By Stacey O’Connor
Across the gym, you’ll see them. Grunting. Flexing. Pushing their limits and pushing each other. They call out to one another across the space, “Get that weight up! Push it, push it, push it! I know you’ve got more than that!”
They are the women of CrossFit. Their pony tails bob along with their squats. Gone are the days of sugar and spice, these women are all muscle and might. Women across the world are challenging previously held ideas about what it means to feminine. Women are done sitting back and allowing the world to tell them what it means to be a woman, and instead are defining it for themselves. CrossFit is a sport that has supported this movement. As women become more empowered, as they fight for equality and demand fairness, the workouts they choose to engage in reflect and respond to that change. CrossFit reinforces the truth that a woman’s worth is not dependent on her pant size. A women’s worth is her strength, and CrossFit helps women feel strong.
Connecticut is home to over fifty CrossFit gyms, and many of which, including CrossFit Expressions in Stratford have a coaching staff that employs some seriously tough women. Owners and coaches John Wong and Lemar Kearse have worked hard to create an inclusive space that empower and equalize all genders, races, ages, and ability levels. Coaches Elle Boggs, Megan Bresnahan, and Amber Cleary are every bit as competive, qualified, and bad ass as their male peers, Jordan Brown, Mark Krauchick, and Andrew Holmes.
The numbers don’t lie
As women fight for empowerment and insist on equality, the workouts we participate in, and our involvement in sports reflects that. As of 2012, women make up 42% of all individuals who cross marathon finish lines. Triathlons are not far behind. Women now makes up almost 40% of all triathlon finishers. We also make up 60% of all athletes inside the Boxes all over the country. What do these numbers tell us? More and more women are opting into venues and athletics that test their strength and endurance. The goals of these sports are to push personal limits and improve times, weights, and distances. The goal isn’t a smaller butt or thinner waist. Women are insisting that their workouts match their mindsets: the worth of my body is not how it looks, but what it can do.
Real men empower women
Recently, I considered joining a gym for the winter months. I looked around at the gyms in my area and spent an afternoon working out at all the leading competitors. At one of the top, local gyms, there was an entire section dedicated to women. An enclosed “private” space. A “safe” space where women could work out without the threat of men. Like a cage. With treadmills. I’m not kidding. Did I mention it was an additional monthly charge? The insinuation here is that in order for a women to feel safe, she has to take it upon herself to separate herself. It is her responsibility to control how men interact with her.
At CrossFit the opposite is true. Men and women work out alongside each other. They complete the same workouts. The egalitarian nature of the workouts promotes equality and respect. Men and women encourage one another and they compete with one another. They are warriors in the same battle. Real men encourage women, and they welcome the competition of true athletes, male and female. They don’t tell women that they have to work out separately for their own safety. Empowering women doesn’t mean disempowering men, and real men know that.
Despite continuous gains, there is still a 23% gender pay gap in America. Across the board, we see this mirrored in the fitness arena. Despite the women’s US soccer team winning their third world cup, they still are paid 4 times less than their male counterparts (even though the last time the men advanced past the quarterfinals was in 1930). In 2014 the maximum a WNBA player could earn was 107,500 dollars while the MINIMUM an NBA player could earn was 490,180 dollars. This trend is repeated time and again in sports. CrossFit, however, is breaking this cycle.
The winners of the 2016 CrossFit games, Mathew Fraser and Katrin Davisdottir walked away with almost the exact same amount of money. The 2.2 million dollar purse was split between the athletes based of their standing on the leader board. Davidottir walked away with 288,000 dollars while Fraser pocketed 292,000. The payout was based on the amount of first place wins each athlete obtained after the 15 events. Fraser didn’t get paid more because he is a man, and Davidsdottir wasn’t limited to a smaller amount because she is a women. At a smaller scale, this gender equality is seen at local and regional competitions too. The prize money is the same for men and women.
Strong is Beautiful
The mentality of CrossFit has shifted the focus to what our bodies can do, not what our bodies look like. The beauty of being a women lies in the amazing things we can and do accomplish, why should the way we view our bodies be different? All too often, a women’s worth is based on what size jeans we wear, how flat our stomachs are, how tight our bottoms are, and other impossible ideas (no stretch marks, no cellulite, a thigh gap. THIGH GAP!?) But at CrossFit, we are empowered to feel good about our strength. We high five each other when we hit PRs, not when we drop 5 pounds. We encourage each other to lift more weight or do that final pull-up, not to try dangerous fad diets.
Maybe I don’t have a gap between my thighs, but I can back squat 160 pounds, and I’m just getting started. If you are interested in learning more about CrossFit Expressions in Stratford, follow our blog.