“What if Body Image was Based on What Bodies do for Us Rather than How they Look?” [Part I]
Even when I was a young child, I’ve never been one for the typical girl activities. Early in elementary school, I was playing soccer and was a better fisher-woman than I am now. Then when I discovered equestrian vaulting, I combined my interest in gymnastics and horses to push myself to progress in the most difficult sport I’ve ever done (even to this day!). Now I find myself gravitating toward the habit of doing too many, mostly male-dominated, "extreme" sports. If it involves being outside and doing something challenging then I'm down!
I remember getting in constant tiffs with my mom whenever she tried to doll me up. Her disappointment when her only daughter didn’t want to be called, “Cute” and wear her hand-sewn dresses and matching outfits was the usual. I wasn’t into the Disney Princesses. I was all about Lion King, 101 Dalmatians, and horses. The animal characters had more spunk than the Disney princesses anyway. Nala is my spirit animal ;)
Don’t get me wrong, I did go through a hair stylist phase where I cut the hair off of all my dolls and myself. My core identity wanted to embrace my feminine side, but at the same time still hold my own with the boys and never back down because of my gender.
I soon realized as I grew up and started to spend more time with people outside of my family that I was treated much differently. Church youth activities revolved around “spa nights” and “pie baking nights” and all sorts of homemaker activities that I despised. I was so jealous of the boys who got to go camping, rock climbing, and mountain biking as part of their church activities. Even when the girls did get to camp (one or two times per year), I specifically remember not being allowed to sleep under the stars, even though the boys were doing it because “it’s not safe for a girl”.
I’m glad I grew up the way I did. I have four brothers, yet was “the son my dad never had” because I was always the one going on fishing, backpacking, whitewater rafting, and camping trips. It took me until I was about 19 years old to realize that I am outdoorsy. I guess I thought that’s how everyone was raised in Utah. That’s when I switched my emphasis in college to Outdoor Recreation Management.
Even though I have worked in the outdoor industry for almost seven years now, I often find myself feeling like I have to overcompensate in certifications, qualifications, and experience in order to compete for fair-treatment and payment and be seen and hired as someone more than just "eye-candy" in a male-dominated work place. It's a bummer, but that's the way it is in our culture and unfortunately it's even worse in other cultures. I like to work on retaining my confidence and empowering myself despite how easy it really is to fall into the "helpless, useless girl" role (seriously, if I didn't fight people off, I could have worked as a rafting guide that never had to lift a raft because people almost always offered to do it for me).
“What if Body Image was Based on What Bodies do for Us Rather than How they Look?”
Which brings me back to the above quote. I saw it on the Facebook page for Outdoor Women's Alliance, which is an awesome non-profit that supports women in the outdoors. The quote speaks to me because I think that changing motivation to be "what can I do-oriented" versus "how do I look-oriented" could do a lot of good for us humans in general. I speak to the women in the outdoor scene, because that is who I can relate with the most, and also because taking the lead in backpacking, river, and climbing trips have personally been some of the most empowering things I have done.
Empowering women starts with women empowering themselves. Empower yourself by embracing confidence and being the biggest, smartest, all-round badass you could possibly be. ;) And stay away from the Pinterest "Fitness Inspiration" boards.
What are your thoughts? Stay tuned for my second blog post on this topic next week :)