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The Ronda Rousey Effect and Why Strong Still Isn’t the New Skinny

The Ronda Rousey Effect and Why Strong Still Isn’t the New Skinny

August 5, 2015

Uncategorized

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’re aware of UFC Fighter Ronda Rousey’s transition from MMA power house and celebrity to all out super star. Her dominance in the cage was cemented this past weekend at UFC 190 when she dispatched fierce opponent Bethe Correia in 34 seconds. But before the cage door closed and the combatants charged each other, Rousey was plastered all over social media for her comments during a promotional special, where she explained that she was not a “Do Nothing Bitch,” or DNB for short. Check the clip below:

 

WARNING GRAPHIC LANGUAGE

 

The video went viral instantly. The hashtags of “DNB” and “strong is the new skinny”  (again) could be found every where on the web. The only problem is, a lot of it was accompanied by photographs of women in sexually provocative positions, and photos of women…well, doing nothing. While it’s fantastic to have a strong female role model, it seems that most people largely missed the point. Ronda Rousey’s physique has been shaped by thousands of hours training to throw people on their heads, break their arms, and to knock them out. She’s not lean because being

This girl reps a company called brains beauty and barbells, who’s site is dedicated to selling makeup…

 

lean is sexy. She’s not muscular because men find muscle attractive. Her one purpose is to be the best possible fighter she can be, and the way she looks is merely a byproduct of that.

Muscle as the New Sexual Ideal

When you’ve been in this industry as long as I have, you can tell the difference between purpose built bodies, and bodies shaped for an aesthetic ideal. Sometimes the difference are minor but what lies underneath the surface is massively different. I’ve seen people with sub 10% body fat struggle to do a handful of pull-ups. I’ve seen “fitness pros” who can’t even put their hands over their head because they’re so immobile. It’s been said that “Strong is the new skinny,” but that’s simply not true. What’s true is that there’s been a shift from thin women being the sexual ideal, to more muscular women being the new sexual ideal, and being muscular and being strong are not the same thing, not even close.

ain’t no DNB here:

 

Serious question: Does this chick even lift? I think standing there pouting is probably the definition of a DNB.

Serious question: Does this chick even lift? I think standing there pouting is probably the definition of a DNB.

 

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel sexy. Everyone wants to be wanted. The problem is when people sacrifice their physical capability or even well being for the sake of fitting some visual standard. Many times that standard isn’t their own, but one shaped by culture. Take the irony of women’s bodybuilding where you have to be extremely lean to be successful, but since the absurdly low levels of body fat decrease chest size (breasts are mostly fat, afterall), many women get breast implants, because being “feminine” is one of the judging citeria. As Ronda says in her interview, she’s built for more than just “f$*ing millionaires,” so it’s hard not to shake your head when you see women positioning themselves like sexual objects with the “not a dnb” attached in the caption. This isn’t a knock on aesthetic based sports, there are competitors who are strong as hell, and don’t use illicit drugs to enhance their physique. These people are doing it the right way, but they are few and far between.

Fitness is about what you DO, and truly has nothing to do with how you look. Why do we have so many fitness people posting pictures of themselves just standing in front of a mirror? If you’re a “Do nothing bitch” why are you standing there glistening in a thong like a piece of meat? Take a look at the two athletes below. First,Hossein Rezazadeh Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the super heavy weight division of Weightlifting, arguably one of the strongest men to ever live. Clearly a muscular guy, but not ripped, or even as big as Bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sibel Ozkam of Turkey, again a Weightlifter, only this time in the 48kg(106lbs) weight class. She snatched 84kg(185lbs) at the 2014 World Championships, nearly double her body weight. This makes her pound for pound one of the strongest women on the planet. Her physique is very thin, and she’s not very muscular, despite being extremely strong. Neither of these athletes are concerned about how they look, but rather how they perform. They both train for the same sport, so how can they look so drastically different? In Reza’s case, there is no limit to his weight class so being bigger favors his strength. In the case of Sibel, she has to weigh less than 48kg, so bigger muscles will put her into the next category up where the women are taller, with bigger frames, and lifting bigger weights. They both are also training according to their genetics. Reza is naturally a big guy, so he competes in a big weight class, rather than trying to cut down to look lean. Sibel is naturally thin and small. She doesn’t train to have bigger muscles, because she’s not big enough to compete with the girls in the next weight class up, no matter how “sexy” muscles may be on a woman.

Culture Shock

Every time someone taking a selfie hashtags “strong is the new sexy” they’re insulting the people who have been strong all along. There are people who made the decision to value what their body

 

“Every muscle in your body has a purpose,” which is obviously demonstrated in this photo…

 

can do over how it looks, long before looking strong was “sexy.” Strong is not the new skinny, strong is and always was, just that, strong. Your value is not determined by your body fat percentage. It’s not determined by your body weight. It’s not determined by how much you can lift either. Your value isn’t based on how far you can run, or how high you can jump. Your value as a person is defined by your compassion, and your work ethic. It’s measured by your kindness and your intelligence. It’s weighed by creativity and your ethics. All of those half-naked women (and men in lot of instances) standing around doing nothing just undermines all the people out there actually doing something.

Perhaps at this point you’re wondering why I care. There are a few reasons. As someone that spent a lot of time training purely for aesthetics in my early 20s, I can tell you it was one of the least fulfilling times in my life, both in training and emotionally. When I reached a lot of my goals of how I wanted to look I felt very lost. Imagine spending a lot of time climbing a mountain, anticipating the view from the summit the entire way, and when you get to the top you find out it overlooks a landfill. That’s how I felt. Not because I didn’t like the way I looked, but because I felt like I had lost my purpose in training. It was kind of a “what now?” situation. My body also felt like crap from all the weird imbalances you create trying to look a certain way.

 

“I’m so strong, I can lift my arm over my head”

 

At Arkitect Fitness, the majority of our clientele are women. This has given me a unique perspective into how mainstream media shapes the minds and habits of a lot of American females. We’ve all heard people talk about it, but it wasn’t until I experienced it first hand that I really understood it. It was a sad day when I had a female client complain that she couldn’t find a shirt that fit because her arms (which probably grew less than a quarter of an inch) wouldn’t fit through the arm-holes of her t-shirts, and that was just when being skinny was in. Now that having muscle is cool, it’s even worse. Now you can’t be thin, you’re supposed to be muscular…but not TOO muscular, you know, you don’t want to look like a man. As someone who’s primary job is making people healthier, I can tell you that this sh*t ain’t healthy. How is it healthy when someone doesn’t want to train their legs because they’ll grow and be “too big”? How is it healthy when people skip meals because they are trying to cut their calories so they can see their abs? How is it healthy to idolize someone that trains full time, has unlimited access to supplements via endorsements, likely takes drugs, dieted down for a shoot, was shot by a professional photographer, was touched up by a professional editor, and then shoved in your face as if you’re supposed to look like that, and look like that all the time. THAT.IS.NOT.HEALTH.

Apparently esteemed strength coach Andy Mckenzie feels the same way.

Skeletons in the Closet

The fitness industry is growing, and it is growing quickly. While this is mostly for the best it’s saddening how much crap people have to sift through to get to what’s actually good. It’s scary to see

the facade built up by the industry itself and shoved down the throats of those just trying to lose a little weight, or feel better about themselves. I’ve had conversations behind closed doors with multiple fitness models about their cocaine use to stay lean, taking prescription uppers to get through severely calorie restricted training sessions, about their horrible relationship with food, their anxiety when they walk into a room full of people they don’t know for fear of not being pretty enough. I’ve been told by bodybuilders about the long lasting psychological effects dieting down for a competition has on them, and the damage it does to their metabolism. But you better believe that when the lights come on, and the cameras come out, it’s nothing but smiles and sales pitches. Online coaching! Meal plans! Follow me on Instagram! Like me on Facebook! Buy my supplement because I have abs! These things are told to me in private, by both acquaintances and people I call friends. A lot of these people don’t even realize that they’ve been caught up in a perpetual landslide of negative self image, and the damage it does not only to them, but to the people who think they want to be just like them.  But I see it. I see it in the teary eyes of my clients who bust their ass in the gym to be told by a friend or family member that they’re “still fat.” I hear it whispered under the breath of a client who is quick to scold themselves for even the slightest slip up on their nutrition. I feel it in my heart when a client lists their goals as having a “bigger butt and smaller calves.” It just makes me sad and angry. And when I saw this awesome message put out by this empowered and strong woman be twisted and once again used for vanity, I couldn’t help but rant…

This is literally a post about a “cute shirt” with hashtags about not being a DNB. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

What’s that scientific equation, every 2″ on your butt is 20lbs on your squat? Right?

Is this woman a great mechanic? It’s hard to tell….

Another arm over the head picture. I guess this is the international “I’m sexy” move?

I LITERALLY can’t even…

This girl is actually a Weightlifter, but I thought it odd that THIS was the pic she chose the “notadnb” hashtag.