The Brass Tack

Let's get down to it.

Like foodies, but with worse politics

Posted by srconstantin on July 13, 2009

Abbye 'Pudgy' Stockton, early strongwoman

One of my hobbies is weightlifting. I used to think of myself mainly as a runner who went to the gym sometimes, until I realized that lifting came more naturally to me than running: my 24-minute 5k is laughably slow, but my 245-lb deadlift is decent for a smallish woman. I remember a recent conversation with a friend, also a fitness buff:

BFF: “Sometimes I feel like we’re turning into meatheads, you know? Obsessing about our workout logs, checking the muscle forums on the internet…”

Me: “Yeah, it’s a vice.”

BFF: “Not that bad a vice, as vices go.”

Me: “I guess it’s no worse than being a foodie.”

BFF: “Except foodies have better politics.”

Well, that better is debatable — my BFF is a lefty (a smart one) while I’m a curmudgeonly independent — but there does seem to be a political divide between the iron-pumping and cast-iron-skillet crowds. Ezra vs. Ahnold. Michael Pollan vs. Mark Rippetoe. I wonder why that is … beyond the obvious observations that the foodie phenomenon grew out of the intersection of environmentalism and high culture, and that weightlifting has a sort of high-testosterone, martial appeal.

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5 Responses to “Like foodies, but with worse politics”

  1. Pete Eyre said

    thanks for the link to our rippetoe vid. the pic you used on this post is all-the-more impressive to me after visiting his gym and trying the ‘slosh pipes’, really highlight the importance of stabilizer muscles and not just moving weight in a straight line all the time as machines would typically have you do.

    keep up the good work, both in and out of the gym.

    • thebrasstack said

      Oh, no prob — it’s a good interview and I like your site and the Motorhome Diaries project in general.
      Link for lurkers.
      In the unlikely event I’m ever in Texas, I’d so love to make the trip to Wichita Falls.

  2. grandmute said

    One possibility is that weightlifting selects for people who value independence, and, as with all sports, breeds elitism – both conducive to conservative and libertarian politics.

  3. thebrasstack said

    Fair enough, but what about running? A solitary, competitive sport, that ought to be equally conducive to independence and elitism, but is populated with lots of liberals.

    (Of course, these generalizations aren’t perfect. Bush was a runner. Obama benches 180. But I swear I’m not making this up: remember this weird David Brooks editorial where he makes a crack about Washington liberal technocrats and NordicTrack?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/opinion/03brooks.html)

  4. grandmute said

    That’s a good point. An old study seems to have found that as a whole, athletes do not become more conservative through their involvement in sports, so perhaps political affiliations are differentiated by sport. (The bit about runners being liberal and lifters being conservative does ring true, after all.) I’m not sure why that would be. Brooks would probably argue that liberal Bobos are drawn to the expensive gadgetry and techno-aura of running, while middle- and working-class Joes would be content with a plain old barbell (rust optional). However, that’s too simple an answer. It’s obvious that different people take up different sports for different reasons, but what’s adding complexity to this question is A. people’s varying involvement in their respective sports, and B. the breadth of each sport category (e.g., “weightlifting” as including everything from Olympic lifting to a Curves membership).

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