Rugby Women Remind Us That Strength is Beauty

For any avid athlete who’s tried a million and two sports, you know the pain and strife of a changing body that you have next to no control over.I rode horses for seven years and played water polo for two, meaning that I felt I had the thighs of a lumberjack. I was THAILAND - Kayanconstantly evading the mirrors, and if I did look, I almost never liked what I saw.While I knew I wasn’t overweight or fat in any way, shape or form, the word “muscular” didn’t sound much better. I searched in magazines for girls that looked muscular and pretty, but the models were small, delicate and most of all skinny.Eventually, I “gave up” feeling uncomfortable. There was no point. This was my body type, and there wasn’t anything I could do that would shrink my bone structure into a model’s. I could and would be healthy, fit and perfectly happy just the way I was made.I came across the Harvard’s Women’s Rugby Team this past week, who shared powerful, happy photos of the team members writing encouraging, truthful words on other member’s bodies. Words like “humble,” “strong” and “control.”The team’s tumblr page, Rugged Grace, features posts about women’s body image and how we need to change it for the better. The rugby team is an encouraging reminder of just how much one should love their body, and how others should appreciate the true beauty of another’s figure.These women are strong, not heavy; muscular, not fat.I had hopes that by now in 2014, the world would have come to terms with universal body types and accepted them, but that hasn’t happened because the concept of beauty today is still “thin and young.”The concept of “beauty” has shifted throughout time and place, resulting in a variety of cultural  perceptions of beauty, all of them unrealistic in their own ways.AfricanWomanA Kayan tribe in Thailand stacks brass rings around a woman’s neck, forcing it to elongate. They believe that the longer the neck, the more beautiful the woman.In Mauritania, a country in West Africa, women eat thousands of calories a day in order to gain weight because heaviness is Gavage in Mauritania, for Marie Claire USconsidered sexy.The Kenyan Masai tribe believes that elongated ear lobes are a great symbol of beauty, using elephant tusks and large stones as weighted gauges to quicken the process.While these cultural perceptions are so different from our own and are not any healthier, there is something to be said about the unrealistic standards cultures impress upon people instead of appreciating the true beauty that is unique and comes naturally to each person.Progress is being made to change this with celebrities protesting against their bodies being reconfigured for media purposes. However, it is still heartbreaking to see generations of women and men who feel powerless when they look in the mirror.It’s time to change that and make every woman and man feel comfortable in her and his skin.