I wonder how many women hesitate to exercise because of how they might look while doing it? Apparently a lot because of the rise of women-only gyms. I admit to thinking about that even when I am on the elliptical machine in my basement. When I first started going to roller derby classes I worried about how I looked on roller skates, despite LOVING roller skates.
After the first class I was so over that idea though. In fact, I looked forward to the last class because that was when we could invite friends and family to watch our progress. Sure I had lost a few pounds and toned a little, but I was still overweight. But I felt awesome on my skates. I still am at a loss for words about how it felt to skate around a gym and flop down onto my knees in a rock star slide. Then I saw this video by This Girl Can.
*THIS* is how I feel when I’m skating and, yes, even sometimes when I’m on the elliptical. See sports has always been a part of my life. I was frequently one of the few girls in school who was out on the field for recess football and softball games. How do women allow how our body looks like while exercising get in the way of us doing something that brings us so much joy?
I have a few friends who have taken up running and turned their life around. One is even a huge Jazzercise fan despite the stigma the class has culturally. And while I have not been able to take a derby class in some time, I enjoy seeing pictures of friends who are in derby on social media and never once have I thought, “Wow, they need to fix their hair.” But many of us think that about ourselves.
As women’s professional sports continue to find a foothold in our society, what athletes look like while doing their thing continues to be an issue of debate. The WNBA has brought in make-up experts and thought of shortening the uniforms. These type of moves tells girls that it does matter what they look like while running down a court and dunking. That they need to retain femininity while kicking the winning goal. That strength is antithetical to femininity.
Instead of an either/or, the This Girl Can video shows that it can be pretty sexy to be sweaty, strong and kicking ass. And that message is still needed when I hear that a little girl I know with a swift kick is having issues with the boys because she’s a girl and is the best soccer player on the playground.
Veronica Arreola writes the blog Viva la Feminista, where she tries to navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinadad. You can follow her on Twitter @veronicaeye.
To contact Veronica for an interview or to book her as a speaker, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.