Getting ready for the gym, I turn off my straightener, check the mirror one more time to make sure my makeup is not a hair out-of-place, and touch up the shiny lip gloss that I’ve just applied and I’m out the door. I have on a perfectly coordinated gym outfit one that is tight in all the right places and of course shows off my perfectly toned yet thin stomach, arms, and legs…errr…hold on, no… From gym and fitness class advertisements like the ones seen below that is the type of pampering one would expect, yet this is so far off from reality…
When it comes to getting ready for the gym and working out I look nothing nor do I aspire to look like the models pictured in the above. To work out I am in a t-shirt and shorts (who cares if they match, maybe on a good day), my hair is tossed up in a bun or a ponytail and pulled back tight so it doesn’t get in my face. If I am waking up and going to the gym I am not applying any makeup, if I am going after work all I have on is the remnants of the days mascara and/or eyeliner.
The question is, “where did this image come from?” and “why is THIS what marketing and advertising companies create when they think of a female working out?” For years female athletes have fought to gain equal attention in the media for their accomplishments, successes, and endeavors. According to a study completed at USC in 2009, female athletes only received 1.6% of airtime, while 96.3% was dedicated to male sports (Cooky, Messner, 2010). In this small percentage of media coverage, female athletes are rarely featured in action playing their sport. They are usually pictured to portray a hyper-feminist image: one that only speaks to their sex appeal; or their heterosexuality, pictured with husbands, boyfriends, and/or children; very rarely do you see female athletes pictured as an athlete in action.
Now what is this saying to girls and women alike? You MUST look feminine and sexy if you want to be a female athlete. That thin and toned model who is managing to work out vigorously with her hair down, in tight spandex, with flawless makeup is your goal – this is the norm. And I ask why?!
Most men do not primp for sports, most men barely even make the effort to put on deodorant prior to working out. To me female athletes need to feel okay doing the same thing. You’re at the gym to get in better shape, you’re at the gym to get healthy, you’re competing in sport because it’s something you love – there’s no need to feel the pressure to be something that just doesn’t fit.
I say lets kick the “female” out of “female athlete” and start establishing ourselves just as that, an athlete, no female or male descriptor needed.