Today's New York Post profiles a 24-year-old ex-dancer who traded intense cardio workouts and self-deprivation for intense resistance workouts and weight lifting, gaining 20 lbs of pure muscle meat in the process. She's never felt better, she says. She's happy with her body and she feels totally awesome. STRONG IS THE NEW SKINNY, declares the headline. Hooray! Finally, women can control and dominate the space they occupy rather than disappearing into bony oblivion! Right? Right?!?
The way the Post writes it, "strong" is just another way women can look hot for other people rather than a way to live as a physical being for herself. One ex-"skinny" woman who discovered strength now has "a toned butt and her prized cut legs." Another one brags about eating "gobs of almond butter whenever [she] want[s]!" due to faster metabolism and not having to count calories. Another helpfully points out that men like women with a little meat on their bones anyway. All of the women pictured with the article are conventionally attractive, slender women in full makeup whose expensive gym memberships have helped them to have muscular — but not, like, Williams sister muscular — bodies.
Great. "Strong is the new skinny" means "now you have to lift weights to be fuckable."
To be fair, visible strength as an aesthetic ideal is less awful than visible weakness as an aesthetic ideal. And I rue the day I learned about the platinum-level bullshit that is the "THIGH GAP" and hope it dies 1000 fiery Pinterest deaths. But do why do we need aesthetic ideals at all? I realize that I'm preaching to the choir here, but why can't a variety of bodies be just fine? Would it kill movie studios to occasionally cast women who are built like Skylar Diggins in female protagonist roles? Would fashion designers' throats swell shut if they made clothes that flattered a variety of bodies rather than just people who are built like coathangers? How about advertisers lay off the airbrushing? How about everyone has cellulite including Beyonce AND Jennifer Lawrence and that's fine? How about take care of yourself and feel good in your skin and that's what it is to be beautiful? IS THIS THING ON?
Being strong and formidable shouldn't be approached as a goal that pleases others; being strong and formidable are their own rewards. And women don't need a "new skinny." They need to be left the fuck alone and given the space to exist for themselves.