Commentary: Raising the Bar

M.Marshall/The Phillipian

When was the last time you remember seeing more female students in the gym than male students? Who do you know that goes to the Fitness Center regularly to lift? How many of them aren’t boys? Whether you may see it regularly or not, girls do lift, and we are just as tough as the equipment is.

My favorite form of empowerment is strength, both physical and emotional. So when I first came to Andover, seeing that the gym was always just a short walk away, I became a regular. Lifting is not only a way for me to become physically stronger, but also to become more confident. My time in the gym was the most important part of building my self-confidence and an integral aspect of my stress-relief routine.

But, as I started to take weight training more seriously, I started noticing that sometimes, I was the only girl who was lifting.

Being alone has never stopped me from doing anything, but the absence of other women made me feel self-conscious. My female body felt out of place in a room full of male-bodied people. In my search for people to bring into the Fitness Center with me as workout partners, I sought after girls, those bodies worked and looked like mine. Our conversations brought to light a lot of the concerns girls on campus have about lifting. Many said they didn’t know how, or didn’t know where to start. Others, like myself, were self-conscious around the massive levels of testosterone who could easily bench my entire body.

Eventually, I found an amazing support system of lifting ladies to share my experience and goals with, women who understood my struggle, because they shared the same ones. I realized, along with others, how important it was for girls to help one another in places where they are greatly outnumbered. So along with Sofie Brown, Makenna Marshall, and inspiration from many other wonderfully powerful female voices on campus, we created the Facebook page to make our community that much bigger.

PA Girls Who Lift is an initiative to bring girls into the gym, together. It does not matter if girls come to stretch, hop on the bicycles, or go right for the weight rack; Girls Who Lift wants to give girls the power and confidence to pursue their physical fitness goals. As a group, we can make the fitness center a much more welcoming and familiar place to everyone, not just those who have a lot of experience and training.     

Our initiative understands that not every person has the same goals in the fitness room. We want to support everyone no matter what they are doing. Weight training can be used to increase explosiveness, speed, balance, power, and so much more. Lifting is not just about ‘getting huge’ – there is a different focus for everyone.

Often, there can be pressure on girls not to be ‘too muscular,’ outside voices that say lifting makes women look ‘boyish’ and undesirable, even intimidating. I have gotten many a strange comment from guys about my ‘physique.’ These comments are not negative per se, but usually expose their unfamiliarity with the idea of females weight training as some girls are. Other girls share their praise and support way more often than I receive confusion and misunderstanding.

Praise and support are some of the most important things PA Girls Who Lift wants to offer. We want to spread information, and experience. Our goal is not to “even out” the number of males and females in the fitness room, but to help empower people who wouldn’t feel comfortable in the space on their own. If I hadn’t been lucky enough to discover a support system as early as I had, I doubt I would be as strong as I am today.

Even though our focus is on the female community, we want to extend our support to anyone who desires it. People of all genders can like our page on Facebook, PA Girls Who Lift, to become an ally to the cause and its women members. We would really appreciate the support. For any girl who wants to join our initiative and participate in our upcoming projects, please join PA Girls Who Lift by searching for the “PA Girls Who Lift group” on Facebook. In the group, we will set up times for girls on campus to come in together, share information about workout plans and instructions on how to use the equipment, and offer support and empowerment to one another. We understand “Girls Who Lift” sounds as if it is only speaking to the gender binary, but no matter how you identify, we want you to join us.

Together we can make the Fitness Center welcoming, encouraging, and accepting. What will your fitness plan be today?