The Problem with #StrongNotSkinny

There was a time when #StrongNotSkinny was my favourite hashtag – rewind back to 2015 and you’ll probably find it on all my Instagram posts. At the time, I was new to weight training, and found the idea of focussing on strength as opposed to thinness so empowering. I loved everything the hashtag embodied – women getter stronger, building muscle, and generally just being pretty badass. What could be better?

Over the past while, however, I’ve become disillusioned with the hashtag, and find it really problematic. Let me explain..

It shames thin women

Firstly, this movement implies that there is a problem with being ‘skinny’. It feeds into the latest trend of body-shaming thin women. It is somehow now totally acceptable to hate on thin women, and draw attention to their ‘lack’ of curves. Meghan Trainor’s hit ‘All About That Bass’ included the line ‘boys they like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won’t be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll’ This is hardly kind to thin women. I’m not saying that society’s obsession with thinness isn’t problematic – it definitely is! I certainly don’t agree with the promotion of the ‘thin ideal’ for women, as it is an unrealistic goal for many. The thing is though, some women are just naturally slim. Yes, it might be a minority, but they do exist. Shaming women for their natural body shape just isn’t cool.

It’s just another ideal for women to live up to 

Another similar hashtag to this one, is #strongisthenewskinny. I’m sorry, why do we want a ‘new skinny’? The thin ideal was pretty harmful, and thankfully this is beginning to be recognised. But why are we replacing it with another ideal? Sure, getting strong is a hell of a lot more fun than starving yourself to be thin – no question. What isn’t fun is that we now have a new ideal to measure our worthiness with – strength. Instead of counting calories and pounds shed, we count macros and kilos lifted. Instead of getting rid of societal expectations of how a woman should look, we’ve just replaced it with a new image – muscular instead of skinny. If the movement was really about female empowerment, we’d be getting rid of these pressures on women altogether.

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It is really promoting aesthetics, not strength

This brings me to my big issue with #StrongNotSkinny – it’s not really about strength. The fitspo trend as a whole pretends to be about strength and fitness, but in reality, it’s about aesthetics. If strength was actually the goal, this movement would show people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities getting stronger. Instead, what you get when you look up the hashtag, are photos of lean, white women with abs, and low calorie food. How is this about strength? A picture of your abs doesn’t tell me how much you deadlift – it tells me you can diet.

This could have been a powerful trend, but in reality, it’s just another part of diet culture. #strongnotskinny is another source of comparison for women, another standard to measure up to. You know what? I’m fucking done with society telling me that if I’m not skinny, I sure as hell better make sure I’m strong. I’ve had it with that shit. Sure, it’s nice to be strong – but measuring our self-worth on how strong we are is just problematic. What happens if you get injured or sick? Are you suddenly ‘no better’ that a skinny girl? Yeah, that’s fucked up.

Lift weights if you want. Get strong if you want – but don’t feel you have to so you can measure up to some societal standard. And please stop using that fucking hashtag!

 

Eimear

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