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Strong and beautiful women are “heavy” women – for real! (Guest post)

I’ve been inspired to write this post by two amazing feminist-forward events in the last seven days – one of them local, and one of them global.

LOCALLY – as in, right here on this blog – the smart and beautiful Sage Krishnamurthy McEneany, who is seven years old and also wise beyond her seven years, wrote a moving post about wanting to be “strong” rather than a pretty princess, because princesses NEVER get the chance to save themselves, and because strong is pretty freaking beautiful in a woman. I cannot tell you how much I loved this post, and how much I admired Sage for writing it. Please check it out if you missed it!

GLOBALLY, the (EXTREMELY STRONG AND THEREFORE VERY BEAUTIFUL) female rowers from Oxford and Cambridge Universities made history last Saturday when they competed in the first ever women’s Boat Race on the Thames Tideway, alongside their male counterparts (who have been rowing that storied race for decades, without any commentary on how improper or unladylike such a competition would be). I’ve written a post on my blog, The Activist Classroom, about the awesomeness of the eight Oxford women who won the race – please check it out. Meanwhile, however, and in light of Sage’s wise post, I would like to blow your mind for a moment with an important statistic.

Here is a photograph of the eight Oxford women who crewed the winning boat last week:


Don’t they look strong and trim and fantastic? Which, for women raised in the world in which I was raised (North America circa the late 20th century), means: They look thin! Which, again, means: they look so small/light/I bet they weigh nothing!!

Look at the image again.

The LIGHTEST woman in this photograph (for the record: Maxie Scheske, who rows in the bow because she is the lightest) weighs 66.6kg – or 147 pounds.

Read that again: the SMALLEST woman in this photograph weighs one hundred and forty seven pounds.

The HEAVIEST woman in this photograph (for the record: Caryn Davies, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, who rows stroke because she is the most powerful and experienced woman in the boat) weighs 78.4kg – or 173 pounds.

That is right. Read it again. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY THREE POUNDS.

It’s true, folks: strong women weigh, like, more than you think. Because muscle is heavy. And every single woman in the above photograph is full of glorious, beautiful, heavy muscle – that is why they row so fast! Here they are again, in case you could not believe your eyes the first time around:


Growing up, I was tyrannised by the idea of being too heavy. My mom, who struggled with her weight for most of my childhood, was ashamed when she was overweight, and she was in no way alone – every woman I knew was trying to eat as little as possible so she could take up as little space as possible. (As if taking up space is a bad thing!! ONLY if you drink the patriarchy juice, ladies.) I grew up believing girls should weigh less than 100lb, and grown women less than 140lb (at the most!!), and trust me – I failed this particular test multiple times. So I grew up feeling ashamed, too – even though I was probably a relatively normal weight most of my young life. Today, I am lean, fit, and strong – but my BMI is just shy of 25 (the “cutoff” that signals “overweight”). Why? Because I am an athlete with a lot of gorgeous heavy muscle – not a wasting princess who waits around for a stronger boy to save her.

Ladies, hear me when I say that the eight women who rowed victorious into history last Saturday – along with their eight very formidable adversaries from Cambridge – are the most beautiful women I have seen in a long time. I keep returning to the photos I’ve posted here, because they look so great and I so want to emulate them, in their strength and power and resilience. I ALSO want to emulate them in weighing enough to be strong, powerful, and resilient like them – which means I need to weigh a lot more than you would think I need to weigh in order to be “pretty”. Weight is strength. Strong is beautiful.


10 thoughts on “Strong and beautiful women are “heavy” women – for real! (Guest post)

  1. I love this post and the great highlight of those strong women! However, muscle is not heavy, it’s dense. This is one of the misleading statements that have prevented a lot of women from taking up resistance training. As a personal trainer I have fought that misconception for 11 years now. We need to stop talking about fat and muscle in terms of weight and embrace the healthy effects of having a good balance of both within the body.

  2. We’ve had so many years of lies about what women “should” weigh (because we’re all the same height and body types, of course… ) that there’s a complete disconnect now. I don’t think people have any idea what “120 pounds” or “100 pounds” even means any more!

    Hurray for strong women!

    Also, I may need to try rowing… 🙂

  3. I am completely agree with you that strong women are the real ones!! I really appreciate them for their excellent efforts. Nice to see them!

  4. Reblogged this on Apple Country and commented:
    I’ve been following this blog for a while and LOVE every post, but I felt I had to reblog this one. Although I always knew it but could never quite get myself to truly believe it, posts like this have made me realise that a person’s size and weight doesn’t define their health and happiness.
    As a heavy gal, I’ve finally realised that this is just how I’m supposed to be. Although I’m not tall, I have big bones and a fair amount of muscle, which puts me on the line between normal and overweight if I look at my BMI. I realise that it’s all bullshit now and I haven’t weighed myself since last summer because a number can’t tell me how healthy I am, when the evidence lies in how I feel inside.

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