Why is the Online Strength Space So Full of Casual Sexism and Homophobia? I blame it on men.

I’m part of a few online strength training forums, places where folks can ask questions, explore ideas, and talk shop. And, unfortunately, all except one has a casual culture of sexism and homophobia.

Common language includes describing oneself as a pussy, or more often not a pussy.

There are references to losing one’s titties.

BCAAs taste like “Bigfoot dick,” (don’t ask him how he knows).

And on and on.

Whether it is the intent of the commenter or not, these types of comments have the impact of degrading women and queer folk.(1) The implicit message is that we are less than, that we are something not to be respected or valued.

You wouldn’t want to be a pussy, people with those are weak.

Don’t let yourself have titties; that’s a clear sign of reduced status.

God forbid you know what someone’s (even Bigfoot’s) dick tastes like.

Fitness cannot be an inclusive space as long as this sort of language is allowed. And this is where I blame it on men.

Either you are one of the men talking like this, or you are one of the men allowing it to happen. If you’re a nice guy who considers himself an ally, then it is well past time for you to step the fuck up and start calling this shit out. Otherwise, you’re enabling it. You’re tacitly complicit. You are the problem.

The one online forum I’m a part of where this stuff isn’t tolerated is heavily moderated. The trainer who runs the forum has a team of mods who work tirelessly to boot people out when they say offensive things. It is clearly the full-time work of many. It shouldn’t be that hard. This sort of bullshit shouldn’t be so common. It wouldn’t be necessary to manage it so constantly if men starting telling each other not to be assholes.

If your response to this is, “Well Marjorie, why don’t you speak up?” I say, I have. I do. And I get attacked. This is predictable. I am part of the marginalized groups that these men are saying they don’t value. And you know what happens when someone you don’t value says something you don’t like? Let me tell you, it’s not philosophical reflection on the error of your ways. The people who hold the respect and power need to step up and speak up in order for those who value their opinions to change.

I love strength training. I want everyone who is drawn to it to find the beauty and joy that can be found by lifting heavy things, building one’s strength, showing up in the world exactly as they want to. We cannot realize that vision as long as the strength community implicitly sends the message that some of us are better than others, that some of us aren’t valid, that some of us are unwelcome and undesirable. Men need to hold each other accountable, in order for that message to change.

Photo description: A woman holding a barbell on her shoulders (like before a squat). She is muscled and tattooed.

(1) I prefer to use the term queer over spelling out LGBTQ+ etc., etc. It’s easier to say, is inclusive to everyone who chooses to own it, and I figure, since I’m a part of the queer community, my feelings on the matter are just as valid as anyone else’s. However, I recognize that some members of the community may find the term charged and derogatory. I’m happy to discuss it further, if need be.

Have thoughts on the matter? I’d love to hear them, and why yes, we do have a comment policy!

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