Athlete Body Image: A Series

Part I: Introduction

By Maria Caire

This is the first post of many discussing the various body-image issues athletes endure. Our goal with this series is to dig into the effects that body shaming has on athletes. Through research, situations we have witnessed, and our own personal experiences, we hope to shed light on the toll that judgement from coaches, the media, and the public can have on athletes.

I googled “female athletes” and the top 3 results included “The Top 50 Hottest Female Athletes of 2017,” “Top 100 Hottest Female Athletes,” and “America’s Sexy Athletes: The Hottest Female Athletes.”
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I immediately reacted with disgust thinking, of course this is what comes up. But then I googled “male athletes” and the results yielded “Hottest Male Athletes,” “The 50 Fittest Male Athletes,” and “25 Hottest Male Athletes.” 

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It is long overdue that the media and the public stop objectifying athletes of both genders before we reach the point that they are only known for their bodies rather than their athletic skills. Collegiate and professional athletes did not get to where they are on talent alone. Becoming an elite athlete takes consistent hard work and dedication. Student-athletes schedule their lives around rigorous practices, strength and conditioning, rehab, and hours of school work and classes. In other words, being an elite athlete is more than a full-time job.

If their talent and dedication pays off, they also find success. And with the success comes attention. This forces many athletes into a spotlight some do not even desire or are prepared to cope with. It also comes with a good deal of responsibility. Ironically, the attention leads us back full circle to society focusing completely on an athlete’s body. Katelyn wrote about these pressures in her poem “Fame.” If you read her poem, you understand that Katelyn puts careful thought into her actions knowing they have consequences on the many fans who admire her. This leads me to ask the question, why do some people still feel the need to criticize her?

Why is her body or her appearance something people feel entitled to either objectify or critique? And which is worse?

Anyone who regularly works out knows it is a commitment. But for elite athletes, the amount of work you put into your body is about achieving your goal for your sport— a sport many athletes dedicate practically their entire life to.

“Looking hot” isn’t an athlete’s main objective when it comes to playing their sport—their health is. However, spectators and, unfortunately, coaches and trainers often assume one’s physique is the biggest indication of one’s health. But skinny doesn’t always mean healthy. 

Regardless of the amount of work athletes put into their sport and regardless of their accomplishments, the media, the public, and coaches continue to ridicule athletes over superficial things. Distorted body image in both male and female athletes is a legitimate issue many people choose to ignore. 

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