Women's Liberation in the New Millenium - A Special Mother's Day Edition of FED

(I'd like to give credit for this post to all the strong women in my life and especially to my wife, my mother, and my boss.  You inspire me daily.)

In his 2010 book, "Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age", author Clay Shirkey discusses the effects of technology and new media in our modern lives.  Running counter to the mass-media interpretation of things like Twitter, Facebook, P2P file-sharing networks and the like, Shirkey states, "Generations do differ, but less because people differ than because opportunities do."

TV, radio, magazines and newspapers operated under the assumption that we were content to simply receive entertainment, news, and information.  At the time, we didn't have much of a choice so many of us did and still do.  Shirkey estimates the aggregate number of hours that American's watch TV at a staggering 200 billion hours per year and comments that, "In the space of a generation, watching television became a part-time job for every citizen in the developed world."

You, me, and everyone we know, referred to as "The People Formerly Known as the Audience" now have the opportunity to do what we have always wanted to do.  The "opportunities" created by new media allow for a participatory form of culture that is a dramatic shift away from the consumption based model that defined much of the past century.

A large part of what is passively "consumed" in the traditional model is narrow ideas about gender roles, physical "ideals", and behavioral "norms".  Women in particular are subjected to subtle and not-so-subtle messages every time they walk through a department store, flip through a fashion magazine, or tune in to MTV.  Predictable stereotypes are reinforced at every level, but as Shirkey accurately notes, this is not in fact what we all really want.

Search "strong is the new skinny" on Google.com and you'll get 31,800,000 results.  The phrase itself was first made public August 31st 2010 on Adam Farrah's PracticalPaleolithic.com blog in a post aptly named "Is Strong the New Skinny?"  Inspired by his friend Marsha's physical transformation (and her t-shirt), Adam passionately encouraged women of all shapes and sizes to shuck off the chains of mass-media messaging about what they should look like, build their bodies as they see fit and to use the new tools of social media assert control over their own destiny.

The immediate response to the post was overwhelming with a current tally of almost 5,000 shares, 47 comments, and a Facebook group with over 16,000 fans.  Adam's friend Marsha even has her own site now and it features tons of inspiring pics of women who aren't afraid to work out, build muscles, and show off their strength.

The CrossFit community has been instrumental in changing ideas about women's fitness by encouraging coed workouts that don't dumb things down for female participants.  Instead of segregating men to the weight room and women to aerobics classes, both men and women are encouraged to compete with and against each other both locally (at any one of the thousands of nationwide CrossFit affiliates) and globally (in the annual Crossfit Games.)  With as much of a focus on flexibility and form as raw strength, CrossFit has created a system that recognizes the entirety of fitness and as such, a driven, motivated, and intense woman is just as likely to succeed as a driven, motivated, and intense man.

Defying the traditional image of a female chef (think Paula Deen or Rachel Ray), CrossFit certified coach, Sarah Fragoso, a client turned trainer at Robb Wolf's NorCal Strength & Conditioning (Robb is the author of "The Paleo Solution") used social media to build her reputation leading up to the launch of her own Paleo diet book.  Her Facebook page has a current tally of 11,011 fan and her book, "Everyday Paleo", has earned 130 5-Star reviews on Amazon.com.

I'm not saying that new media is the solution to our problems of gender inequality (women still make on average less money than men) and our level of participation, creation and connection has not yet trumped consumption, but the tide is beginning to turn.  As Malcolm Gladwell states in his book "Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference", "The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire."  I believe that with skillful use of the tool called new-media, social networking, and the internet, we can reach that tipping point, where "Strong is the New Skinny" and a person's willingness to sweat, not one's sex, is the currency of success.

To all the strong ladies out there, I want to hear your thoughts and opinions about how your life has been impacted by the changing landscape of new media in the "comments" section below.   And, to celebrate Mother's Day, I'm going to give away a "live Cavewoman" t-shirt to one lucky commenter!
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About Unknown

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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  1. I saw the "Strong is the new Skinny" last week and I loved it. I have learned so many things online that I never would have come across in my day to day life so I am a huge fan of new media. I began my Primal transformation two weeks ago and I am amazed how much stronger and healthier I feel.

  2. Congratulations Heather on beginning your Primal transformation! Also, congratulations on winning a free "LiveCAVEWOMAN" t-shirt! Send an email to Tony@mypaleopyramid.com with your preferred size and version of the shirt (you can see both logo placements at http://www.zazzle.com/livecaveman as well as the different t-shirt options) and I'll get one shipped to you right away! Happy Mother's Day!

  3. TONY!! this is a GREAT post! i am inspired every day by women who want to lift actual weights, instead of the "tone and firm" approach to fitness. i try to educate, try to motivate, and try to be the best example possible. how do you get fit? lift heavy stuff. how do you get lean? lift heavy stuff. how do you get faster? lift heavy stuff, put it down, and run fast. granted, all is not that simple, but i think if we can enforce these principles then we can change perceptions. and since perception is reality, well, i think we're on the right track :)
    thanks for the post, keep up the great work!

  4. Katie, YOU are an inspiration!