Don’t call me a cheesecake.

kourtney arnold

I find words and language, and their origins and meaning, so interesting. It’s amazing what can be conveyed with a simple turn of phrase.

Take, for instance, the word “bro.”

What comes to mind here? You might kind of shrug your shoulders here and go, “Well, you know, a bro!” And that would be the picture of a buff-ish dude, probably in an extra-medium t-shirt or tank top, doing curls in the squat rack, possibly fist pumping while chugging a protein shake. Extreme and stereotypical, probably. But some version of this is what that word, that term, has come to connote.

Again, words are so interesting!

As I got into hypertrophy and bodybuilding, I became even more conscious of bros, and bro culture, and what that all really meant. And the meaning, the feeling, the essence, what this word conveys when you use it, became something that I then fell into being more unconscious of. Because it’s such a strong descriptor, it was easy for me to say, “I love bro-ing out at the gym,” or “Yeah, I’m a total bro!” And because it’s really the feeling and the philosophy that I meant to convey, it seemed pretty harmless.

Until it started feeling not so. I tried to make bro-ette happen, but still, I’m deferring to this male-centric construct, right? But what else is there? I’d find myself in conversations making jokes about how I worked out, defaulting back to, “I’m pretty much a bro – there aren’t enough mirrors in this gym for me!” And then getting aggravated that there wasn’t a better way to describe it. This is what it’s come down to for women who enjoy the…bro…lifestyle. We have to submit to being lumped in as men.

I don’t like it. So the other day, I texted my friend Jen, a mistress of words, feminism, and fitness, to see if I was missing something. If I was so engrained in this that I had just blocked out a useful word or phrase to capture the feel of what I’m always trying to express. We went back and forth a bit and determined that, no, such a word just does not currently exist. Meathead came up, but we agreed that doesn’t quite capture it. Then, beefcake came up. I instantly said, yeah, but that’s a term for a man too. And Jen said, why?

Why, indeed.

Perhaps we were onto something, maybe we can make this ours. Beefing out in the gym, instead of bro-ing out, could be a thing, right? But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this term was still not entirely gender neutral. That it still wouldn’t be the forceful expression that I wanted.

So I did some quick research, and sure enough. Beefcake does indeed refer to a man. Turns out, it came after the advent of women as cheesecakes (Yes, you read that right. Cheesecake is a thing.), but still, beefcake = dude. Can’t appropriate that one either. Or rather, don’t want to.

Now I’m back to square one. Pondering the layers of all of this. That a word for a strong, powerful, muscular woman literally does not exist, and why. That there is no female version of “bro,” and also, that I don’t want there to be a female version. I want this concept to exist on its own, regardless of gender.

Maybe this specifically is unimportant, a small thing, but I don’t think so. I can’t help but think it’s actually a symptom of a bigger thing. Like, what other phrases and words and language are we using in daily life that stem from masculine etymologies? Have you ever thought about it? How much of this stuff keeps us stuck in a certain inferior position, subconsciously? It’s an example of how important the words and language we choose can be. We can continue on with this status quo, accepting and perpetuating these situations, or we can become conscious of the language that we’re using to convey our meaning.

I’m going to keep searching. It’s going to happen. I’ll keep living the lifestyle, but it won’t be the bro lifestyle. I’m not taking that easy way out anymore. I’ll find a way to capture that essence, I’m sure of it. It’s time.


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  • Lizz Gasbarro

    Why does it have to matter? With the equality of men and women we are bound to lose the distinctions of one being more than or better than the other. So why don’t we as women embrace the fact that we’ve reached the point where we are equals and therefore the same? If bro is already a word that means what it means why do we need a separate word for the same definition for people with vaginas? Either we are equals or we’re not. Can’t have it both ways.

    • Thanks for reading and for your comment, Lizz. We can certainly agree to disagree here, and that’s totally OK. I do not believe that we have yet come to a place of equality between men and women, and therefore still believe this is an important topic of discussion. If the way you are experiencing the world means you don’t need a different word, that’s a great thing for you!

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