• Wed, Apr 4 2012

“Athletic” Is A Stupid Way To Describe Female Body Types

Look: athletes come in all different shapes. You can pretty much see this when you watch female athletes in any athletic event. You certainly see this if you participate on any team. Some female athletes are short, some are tall, some are larger than size two. Most. Most are larger than a size two, actually. In case you are confused about what women with athletic bodies look like, they look like this:

venus williamsbrigit prinz

All of these women (Venus Williams, Brigit Prinz, a female football player in Dallas, Paula Radcliffe) are athletes. I mean that insofar as they are all involved in athletic endeavors. They could – and should – all be referred to as “athletic” in their build. Again, you’ll notice they all have different body types. However, it’s only marathon runner Paula Radcliffe who meets the definition of “athletic” in the way it has evolved to mean “slim and small busted” in every lady mag. Do you want to see who magazines refer to as “athletic?” Okay, this is someone who consistently gets referred to as athletic:

This is Karlie Kloss. She is a 19 year old supermodel with an”athletic” body. Now, it’s possible that Karlie Kloss is spending all her time out playing soccer – she legitimately does have a background in dance! – and she may very well be athletic. However, it seems crazy to think that she’s cited as having a more “athletic” build than a female football player.

And this is a problem, because it seems to imply that the only way you have a healthy, athletic lifestyle is if it leaves you looking like a 19 year old supermodel. Which is obviously insane. If what magazines mean is “someone is slim, small busted and has lean muscle mass” then perhaps the proper description is “model-y” not “athletic.” Let’s not pretend that if you’re a football player who does not look like Karlie Kloss you are somehow doing something wrong. You’re not. Athletic is just a ridiculous descriptor.

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  • Kimberly

    Is it impossible to find a lovely, slender, female paratrooper? Am I reaching for the stars here?

    • porkchop

      I don’t think sooo…

  • denise

    I have an athletic build and I LOVE being describe that way. To be an athlete means you have some vestige of health, activity, and vigor in your life. It means that you have BOTH muscles and curves. It means that your scale reads an obscene number that shocks people when you tell them how much you weigh.

    I’d love to naturally thin but I’m not. Thus, I’m happily athletic built. I work hard to stay that way as I’m approaching 50 and I know that in certain outfits I can pull off a skinnier appearance while in others I can pull off a curvy one. Best of both worlds.

  • Satan

    i don’t think “athletic” is a bad descriptor; but i DO think it describes a lot more than people like this model! i consider myself to have an athletic body, by which i mean: i have large arms and legs, which have a lot of muscle mass; i’d consider anyone with a lot of muscle mass to be athletic, and it doesn’t matter what size their body is, or whether they have curves or not. magazines may only deem one type of body “athletic,” but it doesn’t mean we have to listen to them!

  • Marissa

    Maybe they’re looking for synonyms of “modely.”

    Also, I think athletic must mean a lot of different things to different people. I do not agree with Denise’s definition. I think of when people call me athletic when really they mean “boyish figure” because I have very narrow hips and am naturally thin.

  • denise

    Actually, I used to have what people called a ‘boyish figure’ much like Karlie Kloss but not quite that thin. People never said I had an athletic figure. I have broad shoulders, wide hips, thinner nicely sculpted legs. Some curves. When I was very thin with a boyish figure I had very little muscle mass and hardly any shape or curves at all.

  • deprogrammed

    Athletic is fine as a descriptor; it was simply incorrectly applied to Karlie Kloss. The same way “rich” would be incorrectly applied to me.

  • Lemonpuss

    I hear athletic figure I envision a body with distinct muscular definition. Ms. Kloss is beautiful but more waif looking.

  • Jennifer

    I think this was probably just from one magazine, or blog, don’t exaggerate, women like that don’t get called athletic very often women who do and are flat chested are women like Gisele

  • GentleMatt

    Most words are used differently in different parts of society. You may want to call this usage a mere shibboleth. As the editor in chief of a fashion/lifestyle magazine, you are entirely entitled to understand the word “athletic” in the way you have just criticised. Us other, however, largele did not use the word like this before, and only now have been indoctrinated by your rant against this word, effectively reinforcing the disputed meaning.

    But, since I still hope to get that non-speaking cinema date with you (from the “doing social stuff alone” article), I will just say you’re (W)right.

  • Sarah

    As a female college rugby player, I could not agree more with this article! There are girls on my team of several different shapes and builds, but we all do the same conditioning, eat the same speghettie and drink the same beer at socials, and yet we all look different! From the very small, wirey wingers to the strong solid props, we are all athletic and certainly in good shape.
    I am very large busted and wide hipped, and am toned and have good muscle definition (in the right light you might see my abs if you squint) but have always felt left out when asked to describe my body type. I want to say athletic, because I AM athletic, but am left going with ‘curvy’ or ‘average’. Athletic is a stupid descriptor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/barbara.strozzi.7 John Strozzi

    You’ve go issues girl, this is what a sexy athletic woman looks like. Stop write stupid articles about how you have low self-esteem

    http://www.iphoneogram.com/p/400857103343899051_46890083/

  • http://www.facebook.com/barbara.strozzi.7 John Strozzi
  • livinfit

    I don’t think “athletic” as a body type is a stupid descriptor. When someone tells me a woman is athletic, I assume whatever her shape and height, she is fit, eats healthily and generally takes VERY good care of herself. I loooooooove surrounding myself with athletic body types, not because I’m a man, but because I’m an active woman and like being around active people. The other body types are for what you want to take off a clothes rack and hang on your torso. “Athletic” is a lifestyle body type that is sooooo much more descriptive & interesting!