"I finally benched big girl plates!!"
"I did it yesterday, I finally put the big girl 45's on the bar!"
Every time I hear the 45 pound plates called the "big girl plates" I cringe and a little piece of my soul dies.
If the 45's are the "big girl" plates, what are all the other plates? The little girl plates? If squatting, benching or deadlifting with a 45 on each end of the bar makes you a "big girl", what were you before? A small girl?
No. You are a fucking woman. You are a woman in the gym getting stronger. And not being able to squat, bench or deadlift 135 doesn't make you a little girl. And just because you don't have a 45 on either end of the bar yet doesn't mean your strength accomplishments aren't something to be damn proud of.
Calling the 45's the "big girl" plates is just as bad as calling the 15kg bar the "female bar" in my opinion (Tessa Yannone wrote a great blog about this recently - you can read it here). Calling them "big girl" plates diminishes our accomplishments for benching (or squatting or deadlifting) anything less than 135. Yes, it's exciting as hell to squat the 45's. It's liberating to bench 135 for the first time. But that doesn't mean we need to bring gender into it. We haven't suddenly grown up, we've just gotten stronger, thanks to all the hard work we've put in.
If we don't want continued sexism as a whole, we need to put an end to internalized sexism.
"Internalized sexism has potential to lead to body issues, lack of self-confidence, competition, and a sense of powerlessness." David, 2013
"It is a major setback in resolving issues of sexism as a whole." Paludi, 2011
By continuing to call the 45 pound plates the "big girl" plates we are playing small. Think about it - it's kind of a jab at all the women who can't squat, bench or deadlift with a 45lb plate on each side of the bar yet. And I know from personal experience, that as much as heavy strength training, specifically powerlifting, has helped me to gain more confidence, sometimes I still beat myself up about the amount of weight on the bar, or lack thereof - so there's no need to reinforce these insecurities by labeling plates with sexist titles.
If we want sexism to end we need to start with ourselves. We owe it to ourselves and other women to evaluate the terminology we are using, when speaking about others and ourselves.
I'm curious - what do you think? Leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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