It seems odd and unfair to me that female athletes are unduly scrutinized. What is easily waved off for men becomes a bone of contention when women are involved. Just like a man can be both masculine and be athletic, so can a woman be both feminine and athletic. Who says only men were born to be athletic? It is so annoying that someone on Facebook can comment sarcastically “Serena’s great, but does she hold up under the male gaze?”

New York Times sportswriter Ben Rothenberg apparently shares this concern. He has been raked over the coals for this widely criticized article focusing on Serena Williams’ body image in a way that furthers the body hatred so many women experience, even as Williams was triumphing at Wimbledon.

Does anyone fret about the imagined body image woes of the greatest male athletes of all time? Does anyone discuss whether guys can be both handsome and athletic or both masculine and athletic? Not at all and that is because athleticism is constantly framed by the default male gender, where it can exist for men free of stereotyped limitations.

Why is it that at the mention of the word “athlete,” an image of a male pops up in your mind? When female athletes are powerful, tough fighters, sweaty or just simply muscular, the media reduces them to animal-like caricatures, as if attempting to shame them because they are ladies.

This does not mean we undermine the role played by all our famous male athletes, who go out there, stretching themselves in the pursuit of their dreams thereby winning medals for their respective clubs and nations. Irrespective of whether they win national titles or Olympic medals, they get the accolades and the high salaries and the prize money and the endorsement deals.

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Have you observed that the selection of male athletes is not dependent on their physical attractiveness or race why then should it be a yardstick for selecting their female counterparts? I believe it is high time this denigration and chauvinism came to an end.

It is not a man’s world; rather it is our collective world. As it is commonly said, ”˜what is good for the goose is good for the gander’. No more should women play second fiddle. Women have a right to aspire to become whatever they desire to be. There should not be any occupation exclusively suited for men alone. Women should be given equal chances. They also deserve the million endorsements and benefits that men also enjoy.

Here’s the thing — we all have bodies that do things, not just men. I know it’s hard to see past the obsessively ornamental presentation of female bodies in the media, even those of female athletes, but female bodies don’t just pose. They don’t just decorate the world. If they are athletic, they often don’t succeed without strong and prominent muscles. They run and jump and sweat and even bleed. Don’t try to reconcile that with femininity, because femininity is many things. It needs no justification. It needs no explanation. It needs no reinvention and it needs no manipulation. Just let it be and give them a chance to explore all their inherent potentials.
Believe me; we cannot have a colourful world without women because women actually make the world beautiful. Let’s give them the chance they deserve to contributing their quota to the sports industry. We have nothing to lose, in fact, we have a lot more to gain.

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