With all the badass and powerful athletic display of women at the Rio Olympics, an ugly side of spectators has been showing itself via social media. That is the habit of body shaming the women who break the stereotype of what an athlete looks like.
Welcome to Day 15 of #31DaysofSelfCompassion
Alexa Moreno, a Mexican gymnast, was compared to a pig and told she’d be better off winning a hot dog eating contest.
Michelle Carter, a.k.a “shot put diva”, experienced her own share of shaming when she gained weight due to hyperthyroidism, and so did Meng Suping who won this year’s weightlifting Gold medal.
All these women defy the stereotype of what an athlete looks like, and we can’t handle it. After all, how else would we still be able to use fat people for ridicule? Who else is going to supply our memes for body shaming if we cease to believe that fatness and excercise/athleticism are mutually exclusive?
And in regards to ourselves. How will our relationship with our own bodies change, if we stop associating our body value to how close we can get to the stereotypical athletic look that is all the rage on social media? I think of many people who for example say they don’t want try crossfit, yoga, swimming, any sport really, by saying “I don’t have the body for it”. And you know what? Those people are not wrong. Because many of us do everything we can to tell fat people they don’t belong anywhere. Think of the playmate who a few weeks ago, shared on her social media a picture of a naked woman in a gym locker room, for her followers to laugh along with her. People like that who feel entitled to fat bodies, who feel they have every right to snap pictures and make them into memes, why would anybody think they have the body for anything? Why venture out in spaces where people tell you that you don’t belong?
This is why I am thankful for all these Olympic athletes, Michelle, Alexa, Meng, even Serena Williams. For the people I’ve seen at crossfit, for the fat yogis who populate my Instagram feed, for the people who take up space and live boldly. I praise them for giving us all permission to expand our idea of a “good, athletic body looks like. Representation matters. I’m so thankful for these women for shaking us out of the trance of body shaming habits.
But one note I would like to make is that athletic prowess should not be an indicator of how much respect we should give heavier people. A person shouldn’t have to do a handstand or squat 200 pounds in front of you to demonstrate why they deserve basic human courtesy. While I am elated for the Olympic champions who break the athletic stereotype, I wish for a broader conversation in which we hold each other accountable for the respect of all body types whether they are winning gold metals, doing amazing yoga poses, or simply enjoying ice cream on a hot day.
Isn’t it time already?
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.