Robin Givhan, in the Washington Post, referred to us as “muscular post-Title IX arms.” She then goes on to say that when Michelle went on “The View” in a sleeveless dress, “the definition of a strong woman changed.” While we hate to argue with Ms. Givhan (she has a Pulitzer!), we’d like to use our muscle to raise a little quibble with this
Frankly, the idea that we, as strong and beautiful as we are, can by ourselves change centuries of screwed-up thinking about women’s bodies and what defines strength and/or a strong woman, is the worst kind of wishful thinking. Sometimes people who analyze images for a living forget that while images are undeniably powerful, there are far stronger forces affecting women’s lives.
Remember when Camryn Mannheim won her Emmy for “The Practice?” She waved her statue around and said “This is for the fat girls!” and everyone thought it was a game changer. Well, the fat girls of America can tell you that not much has changed. Poor nutrition, little exercise, insane celebrity bodies and a diet industry that thrives on tiny type that reads “results not typical” have seen to that.
And that’s where Title IX comes in. Perhaps Ms. Givhan is not aware that, while Title IX has provided many opportunities for many young women to participate in sports, there is still much work to be done before anyone or anything can be called “post-Title IX.” According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, “female high school and college athletes are still not receiving equal participation opportunities. High school female athletes receive only 41% of participation opportunities while female collegiate athletes receive 43%.” Across the country, schools provide subpar resources for female athletes, deny women access to facilities needed for training, and there is an alarming rate of sexual harassment by coaches.
We’re proud to symbolize athleticism. We love being strong and buff. And while we would never speak for Michelle, we are pretty sure that she would rather use us to fight for young women than to be a symbol of anything.