strength training classes Oakland

Being a strong woman is a contemporary positive phenomenon. I was taught by society that as a woman, it’s better to be thin and small so that you don’t emasculate men.

The Barbie and Bay Watch LA culture I grew up in meant that the thinner a woman was, the more attractive. Her thinness also meant opportunity for either career growth, or more viability for marrying a rich man.

Thank goodness times have changed.

It wasn’t until after the aughts that I saw the media dial move with Disney princesses becoming independent, smart and capable. I was finally down with Disney movies with my toddler. Rapunzel took charge of her life, Elsa determined her own future and Mulan kicked ass.

It wasn’t until Luisa, however, that I can fully relate.

Encanto is a great example of a societal culture shift where one of the main female characters in a Disney movie is physically stronger than any of the other characters. Check out this article about how Disney didn’t want to make Luisa muscular and pre-ordered large quantities of Isabela (a more typical looking princess) merchandise. Thankfully, they were wrong.

The creators make Luisa vulnerable in the movie. She also receives emotional support from her sisters.  Being able to be vulnerable in a safe space is a strength of character. In business, vulnerability generally shows weakness. Honesty, however, leads to trust. To find balance, we must show vulnerability in a safe space. This is why we have friends and therapists…

It has been a fine line walking through the workplace as a balanced woman.

Before the #metoo movement, being harassed at work by men was a common thing for many women in the workplace. In the past, women in the workplace have been forced to acquiesce to what the majority (men) want from them in that setting which is: show no emotion, never let your guard down, don’t take away my thunder and while you’re at it, be sexy for my eye candy.

Thank goodness the work culture is shifting to allow women to just be.

I’ve always been muscular. I started gymnastics at 6 and it developed my body into a strong unit. I kept up with sports because it was my only source of confidence. I was naturally good at movement so I ran with it. The phrasing I still get from people when I have a tank top on goes something like this:

“Wow, you’re really…” “You’re so….” 

And then they don’t know what to say. Fit? Strong? Muscular? It’s as if they’re not sure what to think about the fact that I look strong and muscular. It’s a sign that this small and thin cultural paradigm still hasn’t changed.

I recently decided that I’ll start to say “Amazing?”, “Fabulous?” Because why not. Being a strong woman can be intimidating.

When my sister first saw a clip of Luisa she asked if the film was about a transgender character. Because a woman can’t possibly be that strong? Well, it’s true that a woman cannot physically be as big as Luisa without adding testosterone to their bodies, but it’s a cartoon! A depiction of a woman with super strength.

It’s awesome that people have more choices with regard to gender identity now.

How do we reconcile the past psychological constraints of what a man and woman should look like with the present possibility of “whatever the F you want!?” As ideologies change with time, the past conceptions of how a woman should look shift. I never fit in to that Bay Watch fantasy. This exclusion helped me find my own path to identity and feeling comfortable in my own body. It’s quite free-ing. I’ve had to de-condition myself over the years into loving what I look like and being happy with it. To be honest, it has been very helpful to be with a man who loves strong women.

Believing that strong is sexy and awesome is the new and improved cultural flexibility for women and those who identify with “she”.

Thanks Luisa! Your character and all it entails surpasses enchantment and deems a cultural shift that ROCKS.

-Mindy Berla