Before I trashed my back, I used to be addicted to kettlebells. (No, the two facts are not related. That’d be almost normal.) I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had the same conversation with kettlebell instructors frustrated at their inability to get and/or retain female students. The instructors were absolutely convinced that women either baulk at hard work, or are simpletons who fall for the latest fad with a pretty logo instead of looking for what gives “real results”. I happen to know from experience – from actually talking to women who were talking about quitting or had quit, as well as countless women horrified at my hobby and my results – that a considerable number of them were concerned about bulking up. The instructors kept insisting that kettlebells don’t make you bulk up, and for their standards, for their interpretation of the word, they are perfectly right. Unfortunately their standards are not universal, and they are most definitely not shared by those women who not only don’t want to look like Arnie, but are horrified at the prospect of looking muscular at all. (Incidentally, from personal experience, it’s not shared by many men, either.)
I’m not saying this is “right”. I’m not saying this is “wrong”, either. I’m saying this IS – it is a real issue, an important factor, that always seems to be discounted.
Many or most women take up fitness activities to stay in or get into shape. If the shape you’re trying to sell them doesn’t match the one they want, they won’t buy your product. Unless you can show them that your product fits their need, by tailoring both the advertising/marketing/presentation AND to a certain extent the product, you will not be able to sell it to them. Who wants to spend money, time, and effort to achieve a goal they loathe?
The same issue seems to apply all too often to self-defence instruction. There’s this constant wringing of hands about the fact that women are so often a very small proportion of the student body, even though being a woman does definitely not guarantee you immunity from violence. Much is said about how this is a social problem: that women are indoctrinated to be horrified by violence to the point of preferring to ignore the entire issue, that it’s not considered womanly to learn to hit for a hobby, or some suchlike thing. And I’m not saying this is not true, but I don’t reckon that’s an insurmountable problem. Careful advertising, over time, can change people’s minds about the suitability of a product; hell, just think about the rabbit.
I reckon that the main problem all to often is that no efforts are made to present the product in a way that makes it actually appealing to the average woman. Instead of highlighting those aspects of the training that match women’s wants, a lot of emphasis is put on how the training can change you – into the kind of person many women don’t want to become. And when women don’t buy, this is seen as a failure on their part, rather than a failure in communication and advertising.