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Beauty Standards On Female Athletes: The Pressure To Be Pretty

In episode five of The Panel, we're talking all about the beauty standards placed on female athletes.

You need to be good at your sport, and you need to look flawless while playing it. You need to fit into society's ideals of the size and body shape of a "pretty" woman, but you also need to have the muscle mass necessary to perform well.

It's all too much. These expectations are not realistic, and I believe it's hurting women in sports today more than ever.


Beauty standards in sports put pressure on female athletes, and they can negatively affect women's confidence, self-esteem, and so much more. While much of the blame goes to the institutions and sports companies for embracing harmful marketing strategies that advocate for specific beauty standards, I also feel that the male gaze on women's sports harms female athletes.

In addition to covering these beauty standards, we discuss body image and how that can change at different points of your career, from high school to college, once you're retired, and beyond.

Key Points

1. Beauty Standards

Often, it feels like men in sports get judged for their skill, but unfortunately, that is not solely what women are judged on. They also get judged on their looks to the point where sometimes their skill may be overshadowed by the media or social media's coverage of their physical appearance.

Are female athletes beautiful? Yes. But they are first and foremost talented.

2. Body Image

Your body will change. Often when you get to college, you may be adding muscle or getting leaner, and then in your transition out, you are moving from your body built for performance to your body built for everyday life. This transition can cause body image issues and trigger self-consciousness. It can also lead to undereating and over-exercising as a retired athlete in an attempt to keep the body you've grown to love and worked hard for over the years, but ultimately that is unhealthy.

It's important as a retired athlete to engage in exercises that feel good to you. You no longer need to kill yourself in the gym. Moving your body in any way counts as exercise. Let your life after sport be less about what you look like and more about how you feel, how you're serving your body, and what brings you joy.

Key Quotes

  • "It’s not so much as what (exercises/training) you do, but rather the intention behind it." - Sydney Umeri on training as a retired college athlete

  • "My favorite form of workout post-basketball is still basketball." - Katie Mehlhorn

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