I know I spend a lot of my time giving out about privilege, in the form of policing what other people say and do, but I can’t help it – I’m easily irritated. (I have been trying lately to express my irritation in less incendiary ways, i.e. without offending anyone, so please, just holler if you think I’m failing.) On a serious note, I think this is a serious topic, albeit accessed in a slightly less serious way – via Instagram.
In short: one thing that makes me see red is when I see fitstagrammers (did you know I’m a fitstagrammer now, incidentally?!) talking about how the only difference between them and you (as the follower/viewer), is that they “really want it”. You, sitting at home, having not gone to the gym for days, clearly don’t want “it” enough.
See also “inspirational” slogans such as: “You won’t build the butt you want by sitting on it”, “Suck it up and one day you won’t have to suck it in,” and “Sweat more, bitch less.” Way to motivate people – with a nice dose of fatphobia and guilt. Fun!
What’s your excuse?
It’s those moments when you see someone talk about how they go to the gym twice a day. They might say things like “there’s no difference between me and you – you’ve just got to really want it”. It’s the same sentiment expressed by “fit mom” Maria Kang when she posed for a photograph with her three children and asked that women hold themselves to the exact same standards she holds herself, asking:
It’s the kind of reasoning that implies that we’re all given the same opportunities in life; we’ve all got 24 hours in our day; we’ve all got crosses to bear; we’ve all got stresses. Well, here’s a newsflash: not all opportunities, lives, days, crosses or stresses are created equal.
Implying that the only difference between you, a social media influencer with visible abs and no full-time job (that is to say, no job that demands that you sit at the same desk from 8.30am until 5.30pm), and a working mother of three who’s four stone overweight and never has time to go to the gym, is that she doesn’t want it enough is so incredibly near-sighted and disrespectful that I’m surprised the point even has to be made.
It’s a matter of privilege
Ultimately, it’s about privilege – and the fact that those of us in positions of privilege often forget that not everyone else is in the same space. Going to the gym is not always “a matter of priority”, any more than doing a full face of makeup is, or dressing up “to make yourself feel better”. Some people – a lot of people – have a lot of different things going on in their lives that makes working out, doing their makeup, dressing up – hell, even getting dressed in the first place – incredibly difficult, regardless of how much they might “want it”.
I won’t deny it: I’m totally awed by people who get up every day at 5am, head to the gym before work and then prep all their meals at night. But I’m also really inspired by women who never shout at their children (and those who do, too, because parenting is hard). I’m amazed that anyone can patiently spoon feed a toddler who’s determined to throw all of his or her food on the ground. I see something every single day that makes me admire the woman involved – even if it’s complaining about bad service in a restaurant, helping someone with their shopping bags or just calmly arguing the point with a colleague who’s determined to shout her down.
Your determination to go to the gym is not a measure of your worth. You’re not better than anyone else because you work out more – and people who haven’t made working out their priority are not any worse off for it. They have different things going on, and that’s okay, but ultimately: it’s not about how much you want it. It’s about the supports you have in your life that enable you to pursue the things you want. So, y’know, let’s all try to recognise our privilege and empathise with those who find the concept of “just do it!” a challenge.
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