Let’s hear it for girls with junk in the trunk. Girls who rock what they got, celebrating the curves, the strength, they bring.
If you’ve been hiding under a rock, you might have missed UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s “perfect 10” performance last week. She is thriving in college gymnastics, after dropping out of elite gymnastics.
She dropped out of elite competition for all the right reasons—too many injuries, lack of a healthy body image, a lack of balance in her life in general. She bid goodbye to the rigid stereotype and unhealthiness of girls who don’t develop as women due to the strict training and diets they endure—all in hopes of a gold medal. It makes me wonder—would we do this to boys? I don’t think we do. I can’t think of a sport that stunts their physical development.
Ohashi has curves. Her thighs and rear are not teeny-tiny. And she is beautiful. Last week, her perfect routine not only earned her accolades (and blew up the Internet) but showed the joy true self-acceptance can bring. She is rocking it in her mat routine, having fun with the music and her own physical strength. She owns it.
And did you see American softball player Lauren Chamberlain in ESPN magazine’s “body” issue? She looks nothing like the wispy girls we see during Fashion Week. She celebrates that. In her words: “I am big-boned, no doubt about it,” she added. “But I really like my thick legs. I love my thighs. I have an insane amount of power, especially in my hitting. That’s my thing, and I own hitting because of my body structure.”
I had to search really hard to find a suitable image for this post. Search for any combo of “curvy,” “woman” and “muscle”–and you’ll get either sex-kitten workout girls or women who truly are unhealthily overweight. Where are the normal images of women who have strong, but not tiny, shapes? And why are they so hard to find?
Normalizing a strong female body—normalizing a body with curves and little of the angularity we see in store window mannequins—man, is that sanity. As I listen to my friends discuss daughters’ eating disorders, I think—what if the message we sent a decade ago was different? What if strong and curvy was beautiful? What if—no matter your shape—it was just that—a shape? And what if your shape as a woman didn’t matter as much as who you are as a person?
As I navigate middle-age and hormones gone wild, I can gain weight by eating a simple piece of lettuce. I watch friends devote hours upon hours to elimination diets, workouts they hate, and restaurant ordering that requires instructions to the chef that mimic a 747’s pre-flight checklist. It’s not fun–for them or their companions. Try hosting a “casual” evening in for a bunch of cranky, keto-fueled, carb-deprived, middle-aged women. Ugh. Healthy is good. In shape is good. But perhaps it won’t be the same shape you had at 25 years of age. Food for thought.
It’s flippin’ crazy to me that I’m writing this in the 21st century. Batshit crazy that in a society where we have invented smart machines to help run our home we are not smart enough to see what we’re doing to girls—and women of all ages—when we judge and denigrate the package they come in at the expense of their soul.
It’s sad that it took some of my male friends becoming fathers of daughters to see things differently. I am trying so hard to raise boys who see the female equation with different eyes. I will not lie—I’m not sure my voice alone is enough to counteract what they see and hear every day in social media, advertising and the world at large. But I sure am trying.
I watched Ohashi’s routine with tears in my eyes. Her joy was incredible to see. Her comfort in her own skin was beautiful.
May we all have the same. Here’s to my bootylicious brethren. I’m going to try to channel you, ladies, when I look in the mirror. And hopefully smile more about what I see.
Let’s own it.