This should go without saying, but because there is a large segment of the population that is unclear, it must be said.
Female athletes do not devote an unfathomable number of hours of physical training, and adhere to a highly disciplined nutrition regimen to acquire the physical approval of others. Female athletes do not push themselves and their bodies to extraordinary limits, that appear humanly impossible, solely to be fawned over by men, or deemed the epitome of #bodygoals for all women. Female athletes’ bodies are works of art. They are instruments; valuable tools that demonstrate unparalleled athleticism and skill. Yet, nearly every female athlete has publicly endured body shaming from sports fans and media. Female athletes are often referred to as too muscular, and critiqued in an objectifying manner that delegitimizes their virtuosity. Twenty-two time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams has been called masculine an ungodly number of times. The same with UFC fighter Ronda Rousey. And, in some instances, women are often critiqued to discourage entry into a sport. Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre’s first Black principal dancer, was often criticized for lacking height and possessing curves early in her career. Bottomline, women athletes are berated with a variety of affronting beliefs opposing the message, you’re perfect exactly the way you are.
That’s why US Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, 22, and Simone Biles, 19, sharing the pages of Sports Illustrated’s 2017 Swimsuit issue in body-baring bikinis, alongside towering fashion models, who traditionally meet America’s narrow and exclusionary standards of beauty, sends a strong message celebrating the diversity of women’s bodies and promoting body positivity. Though Biles and Raisman have flawlessly rebounded from being body shamed by coaches, as well as fought off cyberbullies by confidently affirming themselves in the past, showing their haters they’re self-assured in their skin by posing and flexing their bodies for SI in ways only world-class gymnasts could, beats a social media clapback every day of the week.