Search This Blog

Friday, August 12, 2011

books i hate, part II

The Scarlet Letter! Only "classic" of "world literature" that I had to read both in high school and in college. It wasn't any better the second time around. Nathaniel Hawthorne, you got a lot to answer for. Oh, wait, it's supposed to be books I hate that have to do with fitness. Never mind then.

But before we get to our real next book review, lemme tell you a little story. Two summers I ago I was a combatant in what I fondly (ahem) called The War Against My Uterus. Hey, when you bleed from your vag for ten weeks in an eleven week period and then the hormones they put you on to stop the bleeding while they try to figure out what's wrong with you and schedule surgery make you way crazier than you were to begin with, you gotta laugh or you'll cry, y'know? In my attempt to find out more about my uterine uprising than what webMD was telling me, I went on to see if there were a womb book equivalent to the famous Dr Susan Love's Breast Book.

Well. I looked in "Women's Health", which is where I would think a reasonably intelligent person would seek literature about female reproductive organs, no? Well, thinks women's health is comprised of two areas and two areas (mostly) alone: pregnancy/fertility (reasonable) and weight loss (WTF?). Yes, a vast number of the books they classify as "women's health" are diet books. This made me rage. [Believe me, when you have a period that lasts two and a half months, you are even crankier than usual.] Furthermore, almost all the diet and fitness books aimed at women promised one thing: that you'll be sexier. Oh, that made me rage more. Yes, I suppose that is an enormous health problem, what with expiring of non-sexiness being the number one killer of women in America and, indeed, probably most of the developed world. Once malaria and bubonic plague are taken care of, our undesirability or lack of conventional good looks is what knocks us off like flies, doncha know.

So, yeah, even when I am not anemic, spending a fortune on tampons, and/or hormonally deranged, I am not a big fan of nutritional and exercise advise being peddled to women as being first and foremost about making them sexah. First of all, there are way more important reasons to be fit and at a healthy weight. Secondly, the whole idea that having a certain body type and shape as the only factor in sexiness is so far from true--no matter what the media would have us believe--it's ridiculous. Being thin does not equal being sexy. Being muscular doesn't equal being sexy. Being sexy is all about a certain je ne sais quoi that you either have or don't and which no diet book can give you. [Ed. note: I have it; that's why I am chronically single. Oh, I crack myself up. Carry on. There really is a book review coming in here somewhere. Seriously.]

This all brings us to another classic of world literature, The Female Body Breakthrough by Rachel Cosgrove. The only reason I bought this book was that Charlotte Hilton Andersen of The Great Fitness Experiment (whose book I did NOT hate, incidentally; in fact, I liked it very much and you should probably buy and read it yourself!) said that the workout in it gave her the most results of anything she had ever tried. I wouldn't myself be able to tell you if Ms Cosgrove's weightlifting program is indeed stellar and does indeed build your muscle and cut your fat like all get out because reading her book for approximately five minutes filled me with such loathing that I will never ever try it. Yes, this is a book all about lifting weights for women whose selling point is mainly ooo, lifting weights will make you hawt! and you will get teh menz you want and all the other bitchez be jellus of you! Rage.

Now it is entirely possible that Ms Cosgrove is not entirely, or even mostly, to blame for this. It is entirely possible that this is what her editors wanted and demanded and the only way she could get this shiz published is to write and sell it that way. Too bad. She is complicit. When she starts talking in the freaking introduction about wanting to turn me into a "fit and fabulous female", I want to fly to California, go to her gym, and punch her in the head. Repeatedly. (That, I'm sure, is a good workout, but it might not make me sexy.) So, what is a "fit female"? Let's let Ms Cosgrove answer that in her own words, shall we?

You know the girl...the one at the last party you went to who walked in the room feeling sexy and confident in her flirty black dress without a roll or a bulge in sight and worked the room with her confidence, looking fabulous! At the time, you may have referred to her as "that bitch who walked in the room thinking she is somebody," and you might have wondered who she thought she was. But deep down we all know she has what all of us want

Um, yeah. That's us chicks, always jealous and competitive with other chicks and hating all the ones we think are better looking than us. Have we time travelled back to 1952 or something? Except, yeah, wasn't true then either. Maybe we've time travelled back to middle school! Sigh. Yes, Ms Cosgrove wants us to be a BITCH, except "from now on, BITCH stands for Be Inspiring, Totally Confident, and Hot!" Tell the truth. Don't you want to fly to California and punch her, too? Do I need to quote more examples, or do we have the flavor here? This is a weightlifting book for women who a.) read Cosmo and b.) take it seriously. I wasn't sure there was anyone over the age of 17 who does that, but whatever. I'm sure Ms Cosgrove and her editors scoped out their target market.

I myself am waiting for the weightlifting book for us wimmenz that approaches it as "throwing some iron around is gonna make you feel all RAWR!" Can't we sell fitness to women as something that's going to make them feel, and be, strong and badass? I myself am more empowered when I look over and notice that I am rowing more than the guy on the bench next to me than I am by having someone check out my ass. Don't get me wrong, being checked out is always (ok, sometimes) nice and feeling attractive is empowering in its own way. It just is not the only freaking thing in life. Rawr!

And now, to reward you for reading my anger-filled screed, here's an example where "sexy" did NOT piss me off. I kinda love this to pieces.



  1. Oh man, you hit on every single thing that irritated me about this book! The frustrating thing is that the workouts are really quality, with lots of deadlifts and squats and bodyweight work, and I love the way they make me feel, but I had to wade through such eye-rolling nonsense - the BITCH thing was really annoying - to get to it.

    It makes me less than excited to recommend the book to other people, even though I've gotten a lot out of it. I'm not all that enthusiastic about spreading that kind of thinking among women, you know?

    Anyway, thanks for writing this, and also for alerting me to your post (and your blog!)

  2. OK, now I am officially crushing on you! (in a totally non-stalking, I just love your perspective on things and I cannot tell you how I hate it when anyone assumes that the only thing women can feel about each other is jealousy and envy, kind of way)