Women are told to sit down, be quiet, get ‘thicker skin’ and to ignore their abuser. This does nothing but isolate the victim (Picture: Dude With A Camera Photography)

You look like a man.’ This was one of the first negative comments I received when showing off my new skills in the sport of Strongman.

It was far from the last.

‘You are female?’ accompanied by a vomit emoji. ‘Surprised your d*ck didn’t fall out’ and ‘gross’ became a common narrative on any social media post I made of my athletic achievements, always by strangers, and always without provocation.

Women in athletics still face a daily battle against sexism and misogyny. Scrolling through the comments section on any social media post featuring a woman, one might find several hundred comments following the same line of abuse – strangers verbally attacking women in sports based on their appearance and how ‘attractive’ they deem them to be.

Strongman is the sport of ‘picking up heavy odd objects’. It’s not a beauty competition. The weights don’t care what I look like, the weights only care if I can lift them.

Regardless, endless comments on my appearance, my hair, my weight, my tattoos, my shoulders – even my ability to perform sexual acts (‘her hands would be too callused to give a good handy’) – are discussed at length by total strangers.

Social media platforms have removed decency and manners from human interaction and allow anonymous users to attack without fear of consequence or retaliation.

It’s doubtful a man would come up to me personally and spout this abuse – although once in a gym a man did tell me ‘lifting like that is why I won’t get a husband’. Little did he know I have been happily married for 13 years.

I created an Instagram account called You Look Like a Man (YLLAM) initially as a joke between me and a friend. I took all of these disgusting comments and placed the text over beautiful shots of nature to highlight their utter absurdity.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4po8KnAUSR/

Incredibly the account grew to over 10,000 followers in the first three months and I realised this was a much bigger issue than even I knew.

Stories from all over the world poured into my inbox, with women sending in submissions and screenshots of the daily harassment they face for simply existing in the world of athletics.

Women are being told they can’t be good mums if they go to the gym. Women are being told that having visible muscle definition makes them undateable and unlovable.

Women are being told that lifting weights or competitive sports are ‘men’s things’ and that if they lift a lot they will become infertile.

Women are being told that their sole worth on this earth is to be attractive to men, and that everything they do should be pleasing to men’s eyes. Women are even being told to ‘smile more’ when they lift because men will find them more approachable.

Since YLLAM started fighting back against this abuse, I have been called an ‘angry feminist’, a ‘worthless c**t’ and one man messaged me to say, ‘I hope you get raped, again’.

Women are being told they can’t be good mums if they go to the gym. Women are being told that having visible muscle definition makes them undateable and unlovable (Picture: Scott Lloyd Photography)

Too often women have been told to sit down, be quiet, get ‘thicker skin’ and to ignore their abuser. This tactic does nothing but isolate the victim and make her feel like she is the one who has done something wrong.

Worse, reading these comments with no visible opposition gives the appearance that this is an acceptable way to speak to women.

This harassment of women in athletics has far-reaching consequences – it discourages women from staying active and fit, and says to them that the only type of physical exercise they should be engaged in is the type that is geared towards becoming smaller (i.e. weight loss driven results) instead of stronger.

Many women have heard ‘you don’t want to lift weights, you’ll look like a man – do some running or yoga instead so you get a lean, toned look.’

Some people believe that if a person places a photo of themselves online, they asked for or ‘deserve’ whatever feedback they get. I ask you, does that same standard hold true for a woman leaving her home and walking down the street?

Would these same men come up to a total stranger and stop her specifically to say, ‘I don’t find you attractive?’ Yet this is what is happening every single time a woman receives this unsolicited, hateful commentary on her social media.

The next time you see a photo or video of a woman who doesn’t meet your particular aesthetic preference, it’s OK to scroll by without comment.

Or, if someone is being harassed or attacked in their comments section, it’s also OK – and appreciated – to respond that those comments are unacceptable. Being kinder to people is free, and the world needs more of it.

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