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Valerie Bevilacqua
Valerie Bevilacqua Staff Writer/Freelance Contributor/Former Editor
4y Toronto, ON, Canada Story
Shame On You, New York Times, For Body-Shaming Serena Williams


Her derriere may be ample and her legs may be strong, but we can attribute Serena Williams' fit physique to her diligent work and blessed genetics. Post 21 Grand Slams and a well-deserved sixth Wimbledon championship, many would see this is proof enough that she has earned her enviable figure. Unfortunately, the media thinks otherwise.

Instead, they have blatantly scrutinized one of the most prominent athletes there is; in the past 15 or 20 years of her stardom. Instead of perceiving Williams' body as muscular and athletic, they have - time and time again - inaccurately deemed her body "unfit" and fat".  

With no apparent empathy for her injury and downhill battle in the ranks, 2007 was the year they picked on Britney Spears and Serena Williams alike; although with Williams, it was even more shocking when you consider her dedication to her role as an athlete. From 2007 to 2009 especially, papers followed Williams' significant weight loss - and, then again, her "gain" with the Telegraph's assumption that she's stepping in on the scale as "175 pounds".  Not to mention that last year, Russian tennis chief Shamil Tarpischev was fined for commenting on the bodies of “the Williams brothers” and making this horrendous statement: “It’s frightening when you look at them.” 

Arguably enough, even in the situation where Williams does weight 175 pounds, BMI shouldn't necessarily bare any hold on whether the tennis celeb is considered "healthy". While the BMI offers a wide range of the "normal" weight based on height, it doesn't take into account muscle mass, pregnancy, or other factors. Some can carry more weight, if it's proportionate to a curvier body shape or distributed evenly over a larger bone structure. Some athletes ie. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson fall under the BMI category of "obese", even though they just carry more weight due to their muscle mass. So even if Serena Williams was considered "overweight" or "obese" by that chart, it would at least be partially due to the fact that her muscle mass and body type is just meant to be bigger. Her DNA may even predetermine her body to return back to a "natural set weight", which is the weight your body tends to always come back to - despite weight loss, exercise and diet.

Many do agree with this reality. The New York Times’ Ben Rothenberg notes her "large biceps and muscular frame"; along with the development of those physical traits that are prevalent in women's tennis and therefore should be admired, but sadly aren't at the whims of her fellow competitors and the media alike. He also indicated the body image issues in female tennis players and the fact that they try to refrain from "bulking up", especially since being seen as a "woman" can also mean remaining in the top 10 "if you're a small player".

In other words, society reinforces unrealistic and stereotypical standards as to what a "woman" should look like. Double standards aside, it seems as though the female gender is bombarded more for airbrushed or starving ideals than are other genders may be. J.K. Rowling defended Williams to a Twitter troll this weekend, when she posted a picture of Williams celebrating her beauty in a red dress and heels. The troll responded by claiming Williams' "success is that she is built like a man", which is also offensive; because it implies that women aren't created in the proper form to excel at sports, or that women can't play sports at all.

Regardless, Williams reciprocated with her words to the Times, “I realized that you really have to learn to accept who you are and love who you are. I’m really happy with my body type, and I’m really proud of it.” Because at the end of the day, it's not about what your body looks like; it's about whether it's healthy, functioning and accountable for accomplishing what it is that you need and want to do.

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Valerie Bevilacqua
Staff Writer/Freelance Contributor/Former Editor

In her eight years of freelancing, Valerie Bevilacqua has gone from interviewing stars like Full House’s Jodie Sweetin and Saved By The Bell’s Lark Voorhies on her blog, to typing for publications like BuzzFeed, MSN India, Medium and XXL. Valerie was also once a regular contributor for Maxim Canada [...]

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