Women need iron. Not the vitamin. The barbell.
It's true, you can be fit, healthy and strong through other means, so why powerlifting? Why would anyone subject themselves to the commitment of lifting increasingly heavier weights, year after year? Other women who lift usually "get it," but there aren't that many of us in the world.
My parents lost their damn minds when they saw a video of me deadlifting for the first time. I was immediately posed with the question: "Why?"
You would have thought I killed someone by their reaction. I was expecting them to be proud of me for being committed, active and strong. They were livid.
I was in so much physical pain standing there and facing them, as they reprimanded me for being strong because it felt like someone ripped my heart right out of my chest.
I could barely find my next breath, never mind an answer, so all I mustered up was:
Because I'm a feminist.
I didn't know how else to say I wasn't hurting myself, but rather helping myself. It was only afterward that I realized how loaded, and accurate, my response was.
Society has taught women to believe:
- women should be fragile
- women should be thin
- women should be submissive
- women should ask men how to do or fix things
- women should choose a career that allows her to cook, clean and raise children
- women should ask men to pick up heavy items
- women should not be intimidating
- women who prioritize themselves are selfish
- men like women who need them
And women who find freedom in powerlifting are often women who have been hurt, in one way or another, by believing those teachings.
A woman who lifts heavy is creating a stable, strong physical self, but an even stronger, and more resilient, mental self.
Powerlifting is a sport that demands you do not suck in your waist, avoid food or remain quiet. It is a sport where heavier girls are stronger, and growth is celebrated. It is a metaphorical middle finger up to everything we were taught to define being a woman.
When the weight feels heavy, we grunt. When we're afraid of getting under the bar, we stomp. When the bar starts to slip away, we cover our hands in chalk ... even if our nails are done.
We rise to the occasion, no matter how many times that day we were told we were wrong, silenced, objectified, insulted or ignored.
Every time I step up to the bar, I step into my skin, and out of a stereotype I was conditioned to believe was me.
I no longer show up to places where I am made to feel unwelcome, I'm not quiet on controversial topics, I don't continue speaking with people who aren't listening, and my needs are always a top priority.
You say selfish, but I say self-respect.
I am not afraid to speak up, speak out, gain weight, stand out, look different, and especially not afraid of making misogynists feels uncomfortable.
Because powerlifting is more than a sport, it is a teaching. It is a therapy for women betrayed by the system. A system built by fragile men that thrives on unrealistic expectations and lowered self-esteem.
So, I guess I'm not really a powerlifter because I am a feminist. But rather, I am a powerlifter, because I am, finally, just me.
Learn more about Elena on her blog supersassystrength.com