These aren’t complaints about CrossFit per se. CrossFit is, I think, the most women friendly fitness environment in which I’ve found myself. Yay! Women and weights.
But CrossFit doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Some suppliers of fitness equipment, some coaches, and some fitness programs inevitably pick up gendered assumptions that frame the world around us.
I think these assumptions hurt women, hurt men, and hurt those who don’t identify within gender binary at all.
With those disclaimers, here are three pet peeves.
1. Why, why, why on earth are the lightest kettle bells pink? It doesn’t matter where you go, the lightest weights come in the colour pink. It’s as is the colour pink is code for light weight. Though really “pink” is code for “girl” and “girl” is code for “lightweight.” (See What’s So Bad about Pink Anyway?)
(Why, why, why are the shorter skipping ropes pink too?)
Rhetorical questions. I know the answer. For once, just once, I’d like to see heavy weights in the soft pink colour.
For me, I don’t really care. I don’t even use the pink kettle bells but I wouldn’t mind if I did. But the association with smaller weights and weaker persons with femininity bugs the crap out me.
I do feel sorry for the small guys, some of whom have baggage around masculinity, and who use the pink ropes (because they’re short not because they’re girls) and maybe even pink kettle bells, again because they aren’t that strong, not because they are particularly feminine.
2. Gender stereotypes can come up in coaching too. See Coaching 101: Your Words Speak Volumes. Rebecca Bilodeau writes about her experiences with a coach who assumed that being female meant lifting light:
“On this particular day, we were getting ready to do 10×3 of back squats to get as heavy as possible. Great, I thought. I love me some heavy squats! I’ve got that big strong butt and great legs that I never truly appreciated until I started CrossFit. I could squat all day, every day, if my legs would let me. Needless to say, I came to the box pumped.
Our box has only three squat racks. No big deal. We usually just separate and get our squat on, taking turns as necessary and adjusting the weight for each other as we go along. We work well perfectly fine and push one another as we see fit. We are really a self-sufficient sort of group, but here were the coach’s directions:
“Heavy lifters on this rack, other guys here, and all the girls over there.” Okay, so we may have ended up divided that way anyways, but all I could think was, “Wait, where do I go? What if I’m a heavy lifter and a girl… Where’s that squat rack?””
In other gyms, I’ve heard the lighter bars referred to as the “girls’ bars” and the heavy ones as “boys’ bars.” But I should say I’ve never ever heard that at my CrossFit gym.
And again, what if there is man who lifts lighter than the women, now he’s a girl? That just isn’t right.
3. In CrossFit box jumps the women’s workouts call for 20 inch boxes and the men get the 24 inch boxes. (Confession: I can only do box jumps on a 16′ box. On even the 20 I’m reduced to stepping up and jumping down.) But why isn’t it by height? There are some tall women who make the 20 inch box jump look easy and some short guys who really struggle. How about a height cut off rather than a different requirement for men and for women. See Why “women’s specific” anything is likely a bad idea. The current system isn’t good for men or for women.
We can do it. Look ma, no pink!