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Why Are People Criticizing These Olympic Athletes for Their Looks?


I wish I could say that when I read the article "Fat? We Are Fit. Get Over It, Say Women," published by Reuters UK yesterday, that I was shocked and saddened by the amount of criticism female athletes have faced this week. Unfortunately, I'm not. Saddened, yes. Shocked? Not in the slightest. Recently, a list of top female Olympic athletes including (but not limited to) Australia's Leisel Jones, the U.S.'s Gabby Douglas, and Britain's Jessica Ennis, have faced incredible amounts of scrutiny about their looks or weight.

For example, after Gabby Douglas won two gold medals for Team USA in gymnastics, Twitter was abuzz with the fact that her hair looked "unkempt" and "ratch." Similarly, after appearing in a documentary about women's weightlifting, British weightlifter Zoe Smith was attacked for looking like a "bloke" and a "lesbian" (you can read her response to the criticisms here). Before the Olympic games even began, an Australian newspaper ran a photo of swimmer Leisel Jones suggesting she didn't look as fit as she had in the 2008 games as well as running a poll asking readers if they thought she was fit enough to compete in this year's games.

All three ladies above have not only qualified for the Olympics, but they've also medaled or broken world records this past week. What does this criticism have to do with their abilities or performances? Nothing. It only centers on their looks, which just serves as a depressing indication that no matter what you do or accomplish, nothing is as important as ensuring you fit into society's narrow-minded ideas of what makes a woman "pretty."

Here's a list of other notable female athletes who've faced criticism about their looks or weight recently.

1. Rebecca Adlington: The British swimmer, who has won two bronze medals at London, told the press that she had to stay off social media before she swam because there were so many negative comments about her looks.

2. Hollie Avil: British triathlete, Avil, who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, quit sports for good this May to concentrate on her health after struggling with an eating disorder she says stems from years of a coach calling her fat.

3. Jessica Ennis: A high-ranking British official recently commented that Ennis, who won the heptathlon this weekend, looked like she was carrying too much weight for her body.

4. The entire Brazilian women's soccer team: The coach of Cameroon's women's soccer team said that the Brazilians looked "a bit heavy," before the South American team trounced Cameroon 5-0.

5. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings: The beach volleyball stars have been unstoppable when it comes to performance, but when it comes to their uniforms, they haven't been able to win so far. They've simultaneously been called "cheeky" for deciding to stick with their uniforms of bikinis; later when they pulled on long-sleeved t-shirts to adjust to the 60-degree weather in London, they were criticized for not showing enough skin.

How do you feel about all the female objectification we've been seeing at the Olympic Games?



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