North Texas powerlifters fight off the stigma of female lifters

North Texas powerlifters fight off the stigma of female lifters

North Texas powerlifters fight off the stigma of female lifters
September 27
00:41 2018

While the displays of physical strength are commonly attributed to male-dominated endeavors, the 14 women who are members of the Mean Green powerlifting team prove the sport is not just for men.

Powerlifting is a sport dating back to the Greek and Roman eras, where men would compete in a variety of weightlifting tournaments. In the 1900s, the sport became professional, and the standard three lifts were established. The first lift is the flat bench press, where a contestant lays on a bench, grabs a barbell and proceeds to lower the weight to their chest and push it back up. Back squat, where a weight is loaded on a barbell on the upper shoulders of a contestant and they must squat the weight up and down, is next. Deadlift, where a contestant grabs the barbell in front of them on the ground and must pick it up, is the last lift. Each contestant receives three attempts to lift as much weight as possible for one repetition.

The North Texas powerlifting team is a co-ed competitive organization that aims to empower women who are interested in bettering their health.

Fre’Daisa Daniels, who has been a part of the team for two years, said a big reason women are hesitant to get involved is actually a misunderstanding.

“The misconception that powerlifting is the same thing as bodybuilding definitely adds to the stigma,” Daniels said. “I would always have to explain that powerlifting isn’t me walking across a stage flexing.”

Daniels also said the stereotype that female powerlifters are unfeminine or overtly masculine is another reason why girls don’t strength train with heavy weights.

“Even trying to recruit girls, there’s this idea that if you lift weights, you will crazily bulk up and look super masculine — but that’s definitely not the case,” Daniels said. “If you want to bulk up, that’s intentional. You go into [bodybuilding] with the sole intention of getting that big. Most of the weightlifting that girls do, however, is to tone. Whenever I explain it to my friends if they’re in it to be healthy, I let them know that you burn more fat by strength training than you would from just cardio. That leads to questions about bulking up, at which point we have a conversation about their weightlifting goals.”

Jackie Hernandez, the team’s social media officer, said the perception of women who power lift inside the community is significantly different than on the outside. She said women who power lift are respected and still viewed as equally feminine to their non-powerlifting counterparts.

“Powerlifting is heavily populated by men because a lot of girls feel like they will be perceived as manly because to them it’s not feminine,” Hernandez said. “But it’s so different in the powerlifting community. Of course, there are a lot of women who do bulk up like that, but there are an equal number of girls who come in with acrylics and makeup done.”

Hernandez, who joined the team two years ago, said she was one of the first three girls to join the team. With the help of Josh Cortez and Santiago Rocha, the team’s vice president and president respectively, Hernandez has increased female membership fourfold in the last three years. Both Hernandez and Daniels agree that the best way to recruit women is to teach them how to lift.

“A lot of girls, myself included, are hesitant to start weightlifting because they feel [intimidated] walking into a gym because it’s such a male-dominated endeavor,” Daniels said. “I think the other cause for nervousness is that they don’t want to look stupid or they don’t know how to use something and are too scared to ask. The best way of recruiting girls I’ve found is to offer to teach one of my friends how to lift, and that usually gives them enough confidence to take it on seriously.”

Cortez said his female team members are the heart and soul of the team, saying their physical strength is a sign of their mental toughness and a major confidence booster.

“It’s physical, but it’s also mental,” Cortez said. “If you can come in and master yourself in deadlifting, I think it transforms you in so many different ways.”

Cortez, like Daniels and Hernandez, said the stigma surrounding women in powerlifting is absurd because it is a hindrance to those who want to use powerlifting as a method of self-improvement, but are hesitant to try it because of societal misconceptions.

“I think the judgment of women in powerlifting really needs to stop because it’s more about physical fitness and self-improvement than it is about the way you look,” Cortez said. “I don’t understand why there’s a double standard about who can and cannot power lift because, at the end of the day, it’s about pursuing and achieving your goals.”

Featured Image: North Texas powerlifter Fre’Daisa Daniels bends down to deadlift the barbell. Daniels has been a part of the North Texas team for two years. Tania Damle

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Tania Damle

Tania Damle

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