Over the last 8 years my frustration with the wellness industry has ebbed and flowed. Some days I meet up with women like Anna Kessel and think my god, things are starting to change. And then other days Kim Kardashian shows us just how low her morals are by endorsing a weight-loss lollipop which, FYI, won’t do s**t.
We take one step forwards as Serena Williams comes back with full force just nine months after giving birth to her daughter (and suffering a pulmonary embolism by the way) only to be pushed one step backwards as the Forbes Rich List highlights not one female made the top 100 paid athletes list this year. What’s odd to me is that looking around my yoga, spinning or Pilates class, or even my Instagram feed, there are women everywhere. Women are actively involved in exercise and seem to have a passion for sport, but is the wellness experience a positive one for everyone? I’m not so sure. But I can guess why.
Problem Number One: Truth
Ever looked at images in adverts of women exercising? Ever noticed how far removed from what women actually look like exercising they are? Chances are it’s a no because we have become so used to such images. It’s all tanned skin, toned limbs, loose waves and perfectly damp skin. The problem here is that we start to think that this is what women look like when they exercise. Well, I’m not sure about you but I’m lucky if I look like I’ve just done ten rounds with Mike Tyson whilst washing my face in beetroot juice. There’s sweat in places I didn’t realise I had pores and my hair is reminiscent to John McEnroes circa 1980.
Let’s start sharing pictures of what exercise actually looks like. I know, it’s scary. Instagram likes pretty pictures, but we owe it to each other to show a little truth. It’s only when we start to see others looking like us we will realise that we are not abnormal. This is what exercise looks like.
Problem Number Two: Representation
Why, oh why, when there are SO many women athletes out there are sports brands still using models to advertise their clothes? We are going to be wearing these clothes to play sport in so why not show me them on someone who actually plays sport for a living, because if it works for them (eg doesn’t go see-through, doesn’t give them a camel-toe, doesn’t dig in) I am more likely to wear it. Plus when I try it on in store I might not look so different in it than those adverts.
I understand the irony here, but so often the women used to represent ‘sporty women’ are white, middle-class, slim women. That is not a true-representation of what women in fitness look like (see the #strongisnotasize campaign for more proof of this).
Use real athletes. Simple. The clothes are supposed to be technical and stay put, not make us look like supermodels. Let’s also realise that ‘fit’ or ‘strong’ don’t look a certain way. You can be any colour, size, shape or ability to be fit so let’s represent this in the media too.
[If this blog on the Wellness Industry resonates with you, take a few moments out of your day to read about my online fitness and mental health plan The Model Method Online. I have designed the plan with all of the problems associated with the Wellness Industry in mind: non judgemental, non sexualised, and based on making you FEEL better and fitter, not simply dropping a dress size! You can read about it HERE]
Problem Number Three: Sexualisation
Sex sells, apparently. But can we please just leave sport alone. I recently noticed that Russia is hosting a contest to find it’s hottest WAG in the lead up to the World Cup. Seriously? Whilst the boys get the limelight for being professional footballers the women get ranked on how hot they are.
How about giving coverage to women’s sports teams around the world instead of filling our press with such degrading competitions. It hardly gives the right image to young girls who are interested in football. We need to make sure that women in sport are not judged on their appearance (Rebecca Adlington was frequently taunted on social media for her nose and her weight, which is ridiculous!) and instead on their performance.
Press outlets need to give women’s sport the support it deserves. Go to The Guardian website, search Anna Kessel, and read any one of her incredible articles to see just how amazing women in sport are! Let’s get behind these women just as we do our male athletes and see them achieve unbelievable things.
Problem Number Four: Morals
The wellness industry is big business. It’s a globally recognised industry worth over $3.72 trillion (WellToDo). For this reason, morals can go out the window. Many companies are preying on women’s insecurities to make money and this just does not sit well with me.
If you see a company promoting a product to make you ‘beach body ready’ call them out on it. If you hear of a new training plan that calls women ‘skinny bitches’ and pretends that’s cool, call them out on it. The backlash to Kim Kardashians lolly post shows just how much power we all have to say “Hey, that’s not cool!” and action to be taken (she later deleted said post).
Together we can create change and it’s so important we recognise what some of the problems are. Without knowing the problems, we will not know how to fix them. Over the next few months I will be working on how we can create some concrete plans to help guide change.
If you have any ideas, a particular set of skills or contacts, or any feedback I would love to know how you can help. Let’s all work together to make sport a positive, empowering experience for women, not another stick to beat themselves with.
Thumbnail image ‘Strong Ass Woman’ is copyright Poppys Papercuts