By Sydney S.
Women’s athletic ability has been underestimated for decades. Although the amount of respect for women in sports has increased, we still have a long road ahead of us. Today we can look back and cringe at some of the things that were said or happened regarding women in sport. We can laugh at how absurd some of these things were and know that if they were to be said today they would not be accepted as they were at the time.
“I’ll tell you why I’ll win. She’s a woman and they don’t have the emotional stability.” – Bobby Riggs before losing to Billie Jean King
“Women’s menstrual cycles make them too emotionally unstable to participate in the sport.” – British Boxing Board of Control
Although the disrespect and disregard towards women in sport is not as striking as shown in the quotes above, it is still present. Women are still underestimated and objectified in the world of athletics. They are underpaid and under represented in the media. However, there is one sporting event that does not conform to these norms. This sport shows us that women can perform as well as or better than men. This sport does not require that their athletes look pretty or pose naked for the media. This sport pays their top male and female athletes the exact same as well as receives equal airtime on ESPN (Davidsdottir, 2016). This is something that can not be said for nearly any sport. This sport is CrossFit.
CrossFit was once thought to be a fitness craze but is now the daily fitness regimen for members of over 13,000 CrossFit affiliates worldwide. In my opinion, it is here to stay. Greg Glassman created CrossFit to improve fitness. He defined fitness as increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. This definition is not dependent on your gender and neither are the methods of improving it. Which is why every day males and females walk into CrossFit gyms and suffer through the same workouts together.
In a CrossFit gym there is no “girls room” filled with pink dumbbells, yoga mats and exercise balls. It has been found that the lack of such sexed spatial divisions pushes the boundaries of gender norms (Knapp, 2015). It challenges the gender normative bodily practices seen in “global gyms”. The women are not subjected to only cardio, they lift with the men. They are not worried about what anyone might say if they leave the stereotypical Stairmaster and start deadlifting or squatting a barbell. In CrossFit gyms women do not shy away from lifting heavy, and in my experience some of the women end up lifting more than the men. A CrossFit gym is a safe and empowering space for women. No stranger walks up to them and makes a remark about their body. No one tells them they shouldn’t lift weights because it will make them bulky and, of course, men don’t like that. In a CrossFit gym, women are not told they are strong for a girl, they are told they are strong. Just strong.
Another reason that CrossFit varies from other gyms is its purpose. The majority of people attending a CrossFit gym regularly are not there to improve their appearance. Losing weight may have been what initially brought them to a CrossFit gym, but it isn’t what keeps them coming back. The majority of participants show up every day to improve their abilities, whether it be 15-year-old Sam’s ability to Clean and Jerk or 70-year-old Jane’s ability to stand up out of a squat. I believe this is something that many females find refreshing. There are so many impossible beauty and fitness standards for females today. Magazines scream out words like: tone, slim, fast, sexy, burn and the list goes on. When women walk into a CrossFit gym, they quickly realize that their coaches are not concerned with what they look like, but rather what they can do. What Knapp found from interviewing female members of a CrossFit gym was that their thoughts towards fitness and their body changed soon after joining the gym. Their thoughts shifted from worries of being skinny or thin enough to fit the weak, fragile, feminine body that society has constructed. Now they were concerned with how strong they were becoming and how fast they were moving.
CrossFit is a sport that puts men and women on an even playing field. Knapp found that men’s beliefs about women and athletics also changed when they joined a CrossFit gym. Men spoke of having an attitude that men would always out perform women until they joined the gym and then found a new respect for female athletes (Knapp, 2015). At the highest level of competition men and women compete along side each other. If competing as an individual, women compete against women and men against men, but the workouts and movement standards are the same for both. If competing on a team your team will consist of three men and three women. As a team you will go through the workouts together and each member will have to complete the same work load as the other. For once women have an equal role as men on a coed team.
Overall, I believe that CrossFit sets an excellent example of a sporting event that is gender equal. Not only do their male and female athletes receive equal media time but there is also an equal amount of male and female announcers in their media. There is also an equal amount of male and female officials or judges. CrossFit did not begin when only men were thought to be powerful superheroes and women fragile princesses in need of help. This could possibly explain why it breaks many gender norms in the world of athletics. If other sporting events would take notes from CrossFit we might be well on our way to gender equality in sports.
Knapp, B. A. (2015). Gender representation in the CrossFit Journal: A content analysis. Sport in Society, 18(6), 688-703.
Knapp, B. A. (2015). Rx’d and shirtless: An examination of gender in a CrossFit box. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 23(1), 42-53.
Davidsdottir, K. (2016, April 6). What CrossFit Can Teach Pro Sports About Gender Equality. Retrieved March 18th, 2018, from http://time.com/4279643/women-soccer-gender-discrimination-crossfit/