Indian Girl Lifts
by Happie Lifts
#IndianGirlLifts is a tag I began using on social media after being told “Indian girls don’t/shouldn’t lift.” I’ve also heard:
- “You know it is not ladylike”
- “You’ll expose yourself too much”
- “Why are you going to a gym full of men?”
- “You’ll never settle down and get married if you’re going to the gym all the time”
Not all of my family is as westernized as my immediate/close family and other relatives have said that what I do is not “ladylike.” There were a few relatives that were appalled and thought my parents should stop me from lifting weights. Sounds absurd to actually type that out! I thought to myself, “Why do I have to be a ‘lady’ anyway?” I dealt with the backlash by just carrying on and simply ignoring their criticisms… I will admit it got to me a bit but it also spurred me on!
If I rewind at that time in my life I was only competing in Strongwoman I hadn’t started my coaching qualifications yet. My close family supported my decision to become a personal trainer and coach because it was pretty clear I had found something that I love doing. They defended my choice too, which ended up bringing us all even closer. I went on to win one Strong(wo)man competition, came second in another, pulled a 10 ton HGV truck, became a PT, then went on to become a British Weight Lifting (BWL) coach.
And all of that is a nice story when you ignore the ignorant comments. One time, a complete stranger even insulted me in a har. A man who I had never met told me that my hands were “disgusting.” He had grabbed my hand trying to dance with me and then went on to tell me how appalling my hands were and how I was not feminine. He told me I should be more feminine, that dry calloused hands are not attractive, and I should wear lifting gloves.
But I’m not here to be “feminine” for anybody and I’m not here to just look attractive for anyone. I told this stranger that my partner likes that I lift and we compare calluses (haha). He left me alone after that but my goodness how rude. I feel like I am constantly being told to be more lady like and feminine but I can’t be anyone other than me; I quite like being me!
The relentless commentary on women’s appearance and how we should act is annoying. It’s frustrating and I don’t know why it is normalized in our culture. For instance near my wedding I was told to make more of an effort with my appearance, to get my bridal make up done professionally and to look like someone that really didn’t feel like me. I put my foot down! It was my wedding (our wedding mine and my partners) and we’d have it the way we wanted it (to the extent that a big Indian wedding can be tailored haha!)
I finally felt heard and with the support of my other half I wore what I liked, I brushed off comments to do with my shoulders being too big from lifting weights and got pretty tipsy at the wedding reception. It was a real turning point! I can’t believe I was told not to lift weights near the wedding as my shoulders were already “too big.” My fitted blouse didn't fit because the measurements were way off… that’s something wrong with the blouse, not my body. But I did end up buying a black velvet top as a replacement which pissed a few people off 😊
After standing up for myself, I haven’t been able to stop! I’ve carried on using the #IndianGirlLifts hashtag to encourage other south Asian ladies to feel like they won’t be judged for lifting weights. Recently with an amazing photographer (he is a wizard) we even had an Indian girl lifts photo shoot! We had “wonder woman” influences and I wore an outfit that my cousin had made for me because she is a legend too!
I’m feeling more empowered than ever and owning this Indian Girl Lifts movement! I’ve found similar movements too which you should totally check out: Brown Girls Lifting, South Asian Strong, Breaking Brown, See My Strong and many more! Shout out to these pages and movements for encouraging other south Asian lasses to get smashing taboos! And a massive shout out to Rennison-Rae Photography for being a magical wizard (I mean come on smoke, powders + bright lights - that's magic right).
From a Brown girl who lifts,
You can connect with Happie on Instagram at @happielifts / @happielifters or through her website www.HappieLifts.com
Photo credit: Rennison-Rae Photography