La Trobe University body image academic Siân McLean says the debate about swimmer Leisel Jones’ weight is disappointing and that the Olympics is an opportunity to celebrate athleticism and a range of body shapes and sizes.
‘We’re used to seeing one stereotypical body size for women being shown as the ideal, but the Olympics shows that a range of body sizes and shapes are really important for their different athletic functions,’ says Siân.
‘Someone who is a basketballer is going to have a very different body shape and size to someone who is a gymnast or a discus thrower. What is great about the Olympics is that it presents diversity.’
These negative conversations around body image can have adverse effects on the self esteem of people already struggling, Siân explains.
‘When we stop thinking about a competitor’s athletic ability and start glamorising athletes for their looks, then that’s an unfortunate side effect of Olympic coverage and sports coverage in general.’
‘Certainly people are more likely to be affected by this type of media coverage if they already have body dissatisfaction or if they are trying to emulate people in the media,’ she says.
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