Is strong the new skinny? As sports evolve and performance standards rise, the demands on the female body increase, leading to more and more emphasis on force, an element which also lies at the core of Crossfit.
Throughout human history, the female body has been a constant theme illustrated by the various branches of art, enabling us to get a glimpse into what the ideal of women’s beauty looked like at different moments in the past and how it changed over time.
From the robust, large ladies of the Renaissance to the very broad spectrum of female body types that marked the 20th century, certain patterns emerged, which were indirectly imposed on women as they became engrained in the unwritten social norms of those times. The ideal figure was chubby, slim and moderately fit, while the present-day image of ultimate beauty seems to be seeing a return of curvy shapes. However, the time of athletic, muscular bodies has not arrived yet.
THE ATHLETIC PHYSIQUE
As it never matched the widely acknowledged ideals, this type of figure has been continuously stigmatised. Both amateur and world-class athletes frequently experience body-shaming for being too bulky, disproportionate or, most often, ‘masculine’. Could sports in general, and crossfit in particular, finally break the mould and make such a figure the pattern to strive for? Could they at least change social mentality, making people appreciate this type of body, if not also from an aesthetic point of view, then for the outstanding capacities it has developed over time through systematic training?
AN AESTHETIC OF EXCELLENCE
The body of a sportsperson is a testament of the many hours in which it was pushed to its limits, a record of the intense training regime it underwent not for the shallow purpose of looking a certain way, but with the aim of enhancing athletic performance. The impressive image this hard work sometimes results in is just the visual proof of the strength behind those big arms and defined six pack.
When the general audience watch sports on TV, the first impression they get of the athlete about to perform concerns that sportsperson’s appearance. Given that sportswear generally exposes most of an athlete’s body, it is natural for the viewer to unconsciously pass judgement on the way the athlete looks. However, as soon as the actual performance begins, the person watching shifts his or her attention to the competitor’ skills, be they strength, speed, flexibility, precision or a combination of these. The audience start to appreciate the extraordinary efforts made by the athletes’ bodies, and to admire the way in which every muscle contracts to create just the right movement.
At the end of the day, it is not the look that counts, but the level of the performance, and it is not the appearance of the athlete that makes the final, lasting impression on the viewer, but the sometimes superhuman abilities which the competitor demonstrates.