A lot of pixels have been lit up over the phenomenon of “thinspo,” which if you don’t know by now is a cutesy abbreviation for “thinspiration.” Thinspo usually consists of photos of very thin women and text meant to motivate you to stick to a diet plan by thinking about the “gap between your thighs.”
Of course, that’s the more benign style of thinspo. A lot of it consists of little more than pro-ana glorification. Here’s a quick example of things I saw just in a thirty-second skim of tumblr’s thinspo tag:
- Someone saying she splurged by eating a little over 500 calories today
- Someone panicking because she drank milk right after taking Ex-Lax
- Someone who says she’s on her eighth day of fasting
- Someone who says she refuses to chew gum because it means you swallow air which makes you bloat
All this, mingled between photos of women with visible ribs and jutting out hipbones.
I, as you can imagine, hate this stuff. I hate it for a lot of reasons, none of which I need to enumerate for you, because if you are reading my blog, odds are good that you and I are in the same emotional universe when it comes to this kind of thing.
But even putting aside the completely depressing nature of all of this, can I just tell you how completely unmotivated I feel by any of this? All I feel like doing when I see this junk is closing my browser tab and moving on. The sad thing is that fitspo, which is supposed to be inspiration for more fitness-minded people like myself, is often not that much better!
Virginia Sole-Smith wrote about this last month:
Fitspiration is thinspiration, even when it’s dissing skinny girls. It’s not about health — it’s about using “health” and “fit” as code words for beauty standards.
And in February, Charlotte Anderson at the Great Fitness Experiment wrote:
Looking at rock-hard body after rock-hard body it occurred to me that fitspo may be thinspo in a sports bra. After all, the problem with thinspo is that the images represent a mostly unattainable ideal that requires great sacrifices (both physical and mental) to achieve and I daresay that most of those “perfect” female bodies, albeit muscular instead of bony, are equally as problematic.
Now, considering that my Pinterest is full of images that could easily be categorized as fitspo and that I regularly reblog fitspo on Tumblr, it might be construed as hypocritical when I say that I agree with both Charlotte and Virginia.
But this is the thing – the fitspo that I like? Is often not what shows up as fitspo on Tumblr or Pinterest. I do not care for photos of oiled-up women in bikinis, nor am I interested in looking at the photos sports bra-clad women take of their abs while looking in the mirror. I don’t like photos where the women are posed, standing still or otherwise looking passive. I don’t want to read detailed menu plans or slogans that rip on fat people. And I really don’t like the unwavering laser-like on abs. Abs are neat, yes, and they look cool, but enough already.
The fitspo that I love shows women lifting heavy weights. It shows them in mid-run, or mid-jump, or mid-layup, or mid-something, mid-anything but standing around in a bikini. Good fitspo makes me want to train harder than before. It makes me want to try to lift heavier, to try to run farther, to pedal faster. It makes me feel strong and excited and ready to take on the whole world with one hand tied behind my back.
Here’s an example: Crossfit Babes. (h/t to Ramsey of Everyday Pants for hooking me up with this!) I spent some time looking through photos of women doing things like this:
And more women doing things like this:
And then I went to the gym and did full push-ups until I collapsed, then begged my internal drill sergeant for more. The entire time I was making my way through sets of twists and curls and presses, I thought about these incredibly strong women and how I want to be like them and how the only way that was going to happen was if I put in the sweat equity in the gym. When I finished my workout, I felt like a beast. It was exactly what I wanted.
This is how I think fitspo is supposed to work. No shame, no loathing of one’s thighs, no barely sublimated self-hate – just pure, unadulterated fierceness.
Do you know how hard it is to find images like that on the internet? I won’t say it’s impossible, but damn if it doesn’t seem like they aren’t outnumbered a dozen to one by Instamatic photos of thighs that don’t touch. I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising as it’s still a fairly accurate reflection of idealized femininity, which is well-groomed, compact and passive while still exuding an available sexuality. Idealized femininity is not sweaty and grimacing with ripped delts and solid quads. The kind of imagery that appeals to me is still somewhat outside of the mainstream, much to my everlasting sadness.
What do you think? Do you like fitspo or do you find it problematic? If you like it, what do you like about it? Where do you find good fitspo at? (And why do I feel like a teenager asking for tips on the best free porn downloads right now?)