I’m not one for the major league sports. Of Baseball, Football, Basketball, and Hockey, I rarely watch anything other than a Raven’s game or a Saints game. I never enjoyed them that much in childhood, and they just doesn’t get me going. The inherent fanaticism in sports culture overrides the athleticism.
I’m all about other sports though.
Golf, powerlifting, badminton, I’ll play or watch those all day. This weekend was a great weekend for sports, as baseball is at the end of the season, football is just getting started, the America’s Cup is underway, and the US Open just ended. For the 5th time in history, Serena Williams won the tournament.
Congratulations, Serena. I was rooting against you. It’s not personal, but I have this habit of cheering for the underdog. I like upsets. That being said, I’m glad you won.
The moment that Azarenka put the last ball into the net, I thought, “Wow, that’s #5, she’s the best player of this generation.” Then I began a mental countdown until the pop-culture body image commentary began.
Serena and her sister Venus were part of a turn-of-the-century shift in tennis culture. They were aggressive, precise, and hit harder than everyone else. They also carry more muscle.
Absolute strength or muscular hypertrophy are rarely given credit in tennis. They’re rarely given credit in women’s sports. They’re rarely given credit in British lawn sports in general, but somehow we all know somebody else who is jacked for their sport.
When Tiger was at the height of his domination of the golf world, he was the most muscular player on tour, and reported weight room performance was impressive. He also spanked everybody else in driving distance. Correlation? Likely so, and we can see many of the recent stars on the PGA tour advocating actually training, and not spending all of their hours tinkering on swing mechanics at the range.
This has been accepted in culture, but in women’s athletics there is noticeable lag. Serena is still considered to be the most-muscular. Here we see her next to her Finals opponent, Victoria Azarenka:
Before we consider societal implications here, let’s think about their professional goal: Win on the tennis court. I’ve checked out some of the match statistics on the US Open website and found out that their 1st serve accuracy was exactly the same: 57%. Let’s look at some speeds:
Serena Williams looks pretty fucking ready to not only win the U.S. Open, but tear the heads off of her opponents, rampage through the stands at Flushing Meadows, and ultimately make her way atop the Empire State Building to be shot down by kids from unpronounceable Asian nations with smuggled BB guns stationed on the observation deck. I might be reading into it too much, but I just shit my pants looking at her quads.
All of the women pictured with the article are conventionally attractive, slender women in full makeup whose expensive gym memberships have helped them to have muscular — but not, like, Williams sister muscular — bodies.
Great. “Strong is the new skinny” means “now you have to lift weights to be fuckable.”
To be fair, visible strength as an aesthetic ideal is less awful than visible weakness as an aesthetic ideal… But do why do we need aesthetic ideals at all? I realize that I’m preaching to the choir here, but why can’t a variety of bodies be just fine?