Female Athleticism: A Cause for Celebration

by Amanda K.

The women’s rights movement dates back to 1884 when a group of women gathered together to fight for the equality of women. Since then, women have made great strides towards equal opportunities for females around the world. Girls growing up in today’s society are experiencing a very different world compared to women who were born in the 1800’s. While the movement has brought great change to the world, women are still fighting against injustices they face on a daily basis. Although women are able to vote and be seen outside the home, they are still viewed as the inferior sex, especially in the sporting arena. Although women are able to participate in sport which wasn’t always the case, they are paid less and as a result are given less opportunities to pursue professional careers in sport. Because of the inequalities between male and female sports, females in sports are not taken as serious as competitive male athletes; basically, they viewed as less feminine women.

On average, in professional sports, women are paid only 77% of professional male athlete’s salaries. Although this percentage varies among sports, it is consistent that males are paid higher salaries. Due to lower salaries, in order to support a comfortable lifestyle female athletes must find other sources of income to make ends meet. For some female athletes this means sexualizing their bodies by posing naked in order to make extra money on the side. Although posing naked has received negative opinion of the general population, posing naked not only benefits the wallet of the athlete, but has created a movement to accept female athletes and their body image.  Amongst these females are Gabriele Reece; a professional volleyball player who posed for playboy in 2001, Hope Solo; a professional soccer player who posed for ESPN in 2013, and Lolo Jones; Olympic track and field athlete who posed semi-nude for ESPN in 2009.

Women participating in sport challenge the image of femininity. According to the definition of femininity, females are supposed to seemingly have feminine qualities at first glance. This means having petite bodies, smelling nice, and ultimately being weak. Females who participate at the highest level of sport spend hours in the gym to build muscle in order to compete against the best athletes in the world. As a result, female athletes are considered less feminine due to their large muscles and aggressive behaviour while playing sports. Since female athletes don’t traditionally fit the feminine role they are stereotyped as “butch” or “lesbian”. Female athletes posing naked sends a message to the public demonstrating that the female athletic body type is nothing to be ashamed of but instead something to celebrate. I think this message is very important to portray to young female athlete growing up with body image issues.

Personally, growing up an elite athlete I always struggled with body image. While all my friends were very petite, I had large thighs as a result of playing soccer and figure skating. I was always self-conscious wearing shorts or finding the right pair of jeans that fit my thighs properly as well as my waist. Over the years’ companies such as Nike have brought attention to this issue with their “real women” campaign that highlights the acceptance of having big thighs, shoulders, etc. This campaign was a pivotal for me and allowed me to finally begin to accept my athletic body type instead of being ashamed of it.  Instead of trying to hide my muscles it became a cause for celebration. I think it so important for female athletes to continue to empower young female athletes in this sense to increase the acceptance of females in sport. Growing up, I wish there were more female athletes who stood for what these campaigns are standing for. As a result, females will be able to further themselves in sport and bring more positive attention to female sports.

 

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenstimeline1.html

http://www.adwomen.org/2011/06/controversial-nikes-campaign-for-women/

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