We are strong. We may not look it; most of us don’t spend 5 hours a week in the gym lifting heavy weights while admiring our musculature in the mirror. But we get a daily workout, far more than an hour’s worth.
We spend the morning strengthening our self-esteem, complimenting our stunning good looks while we spend time in front of the mirror to meet society’s beauty standards. After a bus ride to work during which we read about yet another campus rape, we arrive at work and start lifting our spirits with coffee and a little chat with our favorite work neighbor. When sitting in the meeting, we work to lift our voices and be heard over the sound of the men taking charge, and we sit up to appear taller; compound movements are more effective to building a strong presence that is noticed in these rooms. During our midday walk to lunch when a guy on a street corner says, “Hey, baby, nice ass. Come home with me?” our facial muscles get a workout as we try to keep our mouths shut and not make a face that acknowledges the dirt that was just thrown at us, while our fists clench to release tension. Our afternoon desk time focuses on finger and wrist strength as we craft perfect e-mail responses that emote enough assertiveness so that our opinion is taken seriously, but with enough sensibility that no one dare call us aggressive or bitchy. At happy hour we focus on restraint and slow movements to ensure that we are drinking at an appropriate pace and not seeming desperate or “out to get something.” On the bus ride home it’s all about the hip flexors as we claim our space back from man-spreaders who encroach into our personal bubbles leaving us with 1/3 of our seats. Back at the house it’s all about efficient movements as we multitask through getting dinner on the table, the bills paid, and wrapping the gift for the birthday party this weekend. With our heads finally on our pillows, we wrestle with our thoughts about the look our boss gave us in that meeting and what we wish we had said and done differently.
In the end, some of our exercises work. Some of them don’t; exercises aren’t one-fits-all. Maybe instead of sitting up in the meeting to be tall, I need to work the core more by leaning across the table to be seen.
Regardless, the daily workout to be a “proper,” respected and heard woman in this world is exhausting.