The meat head stereotype.
Our lives are filled with stereotypes which serve to filter the massive amounts of information that our brains process each day. We categorize everything that we experience, often subconsciously. And everyone knows that stereotypes are often harmful and are meant to be broken.
I’d like to contribute to breaking the meat head at the gym stereotype. What I find interesting about lifting prejudice is that people tend to think of the sport as a negation of what is desirable. That is, if you are strong, you can’t be smart (for men), and if you are strong, you can’t be beautiful (for women). It’s sad that no one is concerned about my partner’s lifting ruining his physique, or about my lifting ruining a perfectly good brain. In fact, although it would be preposterous if someone told me that lifting would turn me into a half-wit, many people feel free to comment on the horrifying changes that are coming to my body: thick neck, veins, hulkness. Similarly, I’ve been asked about the brutish males that might be lurking around in the gym – they might be strong, but we suspect that their brains are cooked.
It seems very old-fashioned to value primarily wits in men and beauty in women, and fear that building strength and muscle will severely damage those qualities.
And that’s exactly what it is. Very old fashioned. At the turn of the 19th century in England, women and men of the upper classes were known to have soft, callous-free hands and a sharp wit. They sat around in tea parlors and coffee houses and gossiped, perhaps occasionally getting up for a slow stroll around the park. If you read about physical culturists, early body builders, you see that these women and men, though often upper class as well (who else would have the time and money to invest in this), were absolutely counterculture. Strength was considered low-class and brutish. And it was common knowledge that in addition to having ungainly muscles, the lower classes had only half a wit between them, and the women, with their missing teeth and loose morals, put femininity to shame.
And so unfortunately these stereotypes haven’t evolved since then. Many people in spite of themselves still equate the muscle with the plebe, and would much rather be fancied weak and pale and rich than have callouses coming around their thumbs.
But, as much as I love the Brits for certain things, I don’t think that their class system is universally praised, at least not in the circles that I frequent. So let’s stop upholding it by talking about meat heads and butch girls in the gym, and acknowledge that, as my coach says, lifting is about strength, speed and grace. There’s really nothing dim witted about it.