Thursday, December 20, 2018

Strong Not Skinny and Other Attention Grabbing Nonsense

The first time I saw a strong not skinny hashtag, I cringed and figured it would be a short-lasting fad, something instagrammers would use in an attempt to promote themselves or their products until people realized how ridiculous the concept really is. Instead, it seems to be spreading, even into the running world. It's a completely flawed and potentially damaging idea. All this kind of saying really does is set new parameters around how a woman is "supposed to" look instead of remove the parameters altogether.

One of the most obvious flaws with this statement is that an athlete can be both skinny and strong. Saying #strongnotskinny is almost an insult to those who are both. Another problem is that many people who are very clearly unwell and underweight are using the hashtag, because in the hashtag world, it's all about getting attention, not reality or necessarily helping anyone. There are also those who use it who are healthy and fit but very publicly trying to lose weight or restrict in some way giving those who witness this kind of behavior widely opposing mixed messages. None of this does anything to better anyone, and it really puts a lot of pressure on vulnerable individuals.

What I would love to see is a step away from our cultural obsession with body. People might mean well by using this kind of hashtag, but they're not thinking things though. They're not seeing the bigger picture. If you move the very narrow restrictions of how a woman or an athlete should look from here to there, it's not really helping all that much. Focus, instead, on the actions of the individual and who she is rather than how she looks. Thin, fat, fit, strong, weak, or out of shape, I don't fucking care. It's not important. What is important is how she treats others, how happy she is, how healthy she is, and what she does in life, not what her outer appearance is. I'm all for celebrating the body and how it looks aesthetically, but I'm adamantly opposed to sending messages to the public about what any body should look like. That shit gets on my nerves.

The more I see people starved for their 15 minutes of fame and willing to do nearly anything for attention, the more I want to retreat into the shadows. There are so many bad role models out there, even in the running community. It's really important to be selective about whom you follow online. I know so many people who are negatively affected by what they see others promote. It's unfortunate that some are more concerned with notoriety than how they might affect others. Maybe one day things will change.


  1. I think a lot of this is owed to a couple of things. One, runners tend to have a particular cluster of neuroses. Two, the advent of social media has made people more willing to open up about these in whatever way people choose to. And three, even at the pro level, running is a low-profile sport, so on social media, elites who want attention in those venues are competing, as fucked up and morbidly funny as it is, with 25:00 5K runners who are often little more than bikini models with breast implants who aren't exactly household names outside of that environment.

    So you wind up with this chaotic mess of defiant "runners" whose chief platform is low body fat, pro or at least fast runners who have been around a while and like to emphasize in this era of 1,000 pix a day that it's OK to have some fat on you even of you're a 2:28 marathoner, and general weirdos.

    I think someone could start a #skinnynotstrong hashtag and have the same people rally behind that one and its suddenly popular inverse.

    1. I'm sure you're right. One thing I've noticed is that anyone with a lot of followers can post just about anything and sit back to loads of cheers, even if what's posted is shitty advice, some kind of wrong statement, or something strange and bizarre. It doesn't matter.

      Joining the chorus gives people a sense of belonging, I suppose, but I wish more people would challenge others. Then again, some Instagrammers and those in the spotlight are good at deleting or ignoring any opposing replies, or, worse, responding in ultra condescending ways.

  2. "I'm all for celebrating the body and how it looks aesthetically, but I'm adamantly opposed to sending messages to the public about what any body SHOULD look like. That shit gets on my nerves."
    Could not agree more.


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