As a whole, the internet, and more specifically social media, have brought a lot of good to strength sports. On a daily basis, we have the availability of multiple great-minded coaches, athletes, and media outlets at our fingertips. Yet, with every good thing in life, there’s always a chance of some bad, and in this case, that comes in the form of bullying.
We’ve written about women in powerlifting receiving weird comments before, but not so much bullying. In one of weightlifter Alyssa Ritchey’s latest Instagram posts, she highlights a bullying-focused comment with an open letter. The letter brings a lot of good points to light, and it was very well received. To learn more about her motivation to write this particular letter and what others can do to combat bullying, I reached out.
Thanks and shout out to Morning Chalk Up for initially highlighting this post.
Have you ever gotten negative comments before this occasion? What made you want to respond to this particular comment on the subject of bullying?
Richey: I rarely get a comment such as this one, a few negative ones here and there, but nothing crazy. I wanted to respond with kindness. If I were to respond back saying something hateful, then it only fuels the fire. Besides, two wrongs don’t make a right. I wanted to be an example. It took me about 5-minutes to write that letter. I did it in-between sets while I was lifting. This was about the same time my sister sent me the screen shot of the comment made by the person.
I was bullied in high school my junior and senior year, and quite frankly, I am over it.
I am not the type of woman to sit around and let someone be mean. Standing up for myself is important. I want people to know this is not okay. I wanted to be a voice for all the women/men that get bullied to show them it’s OKAY to stand up for yourself, but do it with the love in your heart. We never know what a person is going through at the moment so despite how awful their words are towards us. Try a different approach & kill them with kind words & love from the heart. They might need that more than you know.
In your opinion, do you see more negative comments on women’s lifting videos/photos compared to men’s? If so, why do you think this is? And why do you think they exist at all?
Ritchey: I don’t look for the negative comments. I hear some of my friends talk about the mean or rude comments they receive on social media or even in the public eye. I don’t think our society is fully okay with women being muscular, just yet. However, I do think there are many more people in our generation that accept it now & think its beautiful. It’s all in how we, ourselves perceive the comments, looks, & gestures.
I think people, outside of the fitness world, stare and make comments because they are not used to seeing women with muscles. I think most of its innocent unless the comment is absolutely absurd and rude. I had a woman in the farmer’s market come up to me and say “I’m sorry I don’t mean anything bad, but your arms are incredibly beautiful and so muscular. I love them”. I smiled & said thank you. But all I could think about is why did she say sorry! There is no reason. I love my biceps. Go AHEAD, tell me their jacked, ripped, huge, muscular because they are sexy to me. They are my work horses.
When I walk into a grocery store in my spandex or in the airport with a cut off tee, I get looks. However, I know, I look good. So I assume that they must think I look fabulous to (laughs). If you continue to let the negativity in, then its going to hurt you. If you truly love everything about YOUR LOOK, YOUR BODY, then no silly comment, weird look, or gesture will hurt you.
I’m not sure why this negativity exists. But us muscular women are on our way to changing the societal norms of the world. There will be more of us in the future — you’ll see!
Do you have any tips for female [and male] athletes who may receive negative comments on their posts? How do you see them & what do you remind yourself of?
Ritchey: Don’t ever stop being who you are just because someone doesn’t approve. Be you and always do you. You will never experience life to its fullest if you are always worrying what people think. It’s empowering and beautiful to feel strong, but it is even more empowering to be able to use your strengths to improve your life. If you love lifting heavy weight above your head, then keep doing it. Don’t ever stop for anyone.
I don’t remind myself of anything because I truly don’t care what people think. Growing up as a strong muscular young lady from 12-17 year old, I was always known for having big quads and biceps. I thought it was perfectly normal and beautiful. I felt powerful in my little muscular defined body. I loved my body. I wasn’t worried about the way I looked. It was more about the way I performed for my sport at the time. I was happiest when I was winning. I was an athlete. I didn’t care about a certain body type. I just wanted to crush my competition.
What advice would you give to all social media users who receive negative feedback on their posts? Do you have any ideas how we change the negative comment mindsets?
Ritchey: Its always going to be there. The only way it will ever change is if we handle it in the appropriate manner. And if you don’t feel like dealing with it, then turn off your comments on Instagram that’s what T-Swift does!
Do you have any takeaway messages (outside of your post) for bullies who put others down behind their screens?
Think before you type. Be more kind. Being hateful doesn’t solve anything & if you are going to say something hurtful, just don’t. Keep it to yourself. You can really hurt someone by a small comment that you might think is harmless. As the old saying goes, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Feature images from @alyssaritchey1 Instagram page, and [right] photo taken by @auya.co Instagram page.