Serena, Ronda and Our Fear of Strong Women

“Oh my goodness, she’s so ripped and I love it! Her biceps
and traps are so sexy”…says hardly anyone, ever.  For centuries a muscular build has been a
sign of beauty for men, not women.  In
western culture, a woman’s beauty and femininity are often based on her
softness and her curves; not on how chiseled her muscles are or how much she
can lift.  Despite all of the strides
that women have made in society, the masses seem hell-bent on maintaining these
archaic images of beauty.  Whether they
make their livings as gym teachers or as soccer moms, women are expected to
maintain soft, slender looking bodies.  But
it’s about time that we stopped fearing strong women and started embracing
beauty strength.        

One of the greatest athletes to walk the face of the earth
is forced to confront these antiquated standards of beauty on a regular basis.  Last month after winning her 6th Wimbledon (and
21st Major) title, Serena Williams’ name trended throughout social
media.  Some of the commentary celebrated
her victory and athletic prowess; but far too many felt the need to comment on Williams’
physique.  As expected, many of the
comments were not favorable.  The media and
individuals alike felt the need to comment on the manliness and powerfulness of
her appearance.  The New York Times, for
instance, felt the need to publish an article focusing on her physique rather
than what an awesome athlete she is.  In
the poorly written article Williams provided comment about her body image and
shared a little about the issues she’s had to overcome as they relate to her
body.  For years, rather than placing her
sole focus on being the best athlete she could be, Williams (like so many other
female athletes) dealt with body issues.
She and others admitted to having an internal battle which required them
to somehow choose between feeling and looking more feminine (read “less
muscular”) and preparing their bodies to be the best athletes possible.  Essentially, they felt they had to choose
between social normalcy and career success.

This internal conversation that female athletes struggle
with should never have to take place.  After
all, male athletes certainly don’t have to have these conversations.  In a culture that praises strong, defined
muscles in men; male athletes don’t have to worry about their physiques
affecting their public images.  Rather,
the bodies they need for high performance and those that grace the front covers
of magazines are one in the same.
Working out for male athletes is simultaneously improving their
athleticism and self-confidence and public perception.  That freedom to build their physiques without
question is one many female athletes simply do not have.  And that lack of freedom can often stand in
the way of getting the most out of their bodies and their careers.  

So why does society champion the less imposing female stature
over that of power?  One word, fear.  Much of society was established on a system
of patriarchy.  Households, businesses
and governments were established on a system that placed men in positions of
power and control, and women in positions of subservience and subordination.  For centuries men have attempted to maintain
this system through propaganda about the strengths, abilities and roles of men
and women.  Images and literature, for
example, promote men as strong, domineering and powerful while promoting women
as docile, weak and unassuming.  The more
women are portrayed as frail and incapable, the more society believes in the
necessity to maintain patriarchy.  By in
large, these images have become acceptable for both men and women, allowing men
to comfortably maintain their power and control in society.  

So herein lies society’s problem with physically strong
women like Williams; they challenge patriarchy and make people fearful of a
shift in societal norms.  Strong women do
not fit into the system that has promoted women as the weaker, needy member of
the species.  Rather they challenge it
and suggest that women are also powerful and capable.  They promote self-reliance and
self-determination, not reliance on men.
Many men see images of strong women as a threat to their power and
dominance.  And many women (who are
uncertain about their own inner strength) are uncomfortable with the ideas of
true equality among the sexes.  I mean
for some it really is scary to think that if women can be both beautiful and
strong; feminine and powerful, is there really any need to have men run the
world?

Rather than conquer their fears and embrace strong women,
many resort to childish antics.  The
fearful choose to ridicule strong women as being manly and abnormal, often
going as far as questioning their sexuality.
For many, degrading women with powerful physiques and fearlessness is a
way to maintain the status quo, calm the fears about change and assure the
masses that they really don’t want strong women having voices in society.  Berating and belittling strong women
discourages others from testing the limits of their own strength. Unfortunately, these tactics are oftentimes
successful; convincing girls and women to give up on or diminish their athletic
prowess in favor of acceptance.  It
really is a pity.    

Lucky for us, patriarchy and fear of strong women has never
been the end of the story.  Women have
been testing the boundaries of their strength and pushing the envelope on
definitions of beauty and femininity for quite some time.  The likes of Babe Zaharias, Mary Lou Retton,
Florence Griffith Joyner, Lisa Leslie, and everyone in between have been
showing us that beauty and strength are not mutually exclusive.  Williams has refused to succumb to the
societal pressures of beauty.  She has
answered the internal and external battle by basking in the glory of her
trophies and her triceps.  Thankfully, Williams
isn’t alone in her present-day quest to redefine beauty.  Just the other day UFC champion Ronda Rousey
took the opportunity to inspire women to embrace their inner and outer strength.  When asked about her body on the vlog series
UFC 190 Embedded Rousey proudly responded:

     Listen, just because my body was
developed for a purpose other than f***ing      millionaires doesn’t mean it’s
masculine.  I think it’s femininely
bada**                  because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose,              because I’m not a do-nothing b***h.  It’s
not very eloquently said, but it’s to          the point and maybe that’s just what I
am.  

Really, how can you not love every word?  We need our megastars like Williams and Rousey
to take such bold stands in redefining and embracing their bodies and their
beauties.  Without their willingness to
go against the status quo we’ll continue to have girls and women have issues
with their bodies.  Girls will continue
to feel the need to choose between striving for worldly beauty and being their
bests.  We need girls to know that there
is absolutely nothing wrong with their protruding calf muscles and structured
quads.  Those things are equally and
simultaneously strong and beautiful.  

**Don’t forget to share your thoughts below and share this article with friends!**

1 Comment

  1. […] a white sport win it.  Maybe it’s sexism that has so many people angry.   Like I stated before Serena is just too much woman for some folks.  Rather than applaud her success, they want to […]

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