Choose to Challenge this International Women's Day

As we approach International Women’s Day on 8 March, it’s the perfect time to think about how at FEAT we celebrate the achievements of women and call out inequality.  This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is “choose to challenge”.

I say, challenge accepted.

When Barton asked me to write the blog for this week’s wrap, I didn’t hesitate. There is no topic more important to me than gender inequality. We also both agreed, it’s about time a woman wrote about International Women’s Day…

In Australia, women STILL earn on average $242.90 per week less than men. That’s a gender pay gap of 13.4% (Australia’s Gender Pay Gap Statistics 2021: wgea.gov.au). While Women are still far more likely to be in part-time, casual or non-paid work, women’s median superannuation balances are 20.5% lower than those of men (wgea.gov.au). Since the age of 15, 1 in 6 women in our country have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner. 1 in 4 women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner. And 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted and/or threatened (aihw.gov.au). Women make up only 18.3% of CEOs in Australia (wgea.gov.au) and represent only 32% of Federal Parliamentarians (aph.gov.au).

Gender equality DOES NOT EXIST.

In fact, in so many ways, the cards are STILL stacked up against us as women. And to be honest, as someone who identifies as being a woman, I am SO TIRED. But, on this International Women’s Day, regardless of how tired we might all feel trying to dismantle the patriarchy, let’s take a moment to choose to challenge and celebrate the badass women in our community.

We talk a lot about community at FEAT. We could write endless blog articles, pop any number of posts up on social media, or even just bend your ear at coffee club for hours on end. But the thing is, it’s not just something we like talking about (and you know how much we do like talking!). Our FEAT community is our very own little society. And yet in so many ways we operate differently than society as a whole. I see it every day down at the park – women being their best selves, strong female trainers, women supporting women, men supporting women…it feels like equality.

But there’s always more we can do to break through gender inequalities and try to break through years of social conditioning related to women’s place in society.  With that in mind, what can you do to “choose to challenge” in our FEAT training community?

Choose to challenge – gendered equipment

It doesn’t matter what gender you are, if you want to pick up the heaviest or the lightest or anything in-between piece of equipment, do it. It’s not ‘heavy/light/anything for a woman/man’. It’s just a weight you’ve chosen for your capacity today. I have lost count of the times in my life when I’ve heard people equate the weight of a piece of equipment to gender.

Some people have the capacity to lift more overhead than others. Some are stronger when it’s a movement that engages their quads. Some people prefer to use a lighter weight and move the equipment faster. The thing is, everybody is different, and it has NOTHING to do with gender.

Weights don’t know what gender you identify as. And they don’t care. They’re weights. They don’t have brains.

Let’s challenge ourselves as a community to never say that is heavy/light for a woman/man. That’s just not a thing.

Choose to challenge – body composition

Just about everywhere you look online, in magazines, in books, on tv etc., you’ll see a conflicting argument about women’s bodies. “Tone up for summer!”. “Strong is the new skinny!”.  “5 ways to get lean in time for the big day”. “Lose X kgs in X days”. “Get shredded”. “How to build lean muscle”.

I could go on (but I really don’t want to go down that VERY deep rabbit hole on the internet!). Just about every one of these taglines make the assumption that women’s bodies are something that need fixing. As women, we’re taught from a very young age that our bodies need to ‘be’ something. Be skinny. Don’t be skinny. Conform to the latest trend in dieting, fitness, clothing etc. Even the anti-diet culture or ‘strong is the new skinny’ concepts can slip into the realm of expecting our bodies to be more than/less than/something other than just our bodies. This is a tool of the patriarchy to encourage women to centre our lives around physical appearance.

Our bodies are actually amazing. They keep us alive. They perform a function. We are literally nothing without them. So why can’t we just let them be?

Next time you catch yourself thinking about how you want to look or using one of those stereotypical ‘fitness industry’ phrases like toned or lean or shredded or any of the above, choose to challenge why you want that or why you’re thinking that. Choose to challenge yourself to give yourself a high five instead. Because your body is AMAZING. It can do AMAZING things.  And EVERY SINGLE woman is more than just their appearance.

How can we celebrate?

If you’re a FEAT member who identifies as a woman, take this opportunity to take a deep breath. I mean, a REALLY BIG deep breath. Now go and give yourself another high five (or just demand one from someone nearby).

You’re amazing, your body is incredible, every day you come down to the park you’re trying to better yourself in a world where the cards are still stacked against us.

Thank you for bringing energy and love to the park and to each other.

If you’re a FEAT member who doesn’t identify as a woman, we don’t need your praise or a pat on the back for being women. We need you to join us in the fight to break down inequality and we need you to choose to challenge. We probably won’t praise you for that (because let’s face it, you get enough of that for just being not a woman), but our fight has to be your fight for us to get to a time when International Women’s Day doesn’t have to be about choosing to challenge.

To bring this week’s blog to an end, I’ll leave you with the ever-wise words of one Leslie Knope (and because I know Barton would be very disappointed if we didn’t have at least one quotation in this week’s wrap even if it is from a fictional character…).

“I am a goddess. A glorious female warrior. Queen of all that I survey. Enemies of fairness and equality, hear my womanly roar…”

Happy International Women’s Day. Now let’s get to work.

This weeks post is written by Alison Willard - one of our amazing Women that works with the FEAT team.

Annandale lifting Barbells