why curves is creepy, or not.
April 7, 2004 01:25 PM

There is a Curves gym on one of the alternate routes between work and home.

When I first saw this, and the advertisements for it, I was intrigued. The gym sounded like a great way to avoid some of the irritating side effects (emphasis on appearance, crowds, general lack of helpful attendants) of most gym environments while getting the same basic experience. The initial advertising locally spread a pretty simple message, that it was a place where average and fat women could work out together and encourage each other. That sounds cool, right?

So I did a little research, looked around internet boards and sites related to Curves, where I found a decided focus on weightloss. I also found that Curves isn't just a gym. It's a very regimented, repetitive (as in, you do the same things every time) workout.

It's also only one workout, not aligned to your individual body or objectives - be they health, strength, or weightloss. That, to me, seems like something that would take the fun out of going to a gym. A workout also ought to be aligned to your particular goals. One trains for something, after all, and the training needs to reflect the something you strive for. Even if your goal is just baseline "get me off the sofa" fitness, you'll likely be more successful if you strive for something.

But that something could just be fun, right? So, if Curves couches a simple workout in an environment that makes it fun and accessible, that's a good thing. If your life isn't active, at least you'd be doing something to get moving, and having fun makes you likely to stick with it. In that, I've always thought a gym like Curves could be a fun, random addition to my overall exercise scheme. Something different to do whilst meeting people.

But that breaks down with the whole weightloss message of this particular gym. When you say "amaze yourself" with the implication of "...by losing weight and keeping it off!" and you aim that message specifically at women you're doing two things that make me very, very angry.

You limit the power women are granted by refocusing us on our appearance. I still think there's an aspect of the woman-only gym that is empowering, that is recognizing that the world of gyms and strength training is male-dominated and seems difficult for a woman to enter on her own. There's a value in single-sex spaces where people can encourage each other (though there's an added complexity of fitting transfolk into this) and engage in things that are "unwomanly" or "unmanly" without reproach. But Curves focuses that encouragement on weightloss, putting what could be this hugely empowering swell of women working out without regard to things like appearance and sweat and being "good" into an envelope of "how many pounds did you lose this week". Why are most women's gyms about weightloss and appearance? Because women are about these things?

Of course we're not, but when we buy these products, we send the message that we are. Even if your individual franchise didn't push that message, you're still buying it at a corporate level.

The argument against this is that Curves is actually pushing health, not weightloss. Sorry, honey, but if you're measuring my outside, you ain't measuring my health. Weight and size aren't inversely related to health. I know various media sources have told you that, but it isn't true. [Read Dean Edell's Eat Drink & Be Merry, Glen Gaesser's Big Fat Lies or stop by show me the data, for instance, if you aren't already familiar with the data on this one.] If you sell weightloss as "health", you're lying.

There's a recent final chapter to this that I came upon in this month's Bitch - which is that the guy who started Curves uses his profits to push abstinence-only sex education and anti-abortion clinics. I admire people who put their money where there mouths are, but I don't want my money ultimately going where his mouth is. Particularly when his mouth was already making out with the weightloss industry.

I do think it would be useful to have more fitness services available to beginners, whether that be new fat-friendly gyms or just adding certain "beginner only" areas or times to existing workout spaces. Gender segregation might be nice sometimes, too - especially considering how self-conscious we seem to get about exercising or sweating and hanging out all over the place. And lacking the ideal, I guess Curves seems like a well-publicised second (or fifth) place alternative. But I've finally decided that I just can't deal with Curves' approach.

Edited at various points to add relevant links on the pro-life/pro-choice thing. Which, by the way, was NOT the original intent of the post. I still believe there are more anti-feminist things about Curves than just being anti-abortion. Like the attitude towards women and beauty. Like the misunderstanding of what "health" is.

Seriously, people. I don't care how liberal the franchise may be, you're still buying a brand that chooses to associate itself with weightloss as health, and by accident of its owner, has also associated itself with denying reproductive rights. Is your workout worth that? It's up to you. In my mind, the Curves brand is anti-feminist, and was well before the pro-life contribution thing came out. But it's a complex issue - for many of you the experience is feministy even if the brand isn't, and I won't tell you what to do.

Poundy's April 2004 posts - well-written and peppered with links to articles and detail around the pro-life thing.
The Snopes piece - full of news references and stuff.
Curvers for Choice - if the pro-life thing is the only issue that bugs you about Curves, this may make you feel better.
Feministe on the subject (actually, it's Cinnamon, not Lauren) - one of the most reasonable, non-reactionary blog posts on the subject, posing a viable solution for you Curvers.

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your wicked thoughts

"I don't want my money ultimately going where his mouth is. Particularly when his mouth was already making out with the weightloss industry."

HAH! That tickled me.

Yeah, I hate Crves too, damnit. I heard they have a "Wall of losers!" in the Whoopy Goldberg "I'm a loser with Weight Watchers!" sense. That in itself shows the at once insulting and artificially "liberating" rhetoric of the weight loss industry.
Also, I fucking hate the name Curves. It's just more evidence of the growing trend of packaging weight loss and conformity as empowerment and self love. Bah!

these are the thoughts of originalenid (margi) on April 7, 2004 04:26 PM

do you know why curves creeps *me* out? b/c of their born-again-christian financing. seriously.pro-life, anyway. i just went looking for the links and couldn't find them, which means they are much better-hidden than they were over the last 12 months. before they slick-i-cized their websites it was possible to hear messages about Jesus if you uptracked a few links from the site.

anyway, i wouldn't put my healthcare dollars anywhere where the profits go to saying what i can do with my uterus.


these are the thoughts of kcd on April 10, 2004 11:12 PM

They gave away a Curves diet book in this month's Cosmo and the emphasis is entirely on weight loss, nothing to do with health. They have affirmations like 'Nothing tastes as good as thin feels'. Ugh.

these are the thoughts of the absent student on April 17, 2004 08:51 AM

Wow- I just discovered today while signing up at CURVES that they are pro-abortion! (Big thanks to the trainer who let this slip out). This is infuriating! I disagree w/above, & think they are more health-focused than weight (at least at my local franchise where they don't even bother w/weight & measurements). I can't believe that even here in liberal SF this info about CURVES is well hidden. Would welcome specific references/data to share around re: their supporting pro-abortion efforts.

these are the thoughts of Ellen on April 22, 2004 02:03 PM

EEk! My apologies friends! I meant PRO-LIFE! I am just so damned mad I was seeing double & typing non-sense!! Heavin & CURVES are PRO-Life, anti-abortion. Can anyone explain how/if the locally owned franchises do or do not contribute to his agenda?? I hear in SF there is an effort to work against the nat'l org agenda.

these are the thoughts of ellen on April 22, 2004 02:48 PM

My understanding is that Heavin's vision of Curves is that it's kinda religious, just as it's clearly focused on weightloss. But it's encouraging to hear that some franchises are working against that.

One of the interviews I read with him said that basically, the franchises are encouraged to work however they like. Curves HQ gives them religious music and such, but they don't HAVE to play it, anymore than they HAVE to weigh you.

So I guess the question is, ultimately, does the local franchise attitude cancel out the fact that the CEO of the company is anti-abortion and very very religious?

these are the thoughts of april on April 22, 2004 04:44 PM

Today I spoke at length with the owner of my local CURVES. She says she paid 27,000 for the business, which she now owns outright. 10% (2700) of that went to Heavin, so she donated 2700 to a breast cancer cause (he says abortion causes breast cancer). She is also making a regular contribution to Planned Parenthood. No further $$ goes to Heaven...oh, except the $200/mo all franchises pay for "advertising". So, indirectly she still supports the growth of CURVES, & therefore his "pro-life" agenda. And symbolically she is still associated with the nat'l corp. What to do? It's quite a pickle.

these are the thoughts of Ellen on April 22, 2004 11:41 PM

I'm a Curves member who was also distressed to learn of the Heavin's support of pro-life causes. So I created a website for pro-choice members of Curves: http://www.curversforchoice.org

It clarifies some of the inaccuracies in the press (some of the reports have been REALLY distorted) and encourages pro-choice Curves members to make contributions that would counter the Heavin's contributions.

these are the thoughts of tomatillo on May 6, 2004 04:12 PM

Thank Heaven for Heavins and Curves! I will hurry over to our local Curves, checking to be sure the owner agrees with Heavins, and sign up: I SUPPORT LIFE AND WOMEN'S HEALTH! Abortion HURTS women... when will you quit listening to the propaganda and think for yourselves??? Read The Grand Illusion... that'll be a good start.

these are the thoughts of Donna on May 10, 2004 01:06 PM

Grand Illusion is a creepy book with spurious premises. I'm surprised y'all are coming over here inciting us to "think for ourselves" and providing such poor, propagandized resources for doing so.

Did a link to this post show up on someone else's site telling you all to come harrass me or something?

these are the thoughts of april on May 10, 2004 01:32 PM

i am a curves member and pro-choice. unlike domino's pizza which i have boycotted for years, where i have lots of other pizzas to choose from, curves is very unique and has made an incredible difference in my life. there is no other healthclub like it. it doesn't just focus on being thin, it focuses on self-esteem and heart health and is a great resource for women, especially those who have put off working out for so many years that bally's is just too intimidating and difficult. my local curves has done clothing drives for the abused women's shelter and food donations and lots of progressive charity work. i know of owners of curves franchises who are committed lesbian couples! heavin might be a jerk and i'll have to figure out what to do, but don't trash curves till you've been there!!

these are the thoughts of kato on May 10, 2004 09:02 PM

I think Gary Heaven is a liar and a thief. He built a "fitness" corporation, uses it's money to support his causes and then hides behind the corporation. I hope more and more women resign and his corp goes down the drain. Whatever happened to all of the progress we made about pro choice? And who does he think he is? I'd like to know how he would feel if he was made to carry and deliver a baby that was a result of a rape. Until he can become pregnant and deliver a child I think he needs to shut up.

these are the thoughts of Donna on May 12, 2004 09:52 PM

I just joined Curves last week. After a life of absolutely no working out, this was the perfect alternative for me. Curves provides a fast, easy (planned for me) workout that is super convenient. It doesn't matter how you dress and you can just get in and out. I don't understand all the negative comments about the health aspect of this idea. At 40 years old I just found out my fat ratio is 30 percent. Isn't it healthy for me to finally exercise? At 40 years old the reality of aging is hitting me. I see my body rapidly changing and isn't exercising the best way to keep myself feeling better and combat the depression that I often feel during the month because of low self-esteem? Doesn't losing weight make me healthier and happier? Eatting better is a separate decision from working out. Recently I worked at the front desk for 2 years in a local high-end, all-inclusive raquet club. There were people that worked out and ate right and there were people that worked out and ate horribly. Just because a gym offers an expensive personal trainer who can help guide you in eatting better, does not make it a better place.

I think the bottom line is this:

If you want to work out to be buffed or perfectly defined, Curves is not for you. If you want to do what doctors recommend, and exercise on a regular basis which results in a healthier body with stronger bones and muscles and less body fat, then Curves is great for you. Curves is aimed at people just like me. I just want to feel better and feel better about myself.

these are the thoughts of Vicky on May 25, 2004 09:02 PM

I just cancelled my Curves membership. I cannot support organizations that limit choice and freedom. While I don't advocate abortion as birth control, it must be made safe and available.

Having said that, though, I do not monetarily support 'rapture ranger' causes, and wish that people realize how important it is to keep the boundaries between church and state. Europe learned the hard way, the US seems to be heading in the same disasterous direction.

these are the thoughts of Beelzabush on September 9, 2004 05:41 AM

To all of you having the ethical dilemna of what to do once you find out that yes in fact, your money does filter into Heavin's right wing causes:

I went into Curves, spoke with the owner who said that the articles weren't true and that Heavin's supported planned parenthood too (wrong). I asked her what to do if, after considering all sides , I chose not to continue. She said that I would be let out of the contract with a penalty of up to fifty dollars depending on how long I've been going (a little less than two months) the assistant said that it would probably be $20. I'm doing it. I'll miss the work-out. Other than the BAD music, it was ingenious, and there isn't anything else like it. But if you haven't already, read"The Ethicist" column in the New York Times of a couple of weeks ago. That was a bull's eye for me. And his facts are not distorted in any way.

Someone should start up a version of this routine for pro-women pro-choice women....who don't listen to silly pop. All of who have left Curves would go!

these are the thoughts of Laura on October 17, 2004 04:17 AM

I just joined a Curves-like gym called slim and tone. I've never been to Curves, but I believe it's the same concept. Most Slim and Tones offer classes and more cardio equipment along with the Circuit training. To my knowledge, the owner does not send money to right wing causes. Please tell me if you know otherwise. The point is, this is a good alternative to Curves and hopefully has no right-wing anti-woman agenda.
They did measure me though...but I asked for it.

these are the thoughts of cara on November 10, 2004 01:38 PM

I have been a member of Curves for 2 years. I have never felt better about myself and have acquired the habit of exercise. I have lost 15 lbs. in body fat. I don;t understand what all the nonsence is all about. Here is someone who is trying to do good and helping women. My Curves owner is great. She is prochoice and contributes to Curversforchoice. Do you know where the owner of Nabisco donates his money? I'm sure you still buy his products.

these are the thoughts of Carol on November 16, 2004 03:05 PM

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