Sports

Olympians Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe use lingerie to call out body shamers

Two U.K. Olympians are hoping to spread the message that there is no correct definition of a “feminine body.”

Artistic swimmers Kate Shortman, 19, and Isabelle Thorpe, 20, did a lingerie photoshoot for Bluebella’s #BeStrongBeBeautiful campaign to embrace their muscular bodies and help promote women in sports.

For the underwater photoshoot, the duo showed off their muscles as they held a Union Jack.

“It’s utterly unfair that society’s expectations for boys are to have this perfect image of health by going to the gym, lifting weights, and looking really muscular and strong, and yet for girls, it’s the opposite — you should be stick-thin and with delicate feminine features,” Shortman said in a release.

“It’s unhealthy for young girls to see this and think, ‘I have to restrict what they eat and count calories.’ It’s unhealthy mentally and physically to think that.”

Isabelle Thorpe and Kate Shortman
Isabelle Thorpe and Kate Shortman were often criticized because of their muscular bodies.
Bluebella.com

#BeStrongBeBeautiful aims to get more women into sports and create more acceptance to athletes of all body types.

A survey from Women in Sports shows that 64% of girls quit sports altogether by age 16, many of them citing issues with their body as the reason. Most commonly, girls quit between the ages of 13-14.

The perception of an “ideal body” has also harmed Shortman and Thorpe. Shortman discussed how over their decade of preparation for the Summer Games, they were ridiculed about having “big shoulders, small boobs and small bums” and told to cover up at public swimming pools, even while wearing one-piece bathing suits.

“It’s not intentional for me to be walking around showing off my hips or my bum. It’s ridiculous because boys can be walking around in Speedos and that’s fine, but if girls show any skin, then they are accused of parading their bodies for everyone to see,” Thorpe said.

Isabelle Thorpe and Kate Shortman
The two artistic swimmers will be competing in their first Olympics this year.
Bluebella.com

Shortman added that society’s perception of femininity often does not include muscular bodies and is often not seen as acceptable for a woman.

“Who decided that being muscular is a good thing for boys and a bad thing for girls? It’s absolute rubbish,” she said.

“In the past year, I began to feel a lot more confident about my appearance and now we are both proud of our muscular bodies,” Thorpe added.

The duo will compete in their first Olympics in artistic swimming — formerly known as synchronized swimming. Bluebella founder Emily Bendell hopes that their involvement in the #BeStrongBeBeautiful campaign will encourage other young women to embrace their muscular bodies that return to athletics.

“We are thrilled that two of our most exciting Olympians Izzy and Kate are supporting #BeStrongBeBeautiful and helping to challenge attitudes which are sadly still too prevalent,” Bendell said.

“We have to change the perception that the strong female form is not ‘feminine.’ “The idea that strength and femininity do not go together is a really damaging perception for keeping women in sport but also more broadly.”

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