This summer, Cameron Diaz wore some bikinis on some beaches. And unlike when Lindsay Lohan does it, no one cared what the pattern was or what drink she was holding–all anyone could talk about was her highly-visible muscles, including a kickin’ set of abs and an enviable pair of gams. The photos, which quickly flooded the internet, were accompanied by one of the biggest and most misguided celebrity body debates of 2011: can women do too muscular?
Immediately following the publication of the photos, the usual suspects got the conversation incorrect almost immediately. Sodahead took a poll asking the question, point-blank. The Daily Mail predictably engaged in gender-biased body snarking, noting that Diaz, who is dating (and training with) baseball star Alex Rodriguez “may want to consider toning down her punishing daily workouts” with him. Workouts that, you know, ostensibly make her feel good about herself and help her get strong and feel confident. ABC News jumped on board and pulled in other notably buff celebs, like Madonna and Kelly Ripa. A precious few, like Skinny vs. Curvy, were more supportive, opting for a more body-positive approach and praising her for her lean, toned look.
Unfortunately, though, despite the handful who praise women for being fit and strong, conversations like these rarely get at what’s actually important…like the health of these women, and the message that talking about their bodies in this way sends.
As much as we love to speculate about the appearance of celebrities, the fact is that they may be facing challenging body image issues that many of us have dealt with, and identifying them in this way may be extra-hurtful. Because while pointing out that a celebrity is “too thin” is sort of par for the course (and can be viewed as a compliment), “too muscular” comes with a whole different variety of connotations–much like “healthy” does for a person who’s struggled with an eating disorder.
But possibly more important is the concern that talking about women who are “too muscular” perpetuates a fitness myth that desperately needs to be left in 2011: that weight training will leave you bulky…and that everyone will judge you for it.
Weight training is an often-overlooked aspect of working out, that gets frequently omitted from the regimens of many women who don’t want to “get bulky.” Which is a shame, because it not only helps build lean muscle (which burns, on average, more calories than fat, which can elevate your metabolism and help aid in weight loss) and make trainers stronger, it can also help fight osteoporosis. And, as we ‘ve learned from previous articles, it can do wonders for your self-esteem, without leaving you with a body like a professional wrestler.
Regardless of whether or not you, or the Daily Mail, or ABC News personally find the look of a strong, toned female body attractive shouldn’t be the point. As long as she’s being healthy about it (and I hope for her sake that she is), Cameron Diaz’s physique is impressive and the mark of a woman who is clearly taking the time to emphasize fitness in her life, and should be, if anything, inspirational. Let’s leave this level of objectification in the past and move forward toward a year of healthy, fit bodies–and no more snarking.
Image: The Daily Mail