As the Girls Gone Strong movement has grown, so has our support, not just from women, but from men. Men are increasingly realizing the importance of addressing issues specific to women and their bodies. Men like you who understand that our lives and our bodies deserve their own space.
We appreciate your being here and your interest in how you can support our organization and its mission. You might even be a little uncertain what your role is in this space, and we love that you are seeking what we have to say about that. The suggestions laid out here might seem like pretty basic guidelines for respecting spaces designed for underrepresented populations. But there might be something new for you to consider.
What you might not realize is how often we are fielding commentary from men who are not supportive.
These run from explaining our work to us, to explaining our lives to us, to downright insulting us. To provide a bit of context we wanted to share what some of the regular commentary we receive from men on our website and our Facebook pages look like. We gathered a few screenshots just to give you an idea of what we are facing:
There are other kinds of presses besides the bench press, but not according to this gentleman.
Nothing to see here. Just another man telling a woman how she’s allowed to feel in her own body.
There are no words for how sick this man is.
This gentleman wanted to get his insulting comment just right.
This was a comment from a well-known expert in the fitness industry.
This kind gentleman doesn’t need to read articles. He is a master at making assumptions based on a small photograph.
This gentleman told Master SFG and Iron Maiden Karen Smith that she has a great start. Only thing missing is, “… little lady!” He then proceeded to tell her that she’s doing it wrong.
This gentleman… well. I’m at a loss for words.
This gentleman’s comment inspired a blog post. Then he said it was a miscommunication on his part.
We are facing struggles with body image at a higher rate than ever before.
A global study conducted by Dove found that more than 90 percent of girls 15 to 17 years old want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, with body weight ranking the highest. 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have dieted. 90 percent of high school junior and senior girls diet regularly. Young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents1.
Decisions about our bodies are widely made without us.
According to a report published by the Guttmacher Institute, over 400 bills aimed at regulating women’s bodies were proposed and voted on (largely by men) in the U.S. in 2014. The same year there were zero bills proposed to regulate men’s bodies2.
We are trained to not speak up.
Men take up 75 percent of the conversation in workplace meetings. A study by researchers at Brigham Young University, published in American Political Science Review found that when women do speak up it is harder for them to have an effect on decisions, as those are continuously deferred to the present men3.
And when we do, we are silenced.
According to a study from George Washington University published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, women are interrupted almost three times more than men4.
Your support of Girls Gone Strong is important to us. We value your being here, listening, learning, and supporting us and our mission to empower women.
To join in the GGS conversation, the first step is listening. While we at GGS are surely not above critique, we hold the firm belief that women know their bodies best—and in a way that men simply cannot. That’s not your fault, it’s just how it goes. So show up to listen, rather than to assert yourself as an authority on women’s fitness and health. You may very well be an expert and ally, but this specific space is our space, where our advisory board of highly-qualified female experts share their expertise with our audience. More often than not, your advice or suggestions in this space don’t read as helpful; they read as condescending and dismissive, though not intended that way. This space was literally created because women needed their own space. Respect that. Girls Gone Strong can be a powerful resource for men to better understand issues women face. Use it to learn and support the women in your lives in a meaningful way.
A lot of the topics we discuss are specific to our lived experience as women. We love that you would be interested in hearing about our experience and integrate that understanding into your interactions with women in your lives professionally and personally. We also acknowledge that it can be uncomfortable to hear that there are such stark differences in our daily experience. But rather than utilize that discomfort to challenge us, or tell us that what we experience isn’t real, ask questions. We are happy to discuss further the topics of our articles and help clarify any questions you might have. But just as we would never suggest that we know what it is like to be men and face the specific issues you do, please ask more questions instead of negating our experiences.
As a woman in the public space, I can attest that men rarely critique my ideas. Instead, they negate my voice by judging my appearance (good or bad). Men routinely comment on my articles with evaluations on my “ability to catch a man.” That has nothing to do with the content of my work. I am far from being the only woman to have received sexist remarks, online or in person. Comment thoughtfully, both within the GGS community and within your everyday life, and encourage other men to do the same. We are happy to encourage discussion of ideas but would love to see less commentary about our bodies in lieu of thoughtful dialogue about ideas.
No, this is not just about marketing. This demonstrates to the women in your life that you understand that they face many unique challenges and that, when it comes to their health and wellness, they deserve information that respects their unique bodies. Refer women and girls in your life to Girls Gone Strong for sound information about their bodies. Understanding that you can never fully sympathize with issues specific to women, and letting them know that you appreciate that fact is an important step. It values their experience.
Women’s voices are often dismissed, policed for tone, or silenced altogether. Make sure that in your own business and life that you are not only listening to women but seeking out their perspectives. Knowing how often women are not included in conversations or are spoken over when they do, be mindful that your own actions are not a part of this social norm. This is especially important when it comes to making decisions that affect women directly (at home, at work, their lives). Should you actually go out of your way to do this? Yes. It does take additional mindfulness to change the social norm that removes women from important conversations, you can be an important part of that change.
Perhaps it seems harsh to be so direct about what this space is for, but can you imagine what this article would sound like if it needed to be written the other way around?
Please make sure that when you are reading something a man writes that your comments are about his writing/content and not about whether you think he is fat and ugly (or both), or whether or not you would bone him.
When a man is an authority in a field, consider deferring to his expertise instead of asserting yourself over him.
When men are talking about something with one another, take pause before inserting pointers or advice that they aren’t seeking. Take a moment to consider if your voice is needed in this particular conversation. Men need to be able to talk to one another and be heard sometimes, too.
Remember to include men in your life when talking! Don’t talk over them all the time and when making decisions that impact their lives, consider hearing what they have to say.
Don’t assume you know what it’s like to be a man.
Listen when a man talks, instead of speaking over him. His voice matters, too. Men have thoughts that matter.
It sounds pretty silly to point any of this out, doesn’t it? The thing is, we created this space to fill a void we saw in the industry. It is meant to be a safe space for women to gather positive information about their bodies and health. That doesn’t mean we aren’t up for discussion, critique or growth. But it does mean that negating our experiences, cutting down our appearances, or just generally seeking to speak over us, instead of with us, isn’t welcome here. If you are reading this article, you probably know that. We appreciate your support, look forward to your questions, and are grateful you are here and always seeking more information about our experiences.
Many of you are here because you coach or train women and feel passionately about helping them become stronger not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. We obviously share that same passion, and we believe that being surrounded by strong, supportive women benefits all women. We believe that strong women lift each other up, and that’s why we recommend that every woman in our community join our FREE private Facebook group. Please tell the women in your life about Girls Gone Strong, and encourage them to join our community on Facebook.
In addition, we invite you to join our closed Facebook group specifically created for fitness professionals who coach and train women. We welcome both men and women in this group to share resources and learn more about connecting with and helping your female clients and the women in your life. Click here to request that we add you to the group.
Did you know that in some countries up to 81 percent of women are dissatisfied with their bodies? Women all over the world struggle with feeling comfortable in their bodies and at peace in their skin, profoundly affecting how they live their lives and show up in the world. The worst part is that they don’t even know it’s possible to feel differently. We are committed to changing that. That’s why this week we’re giving away a FREE copy of our blueprint where you’ll learn:
Actionable strategies to start healing your relationship with your body (or helping your clients do the same!)
The good news? It’s simpler than you think!
Whether you’re woman or a health and fitness professional who works with women, we’ve got you covered. Select from the options below to receive your free blueprint and get started today!