5.1
July 6, 2022

We need to stop Sexualising Women’s Fitness.

 

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I am a yoga teacher, personal trainer, and movement coach.

I have been working for years online to provide free content through social media platforms, helping others to regain their fitness.

I cannot tell you the number of times that people have disrespected me and made assumptions about me because of what I wear—only to get to know me and apologise. They realise I am not what online community guidelines make me out to be: porn. They see my wholeness and wisdom and realise the world needs more of it—and they say thank you for pushing on when they and so many others disrespect, misjudge, and misappropriate me.

In my book, Brave, Beautiful and Baring it All, I write about this. I try to help people to see that we are all so much more than just one story. And that fitness starts from the inside out.

I started sharing my fitness journey online many years ago after I attempted to take my life. After having my daughter, I was unwell with postnatal depression. I did not realise I was suffering, and it took me to a dark place. I am glad I failed.

Part of my recovery was through practicing yoga and fitness while paying attention to my breath and feeling my senses—and sensuality. I could get out of my head and into body, away from my thoughts. I had spent years feeling numb, having been raped many years before I had my daughter. In trauma recovery, one way to know someone is healing is they can connect to their senses again. Feel the beat of music, feel the warm sunshine, listen to music with joy, and taste food. For two years, I did not remember much at all about my everyday life because I’d lost my ability to connect to my senses. But that is another story.

As I started my fitness journey, I began as well on the inside—working on my mental health. I was working full-time and did not have someone to help me with my daughter, nor did I have money to go to the gym. So, I had to learn at home. I realised there must be many people who are in the same position—I could not be the only one suffering—and I decided to share my skills online for free, as I still do today, to help others.

Over the years, I have watched as YouTube and other online platforms have changed their guidelines to make their communities more kid-friendly. Sadly, in doing so, the guidelines have also misappropriated women’s fitness and created more judgement and misunderstanding about the natural human body.

This video, in which I am fully clothed and teaching foot strengthening exercises, was deemed adult content.

I have spent 9 years educating myself, 1,000s of dollars in courses to teach, and 1,000s of hours of practice and work to create content and help others—all just to have a video (and by extension, me) deemed “adult content.” It is very sad to see the world do this.

I contacted YouTube’s support. They did not help; they just advised that it is considered adult content and referred me to the community guidelines. When I said I had read the guidelines and couldn’t see why a fully clothed instructional video was adult content, and asked for more assistance, they just referred me again to the community guidelines.

So, why am I writing this article? Mislabeling teaching videos as “adult content” is creating an overly sexual world.

Big firms such as YouTube, who do very little to meaningfully help content creators, are also creating a world where good people are getting frustrated and losing the ability to help others because they are disheartened by the lack of support.

They are also creating and supporting a culture of sexualisation and misappropriation of health and fitness for women.

It is time we look at the way women in fitness—who play volleyball, swim, and do gymnastics in bathing suits or leotards—are respected in their communities and even in the Olympics, but online, are mislabeled and appropriated. Platforms like YouTube (and their community guidelines) label it “sexual content.” The world, in fact, is making everything sexual, allowing people to create unhealthy relationships with sexuality.

In real life, offline, a woman can go to the beach in a bikini and she can be respected—even while surrounded by children—and nobody tells her to put clothes on. Actually, they say she’s a great mom, playing with her children at the beach.

However, online, we are creating a world where women’s bodies are being misappropriated and their value is being decreased. We are creating a world of sexuality that we do not create in everyday life. And not only are beauty standards changing, we are comparing ourselves to digitally filtered and enhanced people—and losing the ability to love ourselves as we are.

I believe that to fix social media, we need to look at the way our guidelines are written. These big companies are teaching us humans through their guidelines and lack of support to continuously mislabel bodies—and normal, everyday things like going to the beach with our families, or teaching toe strengthening exercises—as sexual in nature.

In a world where we have both an online and an offline, we need to have more harmony between the two. In a world of beauty standards and filters, we need to be more real. In a world where everything is turned sexual online, we need to realise that not everything is sexual. Women in fitness, especially, deserve more respect.

I grew up watching people hiding who they were, and when they didn’t, being judged for that. I no longer want to be a part of that cycle. My inner voice becomes my daughter’s as she grows up. If I want to change the world, I have to start within, and in turn, I hope that those closest to me will follow the example. Personally and professionally, I want to create a life of helping others. I want to share my truths so people know they are not alone, to help them regain their health, to inspire them to connect back to their truest self—which means love instead of fear.

One of my dreams is for all of us to be able to walk side-by-side as real humans. To be sensual, sexual creatures as well as be humans who simply respect each other’s boundaries and show kindness to each other.

~

Bonus, a related excerpt from my book, Brave, Beautiful and Baring it All:

In and of itself, the human body is a neutral space.

Society’s beliefs and teachings are what create any labels that are attached to the body.

We are all naturally different shapes, sizes, races, creeds, and colours. We are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandmothers, and grandfathers. We are activists, innovators, achievers, and we inspire. No one culture, company, or concept could therefore ever hope to define beauty, or its expression through sex and sensuality, for these qualities are as multi-faceted as we are.

Our bodies are the physical shells that allow us to radiate our inner experiences and accomplishments into the world. They showcase our happiest and most incredible experiences for all to share—the remarkable and intoxicating experience of being alive. And they are also the way our souls get to interact physically with the world in all its wonder.

I think that is tremendously empowering for women to discover their inner goddess, and it is not diminishing in any way. Any woman who is in control, who is in touch with her femininity and sensuality, is a woman who is empowered. Through our bodies, we can express our divine and innate sexuality:

>> by celebrating the connection between sex and sensuality;
>> reclaiming our bodies as the miracles they are, rather than being ashamed of them;
>> balancing the feminine and masculine energies (the yin and the yang) in ourselves.

From a very early age, most of us have been taught to repress our emotions and desires. We are told not to cry, not to express ourselves publicly, and to be ashamed of our sexuality. All this suppressed energy can remain stuck in the sacral chakra where it causes imbalances. On a personal scale, these imbalances can manifest themselves as experiences such as depression, shame, and broken relationships, while the ripple effect means that our personal hang-ups can affect society as a whole.

It takes great strength to keep being naturally sensual and sexual in a world that often pushes us towards robotic perfection. Yet when we see someone who is comfortable in their own body as it is, and who radiates confidence without needing other people’s approval—what could be more beautiful and sexy than that?

~

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