I am the Swole Woman, and I speak for the traps

I speak for the traps, the traps that have no tongues. Plus: the limits of human perfection, berberine, the socialist gym rats who protected Abraham Lincoln. We're back! This is Links 96!

I am the Swole Woman, and I speak for the traps
Back muscles don't lie / @swolewoman, 2017

A thing has seemed to bubble up in the body modification world in the past few weeks, and that thing is called “traptox.” This is when Botox is applied to the trapezius muscles, the triangular ones that connect your neck to your shoulders. Botoxing these muscles helps immobilize them, as with Botox in the face and especially the jaw, which causes them to shrink, sharpening the angle between neck and shoulder. This procedure has also come to be known as “Barbie Botox,” because in her half-century of existence we still haven’t worked our way through all the ways that a doll’s body does not represent reality.

Let me be clear: I have no problem with any individual person who modifies their bodies. We all have to live in the world; we’re entitled to our autonomy. But there is something wrong when anyone does anything in the name of body modification and everyone immediately quails to “I think anyone should be able to do to their body whatever they want.” This is an imperceptible rhetorical curve; I’m not talking about what individual people do to their bodies.[^1] I’m talking about what the world makes us feel is desirable, or even necessary, to do to our bodies in order to be accepted. These are two different things. A lot of times, I feel like there is no one to speak for the body part that whatever procedure is being done to. Therefore, I would like to take a moment to speak for the traps.

Let's approach this from a functional angle, briefly: Botox that goes in faces only restricts facial expression. Traps are a different story. The upper traps, specifically, seem to be the part that gets Botoxed. Upper traps are the muscles that rotate, extend, and tilt our necks and heads, lift our arms, and, maybe most importantly, shrug our shoulders. You’re telling me I’m supposed to want to give up my ability to signal that I don’t give a shit, to shake my head no, to tilt my head at a “what did you just say to me” angle, just so that my neck can be 90 degrees to my shoulder? I should think the fuck not!

It is possible to have overactive traps, especially if you have a desk job or carry tension in that part of your body; I say this as someone who used to carry and row and do virtually every lifting movement with as much trap as my body could muster. Learning good lifting form helped me learn to direct away a lot of that tension by using the right muscles. If trap tension is a sign of imbalance, turning that one part of the body off isn’t going to address that. Traps are part of our highly interconnected muscular system, so shutting off one part may just cause other parts to overcompensate. That’s a lot of downside to take on for, say, our jobs that are already imprisoning us at our desks, creating shoulder tension and reducing mobility that we are falsely led to believe are solvable with a few injections.

All of this aside, let me say this—I think traps are beautiful. There is nothing like the peaks and valleys of a nice set of traps, nothing like the shadows that emerge when light falls across them. I regret only that I can only see my own in photos and the mirror but never in real life!!

I still arguably don’t look like I lift—the New York Times calls me Swole Woman, the commenters come out and say “this woman is not swole; she is merely fit,” and I carry on living my life—but I especially didn’t in the first couple of years, because it is hard to put on a lot of muscle. But occasionally I would wear a back-revealing top or dress and pick something up, and my traps I guess would ripple beguilingly, and someone behind me would go “whhoOOAAoAAoAAA—have you been lifting??” And I would smile beatifically and say “yeah, a little.”

I hesitated to even write about this, especially because it’s being claimed as “the hot new thing on TikTok.” A week ago, HuffPost breathlessly reported that #BarbieBotox has “over 6.7 million views.” This is a type of metric that has bothered me considerably in TikTok reporting, because, on this absurdly overinflated platform, single-digits-millions-of-views is a rounding error. It does not indicate, for instance, that 6.7 million people have gotten #BarbieBotox. It doesn’t indicate that 6.7 million people are interested in it. It indicates that 6.7 million people were served a post with that hashtag, and it was visible on their screen for maybe even only as long as it took them to swipe past it.

TikTok has 1.1 billion monthly active users, who seem to average between 30 and 60 minutes of usage per day. 6.7 million views, ever, against 30-60 billion viewing minutes every day, is less than nothing. Almost certainly more people have read articles about this alleged TikTok craze than have meaningfully engaged with it on TikTok itself.

So it doubly sucks, then, that we, including me, are being tricked into speaking this misbegotten idea of a cosmetic procedure into existence. I am the Swole Woman who speaks for the traps, but I also try to exercise good judgment about what to not talk about. Today I failed, but tomorrow I will try again. But until then, please know that, Kim, you can have a trap.



~Discord Pick of the Week: The history of the socialist gym rats who not only begat gym culture in America as we know it today, but guarded President Lincoln. ~

When I wrote about being robbed of the silly little tasks that make life good a few weeks ago, a bunch of you sent me the below quote from Kurt Vonnegut, and I was remiss in not including it in the next newsletter. Then I came across it on Twitter, so please enjoy it now:

Love this drop set from Alan Thrall: Deficit deadlifts into regular deadlifts into RDLs. I’ll be trying it!

Studying the limits of human perfection, through darts. I love this because more and more sports (mostly not the really mainstream professional ones) are seeing dominant athletes who just have a lot of years of training and are able to stick to it through their inevitable injuries and setbacks.

On the rise of The Body Keeps the Score.

Feminine-based poses to upgrade your life.

Japanese TV show that pitted cats against one another to see who could deadlift the heaviest fish. (Apparently this clip is very old, but this makes it no less good.)

How to bring more play into your life.


After all the good guidance I gave, Elon has “I’m a black belt in karate, I just don’t feel like showing you”’d his way out of the fight with Mark Zuckerberg. We always knew this would happen, but it is always satisfying to see him held to putting his money where his mouth is.

Entirely too far down in this piece on knee injuries among women soccer players:

“Women’s soccer does not have the same organizational support as men’s,” he said. That applies not just to travel, but to the number and the quality of medical staff members, physiotherapists, nutritionists. Likewise, young female players, until relatively recently, did not have the benefits of the same sort of specialized strength and conditioning training that is commonplace in boys’ academies.”

Emphasis mine. American Prometheus, except that instead of having my liver eaten every day, the news shows me another problem that happened because people were like “mm lifting weights… probably not that important.”

A great investigation of the drug berberine, which has enjoyed a glossy PR tour on TikTok et al. as “nature’s Ozempic.” If you need to know whether that’s real, lemme redirect you to: TikTok.

The Army is developing a tactical bra, but there are no shots of the back of the bra, and the fronts suggest some or all of the models are racerbacks. As we know, these are torture devices.

WSJ claims adults are annoyed at teens in the gym. Cited causes for complaint: they “misuse equipment, cause crowding, don’t clean up after themselves, scroll on social media,” and, worst of all, “congregate in groups.” Everyone does these things! No jury would convict!

A vegan influencer allegedly died from her all-fruit diet.

Self-aggrandizing hip-thrust creep Bret Contreras found wigless and dead in a ditch: “Nine weeks of squat versus hip thrust training elicited similar gluteal hypertrophy, greater thigh hypertrophy in SQ, strength increases that favored exercise allocation, and similar strength transfers to the deadlift and wall push.” Basically, squats = hip thrusts in terms of glute activity. (Before he even starts: Yes, sure, hip thrusts and lots of other things isolate the glutes more, but hip thrusts are still a reach in terms of an effective way to use your gym time.) (A good writeup of this study in the MASS journal.)

When did people stop being drunk all the time?


Linking this because I did almost this exact thing a couple months ago: turning your smartphone into a dumbphone. Hide or delete everything that’s not either what a dumbphone does or a very essential function of a smartphone: camera, maps, texts, weather. I keep some reading, podcast, and photo-editing apps on my homescreen, too, as well as one for hiking trails and another for identifying plants. Life has improved at least 100x.

Deeply satisfying: the r/flashlight community.

Gen Alpha memes are here (skibidi toilet) and to say Gen Z is shaking would be an understatement. How will the Alphas say they are “shaking”? I can’t wait to find out…

Say no to the workcation. Maybe too late for this year, but late is better than never.

That’s all for this week! Next week begins our anniversary sale; keep your eyes peeled for some very special goodies in celebration :D

I love you for reading, thank you, let’s go—

[F1] This especially goes for if it’s some doctor-ordered thing; I’m not talking about that. I’m not talking about that.