Women Doing Crazy Shit, Episode I

So I haven’t had cable for about six months now which has meant that I have to go foraging for my tv instead of mindlessly consuming whatever shows up in front of me on the tube.  This being the case, I’ve started to notice patterns in what I find myself gravitating toward.  If I’m being observational about it, my tv consumption of late boils down to watching mostly one thing:

Women Doing Crazy Shit

Of course, this relies on my own subjective definition of “crazy shit” which is:
 crazy shit (krā zee shit) n. 1. The fact of an activity that pushes the boundaries of human capability while informing a normative gender construct in new or interesting ways. That girl linebacker on the Tennessee football team is some crazy shit. 2. The awesomeness of this specific kind of demonstration. That girl linebacker on the Tennessee football team is some *crazy shit*!

Maybe it’s because I’m looking for inspiration or perhaps because I’m very drawn to these micro-worlds that are so competitive and require such incredible precision and perfection to get to the top.  They demand and these women step up to the bar but in incredibly diverse arenas.
For the first showcase, I’d like to introduce you to the world of Crossfit, specifically the Crossfit Games.  Now, now, now…you say you know what this is.  You know how to throw around the lingo–maybe you’ve been to a box before or do a WOD every now and then.  And when I you wake up too sore to raise your arms with blisters and calluses and chalk in your eyes, you go back to Zumba or Pilates and say, “I’m really looking for fitness to be fun” or “I was really hoping to be long and lean.”  That is the everyday world of Crossfit where you justify eating donuts by going and climbing a rope for an hour.  But that’s you…and then there are these women:

I could watch this all day long and here’s why: I have so many questions.  First of all, in case you didn’t notice, this lady is putting up 230 over her head. In the 2015 games (which I just watched for about 12 hours straight), the winner in the Women’s Clean and Jerk put up 242…and that wasn’t even her personal best.  The smallest competitor at 125 lbs bodyweight put up 200.  I’m mostly sure that’s 160% of her own bodyweight. These are strong effing ladies. How did they come to one day decide this is what they would devote their lives to?

Many of them come from gymnastic, track, and swimming backgrounds: all require extensive, long-term weight training and fitness maintenance so it’s not a surprise that this is a natural progression.  What makes them want this? And by that what I actually mean is What makes them want to excel at things that are traditionally, normally solidly within the masculine construct?  And by that what I actually mean is Are they okay looking, and training, and performing like dudes?

Now, before your feminist gender power kicks in and you pull out your soapbox with your comparatively spindly arms, hold on.  I am in no way saying these are not females and/or women. First of all, none that I can tell have a penis…so they’re females (although there is a tremendous amount of steroids swirling here, I’d have to believe…but I digress).  As far as gender performance, just as with many of the sports that require some kind of power (basketball, softball, weightlifting, swimming,  track and field…okay most sports), the women are solid, muscly, and vascular (a fancy body building term for “veiny with a purpose”…my trainer taught me that one).  But, the majority of these athletes appear to balance that other attributes that are more normatively feminine: they have long hair, often intricately done and, depending on the sport, often festooned with ribbons of matching and complimentary colors; their eyebrows are beautifully sculpted…in fact, they have discernibly no body hair whatsoever which can only mean a copious amount of waxing in the you-know-where; there is pink everywhere and maybe even glitter…yes…on the weightlifters.

They are telling us, the rapt audience, that even though they could lift a Yugo if they were still in production, they’re ladies, goddammit.

In the meantime, though, they are kicking major ass…in a couple ways.  First, they are working hard.  And they show it.  Personally, had I had someone like Lindsey Valenzuela on tv when I was in my formative years, I might *be* at the Crossfit Games today.  My body is naturally built for this kind of sport–all strength and no running.  Bring it.  But we did not; all I saw every four years were the scary Olympic weightlifting women from Germany and Russia.  That I did not want to be.  So I found the next coolest, spunky, female athlete with a heart of gold Mary Lou Retton and I tried to be a gymnast…which worked until I grew a foot taller than anyone (including coaches) in the gym.

Second, they take no prisoners.  They don’t apologize for anything nor do they have to.  They openly try to compete with the men (although if you think the women’s side is insane, you should see the numbers the men put up.  They. Are. Animals).  And they’re here to also tell you they’re not working at this for you or anyone but themselves.  In order to achieve this level of athletic prowess, no doubt, the level of discipline and devotion is incredible.  But they’re not your hero.

I wish I could learn the essence of that latter one.  Women are and can be many things other than mothers and wives (but those are good too, of course).  They can be loud and strong and intimidating if they want to be.  And I feel like the world knows that.  But they do not have to apologize for it or wear pink to negotiate their way back into some kind of feminine ideal.  When I think about women, this is the kind I want to be.

No apologies offered.

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