It’s universally known that it’s mean and downright vicious to make fun of people for their looks. One of, if not the most, common insults is to criticize someone for being overweight, or as the truly cruel would say, ‘fat’. But there are certainly, and sadly, other ways to shame someone for their body, including, but not limited to, being too skinny, being ‘skinny-fat’ (not sure if that’s doubly cutting since it incorporates both), and being too ‘muscly’.
Now, being very muscular is something for which a lot of men are praised (ever heard of Joe Manganiello or Jason Momoa? And, if not, you’re welcome). I should mention that sometimes they get made fun of, too. But for women, it’s not as acceptable to walk around with a muscular physique, opening jars for people and accidentally breaking off car door handles – you know, the usual. As a quick note: if you’re a woman who practices or competes in a sport that requires a muscular body, say, a bodybuilder or a Crossfitter, you might be surrounded by people who applaud you for your strong and capable form; but unfortunately, this isn’t the case everywhere.
In the not too distant past, Jessica Simpson was criticized in the media when she showed off defined quads and calves in her signature short shorts and bathing suits, some going as far as to assert that she must have had an addiction to working out. But not five years earlier, she was being criticized for being ‘overweight’. Venus Williams has been the target of body shaming for years due to her muscular physique, and she’s one of the all-time greatest female athletes. If anyone should be, dare I say, ‘allowed’ to be muscular, should it not be someone who plays a sport for a living? And, yet, magazines have had us convinced for years that having arms like Jessica Biel or Cameron Diaz is more than OK – it’s apparently something for which women should all strive. While I’m sure Jessica and Cameron’s limbs aptly serve their purposes, the point I’m trying to make here is that they aren’t inherently better simply because they look a certain way (i.e. ‘toned’, a word that in a few paragraphs you’ll find I cannot stand).
When the media tells us what is acceptable female form and shames celebrities for their appearance, it seeps into our everyday lives and interactions. As much as you may try not to let your body image be influenced by the media, you get your news on TV or do your event planning on social media, and thus are constantly bombarded with ads telling you where to go and what to buy, in the quest for the perfect female shape. And that ideal, that epitome of perfect female form, while it might be healthy and is undoubtedly not overweight, is also very limited when it comes to how much muscle it’s permitted to carry on its frame without ridicule.
In my opinion, female muscle shaming is a real thing, and it’s not cute. These are a few things people need to stop thinking and saying to and about strong women, and maybe even things you should stop thinking and saying to yourself.
Muscles aren’t only found on men, so referring to a woman with muscles as ‘manly’ really makes no sense. When you see muscles on someone, it’s a result of activity that’s built those muscles, whether it be a physically laborious career, time spent in the gym or training for a physical activity, or any number of other activities requiring physical strength; and you don’t have to be a man to do any of them. To an extent, it’s also a result of genetics. And even if you believe it’s alright to shame someone who is intentionally muscular (which it still is not) some people look that way just because.
Barbie’s not a woman, Barbie’s a doll. Who came up with these ideas of what a ‘woman’ looks like vs. a man? As far as I’ve seen, men come in all shapes and sizes, and not all of them resemble Ken. A man isn’t any less a man without beefy quads or bulging biceps and a woman isn’t any less a woman with them.
‘Toned’ isn’t the acceptable version of ‘muscular’ for women. I have heard more times than I can count that women want to be ‘toned’ and not ‘muscular.’ Toned means ‘given greater strength’; well, what makes you stronger? Muscles. ‘Toned’ seems to be the acceptable term for a strong-looking woman because, unfortunately, anything having to do with ‘muscles’ or ‘being muscular’ has become akin to ‘masculine’ these days. It’s fine to want to be ‘toned’ but don’t use it in a way to put down muscular women.
Most women have a clear understanding of how they look. I know people may think that it is somehow helping a woman by pointing out that she’s getting too muscular. Believe me when I say, women are quite aware of their appearance, and you can bet that surely goes for the ones that you believe are intentionally gaining body mass. It’s not going to make you seem like a better friend/coworker/acquaintance to notify them that they aren’t fitting your idea of what a woman should look like. It may make them feel bad, (the opposite of what you’re going for, right?) and muscular women have feelings, too.
Shaming someone for their looks is downright mean. Why does anyone care about the physique of another woman? Does it somehow affect your life or even your body? I’ve thought of multiple scenarios and can’t come up with one where a woman with muscles somehow negatively affects the happiness factor of another person’s life. As with anything critical that could be said to another human being, calling a woman ‘manly’ or ‘too muscular’ or anything otherwise negative about her appearance will likely hurt her feelings, as tough as her exterior may appear. None of us wants to be a bully, right?