Why we need to stop calling the 15kg bar the female bar

December 20, 2017

Terminology is so important. The way we talk about strength training and how we approach certain exercises/supplements/nutrition advice should have no gender barrier. Certainly there are some glaringly obvious times when special consideration should be given to women (pregnancy, urinary incontinence, societal dieting standards, unrealistic body image, etc.) but the way in which we talk about them should not limit a women or make her feel any less capable than a man. Calling the 15kg bar the “female bar" is no exception.


In my gym, and most weightlifting gyms, there are two sizes of bars to choose from--a larger 20kg bar (roughly 45 pounds) and a 15kg bar (roughly 35 pounds). Women, typically, use the 15kg bar in Olympic weightlifting because, typically, their hands are smaller than a man’s and the smaller circumference makes it easier to grip for those particular types of lifts.




I’m not arguing that. But that same “female bar" is sometimes given to youth boy’s who are still developing and in other sports women aren’t even given the option between bars (i.e. powerlifting).



It’s just like continuing to call push-ups from your knees “girl push-ups” or calling a group of ladies “guys.” We don’t really recognize we’re doing it; it has just become so ingrained in our heads, and in society, that it becomes second nature. But I urge you to think about the ramifications and limits this places on not only a girl being introduced to strength training for the first time but also women who have been taught all their lives that the only form of push-ups they are allowed, or capable of doing are "girl" push-ups.


These labels immediately limit what a woman thinks she is capable of and what is acceptable for her to be doing. They put a barrier up mentally, before the body has even had a chance to try.


Growing up, I wanted to be no different than the boys. I made it my mission to keep up with them in absolutely everything. And they knew it too. When I was little, my neighborhood best friend at the time was told by his mother to “never hit a girl” and his first response to this rule was, “What about Tessa?”


I never wanted special treatment or to be told I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, but as I got older I was given so many standards that were conflicting with this internal narrative I had given myself.


Now, I’m so grateful to be able to show women that we are no less capable than a man. We are able to use a 20kg bar, we are able to do full range-of-motion push-ups, and we are able to strength train and wear muscles like a badge of honor.


Next time you hear someone call the 15kg bar a “female bar” or push-ups from your knees “girl push-ups” or you hear a group of ladies called “guys” I urge you to make the correction. Internalized misogyny is getting old. It’s not only continuing to objectify women in literal objects but it’s limiting and we are reaching a point where limiting women in the way they act, dress, speak, and move their bodies is getting old. We are beginning to take a stand but that stand can’t properly be taken until we learn to change the way we speak.

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