Stop Policing Women's Bodies

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80% of women in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their appearance. And according to the National Eating Disorders Association, 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Someone sent me a screen shot of something someone said online this weekend while I was running the #tcsnycmarathon. It had to do with me chasing a BBQ instead of BQ. A few years ago, it would have made me feel like the horrible things I said to myself were true because others clearly thought them as well. But now I know that the only people who comment on other people’s strength are people with destructive inner dialogues. There will always be people who will comment on how you do or do not look. “You’re training for a half marathon? But you’re not skinny.” Or “but you don’t look like a runner.” It’s bullshit & it’s why we have to let go what other people think about us. Because when you see and feel your strength, it’s empowering & transformative. And it’s the only way we are going to change the fact that 80% of us hate the way we look. When I first ditched my shirt & started the #sportsbrasquad, I ran terrified. I imagined the horrible things people thought about my weight & body. It took MONTHS to feel as brave as I was trying to be. But being seen helped me love what strength looked like on my body. Because strength looks different on everyone. But it feels the same, empowering. At some point today, write down what you wish you could change about your appearance & why. If your answer isn’t “feel strong, healthy and unstoppable”, light it on fire & promise yourself you’re going to work to see your strength. Remind yourself, ‘THIS is what STRENGTH looks like’, whenever you feel insecure or look in the mirror. Repeat it every single day until you believe it. You’re strong, beautiful & capable of anything. Your worth isn’t attached to your waist size or how you compare to some bull shit beauty ideal. Love your body for everything it can do. Not sure how? Sign up for a local Turkey Trot and see what happens. Run it. Walk it. Run walk it. #justdoit 📸 @zhetrick #SheCanAndSheDid #TeamNike #badassladygang #nycmarathon

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A few years ago, I did something I never thought I’d be brave enough (or skinny enough) to do. I ditched my shirt and I started running in my sports bra.

I was two months out from a marathon I was working my ass off for and the 90+ degree humid New York City long runs were killing me. I was desperate for a way to find an ounce of comfort and since I was terrified of my thighs being rubbed raw in shorts, the shirt had to go.

It took me months to feel as brave as I was pretending to be running in my sports bra. I rarely saw women who weren’t thin running in sports bras, and I sure as hell didn’t see them in the ads and publications I frequented (or wrote for).

I started the #SportsBraSquad because I was tired of hiding. My shirt and capris weren’t just pieces of clothing, they were pieces of armor. They hid the body that I was too afraid to allow to be seen. I wasn’t thin. I didn’t have a six pack. I had cellulite, love handles, and stretch marks.

And let’s not forget the damage that growing up female in the United States does to one’s body image. Decades of rape culture, misogyny, and the sexualization of girls and women’s bodies made me feel like if I ran in my sports bra, I was inviting the male gaze.

But starting the #SportsBraSquad changed my life. It helped me see the strength that I’d spent my entire life convinced I needed to be skinny to attain. It helped me love my body for all it already does instead of what it doesn’t look like. And it gave me a level of confidence that makes me feel unstoppable.

But if I’m being honest, there are times where I’ll still put a shirt on because I don’t feel safe.

It’s fucked up. It’s unacceptable. And it has to stop.

This morning, I woke up to a tweet that made me want to light shit on fire.

The tweet led me to an article in The Odyssey about what is happening to the Women’s Cross Country team at Rowan University. Despite being one of the few athletic teams not provided with uniforms, they’re now forbidden from training in sports bras because the Football team isn’t focused enough on their own practices. AND TO ADD FUEL TO THAT FIRE, the Women’s and Men’s Cross Country teams are no longer allowed to train at their new state of the art facility because that same Football team can’t focus.

The school released a statement —

And put a bandaid on the issue. Why is it so hard to talk about why this is such an important issue? (And where’s the statement about not being allowed to use the new track?) TALK ABOUT A TEACHABLE MOMENT! AND BETTER YET, I’m willing to bet the girls on the team objected to the new “verbal” rule and spoke up. And when they were told that “rules are rules”, they spoke up and got online to let their voices be heard. Why did it take national attention for the policy to change? WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST STAND UP FOR YOUR ATHLETES!?

Which brings me to this:

The sexualization of girls bodies starts young. Really, really young. When you tell a girl or a woman to cover up, you teach her to see her body through the male gaze. And when you dehumanize and police a woman’s body, you immediately put her in a position to be treated disrespectfully. You fault her for whatever happens to her based on what she’s wearing. That’s what creates this, “She was asking for it” bullshit.

Imagine how uncomfortable these athletes now feel knowing that their colleagues watch them train and see them as sex objects instead of equals. Imagine how these athletes feel after being told that just by showing up and working their asses off, they’re a distraction. You are literally limiting their athletic opportunities. You are telling them that they aren’t more than their physical appearance.

It’s disrespectful to dissect what a woman is wearing.

It’s unacceptable to tell a woman to cover up.

And it’s disgusting that Rowan University didn’t stand up for their athletes.

Disgusting but not surprising.

Women don’t run in sports bra to attract the male gaze. We don’t. In fact, we don’t give two fucks about what you think about our bodies. Sexy? Not sexy? We didn’t ask and we SURE AS HELL don’t want to hear what you think about it.

Honking. Screaming out your windows. Saying, “Hey Mama” or “Hey sexy” when we run by? When that happens, we assume you want to rape and kill us BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THE STATISTICS INDICATE. We assume that men are predators. That we are never, ever safe. (Need some stats? 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime. 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime.)

So if we’re gonna pick a hill to die on, let’s educate men on HOW TO BEHAVE. Let’s put an end to the sexualization of girls and women. To rape culture. And Misogyny. AND LET’S LET WOMEN RUN IN WHATEVER THE FUCK THEY WANT TO RUN IN.

Women wear what they feel empowered in. Maybe that means covering up and wearing more conservative clothing. Maybe that means you’re in a sports bra and briefs. Whatever makes you feel strong, wear that. It isn’t up for discussion and we sure as hell don’t need more men telling us what is and isn’t appropriate.

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