Friday, July 5, 2013

Fitspo Memes - The Pugilista Edition

A couple of months ago, one of my friends found this little gem on a Facebook "Gym Motivation" page:
Recognize her?  Yeah...that is me.  And no, I did not create this meme, nor have I ever spoke this asinine quote.  So what the hell?

In the virtual Pinterest and Facebook world, countless women (and men, too) view pages, like the one above, that promote images of "health and fitness."  And I put "health" in quotation marks, because a number of these memes promote disordered eating and thinking and are, in my opinion, the opposite of health.

Many of these memes rely on shaming to put forth their message.  I will not directly post to any of these images, but here are a few of the quotes imposed upon pictures of very lean women:

"Tears will get your sympathy.  Sweat will get you results."

"Success trains. Failure complains."

"This is what dedication looks like"

That final one is especially problematic to me.  You can be dedicated without abs.  You can be determined without a thigh-gap.  And you can be worthwhile without large glutes.

I know a lot of people find "Strong is the New Skinny" motivating, but to me, it is just as degrading and shaming as any other beauty paradigm.

So what is my complaint?  Several of my friends have said that they would be flattered to have their picture turned into a fitness meme.  And I understand that desire.  But it is this quote, this idea that my 'dreams' are somehow wrapped up in my abs or arms or thighs that truly bothers me.  My 'dreams' are not to have nice abs and to conform to some other person's standards of beauty, but to finish my doctorate (done!), write my book, teach the sport that I love.  I dream of being a good person, of motivating people through my actions, not my body.

If "Female Gym Motivation" wanted to just post my picture, preferably the original and not this odd, darkened version*, I would be okay with that.  But adding this quote somehow made me feel like the interwebs was attempting to rewrite the totality of my existence.  I have gone from a Professor and Coach, to a vapid and cliched trope. And maybe I am just a wee bit sensitive, but I already detest fitspo memes, and being made into one makes me feel, well, shamed.

*Notice how they used a strange effect on the meme to accentuate my muscles.  It also gives me the look of having rolled around in the mud for several hours.


Em said...

This just happened to a fat-acceptance blogger, too—she's a gym veteran who recently had her picture stolen and used as a fitness-motivator meme, captioned "everyone has to start somewhere." I think that points out that these things aren't about respect for women's actual dreams, or our toughness or experience; they're about propping up a beauty standard.

Train.Fight.Win. said...

Em, thank you for the link; I love the "Dances with Fat" blog. Ragen is such an inspiration as a feminist and activist.

I am appalled by Heather's story. What this Facebook-poster/Supplement distributor did, assumed, and said is so tasteless and so incredibly bigoted (because I can think of no word more apt). But kudos to Heather and her friends for fighting back.

You are right; most of these memes promote only one type of beauty, which is why they have to modify so many images. It bothers me that my image is associated with a page that promotes that type of body-shaming.