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Women athletes being pressurised about their appearance

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Rebecca Rogers
WVoN co-editor 

Young women are being put off sport because of concerns that the training will make them ‘unattractive’.

Dr Katharina Lindner of Stirling University, a former Glasgow City Football Club player, has carried out research into how cinema portrays athletes.

She said: “Girls want to be good at their sport, but on the other hand a question around their femininity is raised because they are considered too muscular.”

The concerns follow the recent revelation that Jessica Ennis, the British World Champion heptathlete, was called ‘fat’ by a senior figure in sport.

The 26-year-old admitted that the comments came as a shock, saying: “My weight is not something that I’ve worried about in the past…It’s been blown massively out of proportion. It’s not an issue.”

She also admits that she is now more prepared for any future criticism:

“I’ve come into this year expecting that there’s a lot more attention on sport and athletics. Things are going to get written. If you come into the year expecting those kinds of things then it’s not as big a surprise.”

In an interview last week, Ennis advised women to love their body the way it is. She said: “Everyone has their hang-ups, but I see my body as a training tool and I feel good about it. I’m comfortable being naked.”

Sports psychologist Tom Lucas spoke out about the issue, saying that the media could do more to improve attitudes towards women in sport.

He said: “I remember Sally Gunnell saying she felt under pressure to wear make-up. Now, I think that’s sad. You should define yourself as a person first, then an athlete, then your gender if you so wish. We need to recognise the individual as an individual and nothing else.”

Girls are reportedly more reluctant to participate in sport, with some studies suggesting that two in five refused to participate because they are concerned about their appearance.

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