• Emma Green

Is it okay for women to be bulky?


Photo credit: Kim Burrows




In the context of women and lifting weights, there is a dominant narrative of ‘don’t worry you won’t get bulky by lifting weights.’ It seems empowering on the surface but is it really? I was once told by a (male) trainer in a gym that I was a great example of a female lifting weights who wasn’t bulky. I realised that this was meant as a compliment so I mumbled ‘erm thanks’ and got on with my workout. As a naturally small framed person, I will likely never fall into the category of ‘bulky’. That isn’t something I can really control. Yes, I can work on getting stronger and building muscle but I’m probably never going to look particularly large or muscular. However, it’s important to note there is nothing wrong with being either large or muscular. If a woman is naturally larger framed or wants to look ‘bulky’, that is fine! Why are we still using such a narrow definition of femininity? Why are we telling women that they can be muscular but not ‘too much’? Who gets to define what is ‘too much’ anyway? It’s 2018, it’s time to stop telling women what is okay and what is not okay for their own bodies. If the best we can offer to encourage women to lift weights is ‘don’t worry you won’t get bulky’, it’s time to rethink our messaging. Surely we should want to empower women to choose whatever activity they want, regardless of what it does or doesn’t do to their bodies. Maybe that’s lifting, maybe that’s yoga, maybe that’s dancing or maybe that’s running. Whatever it is, we should support that with positive messages about getting stronger, fitter, happier, more confident etc. We should be telling women to be more not less. To any females who are afraid of getting bulky, I’d encourage you to look into the body positivity community. This is full of women who are demonstrating that there is no one way to be female. I can assure you that how much space you take up on this planet has nothing to do with your self worth or happiness.

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