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For as long as women have been shown in media there has been an ideal body type that we have been told to strive for; thin and little muscle. This has been the archetype of femininity for decades. It seems only recently the tide has been turning and society has become more accepting of all body types but, even still the idea persists among women that they “don’t want to be too bulky” or “don’t want to look like a man” by having an abundance of muscle. Essentially, so many women are afraid of becoming physically strong, and by doing so we are putting limits on ourselves. We flock to cardio machines in gyms and steer clear of the “guys section” – the heavy weights and barbells. Not only can it be an awkward and intimidating process for any newcomer, especially women, to leave the cardio area and enter the weight rooms but, it can discourage women from reaching their full potential in fitness, health, and life.

The passage of Title IX ushered in an era of gender equality in sports and with that an increased participation in athletics among women. The emergence of female strength competitions has slowly been changing societal norms surrounding women’s bodies and at times has even been a catalyst towards gender equality. These competitions have begun to normalize the idea that muscularity and strength are not only acceptable, but even encouraged among women.

My aim for this project is to show off the amazing feats women are capable of with a barbell in their hands. Tossing around dumbbells, kettlebells, and heavy iron is the beginning of an empowering process that can completely change the way we think about exercise, our bodies, and femininity. I want my photos to reframe the cultural norm encompassing strength and the female body, because unlike what we have been told, muscle is feminine.

When women start to lift heavy, an interesting process takes place. We get stronger, we build muscle, and we begin to see changes taking place in our thoughts and our bodies. When I stepped into a Crossfit gym in 2016 I unintentionally started this process for myself, and since then have watched countless women not just “tone up” but pack on pounds of muscle and start throwing heavy weights over their heads with the confidence of any man. I want more women to view themselves this way and to gain this strength and confidence. I am lucky enough to connect with other women in my community and have built up enough trust to capture them in this intimate way; watching them try a heavy lift or a new movement for the first time can be a very vulnerable process.

One of my goals for this project would be to eventually reach women in difficult situations: impoverished areas, struggling with eating disorders, battered women’s shelters, and marginalized communities, because I truly believe that gaining strength equals gaining confidence, and confidence opens up doors in and out of the gym.

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