Sexism and the Myth of Universality of Men’s Stories in Lifting

“Why do I need to learn this?”

It’s day two of the sex ed unit in my 7th grade health class, and we’re labeling assigned female anatomy. The boy asking the above question is sincere. He doesn’t see why he needs to learn about the anatomy of literally half of the world’s human population. It isn’t about himself, so it isn’t relevant to him.

This is not an isolated incident. When I’m looking for stories to read or movies to show for class celebrations, a consistent percentage of the boys do not relate to or connect with those with female leads. They are “girl books” and “girl movies.”

When I post here about pregnancy, hysterectomy, and other “women’s issues,” fewer people read them. When I posted a discussion of an interview with a trans athlete, even fewer did.

I think it would be easy to shrug this disinterest off as folks just not relating to those stories, those bodies. Except that women continue to read stories about boys and men. The 7th grade cis girls in my classes show no disinclination to learn about an anatomy that isn’t theirs. They will happily read stories and watch movies about boys. Somehow, we are implicitly teaching women and girls that there is value in accepting the wider experiences of others while telling boys and men that they needn’t bother.

And I think this is a huge factor in why we don’t have more information about women and queer folk in the lifting space. It’s seen as a niche issue, irrelevant to most lifters, which I’ve argued before, are consistently defined as cis men.

So, the mostly men who make lifting content talk about mostly men. They see their stories as inclusive and universal to the not cis men who might be listening, watching or reading. They de facto mostly leave the content about women and queer folk to the not cis men, the minority of the lifting space, to fill in the gaps for the majority of humanity.

Women’s stories are human stories. Queer stories are human stories. Our needs, our concerns, questions, curiosities, are just as valid and relevant. We deserve equal airtime. We deserve to be treated like valued members of the lifting space. We shouldn’t have to dig for that one interview done once with a female lifter about “women’s” issues in lifting to know that our experiences are important.

Every conversation, every issue, every question answered, needs to include us, our perspectives, our needs. And if content creators don’t have the expertise to do it themselves, it’s time to invite a woman, a queer person, into the daily work of creating content. It’s time to stop treating cis men’s experiences as the only universal experiences in lifting.(1)

(1) This is doubly true for racial diversity in the lifting space. We are hearing from mostly White content creators in the evidence-based strength world, and that also needs to change. White stories shouldn’t be treated as the only universal stories with BIPOC experiences perceived as niche. And I can’t honestly recall a single time race or racism was addressed in a meaningful way during an interview or research review. I would happily welcome more inclusion of these lifters’ experiences as well. We have a lot of work to do to make lifting content representative of the lifting community at large.

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