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Body Issues: Females in Sports and in Life

June 30, 2016

I’ve always found it ironic that in a society in which “body image issues” is a favorite topic the common solution to dealing with this all-too-real problem seems to be posting nude selfies or posing nude on the cover of a magazine!

We live in a highly sexualized society, one that I do not believe anyone has an issue with admitting has a problem with objectifying women. I think we need to redefine the concept of female empowerment and stop making it center around a women’s willingness to take off their clothes, “free her nipples” or anything related to the naked body.

I recall when the former Disney starlet Demi Lovato, a young artist who had a history of drug/mental health and self-harm concerns, decided in the wake of her grandfather’s death to pose nude in a photo shoot to celebrate the release of her album entitled, Confident.

At first glance, this title and the decision to pose nude can easily be marketed or giving the typical media “spin” to give it a “feel good” type  “you go, girl!” vibe. As a father and a Behavioral Therapist I just believe that turning this practice into a “feel good” or “empowering” gesture sends a dangerous message to impressionable young girls who are already idolizing these starlets for all of the wrong reasons!

We live in a world in which young children are bullied and under intense scrutiny about how they walk, talk and of course how they look and dress. Are we suggesting to average everyday girls and boys with REAL body image issues that the way to overcome them is to take off their clothes in defiance and say “to hell with what you think?”

How exactly does exposing your body to strangers for them to log on and critique as to whether or not your body is appealing or not going to help a person with real issues concerning their bodies? The overall solution to body-shamming, or efforts to help women with real issues about their body, is not for them to boldly take off their clothes in defiance, this only further plays along with the “objectification” game which is trending in Hollywood and on social media today!

I routinely get called a prude for my views concerning the heavy reliance on nudity on TV/film, but I assure you that my unapologetic views on nudity are more about promoting healthy concepts for women overall more than establishing some modesty movement.

I’m merely a father who tries to teach his daughter that she has more to offer in life than advertising her tits and ass. Some people would hear my statement right there and automatically accuse me of being crude, but when you look at what we are currently teaching young women and men to accept as “normal” today I don’t believe my message is crude as much as it is necessary!

Why is it that in the midst of the sex tape, nude selfie and Reality TV enthusiastic world in which we live we’ve managed to turn legitimate female athletes into women who take off their clothes for magazines in the pursuit of fame, and fortune?

Women sports has had to evolve to a place in time in which women went from being considered merely cheerleaders or the eye candy, to a valid and legitimate place in which they currently stand today. Why do Serena Williams, Ronda Rousey, Alex Morgan, Danica Patrick or Lindsay Vonn have to appear nude or semi-nude on ESPN body issues or any other publication?

Did famous pioneers such as Billy Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Wilma Rudolph, Margaret Court, Janet Guthrie, Shirley Muldowney or Babe Didrikson Zaharias (just to name a few) get the benefit of today’s standard of feminism or acceptance? These pioneering athletes had to perform under the scrutiny of the male establishment that didn’t even consider them real athletes!

While most would quickly suggest to me that times have changed and the sports world, much like society, has changed with it but is this indeed the case? If the pioneers in women’s sports persevered the angst and opposition of their generation only to give an opportunity for current female athletes today how does Danica Patrick posing nude or in a bikini honor Janet Guthrie or Shirley Muldowney?

My daughter followed her older brother into martial arts when she was only six years old. The instructor said that while she was too young, she listened and focused better than the older boys he was instructing! 11 years later she not only learned Tae Kwon Do but is currently preparing for her Black Belt in Bushido-Kai Karate, while also studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!

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My daughter demonstrating one of her weapons katas.

 

She is as much of an athlete has her older brother, and she has a lot more to offer the world than posting a nude selfie or sharing her body with the universe!

How is it possible that we allow the media to spin these trends as evolution or any semblance of real definite progression regarding how women, and in this case female athletes, are valued if it inevitably places them back in the same old objectified category that the pioneers before them paved the way for them to surpass?

Many of today’s top female athletes, singers, and entertainers despite their differing body types, skin tones or ethnicity are undoubtedly beautiful creatures that only God could have made. If we afford the men the opportunity to be defined by the body of work, skills, talent, and even their intelligence, why can’t we do the same for females?

We are not only doing females in all walks of life a disservice by systemically relegating them to be wholesome of their willingness to take off their clothes, but we risk causing more harm by trying to co-sign on the practice as if it’s a legitimate form of female empowerment!

Are we relegating female athletes and entertainers by their commitment to take off their clothes? Clearly, these women have talent and skill; they have more to offer than their tits and ass, yet within our society not only are nude selfies trending, showing off your body is the norm!

Some are protesting my words, perhaps arguing “male athletes do it also!” but are men asked to do this at the same rate and frequency at which female athletes are invited to do it?

I was once asked by a friend’s wife if my daughter had “body image issues?” since she didn’t show off a lot of skin or wear tight clothing. I tried to remain calm and answer her in a non-offensive way, “she’s only eight freaking years old!!!!”

Sexualizing and objectifying young girls and women is a systemic part of our society! If adult females want to wear slogans, or attention grabbing words on the butt of the jeans or shorts, rock on with your bad self, but I cringe whenever I see parents letting their little girls start this dangerous trend.

Since my daughter has gotten older, I’ve had family members ask me “when are you gonna let your girl show off her curves?!?!” You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve almost cursed out someone close to me on this very topic!

I can’t control my daughter even If I wanted to! She is a smart and talented young lady who has developed her own set of values (yes, some parents still teach those!) My daughter is capable of coming home with black and blue bumps on her shins from blocking kicks in sparring or at a tournament. She is also capable of making her dad have to change his clothes when she gets all fancied up when she and I go on an occasional daddy/daughter movie date! (flower in the hair and everything people!)

When our daughter was around five years old, she gave me her list of things she was going to do when she got older. These things consisted of – a tap dancer (a ballet dancer too), a magician, a black belt in martial arts, and a chef. We had her list on the refrigerator and my wife, and I told her that she could become anything she set her mind to become. She’s often talked with me about how society views females, and when I listen to her and see her compete at nearly 17 years old I still see that same feisty little six-year-old that wouldn’t allow anyone to tell her she was too small to begin martial arts!

My daughter’s defiance is what motivates me to speak out on these types of issues. Women have so much more to offer the world than their bodies, and I just wish little girls today had more ambassadors for this concept than they currently have.

Some would suggest that my simple values are perhaps outdated or closed minded, but teaching little girls and women overall that they should value themselves and their bodies should never go out of style.

Contrary to society today it is not a woman’s birthright to take off her clothes in a film, selfies or for mere entertainment. Women have far more to offer the world than their bodies and it’s time that someone lets them know.

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