The ESPN Body Issue 2015 is out and I was really impressed and inspired by what the women who graced the magazine had to say about their muscular and fit bodies. What they had to say about loving their bodies- muscles and all- resonated with me because so often I feel inundated with one version of what a “hott” or “sexy” woman is supposed to look like. Big breasts, hour glass shape, tall, 34-24-34… in reality very few women fit that mold. And even those few women still have insecurities.
Moreover, I really have no idea what any person I see in an advertisement, magazine or billboard actually looks like. Celebrities and models are human beings too- a.k.a. there’s zero chance they look like 24/7 perfection in reality. Photoshop has so crucially altered what people perceive as real beauty and it’s really sad. It’s also a lot crappier for women, given how often they are scrutinized for their appearances, grossly objectified and overtly sexualized in all avenues of media. I think that this year’s Body Issue makes it clear that there is not one, singular blanket definition of what “beauty” looks like. And it really is about time that the ridiculous and antiquated “beauty standards” society holds are redefined.
Separately, the pictures of these woman, though nude, are tastefully done and highlight why they’ve been successful, professional athletes: they take care of their bodies and constantly put themselves through intense workouts and training to be at the top of their games- and have the strongest bodies. Unlike Sports Illustrated’s very one dimensional take on the “ideal” bikini, ESPN’s Body Issue is a rare example of media not hyper sexualizing the female body and instead showcasing why we should admire them- for their strength and powerful physics that allow these athletes to be the best.
Growing up as a competitive athlete myself, I knew lots of girls who were worried about getting too buff, being too muscular or getting too “manly” in terms of their body shape. I wish I could say I didn’t worry about that either, but of course all that non-sense was always somewhere in the back of my mind.
Looking back on it, my muscles and strong body were the only reason I could have accomplished what I did in tennis! Why would I ever shy away from making myself a better athlete? Or shy away from embracing the awesomely toned muscles I had (have- kinda) because of a society that attempts to pigeonhole what is considered as gorgeous or feminine? Here are a few of the body-positive quotes I felt empowered by and I hope you do too!
“I think imperfection is beauty. Instead of being insecure about my muscles, I’ve learned to love them. I don’t even think of it as a flaw anymore because it’s made me into the athlete that I am.”
“I’m self-conscious about my arms. It’s really hard to find a dress that’s a size 10 in the lats but a size 4 in the waist. But I want to be as successful as I can; if that means having big arms, I’ll take big arms.”
“I’d describe myself as athletically lanky. I want to show people that. I’m comfortable in my body and I don’t mind putting it on display. Honestly, I like how unique it is. My big arms, my bigger hands, these long legs—I love being different. If everybody was the same, it’d be a boring-ass world.”
“Dense would be the right word for me. Generally when you look at athletes, you see their muscles and all that stuff; I don’t have any of that… I’m just dense… I think it’s important to show that athletes come in all shapes and sizes.”
“In college, I was modeling in New York, and I worked with the most beautiful women in the world. They were so beautiful you could barely look at them. And then I would go back to my team at Florida State, and we were all trying to get as big as we could because we wanted to be as strong as possible. And they seemed more confident and happier. I thought, being perfectly beautiful—or what’s defined by the standards of the world as beautiful—doesn’t actually make you happier.”
“I don’t look in the mirror and think ‘slim’; I look in the mirror and I’m like, ‘Whoa, beast!’ It’s just crazy how much the body changes. Looking in the mirror, I get surprised like every other week. It’s like I’m Wonder Woman.”
“I was built like a little powerhouse. When I was transferring from gymnastics to wakeboarding, I was a little self-conscious. There’s not a huge difference going from a leotard to a bathing suit, but you’d see these beautiful girls in bikinis, and I’m only 13 or 14 years old with this buff little body. I grew into being really proud of it, knowing that that’s what has enabled me to do what I do.”