Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Fitness at Every Size

Did you hear about The University of Washington's advice for prospective cheerleaders? The infographic, published last week by the university, suggested that coeds show up for tryouts with "curled or straight hair," false eyelashes, and bare midriffs - and created quite a stir in the body image community.

It's clear that the university - and likely not the only one but maybe one of the only to advertise - was looking for a female prototype to populate its squad. Might women of color have a shot? Would women of diverse body types or varying degrees of femininity have any chance of nailing an audition? Unlikely.

While we might take aim at any one of the stereotypically confining pointers they recommend, the one that jumps out most to me is the hint, "Be physically fit, with an athletic physique." What might happen, as I'm sure will be the case, if a woman shows up for tryouts who is physically fit but who doesn't have the "athletic physique" that the squad requires? Might she have a shot to dazzle the captains with her fitness and skill? Doubtful.

What exactly is an "athletic physique," anyway? One word connotes function, the other form. In reality, athleticism has no look. It's possible to be perfectly athletic without sporting the "athletic physique" most of us are brainwashed to prefer.

The Health at Every Size® movement proposes that healthy behaviors be considered independent of body size. I'd add a special emphasis on fitness, as indices of fitness (e.g., strength, endurance, flexibility) can be accomplished regardless of shape or size. A thin body is not, by definition, fit. 

So, might the cheer captains at the University of Washington take note of a truly athletic woman, who can tumble and jump but who has a bulky midriff? Fat chance.

But, there's a lesson in this for all of us.

You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at BarnesandNoble.com

1 comment:

Meliss said...

i sure wasn't physically fit when I was severely bulimic, but thin!!!! The whole thing is gross. And sexist.