over the top of it. Guys like Jason Varitek and Aaron Rodgers.


    Biel looks awesome. And its true that all the jealousy and criticism coming from women is a greater pressure than guys who don’t really mind imperfections. All that said, I can’t agree with a total dissing of the ‘too bulky’ thing. I’m a model, and, mind you, NOT one of those super-skinny skin-and-bones girls; but I’m not as curvy as Biel either, and I’d find it hard to get the work I usually get if I was. Heavy lifting is part of my workout regimen, but only once or twice a week. The rest is mainly interval training, because I need to look toned rather than muscular. And – feel free to hate on me, but I’ll say it anyway – I find that a lot of the crossfit womens’ thighs are just way too bulky, for me. They’re healthy, and awesome, but I personally wouldn’t want to look like that. (Not ALL crossfit women – SOME of them.)
    Again, that’s just me, feel free to disagree.


    For what it’s worth-any criticism of this article has typically been for posting another picture of how women should look. it’s true that I posted a picture of a woman who is damn near perfect IN MY OPINION FROM PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS PERSPECTIVE-however….The reason I posted a Biel pic wasn’t to say “look like her”-it was pointing out that she had been voted, by women, to be too muscular. I then state that healthy body styles range from thinner to thicker. The pic of Biel is just to show how ridiculous saying she is “too muscular is”. I understand there is more to it than intrasexual competition, self policing, or any one thing at all. this wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive exploration of all things female body image related-just 2 things that had me irritated–that fit women are being called “too muscular” and that we seem to be moving as a society towards fat acceptance. And I think both those things are unacceptable. Fat acceptance is a huge health problem, and therefore a huge financial problem-especially if we are going to start a universal healthcare system. I’m not interested in paying for irresponsible peoples’ health problems.
    Reading comprehension is sometimes a very poorly developed skill it seems.


      I think thats so weird that other women have voted her too muscular. In my (very humble) opinion, she looks “Perfect” because she looks natural, like the only thing she does is ocassionally run, and is mindful of what she eats. I don’t really see any serious muscle definition on the chick – like where are her quads? or abs? Or any upper back definition for that matter? Are we hating on her for having perfect hips buns and boobs while maintaining relatively low body fat? What is going on here? And for the record, although she is seriously HOT, I workout hard and lift plenty heavy, and for all my hard work, I know I had better see some more seriously defined muscles, (maybe twice as defined as Jessica’s, or more even), and that will be Hot as well…But since I plan on maintaining that 16% body fat, I guess my muscles will make my petite self manly looking…Oh well, guess I will have to “man up” so the haters can keep on keeping on…

      On another note Clifton, regarding your fat acceptance, I am in total agreement. People need to stop making excuses and realize that if they are fat, they are not doomed to be so, and they need to get the hell off thier assess and do something about it. I can comfortably say this having lost 95 lbs with about 15 to go to reach competition form. When I was FAT – I knew I was not attractive, and I knew that anyone in the same boat (body size and fat content) as me was not attractive either. I was sick of comparing myself to other people in my “class” trying to determine who looked worse. Now that I am fit strong and lean, I pity people who resemble my former self for not owning thier situation and doing something about it for themselves, or worse, not even realizing that there is a problem, and that problem is them. Guess what? If your body fat content is hanging out somewhere in the high 20 and 30% range, if you are seriously overweight/obese and have multiple rolls around your midsection, I just don’t give a crap about how happy and healthy you feel – to other people, you do not seem healthy and fit. If you had to run for your life, literally, for even one minute – what do you think about your chances of making it? If they are not good, you are NOT fit.

      On a last note clifton, you said “Fat acceptance is a huge health problem, and therefore a huge financial problem-especially if we are going to start a universal healthcare system. I’m not interested in paying for irresponsible peoples’ health problems.
      Reading comprehension is sometimes a very poorly developed skill it seems.” I agree 100% with all of this, and its to the point where if America had a universal healthcare system, I would likely fight with anyone in my family who was not fit to become healthier, as I am not interested in paying so that others can be lazy about thier health either.

      GREAT POST BTW, I have been on here on and off today trying to read all the comments, since 9am – thanks for keeping me engaged and getting my blood pumping from this office chair!


    To be honest, I am just as sick of the “women shouldn’t be afraid of heavy weights” talk as I am of the “women should be small and dainty” crap. Women should be how they want. And for me, I did Crossfit very seriously (and coached) for about 3 years and hated the way my body looked. I have a demanding, high-level job and think that I look ridiculous with my giant muscle arms in my work dresses and suits. I feel that it actually looks unprofessional. I made the choice to stop doing 1- and 3-rep max lifts since I don’t want to have to buy all new $300 suits to fit my bulging hamstrings and butt. Now, I’m very short and a former gymnast, so my body type is prone to build “bulky” muscle. But I think a woman like me should be free to workout in a way that makes her happy with the results without everyone questioning it. It was hard when everyone in my Crossfit gym would ask why I’m not going heavier on my lifts, but I just don’t need to. To each her own.


    So true about shitty information for women, or the unwritten assumption that the reader is male even though he’s talking about “people”. Why not just say “men” if you mean men? And then, for kicks and giggles, post some realistic information for women too! No, we’re not completely different animals, but there are differences in upper body strength.


    We should be accept all body types, nothing is one size fits all. What may be seen as fat to one person is beautiful to another. No one hardly ever gets it right women are always either too fat, too skinny, too muscular, not muscular enough, wow it becomes annoying after a while. If we all just accept what we look like and who we are, maybe the rest wont even matter.


    Fantastic article and great links. You opened up a whole new world to my wife who has been looking for like minded women. Thanks!


    Wow, lots of stereotypes here. All men like curvy women, no women want to bulk up, all think Biel is too muscular. Yawn, whatever. If someone accepts themselves as fat, who are you to tell them that’s not acceptable, they must change to meet your aesthetic standards?

    As for health insurance, you know who is expensive? Athletes. My sister had 2 knee operations by the time she even hit 18. Sports injuries are EXPENSIVE! Let’s also rule out skateboarders, bicyclists, motorcyclists, runners (knee injuries) skiers, snowboarders, fast-food eaters, smokers, drinkers, rock climbers, sun tanners, anyone pure enough left?


      Obesity costs us so much more than any activity injuries-trying to dispute that is ridiculous. Obesity=heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, depression, and musculo skeletal problems. Athletics=musculo skeletal problems.

      And my name is Clif, and it’s my opinion that its not acceptable to not try and be healthy.


    So there was a really epic discussion that resulted from this post with some of my friends on Facebook. After some back and forth, we came up with a synopsis of how issues of body image (for both men and women) and health can progress without feeding the machine so to speak:

    “Here are summary points that in the interest of closing this discussion and coming out with something constructive, I hope we can agree on:

    – Patriarchal societies have been the driving force behind the evolution of female body dysmorphia.

    – Both a male-dominated media and unnecessary intrasexual competition between women fuel that dysmorphia founded in the patriarchy. (is that fair to say? One may be more dominant than the other, but both have a detrimental effect)

    – Programs, articles, campaigns, etc., whose purpose are to promote health and female empowerment should completely remove themselves from body image as a motivational (?) factor and should instead focus on overall health, biomarkers, functional movement gains, confidence, mental & emotional development. (thank you to Jill for this one)

    – The health community would do well to partner with the feminist movement to promote female empowerment, equality and health in a way that does not detract from either groups goals.

    – Idealized body image is a production of a media still clinging on to a concept that the ideal body has a specific form. The ideal body is one that contains the appropriate level of fat, muscle, cardiac development, micro and macronutrients to sustain optimal day-to-day life, and should, for no reason, be tied to body image or attraction.”


    Wow, glad I missed that one. The only “D” I got in college was in a class where I was forced to either regurgitate all this feminist b.s. or speak my opinion and live with the grade I earned. I’m proud of my “D”.

    This all stems from the made-up ideal that but for sex organs, men and women are exactly the same. If you buy this non-sense, you will naturally come to ask why it is that men and women play the roles they do in society…in fact, why are there any roles in the first place? The truth is that men are visually stimulated while women are more emotionally aroused through feeling connected in some way. There isn’t a whole lot Madison Ave. can do to appeal to the female sensibilities, therefore, you get the seemingly male dominant media we have today. It’s no great plot to subjugate women. It actually achieves the exact opposite. It props up an ideal (one not created by society but by our nature) of a fit, in shape body. An image that can be and is used to control men, get them to buy things, get them to support certain lifestyles, etc.

    I’m not claiming that men are powerless because part of becoming a man is to learn how to deny the self, battle your nature and make decisions with the big head rather than the small one.

    On the issue of promoting health v. body image, I partially agree. Health benefits are great for providing context of why physical activity is something worth doing but when it comes to strapping on the sneakers or squeezing out those extra reps, subjective motivation is the only thing that matters. If health were the only factor involved, people would rationalize themselves immobile, trading dessert and diet sodas for laps around the track.


    Ok, well. Wow. Can’t argue with the article. Nothing like an ‘in your face’ wake-up call. This is good. 🙂

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