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I’m NOT Your “Box Babe,” And I Don’t Want To Be.

April 4, 2014
Oh, are you looking at my ass? My bad.

Oh, are you looking at my ass? My bad.

It was with gritted teeth and a grimace that I slogged my way through the light-hearted misogyny called “Be A Box Babe, Not A Barbie” in the current issue of The Box. I pictured the author, spanking his monkey with spunky pride as he conjured up images of his ideal woman who was, for some reason, bent over a box for the next round of thrusters. (Hey, I never ground my fantasies in reality either, I get it.) Sentences swirled in my head, in which I explained to him that I am actually not doing CrossFit so that I can meet his standards of “box babe,” when I choked on my own words, realizing that the whole idiotic diatribe was written by, seriously, a woman.

Fuck me. No, not that way. In the “this world is fucked, and that means me too,” way.

She then, presumably with some authority, went on to tell women how to be a Box Babe, and what not to do to be a Barbie. Being a Box Babe, is, after all, so obviously the goal of doing CrossFit. (Ack. No. Being a “babe” is not the goal.)


I spend most of my time trying to convince women (and the three girls I am raising) that the point is NOT how other people look at you, it’s how you feel about yourself. And how you feel about yourself cannot be dependent on how other people think that you fit whatever-the-fuck role it is that they expect you to play for them.

But let’s go ahead and break this down piece by piece, only the juiciest pieces, you can read the whole thing for yourself, and please, comment away:

SHE SAYS: Model Makeup: Boxes do not host beauty pageants. The focus is fitness not your face, and its strategically applied paints. Its one thing to arrive after a busy day of work and WOD with some makeup, but it’s a whole other thing to prepare for your gym arrival an hour in advance with layers of blush and big mascara-clumped lashes. Forgo the prep-time for a pre-workout shake or protein. Because in CrossFit, your performances matters more than your makeup.

I SAY: LOOK HOWEVER YOU WANT:  News Flash, this is not about what you look like, in any way. You can look however you want. If you feel better with make-up on, wear it. A tutu? Wear it? Personally, I can’t stand not having a manicure, I don’t know why. I fucking love the look of dark red nails wrapped around that solid, stiff bar. Sue me. My job, as a coach, is not just to get your body strong, but to get your sense of self even stronger. Why? Because most of us have spent a lifetime being told how to be, and this is my chance to help you break through and figure out who you really are.

Sure, I get what you’re saying about your performance mattering. But here’s the thing, it’s not a performance. It is one person, working to be the best version of themselves they can be, at the time. It’s about breaking free of all those voices that tell you what you can and can’t do, who you can and can’t be. So, you get to wear whatever the fuck you want. Thank you very much.

SHE SAYS: Perfectly Paired Outfits: Your duds may dazzle, but quite frankly, nobody will notice. Itty-bitty shorts may be cute, but will they keep your crotch safe from rope burn? And shiny shoes are nice, but is the heel a hunk of plastic preventing perfect lift form? Pick gear that helps you get the job done. No need for concern regarding coordinated colors, just grab your clothes and go.

I SAY: WEAR WHATEVER YOU WANT: Really, you’re going to tell people what to wear, too? 

First off, you DO NOT KNOW what other people notice, so maybe don’t speak for other people. Secondly, whether or not, or what, other people notice doesn’t matter, a bit. You do not get to judge what other people wear. EVER. Wear whatever makes you happy. 

As for booty shorts, lots of people swear by them. My daughter does, and how you feel about her in her booty shorts is not her problem.

SHE SAYS: A Done ’Do: Your locks are lovely, but if they’re not kept in place they may pose problems mid-workout. Sticky, sweaty, strands of hair stuck to your face and neck can’t be comfortable. Not to mention the fact that you probably look like a dirty sheep dog if you can’t control your mane. Don’t “do” your hair. Pull it back and keep a clear view of your CrossFit experience.

I SAY: Wait, really? Did you just compare a woman whose hair isn’t how you like it to a dirty sheep-dog? You did? Holy fuck. Wow. Way to spread that internalized misogyny.

But, just to be technical, let me give you a bunch of reasons why my (often dirty) hair is sometimes not pulled back: Because when doing things like sit-ups, the knot of hair gets in the way. Because ponytails and buns sometimes interfere with bar path. Because in kick-up handstands and HSPU the blob of hair gets in the way and impedes my lines. Sometimes, the pressure from having my hair pulled in a tie or band gives me a headache when I’m working hard. But, most importantly, BECAUSE IT’S MY OWN FUCKING BUSINESS HOW I WEAR MY HAIR.

SHE SAYS: Too Much Tan: The globo-gym tanning trend took off for a while. People had orange-skin envy. But these days, we are all informed enough to know that tanning can be life threatening. In a space that aims to achieve peak health, a golden glow is more of a dark spot on your sparkling résumé of health. Avoid the rays and relax in your skin…pale or not.

I SAY: Really? REALLY? Do you have this as a sign in your gym somewhere, “sorry, folks with dark skin need not enter, you clearly don’t belong?” You are a CrossFit coach, that’s it. YOU DO NOT GET TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT COLOR SKIN THEY SHOULD HAVE. You do not get to tell people not to tan.

Do you really think they don’t know? Do you think that they have missed years of news stories, advice of friends and general media blitz about the hazards of sun over-exposure? Did they miss the horrible mockery of the “Too Tan Mom?” And you think that with all of that, you are the one lone and powerful voice that will change their mind? And that it’s your job to do so?

Obviously, if it comes up, one on one, you can ask why they choose to do it. But even then, the most you can do is set someone on a path of self-discovery that may or may not result in change. But writing it here, in an article, that is the worst kind of shaming and condescending social control. Way to be yet another voice telling women “sorry, you don’t have the right to choose what you do with your own body, because clearly you aren’t good enough to make the right decision, according to me.” No.

SHE SAYS: Seductive Stretching: When you walk into a standard bro-gym, it’s easy to spot the pool of pretty women posing strategically as the meatheads meander. And that’s cool if your membership payments are meant to find a mate. But in a CrossFit box you won’t have the opportunity to flaunt your fanny because you’ll be too busy using it to max out on your squat. And unless you consider an inchworm sexy, CrossFit stretching is functional rather than floosy-ish. So skip the stripper routine and get down to business in your box.

I SAY: Holy slut-shaming, bargirl! First, way to class it up by calling men “meatheads.” I do like it when the bullshit name-calling can flow equally, I feel it levels the playing field when we are all knee-deep in the same shit.

But the heart of what you are saying here is that if someone else is staring at your ass and having sexual thoughts, it’s because you caused it, which is bad. I hate to break it to you, but in an informal survey that never took place, so I’m really just guessing, there are approximately a bazillion sexual thoughts per class, in every CrossFit class in every gym, everywhere. Because it turns out that bodies flexing their muscles and doing stuff is sexy.

Let me share a few moments of CrossFit “Oh-fuck-I-didn’t-mean-to-look-but-that-was-kind-of-hot-I-hope-no-one-notices” sexy-thought time: Knees to Elbow – I mean, it’s all right there. Good Mornings – hello “morning wood” (and I don’t even have a penis.) Handstands – I swear, I have never thought about licking the sweat trail that pools in the navel, that I can now see because your shirt is falling down.

Shall I go on? Point is that you are not the thought police. If we aren’t free to use our bodies without fear of shame and judgment in the CrossFit box then where are we? 

People, get on with your bad selves. And if anyone is judging you, the problem is them, not you. Seriously. Argh.

SHE SAYS: Sinister Stares: CrossFit isn’t an environment of juvenile, judgmental looks. Girls don’t glare at one another and hiss like territorial kitty-cats; they ass-slap, team up, and cheer on. Getting on board at a box will require a new outlook on what female competition means. Things become more about your personal progression and peer support than gazing at other girls with an unhealthy sense of envy. This fitness regimen is ferociously friendly.

I SAY: YOU’RE JOKING, RIGHT? Did you read anything that you just wrote? THIS WHOLE THING is one giant catty-gossipy, one-uppy, mean-girl, high-school tirade. You crack me up.

Look, okay, maybe this was supposed to be funny. But it’s not. It’s the same sort of control that women are faced with day in and day out, just with a different set of words. You are, fundamentally, telling women how to dress, how to look, how to behave in order to be the right kind of woman.

It’s just plain sick.

Worse than that, it’s why people like me are constantly having to say “we’re not like that” when women call me and want to talk about CrossFit. You, seriously, YOU are the voice that is telling women they’re not safe here either. That unless they conform to your standards, they’re doing it wrong and will be mocked.

Because that’s what you’re doing. Mocking women who don’t live up to your standards.

It’s bad enough when men do it to us. (And, mind you, you will not find a single guy in our gym who would ever utter the controlling vitriol that you have uttered here.) But women doing it to each other is the worst kind of internalized misogyny. And you should know better, because you were raised in a world that probably told you that you weren’t good enough either. And look what it did to you.

It’s like a sweaty form of Stockholm Syndrome.

Ladies, it’s your box, do what you want with it. And if you don’t feel like you can come as you are, then go someplace that empowers and values you.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2014 11:28 am

    I just love you. Like A LOT.

  2. Kristin permalink
    April 4, 2014 11:51 am

    I just rage blogged on this, too. 🙂

  3. Sarah permalink
    April 4, 2014 5:04 pm

    Simply amazing. It’s like you entered my brain and said all of the things I want to say, but better. I love crossfit, and I love the people – ALL of them, whether they have the same goals as me or not, whether they’re racing me in a wod or not, whether we hang out outside of the box together or not. It drives me insane that articles like this even need to be written. Sometimes I wish I could just grab people by the shoulders, shake them violently, and tell them to wake up and learn to be themselves, love themselves and care for themselves. Oh, and maybe stop being so g-damn mean all the time.

  4. Alyssa Royse permalink
    April 4, 2014 5:11 pm

    Awe shucks. Even with my manicure and foul mouth?

  5. April 5, 2014 6:49 am

    I love crossfit, and I love the people – ALL of them, whether they have the same goals as me or not, whether they’re racing me in a wod or not, whether we hang out outside of the box together or not.

  6. April 5, 2014 1:04 pm

    Awesome Alyssa. Your gift for writing + domain expertise + cohesive, clear ethos (which is impossible not to share) = another service to anyone who reads this.

    One emotion that kept coming up unbidden though: empathy or maybe pity for the original author. I believe she was actually trying to do good–trying to bridge what she saw as a gap between women she knows/sees and a better path through crossfit. I’m not condoning the original at all, and not saying that well intentioned but misguided efforts can do more harm than good, but I do feel that we’re seeing a rapid revolution towards feminism, and that you-and others in Seattle and the west coast and select urban areas and internet communities-are some of the vanguards. New thinking takes a while to spread and root. God knows its at least a year behind here in the UK. I think much of this piece came out of well intentioned ignorance and as you say, unawareness of her own internalized misogyny.

    I guess maybe I’m asking for some acceptance and understanding; to see her as a potential future ally and this is an opportunity. I may be hopelessly glass half-full, but I hope this doesn’t drive away someone who is trying but just lacks a support structure and role models like you.

  7. Alyssa Royse permalink
    April 5, 2014 1:09 pm

    That’s so funny. I intended to write the “Is This What You Meant” post today. Because I agree, she probably intended to say something much more empowering and positive than what she actually said.

    It takes a certain amount of – something, I don’t know what – to know that you can’t be empowering and positive while you are also insulting and belittling others. It is simply NOT POSSIBLE.

    I said a lot of it the other day, in this post: But yes, I think I will now take her original post and do a blow-by-blow example of how to say it nicely, without demeaning anyone for their personal choices.

    That said, I’m still pissed about the original post. It is precisely the kind of lazy narcissism that people are so used to, and we have to put a stop to. So I still have my firehose aimed at that crap, wherever I see it. But now I’ll play nice too. Because ultimately, that is so much more productive. (But not as fun, insert pout….)

  8. April 5, 2014 1:59 pm

    😀 agreed, not nearly as fun and i almost deleted what I wrote cause I didn’t want to spoil yours (or anyone’s–I’m 100% behind some good old fashioned outrage)! And lazy was a word that kept coming to my mind too. Its the problem of the democratization of media. I (as you did on facebook) blame The Box more than anyone for promoting it.

  9. Alyssa Royse permalink
    April 5, 2014 5:09 pm

    Here you go, here’s the “nice words” version that I think is probably what she was trying to address. But without being snarky and misogynistic.

  10. April 6, 2014 5:28 pm

    Love it!! Her last two paragraphs were the most horrible. I suppose I would be considered a “seductive stretcher.” I love the splits and straddle. It feels amazing, but I always get looks at the gym. And I have learned to get over it. And I wanted to reach through the computer and slap her when I read the “sinister stares” paragraph. Hypocritical much?

  11. April 9, 2014 5:29 am

    How the hell do I stretch seductively ? Great writing! As always

  12. Alyssa Royse permalink
    April 9, 2014 12:46 pm

    I think you just put your body in a place where someone else can see it.

  13. Lewann permalink
    April 9, 2014 7:08 pm

    You have said everything that I have always wanted to say to people who think they can tell anyone what to do,say,think and wear! Thank you! I wish I could workout with you as my coach!

  14. Ashley permalink
    August 2, 2014 2:06 pm

    Wow – so happy to have found your blog! I just started crossfit – and although my gym is awesome, and full of supportive women (and men), its disheartening to read an article like Abi’s. Your response is on the money.

  15. James permalink
    August 5, 2014 8:10 pm

    I’m certainly no expert, but I feel like coaches should have some control over their what their athletes wear to the box. Really for the sole reason of preventing injury and making sure the most is achieved from the workouts. I personally feel that a coach should have a say over what shoes you’re wearing. Shoes help create a stable foundation and are scientifically engineered for specific purposes, if you’re wearing the wrong shoes your risk of injury goes up. Other than that though, wear whatever you’re comfortable with and whatever will produce the best results from your workout (whatever your desired results may be).

  16. Alyssa Royse permalink
    August 5, 2014 8:27 pm

    We will definitely tell people what kind of shoes they need to be wearing, an have people lift in bare feet if they are wearing puffy “high-heeled” cushy running shoes. But that is not really what this – or the original – article was talking about.

  17. Sabrina permalink
    September 14, 2014 5:22 am

    That article enraged me too. Good on you for calling it out!

  18. Lisa permalink
    January 4, 2015 5:46 pm

    I stumbled onto your blog by reading your comments on the article that you referenced in this post. Two hours later, I’ve read lots of your posts, watched your TED talk, and watched your Slut Shaming talk (which I shed a tear while watching, and wanted to give you a standing ovation at many points throughout the talk). Thank you for your bravery and honesty. Keep doing what you’re doing. Your daughter is so lucky to have a mom with your views. And I feel lucky to have found your blog.

  19. Bri permalink
    January 23, 2016 1:08 am

    This was awesome , thank you for the awesome read.

  20. January 24, 2016 8:54 am

    I think I’ve found my favourite blogger 😍


  1. Is There Room For Women In A CrossFit Box? | Just Alyssa
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