The Sexualisation of Women in the Fitness Industry

The Fitness Industry. An Industry with holistic and passionate workers. People who stand on the foundation of health and wellness. This is an industry that looks out for the common population. “What are you eating?”, “When’s the last time you went to the gym?”, “Does your family have a history of heart-disease?”. These are the kinds of questions that pour out of the mouths of the industries ‘workers’. I grew up learning from anything and everything that the industry produced. Highly acclaimed magazines, websites with beautiful models advertising a weight-loss pill and even television shows that ‘want to help me lose those last pesky pounds’ was what I was exposed to. I was twelve. And I already knew what calories and crash-diets meant. As a fat child, I was constantly learning more and more of what the industry wanted me to learn and know. My idols were female fitness models, who told readers to stay away from bread and chocolate, and to do fifty sit-ups every day for ‘envious flat abs’.

   Women who both work for and receive products of the fitness industry are expected different things than what is expected of a man. Ladies working in the industry depict everything that society wants out of a woman’s appearance, in order to condition those who’re not apart of the industry to eventually want the same. Long, slim legs that forms a perfect gap when put together, a flat stomach, a tiny barbie-doll waist and prominent collar bones that have survived rounds of low-carb diets just to make an appearance. The industry raises women that do not strive for strength and athleticism, but those who want to fit society’s standard of what bodies look good in a swimsuit. What baffles me is the fact that women in the industry have been conditioned to train purely for aesthetic purposes. Nowhere in magazine covers or websites that specialise in women’s health and fitness (as if it is any different from Men’s health and fitness) do I read the lines ‘get strong’ or ‘improve your fitness and stamina!’. Instead I read the lines ‘Get slim’, ‘Get toned’ and ‘Get sexy this Summer!’ in bold red, in attempts to catch the attention of women who are new to the gymming atmosphere and buying salads instead of a hamburger.

I often make a mental comparison of a Men’s Health magazine cover to one produced by Women’s Health (these are two well-known fitness and health magazine companies). I flip through the glossy pages of Men’s Health, and appreciate everything i’m reading. Finally! A magazine that informs me about how to make my workouts more intense and efficient. One that will guide my in my conquest to get stronger and fitter. While flipping through the pages of Women’s Health I learn how to lose 20 pounds in 10 days. I learn how to make my body more appealing to the masculine eye. I learn how to completely avoid pasta and bread, till I can look at any food that fits into the bottom of a food pyramid and avoid it like the plague.  Nowhere do I see words in relevance to heavy weight-lifting. Female bodybuilding and weightlifting has been stigmatised to seem ‘de-feminising’, rather than empowering and a great way to get healthy. In fact, weightlifting has been male-specified, so it’s no wonder that the weight-room of a gym rarely has females in it.

  The words used on the covers of Women’s Health seemed so different to what was written on Men’s Health. This is when I realised; the goal of The Industry is to control how women view and care for themselves. By controlling these factors, they can lead women into believing over-exercising and starvation (disguised as ‘healthy diets’) are the ways to go about weight-loss and actually developing an athletic body that is healthy and able. Don’t worry though, at least men are better taken care of and equipped with information that will actually help them build a healthy body that could one day replace a machine.

   Let’s not forget to mention how women in the industry are masqueraded as symbols of sex. Thought-provoking poses and racy swimsuits are apparently a favourite in magazine covers. You rarely see a fitness expert flex her muscles when she’s displayed on social media. Instead you see her skin thick with oil, her hair let loose and her body bent into poses that reveal everything but her physical achievements! The industry sexualises women and disrespects them in regards to their health, but cleverly disguises this as something healthy, that will motivate you. Through the constant displays of sexualised ‘fitness experts’, women who are on the other side of the industry are automatically conditioned into thinking that fitness (for women) is only about looking beautiful and having men swoon over you. It isn’t about the actual blood, sweat and even more sweat that goes into the process of building a capable body. It’s about aiming to look exactly like the fitness model you saw on TV. Constantly sexualising fitness experts, strips them of the respect they worked hard to earn, and makes them seem like they shouldn’t be taken seriously. It strips them of everything they’re trying to represent, like being determined to get healthy and strong.

   The industry, like any other, has a lot to work on. The way it represents females needs to be completely changed, so that the female audience can get access to useful information that diverts from conditioning them into being insecure and overall poor in health. The sexualisation of women in the fitness industry, and the difference in what is expected and taught to a man and a woman in the industry is one of the main reasons why I am determined to change the foundation that the industry stands on.

Till next time.

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