A certain percentage of those who visit this blog may have figured out that I have a YouTube channel. Never until the past few months have I done anything that warrants regular video-making at semi-frequent intervals to the point at which I would maintain a YouTube channel, and a relatively active one at that. Want to see to what I’m referring? Sure you do [click].  So, why do I have a channel? Believe it or not, I do not take the high amounts of footage of myself performing various lifts because I’m a total narcissist. I’m only a partial narcissist, and I find other ways to satisfy the demands of this identity. This blog is probably one of them.

No, I shoot a lot of video so I can evaluate my form. I don’t squat in front of a mirror (and they’re really a hindrance rather than a help in terms of evaluating your form. If you build the ability to evaluate what your body is doing during the squat by feel, you’re in a much better position to fix form issues when they arise, among other things. The better your mind-body connection, the better a lifter you’re going to be. A mirror is probably just going to give you a reason NOT to develop a sense of your body while lifting). I have no way of evaluating my bench form EXCEPT to get video of myself doing it unless I’ve got someone around whom I trust enough to give me feedback on it. So I shoot a lot of video with my trusty iphone during many if not most lifting sessions (not so much the last three or so, but maybe tomorrow). Then I put it on the Internet Video Mecca and often post it onto one of the logs I keep of my lifting in one of several different locations online. The thing about YouTube/The Internet Video Mecca is that there are various ways of one’s videos circulating through its algorithmic structuring system such that should a video become viewed quite a bit, “quite a bit” can sometimes quickly elevate to “dude, why are this people watching this particular video so damned much?”

This has happened with the following video, one in which I’m doing a few weighted strict pull-ups:

This was posted on July 27th and is now up to 244 views; that’s way more than many of my other videos garner after being up for 4 months. Like 20 times more. I’ve also gained a few subscribers since it was posted. Somewhere, somehow, YouTube is suggesting this video to others.

The weird thing about this is the sense of being viewed, which doesn’t differ as much in some ways as the sense of being viewed in a “real life” as one might think. The tug-and-pull of narcissism versus acute self-awareness springs up when one gains such attention. Indeed, I’m nothing special, nor are my lifting feats at this point. There are smaller women doing far more extraordinary lifts than I. But I will not deny that what I do sometimes does get “views,” be they in the gym or online, and it’s a fact of my lifting life that I cannot entirely dismiss as unremarkable. There are questions of gender identity as interpreted/reinforced by “the gaze”–a term bandied back and forth in many a visual arts discussion. Who’s doing the viewing? How do they view me as a woman? How do they view my lifting in the context of my sex? Do they, or can they claim gender neutrality when evaluating my 150 x 8 squat set?

Participating in a sport in which one’s sex is in the minority by a substantial ratio makes these questions relevant. Watching the controversy around various women currently competing in the Olympics who have chosen to pose for photographs of more “risque” a nature echoes (although it does not parallel) these questions. When you’re recognized for doing something at least partially because it is less typically an activity in which someone of your identity (gender, age, ethnicity, whatever) might engage, how do you navigate that recognition? If you’re me, you probably don’t, much. You go lift. Then you go to Walmart or move clothing over to the dryer or whatever. But I do periodically spend time ruminating over what it means to be viewed as a female powerlifter, and my rumination has really only generated more unanswered conflicts each time I engage in it.

The moral of this story, then, is “whatever.” I need to go eat more food.


3 thoughts on “Views

  1. Just yesterday a friend of mine was pointing out that she and I need not worry if we’re climbing well or poorly on a particular day because by virtue of us both being women, and not young ones at that, who climb, we are already awesome. And hot. She likes to point out how hot we are.

    In all honesty, if I ever do wonder why there are some sports that women engage with less, the thought process usually doesn’t make it past the “that’s just weird” stage. Which is good, because if I kept thinking it would invariably lead me towards gender-bias and patriarchal attitudes towards femininity, and that’s far less fun than laundry or grocery shopping.

    1. You know, the thing is, I try to AVOID thinking like your friend does in the name of erasing whatever effect gender might have on the perception of my lifting. I demand high performance from myself, period. If I do badly, I do badly, and it’s not okay. In fact, if anything, it’s far less than okay. I will excel and lift as well as I can and accomplish as much as I can and it will have nothing to do with my sex–it will have everything to do with the fact that I am a human being animating my own body, and there is nothing more to it than that.

      But that’s how I view this at the most fundamental level. When I’m just walking around in the gym or mulling over the “online presence” part of my lifting life, I do think about gender and its connotations. It is, as you suggest, a quagmire. When it comes down to the most important part of my lifting experience though, there is nothing more important within it than the combination of me and the bar. That is it. All that is important is how I handle that bar–not who I am while doing it, what I am, what I look like, what I think, what I don’t think. It really is beyond gender.

      1. What you said. I simply want to climb harder and be stronger, and I react to my good and bad days with that in mind. Being consolatory is not going to inspire me to work harder.

        That point made, it is hard not to smile when a diminutive and adorable woman proclaims in her thick Taiwanese accent how hot and awesome we are already are even without the clean send.

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