Who You Calling ‘Hideous’?
So, I’d been planning on doing a post about the way women’s appearance has played into the Olympics, then a funny little thing happened this morning. I got up at 6am, hauled on my running kit & booked it outside to do a hill session. After my sets, I came back in and took a shot of my sweaty, distressed face for Instagram. Why? Well, for one, because I run a fitness site and secondly because I’m documenting all my training in the run up to the Amsterdam Half Marathon. Within minutes, a kind lady user of Instagram had posted the following comment: ‘Holy Jesus, you’re hideous.’ And this, feeds in to the entire point I was going to make about women at the Olympics anyway, so I must thank that user for both her rudeness and her impeccable timing.
Now, to be fair, I’ll be the first to admit, the picture is hardly flattering and I’ll also admit, I ain’t exactly a looker. Trust me, this is not a fishing for compliments post – I have a weird face, it’s my lot in life. I’ve dealt with it. However, I challenge anyone to do an intense hill training session and look attractive afterwards and frankly, if I still look cute after a workout, I didn’t try hard enough (haters, feel free to insert ‘you weren’t cute to begin with’ jokes here).
I’m not particularly bothered by the insult – I’ve had much worse – but I’m bothered by what it symbolises on a grander scale. So many women are put off getting into sports because of these crazy ideals of beauty that are shoved down our throat on a daily basis. The thought of looking anything less than perfect just doesn’t compute. God forbid we look a little sweaty, get our hair a little dishevelled. And then those of us who choose to and will proudly display it, have the privilege of being called ‘hideous’ by lovely people we don’t even know on the internet.
During the Olympics, I’ve been frustrated by the amount of time spent commentating on women’s looks over their ability. Calling them ‘girls’ and remarking on their outfits and ‘oooh look at their nail art!’ all trivialises their incredible athletic ability. If there were comments flying around about how great the men’s hair looked and such like, then fine, but that’s just not the way it works. We have ‘Strong is the new sexy’ memes flying about accompanied by pictures of scantily clad muscly chicks – why can’t strong just be strong? Why does it always have to link back in to female sexuality and the male gaze?
I was really disappointed to see a number of women on Twitter referring to female shot putters, discus throwers and weight lifters as ‘masculine’ and ‘manly’. Just because you’ve bought into a stereotypical beauty ideal, don’t strip these women of their femininity. Then at the other end of the spectrum, we have the New York Times writing a scathing article about Lolo Jones, saying the only reason she made the US hurdling team is because of her stunning good looks (while the article does make some valid points about women in athletics, it is very harsh on Jones). It seems we can’t win for losing.
So what are we supposed to do? As an athletic woman, one of the great things about the Olympics for me has been the spectrum of female body shapes on show. From the bulky shot putters to the muscles of Nicola Adams and the petite frames of the gymnasts.
I’m not here to buy into your stereotypes or stupid feminine ideals. I’ve got training to do. With each mile, each sparring session and stretch I’m becoming a better me, in mind, body and most certainly, soul. I’m focused, driven, ambitious and I will damn sure defend any woman getting out there and devoting herself to a healthier life. So here’s to us, the ‘hideous’, the misfits, the up-at-6am-ers, the sweaty, messy, muscly, 6-packed, DOMS-suffering divas of the road, gym and stadium. Thank goodness there are some of us out there who are showing women how to be unafraid to be the very best they damn well can be – screw your judgement.
Be pretty on rest days.
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