don't say the word muslces

Whatever You Do, Don’t Say the Word Muscles

I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about women in the weight room getting a man-splaining even when they know what they’re doing. And it may be subtle that the tiny weights at the gym are dollhouse colors while the ones over ten pounds are MAN colors, but it’s still really annoying and patronizing. I live in the fitness world because of my involvement with the running community, and because I sometimes guest post on fitness blogs, but I haven’t had anyone try to censor my writing or steer me away from promoting topics related to strength for women.

Until. Now.

I’m going to try very hard to be tactful and not mention anything to indicate the company with which I had these interactions. It’s not important and I don’t want to dissuade anyone from supporting them. We just don’t agree. All that you need to know is that they’re a brand of women’s activewear.

Okay, I have to tell you what they said.

muscle man statueI was asked to help promote a new line of women’s activewear. Sometimes I do this kind of thing in exchange for free gear or just for fun if it’s people I know. These people I didn’t know. I went in blind. For research on the piece I was asked to write, I learned about their brand through their social media and website, and I wrote them an article that I thought was really empowering and inspirational, talking about what you can accomplish in the right gear, and the power of looking and feeling good. There was one line I wrote that made a comparison. In it, I had to draw a parallel between using your mind to lift yourself up mentally and then I had a brief bit about using your muscles to lift up your body. I had to have a word for how you move your body. What moves your body? Muscles. Makes sense, right?

Well, then I got my first round of feedback. Frequently, I write for blogs like this and they do zero edits. I’m honestly not trying to be cocky, but to give you an understanding of my work, it’s not like Endurance Evolution reads my blogs and then gives me a lot of edits. It’s my wheelhouse. I tend to know what I’m talking about, and if there are branding nuances, I’m happy to get feedback to change those. I always consider other wording suggestions if something reads awkwardly to someone else and I didn’t realize it.

The first edit I got in this instance completely threw me. They said I can’t use the word muscles.


dirty bulkinMy brain stopped. I re-read the sentence. I still didn’t understand. The feedback was literally “Pick a different word.”I asked for clarification, and the gist of it was that they said they like to talk about strength and having a strong body, but that they don’t want me to say “muscles.” I almost passed out from confusion. My exact thinking was, “So you’re an activewear company, and you have photos and videos of insanely muscular, beautiful, strong women all over your website, and they’re talking about practicing their sport (oh yeah, they also told me not to use the word sport), but you don’t want them to realize that they have muscles?”

Are muscles bad?

Do women not want muscles?

Because I’m pretty sure without muscles, I’d be a heap on the floor. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to look flirty and fabulous when I can neither stand nor run nor hold a low-calorie cocktail. In fact, since this occurred, I realized that there are a lot of things that are on-brand for this company that you, in fact, cannot do without muscles:

  • Eat gluten-free soy-free vegan granola
  • Surf Pinterest for hairstyles
  • Hashtag your pics on Instagram
  • Get a fair-trade pedicure with responsibly sourced nail polish
  • Buy locally-sourced organic kale at the downtown market after yoga
  • Shop for activewear

You’ve gotta be kitten me. I couldn’t believe it. Don’t use the word muscles. Like, ever. I wasn’t even saying, “Use our stuff and you’ll get totally jacked with big man muscles.” I was literally saying that you use muscles to move your body. Do women not use muscles anymore? Is that what Spanx are for?

Wait, do other people have robot limbs that I don’t know about? Because I would love to have a red robot arm like C3PO. Maybe a mood arm that changes colors.

Anyway, I finished the edits even though several of the lines ended up sounding dumb. I should have taken a suggestion from one of my friends and used the term “bags of flesh” instead, but I didn’t. I tried to be tactful.

muscles are coolI tried to mention it to the woman I was working with that I thought it was peculiar that they don’t use certain words that seem so obvious for marketing to their target audience, and she got very defensive. I couldn’t believe it. She got mad at me for even daring to question their authority. I told her I don’t think they need to approach me again to write for them because I don’t think it will work out. I’m not upset about this. Yes, I like building my writing portfolio by doing fun blogs posts and such for active lifestyle companies, but I have very little free time. I’m not going to waste it on a company that doesn’t get it.

Today I did squat variations with 30 pound dumbbells. I am doing pretty well with deadlifting 80 pounds on a barbell. The weights I use are black. I lift them to get cool muscles. Shhh. Don’t use the word “muscles.”