Why Female Athlete Representation Deserves Your Attention

Growing up, I always considered myself to be an athlete. I was constantly training, practicing and competing. For me, all the struggle and hard work was worth it.

That is, until I started noticing I didn’t look like the girls around me.

As I got older and started competing at higher levels, my training increasingly demanded more from me. I needed to lift heavier, run faster and hit harder. I loved the challenge of trying to become better than my competitors and to outdo myself every week. 

What I didn’t love, however, were the changes I saw in my body.

I was getting stronger, but that also meant I was getting bigger. My body became visibly more muscular, even a little bit bulky. I knew that the changes in my body would translate to better performance on the volleyball court, but still, I struggled to come to terms with these changes.

Even now, a year and a half after the end of my traditional athletic career, I still struggle with body image. I still like lifting heavy and competing to be better than the person I was last week, but I still don’t love my athletic build, even though I love what it allows me to do.

woman weightlifting Photo by John Arano from Unsplash

The representation, or lack thereof, of female athletes in the media has definitely contributed to my struggles.

As I was scrolling through Google Sports News earlier this month, I noticed that only one of the 30+ articles on the first web page covered a female athlete. The athlete was Mikaela Shiffrin and the article did not have the kindest headline.

Female athletes are not often portrayed in the media. And, when we are, it is often in a negative light. Mikaela Shiffrin was described as “fuming” and having “slammed Slovakian race organizers” in response to an event delay.

Female athletes are not nearly as respected as male athletes. Women deserve to be recognized for their successes and their accomplishments just as much as men do. Women and men are both capable, strong and competitive beings.

As an athlete, I needed to see other female athletes being recognized. I strongly believe that had I seen more women commemorated for their athletic accomplishments, I would have struggled less with my body image. I would have been more concerned with my performance rather than my appearance, finding inspiration from the strong women I saw on the news.

Athletes are extremely influential. They have platforms. They serve as role models. Young girls need female athletes to look up to. They can’t find that as easily as their male counterparts. And the question that I’ll leave you with is: “Why?”