For two weeks, the Olympics present the viewing public with a diverse range female body types, many of which will remain unrepresented in future advertising campaigns. Women who compete in the games, argues Time's Sonia Van Gilder Cooke, provide a counterbalance to all those glossy, airbrushed photos of magazine cover models and actresses who offer only a single, unrealistic physical standard.
Though women in the Olympics are creepily objectified, they also help expand the public's idea of the many shapes women's bodies can have. According to Jo Swinson, a British Member of Parliament and founding member of the U.K. Campaign for Body Confidence, the Olympics are "one of the times we actually get to see women without makeup on on television." Swinson believes that, because athletes spend years honing their bodies to perform a single, highly specific task, there's an "honesty" about their bodies that most celebrities, by contrast, do not demonstrate. That's because female Olympians are trying to win competitions, while celebrities and models are essentially helping create the illusion of a certain kind of physical perfection in order to sell something.