Female Olympians Should be Praised for their Skill, not Bodies

by August 15, 2012
filed under Activism, Life
Topics ,

Just like millions of fellow gurls, for the last two weeks I have spent practically every waking moment glued to my TV screen, taking in all the Olympic brilliance. And man, has it ever been a showcase of athletic excellence; full of record breaking performances, shocking comebacks, and inspiring displays of true sportsmanship.

But sadly, it seems that some people fail to grasp the concept of the Olympic Games. On August 8th Turkish columnist Yüksel Aytuğ had the gall to write an article titled “Womanhood is dying at the Olympics” where he states that the Olympic Games are destroying the female figure: “Broad-shouldered, flat-chested women with small hips; [they are] totally indistinguishable from men. Their breasts – the symbol of womanhood, motherhood – flattened into stubs as they were seen as mere hindrances to speed.” So it is ample breasts and curvy hips that what make a woman a woman? Is he for real?! And if that bombastic statement isn’t crazy enough as is, Yüksel pushes his sexist rant even further by suggesting that points should be added to the scores of female athletes based on how feminine they look. I still can’t manage to wrap my head around that one.

Female athletes are unfortunately no strangers to intense scrutiny in regards to their bodies. They are constantly objectified and criticized in the media for being too muscular, too fat, too tall or too short. The physique of female athletes are so nit-picked that sometimes it seems people forget that the Olympics are about excellence in sport and not a beauty contest (not to say that our Olympians aren’t gorgeous women). In circumstances where an extra millisecond, an extra inch, an extra ounce of endurance can make all the difference, why would we ever wish to discourage these women from pushing themselves to achieve their bodies’ max potentials? Male athletes are not discouraged to train hard. In fact, they are praised for their dedication. So why are women any different? At the end of the day an athlete is an athlete and they ought to strive for nothing but their best. That is why people compete, after all.

And as for Mr. Aytuğ, who clearly prefers the traditional male idealization of the female figure, who is he to say that this is the ideal female figure to the rest of us? As women, we should not be subjected to how men feel we should look. We as a society determine what is aesthetically beautiful, and call me an optimist if you will, but I feel that our society has come so far that reinforcing such patriarchic standards of beauty marks an alarming stumble backwards.

The grueling training female Olympians do to perfect their craft and their bodies in their respective sports is no doubt going to have an effect on body composition. You would be lying to yourself if you think that a weightlifter, a swimmer, a track athlete and a Victoria’s secret model are all going to have the same body shape. All in all, the Games do an outstanding job of sending the message to gurls all around the globe that female athletes come in more shapes than just a “Barbie doll,” and what matters most is not the shape of their bodies, but rather their abilities.

And Yüksel Aytuğ was clearly not paying attention, because speaking of abilities, the female athletes have showed they can bring it! In case you haven’t been quite as obsessed as me, female athletes owned the podium. For instance, the U.S. women’s teams cleaned house this year laying claim to 56 percent of the countries medal count, and bringing home 66 percent of the U.S.’s gold medals. This year also marked the first year that every nation had at least one female participant. That alone is a huge accomplishment. And even though the female athletes from other nations may not have won quite as much as the Americans, the notable performances have no doubt helped to bring gender equality in sport one step closer, and our athletes have left our countries and our gurls with a new set of heroes.

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