I recently came to the decision to embrace what my naturally-athletic body wants to be: a buff, badass bitch. Why did it take this long, you may ask? Well, as most girls, I’ve been conditioned to make myself as small as possible. Being tall and athletic was this “curse” on me for all of my adolescent years, because I just wasn’t “feminine” enough (as some silly fragile boys in school made me believe). After leaving High School, I decided to decrease my exercise significantly to try “lose muscle.” Not because I didn’t enjoy sports (dear LORD that will never happen) but because I was scared of looking ‘too strong for a woman.’
I realise this is a parallel for how we raise girls internally as well. Be small: in your ambition, your self-worth, your confidence and your strength. Let’s get into it 🔥
For various reasons, scientific and invented, women have been presented as smaller than men. Of COURSE, YES men are in general, larger than women. And YES, evolutionarily speaking, that was quite necessary and beneficial, etc. However, as with most things that started way back in evolutionary days, they became standards in modern society. It became desirable for women to be smaller than men.
And now we just accept that “femininity” means small and thin (and roundness acceptable in certain areas) and “masculinity” means tall and muscular, and whichever side doesn’t fall into that divide isn’t “[insert gender] enough.” But the question is: enough for who? ENOUGH FOR WHAT?
Growing up, I had a natural gift for basically any sport I played. And I LOVED it (still do!). But, I clearly remember stopping myself from pursuing an opportunity that came to me for fear of becoming “too buff.” Of course, there are other things I want to do with my life, but I’m a little upset at how affected I was by those societal messages that I decided a career in a sport I loved wasn’t worth the perceived lack of love and acceptance it would bring me in dating. I thought I had to choose between being desirable to men and being a fucking badass in the swimming pool. Because some skinny 12-year-old boy took out his insecurities on me.
For a 60-year-old post-Colonialism African man, my dad’s pretty down for women. He always wanted to raise us to be independent, get the best degrees, land the best jobs and live good lives. However, the patriarchal society did get to him, and in subtle ways I saw his fear of raising women who were “too” independent. He wanted me to dream big, be big (in life), but not so much that I’d intimidate my future husband. Or that I’d never be able to “be a wife.” He was always a little hesitant when it came to that topic because there was still this conditioning that the woman can’t out-achieve her man.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s famous TedTalk sums up that thought pattern excellently.
Although now there is a lot of encouragement for women to be ambitious and go into careers previously unthought of for women, the thought of entering male-dominated spaces can still be intimidating—on a subconscious level.
The Good News
We’re in a wonderful time now. We grew up in the time of Oprah, Michelle Obama, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Serena fucking Williams—women who have either spoken openly about women being successful on their own terms or simply been successful women. Not only that, but we’re finally getting female superheroes who actually look strong and athletic.
And I think this is really important for little girls to know they can be strong badasses with admirable, 3-dimensional personalities. And for little boys to know that strong women don’t erase their masculinity.
Thanks to many factors, I’ve come full circle and realized I could be proud of how I look. I don’t have to live in irrational fear of ‘building muscle’ every time I work out. Because I no longer buy into the idea that there is only one way to be a woman. Consciously, I knew that DUH. But Little Céline, deep in my subconscious, didn’t believe that.
So what are you sayin’, girl?
I am not saying: go get buff. I’m not telling all women everywhere to gain muscles. I am saying: don’t let the fear of looking ‘undesirable’ stop you from achieving fitness or strength goals. I enjoy being able to do push-ups or challenging myself to plank. I wanna be able to climb things and know I could kick somebody if I needed to. I am just no longer telling myself that, if I gained some muscle or definition in the process, it would mean I’d lose my ‘femininity.’ Or that I’d cease to be desirable. Or that what insecure men think of me EVEN MATTERS AT ALL.
I am also saying: continue to think and dream big. Feed that ambition you have, map out the list of goals, continue to take leadership in whatever field you’re in. As typical as the saying is: don’t dim your shine so [products of society] can feel comfortable around you. The right people who will love, admire and support you will be drawn into your life.
So go out, kick ass! And let’s sing it with Drake:
🎵”You ain’t gotta be, [SMALL] FO’ WHAT TO THESE NIGGAS” 🎵