The Worst Part of Strength on the Internet (with Jessica Fithen)

Today we’re talking to pro strongwoman Jessica Fithen. Among her many accomplishments, Jessica is the first strongwoman to block press 100 kilograms or more. She’s also very active on social media and is the brains behind the Instagram page “You Look Like a Man,” which highlights and parodies some of the more ridiculous — and usually unsolicited — things women lifters and strength athletes hear online. This recording is equal parts deep dive into the sport of strongman and an examination of strength communities on social media. We hope you enjoy!

Jessica Fithen BarBend Podcast

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Thomas Tao talks to Jessica Fithen about:

  • Finding her strongman journey (03:30)
  • Jessica’s record-breaking block press (05:00)
  • Why strongman thrives when lifts get weird (11:00)
  • Jessica’s favorite strongwoman to watch (14:30)
  • Getting coached by Kalle Beck, who joined the BarBend Podcast (17:00)
  • Is strongman moving in the right direction for women? (21:00)
  • “I never meant to start an activist page…” (24:00)
  • The power of social media comments, and why ignoring the trolls doesn’t always work (28:00)

Relevant links and further reading:


Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

…a friend of mine and I back in August of ’19 we decided that we were going to take these things that people were saying to us and we were going to put them over this fitspo-looking meme and background of beautiful lakes or rivers or these things. Put these stupid words over that to show you how dumb it looks when I make a fake inspirational quote out of it.


I wrote the words, “You look a man over this beautiful background,” and I put it on Facebook and it took off from there. People thought it was hilarious.


David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by


Today, I’m talking to Pro Strongwoman Jessica Fithen. Among her many accomplishments, Jessica is the first Strongwoman to block press 100 kilograms or more. She’s also very active on social media, and she’s the brains behind the Instagram page, which highlights imparities some of the more ridiculous and usually unsolicited things women lifters and strength athletes hear online.


This recording is equal parts deep-dive into the sport of Strongman and an examination of strength communities on social media. A little bit different today, but we hope you enjoy. Also, we’re incredibly thankful that you listen to this podcast, so if you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend Podcast in your app of choice. Now let’s get to it.


Jessica, thank you so much for joining us today. We have a lot to cover, and we’re going to take a few different angles on this,, maybe more than people might expect if they just read the title of the podcast, but let’s start off with the person. How did you initially get into strength competition, strength athletics, all that jazz?

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Yeah, thanks for having me on. I’ve been doing a Strongman for about six years now. I was going to be an Olympic weightlifter. I have been doing all kinds of different exercise things, just looking for ways to stay in shape and stay active. I’ve done hiking. I’ve done some Zumba, believe it or not.


Most people think it’s really funny right now since [inaudible 2:29] class, spinning, and things like that, but nothing really stuck out to me. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re probably not going to continue doing it. I was rotating through all the standard stuff.


I had never really done any weight training, not in any seriousness, but I joined a gym that had an Olympic weightlifting program there. I thought, “Well, there’s something that I never learned how to do. I’ll just show up at the age of about 34 at the time. Somebody teach me how to Olympic weightlift.”


I walked into an actual barbell facility for the first time in my life at about the age of 34. Pretty late start, but I fell in love with the idea of barbell strength training at that point. I’ve never done any of that stuff. Well, it turns out you have to be kind of athletic to be an Olympic weightlifter. I don’t know if you knew that. [laughs]


You have to be a little athletic to learn how to do that. I’m pretty strong, but I’m not the most athletic person out there. The coaches at the barbell facility were like, “You know, [inaudible 3:31] don’t know how to do this. It’s cool. We’ll teach you how to do this for the rest of your life. That’s fine, but let me tell you, we have this other thing here called Strongman. You can get away with a lot more for that.”


We have a Strongman competition at this gym that I had signed up at in six or eight weeks after I had very first heard the word. They were like, “Just sign up and just go do it.” I did just that. I signed up for this novice competition, literally have never heard any of this stuff, any of it. I showed up, and I did it, and I won my first competition.


As they like to say, the rest is history. I was completely hooked from the very beginning. That’s how that how it started, totally by accident.

David TaoDavid Tao

If you’ve never heard of the sport of Strongman and you go from that no knowledge to competing in six to eight weeks, obviously there’s a learning curve. What was the event at your first competition, if you remember, that made you scratch your head the most like, “You want me to do what with what?”

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

The first one we had. I have never picked up a log. If people don’t know what a log is, it’s a metal implement that’s meant to simulate what a log would look like. We had to do a log incline bench press, which is a really weird thing that I’ve seen again. It was this weird, these offhanded events with this weird stuff, and it was just meant to look cool. It was just meant to look cool.


I remember going there and thinking that how different it was because I had dabbled in powerlifting before that, but how fun it was. These events, these promotors for the Strongman shows, literally just make them up. You go, and you have no idea what events that they can come up with.


I was drawn to the idea that all of the events were going to be different. Pretty much every time you go somewhere you’ve got different events that you could be training for, so the variety was there for it.


The first competition I did, we were doing these weird presses with a log and we did some stone over a bar and that sort of thing. People were puking and bleeding and swearing, and I was like, “These are my people right here. This is the thing. These are the people,” so it was… [laughs] People peeing in all over the place. It’s great.

David TaoDavid Tao

Very graphic and visceral, but very Strongman competition. It starts with the swearing and it escalates from there.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Escalates from there to all the bodily fluids and then some from there. It’s very backwoods and people’s parking lots of their gyms with this equipment that they may have need and that sort of thing. It’s about the farthest departure from Olympic lifting or powerlifting, which is very standardized and always in for a good reason.


It’s pretty much the farthest from that where you get there. It’s like, I don’t know. I’ve never seen this before in my life. Let’s pick it up. That part, I found very appealing.

David TaoDavid Tao

You excel at my favorite Strongman event, which is not…I think if you asked like 10 people who write on strength sports, compete in strength sports or in the community, what their favorite Strongman event is, I don’t think anyone else would say this. The block press is absolutely my favorite event.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

No one says that. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

I know I’m weird, but I have you here on this podcast.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Yeah. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Joke’s on everyone else. This is my podcast, folks. I’m the host. Tell us a little bit about your training for that, what you’ve accomplished in that lift. It’s a weird thing that…If you’ve ever pressed a barbell overhead, you have an idea of what a log press might feel. It’s going to be different.


If you’re a powerlifter or a CrossFitter, you can get a sense, like, “OK, a log kind of feels like this,” but the block press is this weird…

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Yeah. A block is literally what it sounds like. The one that we use is a big metal block where the lid comes off and it’s actually plate loaded on the inside. You can change the weight of the block. Unloaded, it’s about 120-some odd pounds with is the lid on it.


A block press is literally that. You’re picking up a block from the ground, you’re clinging it to your chest, and then you’re trying to press it overhead. The block particularly is — I’m not going to call it my favorite, even though I do it — probably the most technical Strongman overhead lift there is. It’s one of the ones that it’s a little dangerous if you will.


It’s pressing something that has no handles, so you’re pressing this block from overhead in a neutral strict press, but there’s nothing to hold onto. You have to take this block and you have to bounce it basically on your wrist, over your head with your elbows locked out, and then you have to hold it there until you get a down call.


It’s a lot more complicated than a barbell, which you can actually keep holding around or even we do axle and that sort of thing. The block is a league in and of its own. It’s been a pet lift of mine for a while. You don’t see it super heavy. A lot of shows, it’s difficult to train for. It’s difficult to do, but I’ve held the world record on the block twice.


I set it a couple of years ago. It was 184 pounds a couple of years ago and then I reset it earlier this year at 220 pounds. It was a lot of fun. We went and did that, mean a guy named Steve Schmidt is the guy that has the men’s world record, which is I think over 350, somewhere in there for. It was ridiculous, but he’s a lot of fun to watch.


He’s usually at these things too, but it’s a fun lift to watch at least.

David TaoDavid Tao

The thing about the blog press that for me is the most gut-wrenching as a spectator — gut-wrenching isn’t the right term, but it’s the one I’ll use — is when you drop it. Get the heck out of the way. It’s not like a barbell where you can easily guide it down. It doesn’t have bumper plates on the ends that make a drop at a predictable fashion. You’re like drop and pray.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Tell everyone to move, and so when you train that one at the gym, it’s one of those blips that gives people a heart attack. People don’t drop the weights, etc. This is one of those lifts that you have to let it go at the top.


If you try to gingerly let it down, it will hurt you. You have to be OK. We aim for a tire and that thing on the ground, but when you train it, it’s one of those things that we set up and then you clarify foot radius. I say it’s going to come, it’s going to fall in front of you. It’s going to fall behind me.


I don’t know where it’s going to go and I’m not going to try to stop it. What I need you to do is move yourself out of the way, because it’s 200-pound metal box is coming towards you. I’m not going to stop it. I’m not doing that, but you back up.


It’s a little fun to watch and it’s very fun to make sure nobody gets hurt actually doing it, but it is fun to watch.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s the order of operations for Strongman. Is it fun to watch? OK, how do we figure out this doesn’t kill someone?

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Yeah. A lot of people have Strongman [inaudible 10:19] a little standardized. Some people are losing sight of the idea. Strongman is a circus act. That means ridiculous. People are always like, sometimes we’ll do deadlifts that are 18-inch deadlifts. They looks like raffles.


They’re on these big, stupid tires and stuff. People are like, “Oh, that’s a rack pool. You don’t have any range motion.” If you want that type of stuff, you need to go be a powerlifter.


The Strongman is meant to be ridiculous. It’s meant to be oversized, it’s meant to be silly looking. It’s meant for the average person to walk by and be like, “That looks cool. I want to do that.” It’s not meant to be this very standardized, exact same lifts, the exact same way each time. The sillier it looks then the more obnoxious that it looks, the better spectator event that it’s going to be.

David TaoDavid Tao

This goes back to the pre-BarBend days before we even launched BarBend. What always irks me about mainstream media outlets was whenever a strength record actually made it into a mainstream media outlet, they would always compare the weight lifted to some weird household appliance.


It always be like, “This person deadlifted 800 pounds. That’s the equivalent of four washing machines or two refrigerators.” First stuff, that doesn’t mean anything. No one’s ever…

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

 Doesn’t translate, right?

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah, very few people have picked up a washing machine. No one’s going to listen to that at home and be like, “Well, I want to see what that feels like. Let me go pick up my washing machine.” What I love about Strongman is a sport that will just…at certain competitions, you may have to throw a washing machine, or the…


…right? You might have to deadlift a car with the added weights on it, which is one of the more fun things about this sport. It’s also something that makes me scratch my head sometimes when I ask myself, why is this sport not more popular, because it’s literally the strength sport built for spectators, as opposed to the other way around.


You bring up some really good points there. In a given competition, you could have any implement thrown at you. There’s literally an infinite range. What is the fairly common Strongman event that you want to progress the most in, where you still have the most room, you think for growth?

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

For me, personally, my Achilles’ heel, for my entire career has been my grip, which is a funny thing. You need a really good grip in Strongman. I don’t have bad grip. What I don’t have is super elite grip. [laughs]


When you compete against the super elite women, you have to have super elite grip. Compared to the average person, it’s not bad grip, it’s just not that. We’ll do a farmer’s carries, we’ll do frame carries, we’ll do Hercules holds, lots and lots of grip type exercises. For me, my grip is really hit or miss. I’ve lost a lot of points and a lot of competitions because of my grip.


It’s something that we just continue to work on. Some people bizarrely just have really amazing grip, and they didn’t even have to work for it. I don’t know how that works exactly, but they [laughs] somehow have this really beautiful grip. It’s like that’s nice, that must be nice.


Grip is a frustrating thing for me, because it’s not the same as adding, I need 30 pounds on my deadlift or I need 20 pounds on an overhead. It’s not the same exact thing. Then you couple back with the fact that you can have different implements.


If I can do a certain amount of weight on my farmer’s handles in my gym, that doesn’t mean I can do that same weight on someone else’s handles in their contest. If it’s a different type of handle, it’s got less gnarly, it’s got more knurling. If the handles are smaller or bigger, the pick is higher or lower.


There’s all kinds of factors that go into it, which again is what keeps the sport exciting. For me, personally, and that’s something that is easily my biggest struggle as a place where I have lost the most points over the course of my career. Lots of loss [laughs] on that.

David TaoDavid Tao

Who is your rival in the sport? Everyone has one.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

No. Everyone has one. I don’t like to call them rivals, even though…

David TaoDavid Tao

Your frenemy. Call them what you want.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

[laughs] Strongman is a really fun sport, by and large, the vast majority of people that compete long term in the sport are actually good friends. They can be competitive with each other and at the same time, they can both be humble and good friends.


That’s the thing for me that I have found at least on the women’s side. I can’t speak for them for the men’s side. I’m sure other stuff goes on there. The women’s side, especially the pro class by and far, almost everyone is good friends with each other.


My hero who I’m not going to call a rival, who’s my favorite person to watch and has always been my favorite person to watch is Donna Moore. Multiple time World’s Strongest Woman, but she’s my favorite to watch for a variety of reasons. She’s not only ridiculously strong, but she’s is explosive. She’s fun to watch and she’s an all-around actual good person.


Getting to actually know her personally, and everyone that’s ever met Donna, I can’t think of a single person that’s ever said anything negative about her in any way, and that’s what it’s like. If you don’t like her, there’s something wrong with you. [laughs]


She’s one of those people, but she is still on the up and up and not showing any signs of slowing down. She’s fun to watch, and then Andrea Thompson is another one that’s up there. It’s a lot of fun to watch.


Those two, I’ve been on their heels for the last several years, I’m [inaudible 15:30] right at their heels, and every contest. They’re the most fun for me to watch, on the women’s sport circuit.

David TaoDavid Tao

We had Andrea on the podcast, back in 2020. She’s great, and also just great at everything she tries. She’s like, “I’m going to train for this world, I’m going to train for a pulling world record, I’m going to train for an overhead world record.”

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Especially with COVID right now and all the stuff that got canceled, we’ve all been just in limbo. They’re starting to reschedule all of our shows for the end of this year. Now they’re just noticed that it’s no one’s fault but they’re starting to basically reschedule all the shows, but they’re all on top of each other so I don’t know.


For them over the summer, they did a bunch of overhead world records and stuff, which was a lot of fun. To keep motivated because for everyone, a lot of people have had a lot of struggle not being able to actively train for any sort of competition with all the ones that have been canceled.

David TaoDavid Tao

I’m going to get a lot of flack if I don’t ask this question, but who is your coach?

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Yes, my coach is Kalle Beck. He’s the owner of Starting Strongman. If people sometimes first get into Strongman, it’s one of the very first places that they stop. He has a website Starting Strongman and a Facebook group that’s got 30,000 somewhat members of it.


He’s been my coach for almost since the beginning like year, basically two, in there and he’s been my coach ever since.

David TaoDavid Tao

Kalle has been on the podcast multiple times. He’s written for BarBend. I say this in a loving way, he’s also our biggest troll on social media.


Not in a way that’s disparaging or anything like that. He’ll give like…

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

He keeps you on your toes. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

You ask a question on Instagram or something, our social media team put something together and it’s a complex question, and he’ll answer with a yes or a no and always…


It’s just like Kalle, “Come on, man,” but lovingly so. Shout out to Kalle Beck and we’ll make sure that we link together the episodes we’ve had Kalle on. Interesting fact, he’s the only strength sports coach I know who owns a miniature horse.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

 I know. Yeah, he does. He has a cover too. He had a page called Willow and Domino were his dog and his mini-horse, so yeah. He’s a lot of fun because he has this great memory.


He’s also this bank of Strongman knowledge when people start currently saying this or that about Strongman. He’ll be like, “Well, in 1984…” He’ll round them off. [laughs] You’re like, “Oh.” [laughs]


He knows almost everything about the sport going all the way back. It’s his history knowledge of it is. It’s a lot of fun to pick his brain sometimes.

David TaoDavid Tao

There are very few people in the sport who have done more to make the sport more accessible. Kalle is just right there at the top. Literally, creating a resource about how to get into the sport. Is there anyone else that you look at in the sport, you’re like, “Hey…” I’m not calling his contribution unheralded. I think a lot of people celebrate what he’s done.


Is there anyone else you look at in the sport and you’re like, “Wow, they’ve contributed a lot to the sport’s growth, accessibility in the sport, and maybe they’re not getting a ton of credit or the light isn’t being shown on what they’re doing”?

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Sure. We’ve talked a lot about to…not people exactly, but this might sound weird to people. I’m not sure. Rogue Fitness has done a lot for Strongman. Because they’re a large corporation, I don’t think they get the praise that you would normally if this was a smaller company or something like that.


In the last couple of years, since I’ve started, the amount of money that they have been putting into the Arnold — pre-COVID, especially this year last Arnold — they couldn’t do anything about that.


Rogue Fitness has been really advancing the sport. They’ve been offering opportunities for the women’s class. They do the world-record breakers every year now with the Arnold. That’s something that they started doing, keeping track of that.


There’s a lot of people, I think, that are getting involved there. It’s a work in progress. Nothing anybody does is perfect. It’s like throwing the baby out with bathwater when you start complaining about certain things. They’re a company that has really contributed a lot in the last couple of years, at least financially, to progress the sport.


When I started six years ago, the women’s pro class basically didn’t exist. It’s a new thing. People might assume that it’s already been around. It was being created when I actually first got started.


Strongman Incorporation and Dion Masters, our organization, has done a lot for the women’s side Strongman creating the pro class and also giving women opportunities last year at the Arnold.


The women’s pro class where we lifted on the Mattel Grand Ballroom stage in front of Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, in middle all the bodybuilders [laughs] and all of these people. That was the very first time that women have ever been on the stage there in that facility.


There are people that are really working really, really hard, to make the sport more accessible and especially more fair, for the women’s classes. I don’t think either one of those, either [inaudible 20:35] or what Dion in Strongman for doing, getting us recognition for how far they brought us or even in the last couple of years, it has been huge change. Huge. I’ve seen it myself.

David TaoDavid Tao

The sport has evolved massively over the last half decade. What are some changes you’re exciting for, or some points of evolution for the sport you’re excited for, in the next five years?

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

I can’t wait to see where it goes in the next five years. That’s where my head is going right now. I’ve been in for about six years now and I don’t know how much longer I’ll compete. Hopefully a couple more years at least, but nobody knows. No one’s guaranteed tomorrow. I have no idea.


I’ve actually been having a lot of talks with a lot of people in this sport, especially a lot of women for, what we want it to look like in the next 5, 10, 15 years.


Equal pay or equal [inaudible 21:20] pay, or at least getting closer to the women being reimbursed for, or promoted with the same level of enthusiasm, as some of the men’s classes. For me, it’s been fun to take a step back and say, “It’s fun to win a title, it’s fun to win world records,” which eventually will be broken. All of those things.


Other people win titles, and the next person comes behind you and breaks your record. Nothing is permanent, but how can we change the sport, for the good, for the next 5 or 10 years for all the women that are going to come and lift after me?


That’s where my head is going, moving into the next five years of sport, is how can we better the sports? How can I make it better for people than when I found it six years ago?


We’ve got a lot of ideas for different things that are coming up, but I think it’s definitely going in the right direction. Part of it is people like Dion in Strongman [inaudible 22:14] demanding that we have visibility and demanding that the women at the sport are given the same visibility and that’s a place to start.

David TaoDavid Tao

I want to change the conversation. Taking a slightly different direction, actually talk about some of your impact let’s call it. I don’t want to say outside of Strongman, because it’s not completely unrelated. For those who don’t know, you run an Instagram account that…I think a lot of folks don’t necessarily know you’re the person behind it.


Tell us a little bit about how that started, because it’s fair to pick up traction and you might as well bring it up. Talk a little bit about that. The genesis of it, what it is. I don’t want to give too much away. I want to let you tell that story.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

About August 2019, just a little bit ago at this point. Over the course of my lifting career, friends and I have always remarked at how many ridiculous comments that we get on our social media. You’re going to break your back, or you’re going to look too manly if you lift weights, the dumb stuff that people say all over social media.


A friend of mine and I, back in August of ’19, we decided that we were going to take these things that people were saying to us and we were going to put them over this fitspo-looking meme and background of beautiful lakes or rivers or these things. Put these stupid words over that to show you how dumb it looks when I make a fake inspirational quote out of it.


I wrote the words You Look Like a Man, which is something that people love to say to women in athletics. I wrote the words You Look Like a Man over this beautiful background. I put it on Facebook, and it took off from there. People thought it was hilarious. Then they started submitting their own quotes and making their own pictures and that sort of thing.


I put it on Instagram as a joke. It was meant to be fun, a funny thing for people to submit the dumb things that people say to them and we’ll make these pictures out of them.


I put it on Instagram, and it’s You need to enter in the whole thing on there. It’s on Instagram. We’ve got just over 80,000 followers at this point, which is not bad for an account that’s only been around 18 months or so. It’s taken on a life of its own.


It was meant to be fun and silly and that sort of thing. It’s become a lot more impactful as it’s gone on, people sharing their stories, coming from all over from more a feminist perspective for sports.


As far as I know, there isn’t any other page that’s shining a light on online harassment or online abuse that a lot of women in athletics particularly face. It took on a life of its own. That was totally unexpected. I never intended to start an activist page, but that’s where I landed.

David TaoDavid Tao

Has anyone had a quote featured on You Look Like a Man and gotten really mad about it and reached out to you about it?

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

 [laughs] Sort of. Notice my hesitation. The people that I feature on there know about it, more or less. I redact their names but not entirely. It depends on the egregiousness of it.


A couple times I’ve had people see their quotes go on there and want to argue about it, that whatever they said was appropriate or whatnot. I haven’t had anyone get super mad or threaten me [laughs] at all. I’m sure that’s coming at some point here but so far not.

David TaoDavid Tao

Sorry, my first reaction to that shouldn’t be to laugh.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Right. [laughs] People have threatened me, but not over being featured. [laughs] They threaten me for other reasons. The Internet is a crazy, crazy place, and not always a nice place to be.

David TaoDavid Tao

 Wait, what?

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Crazy, right? It turns out that people are not always nice on the Internet. I don’t know if you knew that. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Look, we cover the gamut of strength sports. We cover CrossFit, weightlifting, powerlifting, Strongman, bodybuilding. Kettlebell sport is something we started covering more of, you name it. The whole point of BarBend is to be a central resource for strength. We’re not just an Instagram account. It’s our website that does most of the work.


It’s absolutely astounding how many negative comments we’ll get when we post someone breaking a world record or setting a PR. It’s almost like people go on the Internet to compensate for their own lack of positivity in their lives sometimes.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

The more that I’ve gone into this, it’s been interesting to read about people that study this behavior. It’s an actual thing.


I don’t remember. There’s an actual term for it. It’s the equivalent of drive-by hating on the Internet, where you open up your phone, you’re able to type out a bunch of horrible things to a random person you’ll never ever come into contact with. Then you’re able to snap your phone shut, and then you go on with your life like that never happened.


It’s this weird thing where people get to exist in this alternate reality where they think these words on the Internet don’t matter, and people will say that. My biggest critics of the page are usually people that think it’s a classic case of being oversensitive. “You should ignore them. You should ignore the trolls. You’re only giving them the attention they want.”


The studies prove the ones that are done online, this specific harassing behavior, show that ignoring them does not do anything to deter that type of behavior.


In fact, the more you ignore them, if you get a page like, ESPN and any posts that you go on with ESPN that features a woman for whatever reason, just open it up, do free little finger spots and tell me what you see?


The fact that these comments there’s ten thousand of them on ESPN, on any single post, all the same type of stuff. There’s no one saying, “This is inappropriate. This is not OK to say this type of stuff.”


Ignoring them doesn’t work. What we are doing right now is investigating what does work. If there was a little more accountability for the words that you said online, if I said, “Nothing you’re going to post online is ever going to be anonymous.”


The people are able to get these anonymous accounts without…I have 30 of them. Instagram literally, allows you to just make an unlimited amount of accounts.


If I told you that your words were going to be blown off and put on a billboard somewhere, you’d probably think twice before you wrote that to a complete stranger on the Internet.


Some of it, they’ve been pretty fascinating to learn stuff that I didn’t know. You knew that people were terrible on the Internet, but you didn’t really know. [laughs]


A lot of people messaged me and they’re like, “I knew it was bad, but like, what is this?” I’m like, “Yeah.” It is just not safe for work language here, but it’s not weird for women to open up their DMs and have rape threats and death threats.


These are becoming like normal things that I feature on here and they shouldn’t be normal. The more that we normalize this type of trolling behavior, people say, “It’s just trolling.” People insult over online bullying. It’s an actual thing. We can’t ignore the problem, in my opinion.

David TaoDavid Tao

 I want to give a quick addendum. When I called Kalle Beck a troll earlier, I meant it lovingly, and he’s never said anything inflammatory or mean. It’s absurdist humor he has, let’s put it that way. Just to clarify, Kalle, please don’t get mad at me.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Not that kind of troll.

David TaoDavid Tao

I appreciate you sharing that. It’s interesting. I know that you were interacting with our account from the account recently.


When we highlighted that the NCAA women’s basketball teams, did not get a weight room which ended up blowing up into this national mainstream story, which was great, that sometimes the point of media is to highlight these discrepancies that might otherwise go unnoticed, and something happened in that they built a weight room for these elite athletes.


It was shocking to me how many negative comments we got when we posted that. This was early on. This was before it was on ESPN and everything. How many negative comments we got from BarBend followers. If you follow BarBend on social media, chances are you either strength train or you’re a fan of it in some form.


This was a post about how elite athletes didn’t have access to strength training facilities. Our hope was that that’s something that our audience could get behind because…

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Was it surprising to see how many people were like, “They don’t deserve it, they’re just girls”? [laughs] Was that surprising for you to see that? I expected it, even on a site like that. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

It shouldn’t be surprising. I’m just like a naive summer child sometimes.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

You hope for better knowing that that’s not going to happen. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

The thing that really got me was like, first off, they just didn’t have a weight room. Then they had one set of dumbbells that all 64 teams or whatever, were supposed to share.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

I was glad they weren’t pink, but they were pretty close to pink.

David TaoDavid Tao

Which makes no sense. The dumbbells topped out at 30 pounds, and people like, “Well, women don’t.” People on BarBend followers. Some of them are saying like, “Hey, you know, women don’t need more than 30-pound dumbbells. I’ve never seen a woman use more than a 30-pound dumbbell.” It’s like, OK, this is Division one Basketball.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

 Basketball. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

A lot of these players — let’s talk about things in very simple terms. — A lot of them can dunk. You think that you develop the ability to dunk a basketball…

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen the five down in the middle.

David TaoDavid Tao

…with light weights and light dumbbells.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

It was interesting to me that some people agreed with some of it and some people didn’t. For people that may not know the NCAA women’s basketball. They also put out pictures of the food that was different, which I thought was in the…


She had pictures of the food for the women, looked like TV dinners with like mystery steak. Don’t ask why I know that. Then the men had this big giant buffet with tons of protein and all others. They had pictures of, not only just the weight but their pictures of swag bags.


I thought these swag bags were the most interesting photo that came out of the differences between the men’s and women’s carts, because the men’s swag, if you look at the pictures, is all very much personalized for this event. It said, welcome to the dance or the big dance or something like that. Then it said, “2021 Indianapolis.”


The women’s swag from the pictures that they put out, which NCAA, doesn’t deny any of this. This isn’t like this is fake news. These pictures are real. The NCAA doesn’t deny that this is what they look like.


The women’s swag was all like this generic. It all said, “Women’s Basketball.” But it was not specific to this event. It didn’t have any of the big dance stuff on it. There was a quarter of it compared to how much the men’s got.


The men didn’t even think the women deserve to have special 2021 T-shirts the same way the men did. How hard would that have been to give the women the same?


They all say, “Women’s Basketball.” The swag to me was pretty offensive. That in and of itself to me is such a level of disrespect. It’s not even about women versus men, or how many people watch it and don’t watch. It’s the fact that they ordered all this stuff for the men.


Somebody made a decision that the women don’t deserve that. They’re going to get all of this super generically branded stuff and no one’s going to know the difference. They’re in different states, whatever else.


I would think that people that follow a sports page would care about that level of actual disrespect, especially at a collegiate level. These aren’t pros, the collegiate level that doesn’t operate the same way.


They’re supposed to have reasonably the same materials between the men’s and women’s sports at a collegiate level. I wasn’t surprised, but again, this is [laughs] [inaudible 34:49] .

David TaoDavid Tao

The thing that got me about that was it’s not like the women basketball players or teams showed up and there wasn’t. It almost would have been better — I hesitate to say this — almost would be better if they showed up and there was no training facility. There was no small stack of dumbbells because then it could have been like, “Oh, someone forgot.”

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Totally. They forgot that we existed at all. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Or they forgot that, like, “Oh, strength facilities. You should have for athletes.” That’s almost better than someone thinking, “They need Franck’s facilities. Let’s give them a small set of dumbbells to be shared across 60 some teams.”

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

These TV dinners that were pre-portioned. The men are getting buffet stuff where you can take as much food as you want, theoretically, and then the women have these pre-portioned calorie-low meals. There’s more to it than just the weight room, and there’s more to it than just women don’t make as much money or they don’t bring as much revenue.


There’s a lot more to it that I can’t think of anyone being like, “Yeah, that’s appropriate to not even give them their own branded T-shirts.” That’s just part. That’s disrespectful. That’s on a basic level. The coaches that have all been speaking out about this, which has been sad especially the women coaches have been like, “Yeah. We’ve been telling them this forever.” [laughs]


It’s sad that it’s taken this to get to this point to where we’re finally having some attention for it. Now, what do we do from us up here? I love attention for it. I love the outrage that, by far, most people have been like, “Yeah, this is messed up. I mean, whatever.”


Now, what do we do? What do we do from here? What is the NCA…what is [inaudible 36:32] expect to do with it from here? What happens is that there is this big outrage that everyone forgets about. Let’s check in a year from now, does it still look like this? What’s going to change between now and then? It probably needs to start at the very, very top of their executive leadership.

David TaoDavid Tao

Jessica, just like that we’ve covered a lot of ground. A lot more ground than we generally cover on a podcast which is awesome because you are a person of many talents. Let’s put it that way. Where’s the best place for folks to follow up with what you’re doing? We’ve obviously given shout out to

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

All dots, that’s right. You look like a man. You can follow me on my personal account on Instagram is filthy_fithen just F-I-T-H-E-N. That’s where to get in touch with me on Instagram, if you’re into really bad Strongman training and [inaudible 37:21] .

David TaoDavid Tao

She’s not that filthy. It’s a wholesome follow, folks.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

 Yeah, it is a wholesome following now. I used to post really, really awful memes and then someone told me to clean up my image and that’s been boring ever since then, but I am…

David TaoDavid Tao

Squeaky clean. Squeaky clean really is the new…

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Now you can look at it. That’s how clean it is.

David TaoDavid Tao

Jessica, thanks so much for joining us today. I appreciate it.

Jessica FithenJessica Fithen

Absolutely. Thank you for having me.