We’ve all heard the slogan declaring “Strong is the new skinny” or some other variation on the same theme. I’d like us all to be honest with ourselves about this. It is not a new, empowering movement where women are seen for what they can do as opposed to how they look. Molds aren’t being broken, unfortunately. Before I get into my real beef with this new “movement” (the images that typically accompany those words), I’ll start with the slogan itself. Pitting one ideal against another does nothing positive for female body image, which thanks to years and years of ad campaigns and magazine spreads, tends to be very fragile. We don’t need strong to replace skinny. Some women are strong, and some women are skinny. Some women are happy being strong, and some women are happy being skinny. Most of us fall somewhere in between happiness and insecurity; feeling like we just never measure up. Now instead of feeling like we aren’t skinny enough, we get to feel like maybe we aren’t strong enough. It simply swaps one ideal for another and that is not progress.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think strong is good. I have no problem with strong. I have no problem focusing on what a woman is capable of. Unfortunately, the images that typically accompany this slogan, or its many variations, negate any argument that this movement is positive for women and about something other than appearance. Let me provide a few examples:
There is no denying that these women are fit and muscular, and maybe pretty strong too. What they aren’t is a deviation from the status quo; thin, white, and selling sex. The above images display women who are posed in athletic gear akin to what one might wear in the bedroom with their partner. The second image even uses the term sexy. It doesn’t mention strength at all. What these images are not doing is focusing on ability. It’s all body image, and nothing more. Not one woman in these pictures is actually exhibiting any feat of strength. They are simply reduced to their body parts. If it were truly about strength, those words would be accompanied by photos of women being strong. Beauty sells, sex sells, and a woman’s worth is tied to her looks, and this new fitspo movement is doing nothing to change that. If strength and ability were what it was all about, the following images would accompany those words:
These are images of women being strong. This is what should inspire women to get out there and lift, and if that results in them looking like one of the women in the previous photos, great. If not, that’s great too.