Strength can be physical, mental, and political.
Posted on January 07, 2018, 19:01 GMT
Lifting weights can make you physically stronger, sure. But
Brooklyn resident Shannon Wagner believes it can also help you
to fight oppression, survive challenges and emotional upheaval,
and build community.
In early 2017 Wagner founded the Women’s Strength
Coalition in the belief that being stronger is necessary in
resisting oppression, and the theory that strength training can
be personally healing and politically transformative for
marginalized people and communities. Today, less than a year
later, WSC is a small but robust network of 50 lifters with
affiliated gyms in
eight cities. They’re a community of women (cis and trans)
and nonbinary people who lift weights not only to get stronger
physically, but to build personal and community power. Many of
them also compete in the three lifts that make up the sport of
powerlifting — bench press, deadlift, and squat.
BuzzFeed Health asked 12 WSC members to tell us how lifting has
changed their relationships to themselves and their bodies, and
supported and enhanced their passion for social justice.
Those tangible moments of growth are what make me confident
when I approach the platform on competition day, or when I head
into a business meeting with a client, or when I’m making a
decision at home as a family.
The experts who treated me told me that I would never powerlift
again, but this only strengthened my resolve to get back to the
gym as fast as possible.
Being an openly queer woman of color in the powerlifting
community is quite the experience. I never step away from my
identity as a brown queer woman or my LGBTQ rights and feminist
advocacy. That does not turn off the moment I step into the
Building physical strength is an extension of what happens
We have taken this concept even further by building a community
of empowered, body-positive, and strong individuals through our
company Beefpuff Barbell.
Getting used to the gym environment was not always fun. Guys
would take a squat rack I was using. They would even take
weights off of my bar when I would go to get a drink from the
water fountain. It was like I was invisible.
Our mission is to build stronger communities through increased
access to strength training.
Regardless of how I present now, I continually feel
strong, lovable, and comfortable taking up the space my body
and feelings need at a given time.
The day I planned on going through with my suicide, I
deadlifted 185 pounds.
When you approach the bar knowing that you are preparing to
lift some really heavy weight, you have to approach it with
confidence, resolve, and determination.
The stronger and healthier we are, the more connected we are,
the more empowered with resilience, patience, and awareness we
are, the more compassionately and energetically we can
collaborate for healing and justice.
Women’s Strength Coalition’s next goal is to open their first
nonprofit space in New York City — People’s Strength Coalition
— for cis and transgender women, and LGBTQ individuals. You can
learn more and donate here.