Did the Olympics just give us 3 incredibly strong women role models? I think so. While all the athletes are worthy of role model status, I want to focus on 3 in particular who were the target of some negativity recently. Cyber-bullying, really — all about looks and an effort to attack their confidence. In return, these ladies proved just how confident and comfortable with their bodies they are. Now these are some women we should get behind!
Role Model: Olympian Zoe Smith, 18 years old, British weightlifter, @zoepablosmith
What a talented young woman! She just broke the 8 year long clean-and-jerk British record of 120kg, lifting 121kg. Meanwhile, people on Twitter were sending nasty messages about how she looked manly and was too muscular. –Yeah, double take. That actually happened. So not only did Zoe prove herself physically with a new British record, but emotionally as well. Check out her blog post response to those who say she’s unattractive: Thanks (but no thanks…) A sample from Zoe’s blog..
“ …we don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive? If you do, thanks very much, we’re flattered. But if you don’t, why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place, and what makes you think we actually give a toss that you, personally, do not find us attractive?“
At 18, Zoe is wise and mature beyond her years. She obviously loves what she’s doing, and loves herself– muscles and all. And why shouldn’t she? She earned those babies! She does not need validation from anyone else, and that should be admired. Now, we need to spread her mentality to get all girls loving their bodies whatever shape, size, and athletic capability they may be.
Role model: Olympian Gabby Douglas, 16 years old, American, All-Around Gold Medal Gymnast, @gabrielledoug
Gabby Douglas has won the gold in the All Around Gymnastics competition, and in fact, she is the first African American to do so. This was no easy task. For her to win gold is an extraordinary accomplishment. So immediately after, why were people online talking about her hair? The gymnast couldn’t understand, and neither could a lot of us. She is an Olympic athlete, going out to perform at her peak level; what she trained and gave up so much for. Shouldn’t her hair be the last thing on any ones mind? We can only hope so.
She proudly has no intention of changing her style. Gabby told the Associated Press “I don’t know where this is coming from. What’s wrong with my hair? I’m like, ‘I just made history and people are focused on my hair?’ It can be bald or short; it doesn’t matter about (my) hair.” No, it doesn’t matter. Wear those medals proud!
Role Model: Olympian Holley Mangold, 22 years old, American weightlifter, @holleymangold
Weighing in at 346 lbs, Holley is proud of her weight, and proves athletes come in all sizes. She lifts more weight than most of us could dream to. And while she didn’t place as highly as she hoped in London, coming in 10th, she was in great spirits and is looking forward to 2016. She did injure her wrist a few weeks ago, hurting her ability, but her attitude is still so positive. And when it comes to criticism on her weight, it’s no different. She fires back at those calling her fat, saying she’s fit.
She weightlifts like an athlete, has the spirit of an athlete — there’s no question that she is an athlete. Maybe at a different weight than others, but that doesn’t matter. She is happy in her skin, (her Twitter profile says “loving life and living big!”) and she is a tremendous weightlifter. That is all that should matter to anyone. Anywhere.
When asked by Laura Okmin of FOX what she would want people to see out of her first Olympic appearance, she responded “I hope they would see someone who never gave up”. (You can see what a sweetheart Holley is in the rest of the interview here)
Body image is vital if we want to be healthy. If we don’t love our bodies, or even want to be in them, we’re not going to take care of them. It is athletes like these women who show us the light — we can be criticized, and still be beaming with confidence. These 3 worked so hard, and fought through so much to get where they are today. We should do everything we can to keep them in the spotlight, and not let anyone take that away from them.
We can all learn something from this. When we start to have those negative thoughts about ourselves, we should remember what really matters. It’s not about our hair, or fitting the perfect stereo type body size or muscles- it’s about who we are inside; the struggles we get through each day, the disappointment and failures we get back up from, the hard work and dedication we commit ourselves to. What matters is what we have in our hearts.
These women are a reminder that when it comes to our bodies, the only person whose opinion matters is our own. I know I am in awe at the skills you women have, and the grace in which you defend them. Congratulations & well done!