Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

What I Learned from Weightlifting: Strength Should Never Mean Silence

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

What I Learned from Weightlifting: Strength Should Never Mean Silence

Article excerpt

It is finally happening: I am becoming a strong woman. Not in every sense of the word--I'm still a squishy-hearted millennial snowflake marinated in political correctness. But these days I also go to the gym and chuck big bits of metal around.

Apparently I'm way behind the curve on this one. Trend watchers, and yes that is a real job, have been telling us for months that strength-training is the new craze among young and youngish women. For months, a great deal of presumably vital reporting has been done on how "strong is the new sexy", with predictably patronising questions about what this really means for the moral and physical health of young women and thereby the nation: are these girls taking things too far? Do men really find muscular women attractive? Is this really empowering?

The answers, respectively, are: probably, nobody cares, and if one more person uses the word "empowering" in my presence, so help me, I will debate them rigorously in the marketplace of ideas. "Empowering" is a word and a concept almost exclusively applied to women, especially by advertisers, who are trying to flog us products and services to distract us from the real material iniquities of our lives.

"Empowered" is how well-meaning men think women want to feel, because we still seem to think that gender oppression can be fought by changing how women feel, especially how they feel about how they look. Personally, I lift weights partly out of vanity, partly so I can glare at men who hog the hack squat machine, but mostly because I needed to get fitter to have a chance of survival after the coming collapse of civilisation.

I love yoga as much as the next spiritually etiolated urban white lady, but the chanting wasn't cutting it for the post-Brexit hunger games. You'd be surprised how many weedy, progressive millennials I know have started working out in the secret hope we will someday be able to outrun our neighbours, and possibly our parents.

I've been doing strength-training for a good six months now, which is longer than most of my relationships, all of which also involved a great deal of pointless heavy lifting but without the added bonus of one day, theoretically, being able to murder a man with my abs alone. …

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