As a graduating undergraduate in RSS, an article I would recommend reading is:
Howells, K. & Grogan, S. (2012). Body image and the female swimmer: Muscularity but in moderation. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 4(1), 98-116.
Sharing Emily Mallett’s (a fellow RSS graduating student and fellow blogger) interest in this article, I would like to focus my attention onto body image particularly in females and would like to make it clear that I do acknowledge that men suffer from the same issue. The article by Howells and Grogan focuses on female swimmers, ages of 14-18 and 19-56 finding three main themes, age effects on body image, the impact of peer support and an acceptable amount of muscle. It was found that some muscularity was acceptable to the adolescent swimmers as muscle indicated strength, ﬁtness, a toned body and well-being. However these swimmers also felt they did not fit into the thin ideals expected in today’s society and portrayed in the media. Female adults however thrived when they had increased musculature because they were outside the norm of their peers, they were more fit.
Due to the way female athletes are perceived by others, many are conscious of the way they look both on and off of the field. Female athletes are perceived as thin, lean, muscular women with perfect and almost flawless skin via the media, but these images are rarely attained in reality. Females feel pressure to look a certain way because of expectations in society and many times, from their coaches. At times coaches, or a sport in general, will emphasize needing to look a certain way, for example women’s body building. Females need to have the perfect muscle, the perfect size; they need to be spray-tanned, have their hair done, etc. Imagine how it would feel if you were told the body you worked so hard for, was not good enough, the emotional toll is damaging. Once a sport applies pressure to look a certain way rather than to perform a certain way feelings of self-consciousness increase and perceptions of body image become negative.
The type of support given to women who have body image issues and the type of positive language used really impacts an individual’s body image, in ways that may be hidden (such as aesthetics vs. team sports), we have to look deeply into everything to ensure a great outcome. I believe this is what students in the recreation and sports studies stream need to be conscious of, because we want to improve health in others, we also need to understand issues so we can help overcome them. I always had low self-esteem when it came to my body, and it was refreshing to know that it was not because I am not good enough, it was probably because of a negative environment making me think I had to be skinnier and less muscular. I know now when I speak to young children that I have to tell them how strong they are and how it helps them in their skill, rather than let them focus on looking a certain way.
by Sarah Mazerolle