It seems everybody is trying to put women into boxes again, especially athletes, with a resurgence of female sports hitting the airwaves and press this summer in the aftermath of the World Cup and Wimbledon.
The New York Times ran a piece this month about women’s tennis players, and how they can balance their strength with femininity. When victor Serena Williams wore a ballet-pink ball gown to the Wimbledon Champions dinner, people expressed shock that she’d depart from her usually-dominant persona.
And that’s not all. The Guardian quoted the head of coordination for women’s soccer in Brazil, where he indicates there’s been a resurgence in the game because ladies are concerned with getting prettier for games, putting on make-up, doing their hair and wearing shorter shorts. In fact, the FIFA president seemed to echo this sentiment when he insinuated the girls’ shorts simply weren’t tight enough — they might be better volleyball tight. Because that’s a more “female aesthetic.” Apparently.
Of course, we also know actresses and models have long been scrutinized for their weight. Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence was told back in her teenage years that if she didn’t lose weight, she’d lose roles. Models like Ashley Graham, Robyn Lawley, Lara Stone and Kate Upton have all fought back against haters, who’ve labeled them fat, plus-size and/or un-bookable.
Confession: I pick apart my own body sometimes. I mean, I look at it in the mirror everyday, as I’m sure you do yours. I don’t like my broad shoulders very much; whether it’s an illusion or not, I feel like anything other than a halter cut or a t-shirt doesn’t sit right. I’d love to have more an hourglass figure, or more of a straight shape — it’s like my body falls somewhere in between, which feels weirdly impossible, yet apparently possible. And like 90 percent of the female population, I’d also kill to have flatter abs. (I mean, come on.)
But I also have a healthy realization that we all have different body hang-ups, we all have different body types, and some self-criticism is normal. Keeping that inner-voice of doubt in check, and the outer-voices that seek to reinforce it, is what’s key.
And ultimately, I take offense to people, especially men or the media, insinuating that feminine beauty comes in one size, one shape and one package — which includes short-shorts and glitter hair accessories on athletes, and a size 0 on actresses. Haven’t we come farther than that as a society yet?
If only the media could see that when they comment negatively or back-handedly on a female body type, they’re essentially critiquing a million other women and girls, too. That’s toxic.
From a personal perspective, I get it. It’s impossible to look at celebrities, athletes and other high-profile women and not make comparisons from your body to theirs on some levels. What I’d challenge you to do is to look a layer beyond the surface judgment. Every time the media shouts out a new celebrity name to comment on her body, look for something that rocks about her figure — and emulate the women with positive body images that you grow to love, and who have frames and styles similar to yours.
My current body-image girl crushes? Serena Williams for defying stereotypes. Kate Upton for embracing her curves. Jane the Virgin actress Gina Rodriguez for celebrating differences and natural beauty. Margot Robbie for admitting she doesn’t have the dieting skills of a saint (and eating the damn cheeseburger). J.Law for her confidence, and Sophia Bush for her candor.
Why I love them all? For a couple reasons. First, they have body types more similar to my own than the average celebrity prototype, and I often look to them to 1) remember that my figure is healthy and beautiful, just the way it is; and 2) get inspiration on how to dress my frame. (They have stylists, so why not?)
And finally, I love these ladies because they all express one thing: it’s best to find happiness, not obsess over fitting the media’s cookie-cutter box of what’s beautiful.
“I’m not going to starve just to be thin. I want to enjoy life, and I can’t do that if I’m not eating and miserable,” Kate Upton once uttered.
“The world has this idea that if you don’t look like an airbrushed perfect model… you have to see past it. You look how you look, you have to be comfortable,” Jennifer Lawrence has said.
“Do not tell me that I am not pretty enough, skinny enough, tall enough, this enough to be on the cover of anything or to accomplish the lead in a show or to be anybody I want to be — because those are limitations we’ve created,” Gina Rodriguez once said.
Don’t limit yourself to silly ideas of what’s in style, who’s pretty and what bodies are acceptable — whether you’re an athlete or an actress, a writer or absolutely anyone else. Find beauty everywhere instead.