naked: athletic should be the new black

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We’re built, as humans, to choose an ideal–this is the ideal job, this is the ideal partner, this is the ideal car and house and life, and this is what we need to aspire to. Ideals make me tired. They so often are an unattainable extreme, raising the bar to such an impossible height that ordinary human beings–perfectly wonderful, perfectly average people–end up breaking their necks when they try to scale those heights. Average is a bad word, and perfection is something that is not just nice to achieve, but something to which we are supposed to dedicate ourselves.



And then we dedicate ourselves to eating disorders and plastic
surgeries, because we want to look like Barbie dolls, be 12 feet
tall and weigh under a hundred pounds, be able to carry designer
clothes on our back down the runways, but unable to lift a fork or run
a mile. It occurs to me that if we’ve got to dedicate ourselves to
achieving something, if we’ve got to spend our lives looking longingly
at a goal, comparing ourselves to some superlative (and you know we’ve
got to), then there is no point in saying just stop it, because we just
don’t seem to be built that way. If we can’t just stop it, why can’t it
be the strong and beautiful bodies of professional athletes we long to
have? The Olympic hopefuls, the swimmers and their incredible arms, the
magnificent, muscular legs of the sprinters, the stunningly powerful
backs of the weight-lifters who can carry just about anything on those
shoulders.

Maybe we can look at the strength and the beauty of these amazing
bodies that do amazing things, and think about what it would be like to
be that strong, to take care of our bodies so well that they, in
return, do such incredible things for us. Why isn’t athletic the new
black? Why aren’t Playboy models mocked for being unable to open up a
jar? It could happen. Ideals shift, and change, and maybe this round
will be the one that makes us stronger.

  4 comments for “naked: athletic should be the new black

  1. Jen
    July 8, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Athletic women’s bodies are probably even more unattainable than the Playboy variety, and there is plenty of sexualization and objectification to go around. Do you think anyone would have paid any attention to Anna Kournakova (let alone named an internet virus after her) if she hadn’t been hot? There were definitely better women’s tennis players at the time.
    I say let’s hold men to the kind of standards they hold us: if they don’t look like a football player or a pro wrestler, let’s make them feel every bit as inadequate as they make us feel about not being athlete-model-bunny material.
    I’m sick of all of it and don’t just want a new flavor of the same old crap. I’d rather just not eat crap.

  2. Anonymous
    July 9, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Actually, I think this is sort of the peace I have come to with my own body. I will never be skinny like anyone you see in print or on TV or in the movies. I have large birthin’ hips and big legs. However, my large, muscular thighs make me a strong swimmer. And the more I swim, the more the rest of my muscles start to come to the forefront. I’m not aiming to be an Olympian, but I am shooting for healthy and athletic, and I think I’m achieving it.
    I’m the kind of person who needs goals and for me, being healthy is my goal. I won’t even ever be not overweight according to the BMI with the goals I have for myself. And that’s ok by me.
    It would just be nice to see healthy people in the popular media.

  3. July 9, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    That previous entry was me.

  4. Kitty
    July 10, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Jen – I disagree. I think chasing after an athletic body ideal is at least physically healthier than chasing after a thin body ideal. As for how men are internalizing the media messages about body ideals, there are more and more reports about men chasing after an ideal – whether it’s being ‘thin’ or the ‘Adonis’ body shape and damaging themselves in the process. I don’t think men have it any easier than we do to be honest.

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