Speak On It

Body Shaming

London 2012. We were all engrossed in it. Whether we loved sport or not, we became patriotic, devoted supporters of Team GB. It made our Capital a very merry place to be.

Aside this general positivity, there were shifts in attitudes towards sport, especially for our female athletes. Decathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, our face of the games, cyclist Laura Trott, Paralympian Ellie Simmonds are just a few to name that have been projected into sporting fame through their success at the Olympics. Women were being seen as successful as men – they were inspiring the nation.

However, this optimistic step in female sport has not totally rid the negativity female athletes are exposed to. Take Serena Williams and this year’s Wimbledon Tennis Championship. Her dominance and ability to break her opponents is awe inspiring. Serena sailed through the competition to victory, claiming her sixth Wimbledon title and completing the ‘Serena Slam’ as the holder of four major titles. It is this that should have been headline news for this incredible athlete. Yet that was not necessarily the case…

During the championships, Serena was faced with cyber bullying when many took to Twitter stating she is ‘built like a man’ and has ‘caterpillar eye brows’. The power of social media came into play when supporters hit back in defence for the athlete (including author J.K Rowling!) and the taunts made headline news, overshadowing Serena’s glory in claiming her 21st grand slam title.

Did the sources of these small minded statements realise the outrage they would cause? Probably not but it is so important to highlight the discrimination people are still facing in sport. Serena is essentially, a sporting hero. One of the greatest athletes to walk our planet. She is built to be a champion and we should be inspired by her beauty, mind set and success. She is a walking advert for female power and only good things can be taken from her.

Serena isn’t the only one to be body shamed. Olympian swimmer, Rebecca Adlington, has faced immense negativity over the years for her image and has openly expressed her emotion about the effect it has had on her confidence and self-belief. Aside from sport, stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Adele and Lady Gaga have all bared the brunt of cyber trolls discriminating their appearance too.

Body shaming is always going to make a scene and we will never know who will be the next target. Yet, all it brings to light is the cowardly act of those that feel the need to show indignity and ignorance. What it actually can convey is the revelation of just how amazing these targeted individuals are. In reality, positivity overshadows negativity. Always.

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Govinder Rayt

Govinder Rayt

Writer and expert