British Olympic Swimming Champion Feels "Unfeminine"

Illustration for article titled British Olympic Swimming Champion Feels "Unfeminine"

Rebecca Adlington, 19, is a swimmer who trains four hours a day, six days a week. But when she wears a baggy clothes? "People ask me, 'Are you expecting?' I say, 'No, I'm just fat.'"

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Adlington, a 5 foot 11 Olympic champ (video of one of her wins, here), tells the Daily Mail:

Do you know why I like shoes? They make me feel feminine. My shoulders stand out and people always say, "Aren't they broad?" And I think, "Thanks! You are really making me feel better about myself." I don't hate them, but I'd like to be more petite.

Without them, though, I know I wouldn't have the power I have – they are what makes me go so fast in the water – but out of the water, they definitely look better with a nice pair of shoes.

How heartbreaking is it, that in this era of "dainty" size 0 celebs, a strong, amazing woman — who is tapping into the potential of her (female) body — thinks of herself as unfeminine? What does "feminine" mean, anyway?

Here's the Merriam-Webster definition:

1: female
2: characteristic of or appropriate or unique to women {feminine beauty} {a feminine perspective}

But in our culture, it seems like "feminine" means dolled up, ruffled, manicured, wearing Louboutins. It doesn't mean getting dirty, or exerting yourself, or getting sweaty. Adlington says:

"I think there is a problem in that girls don't think it's cool to be sporty. I had that feeling when I used to trudge into school after training with my hair wet, smelling of chlorine, with no make-up on and thinking, 'Oh God, all the other girls look fantastic.' We need to change the view that you can't be a sportswoman and be feminine. I am certainly feminine outside the pool.'"

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Of course, to prove that she is most certainly female, the paper shot Adlington by the pool in heels and a frilly dress. But she seems to have some sort of peer-induced ideal in her mind that she just can't shake: The reporter suggests she is bringing glamour to swimming, and Adlington responds, "Me? Bring glamour to the sport? I don't think so. I looked dreadful at the end of my 800 meters when I pulled my hat off and the wet hair was flopping in a face bare of make-up. Awful!" That is how she describes the moment in Beijing when she won the gold medal. Why?

Illustration for article titled British Olympic Swimming Champion Feels "Unfeminine"
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Olympic Champion Rebecca Adlington: 'Girls Don't Think It's Cool To Be Sporty' [Daily Mail]

Earlier: British Swimmer Rebecca Adlington Has World Record, Good Friends

DISCUSSION

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applejuice

I've lived both in the UK and in the US (both for many years) and it is not as common in the UK for girls to be involved in sports. Don't get me wrong, some girls do sports here, but it is not as prevalent as it was in the Midwest US where I am originally from. Also, for both boys and girls, sports are not taken as seriously on a broad level. Sure there are some kids (like Addlington) who go in seriously from an early age. But for the most part there are fewer practices a week and they don't take stuff as seriously here for "normal" kids. I find this good and bad. On one hand kids have more time to be kids, on the other they don't get as good at whatever sport they are doing!