Dina Asher-Smith has urged the sports industry to change in a bid to inspire young girls to fulfil their potential and diversify body types.
The World 200-metre champion, 25, is currently preparing for the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics this summer, but has spoken out to highlight inconsistencies in the way men and women are promoted at the elite level of sport.
Writing in an open letter on The Players’ Tribute, Asher-Smith has accused the sports industry of prioritising aesthetics over sporting success and accolades.
“If they’re marketing a new pair of football boots, they’re going to use someone like Lionel Messi up there on that billboard or wherever, because he’s the best,” the Great Britain star wrote on The Players’ Tribute.
“They aren’t going to use someone who only plays football recreationally just because he fits the image better. Someone who is more, in quotation marks, ‘marketable’ or ‘aesthetically pleasing.’
“And yet, often that is still the case when you look up and see the female option in the ads, on the billboards, in the TV coverage.
“Why? Because they fit an aesthetic ideal? Is there only one marketable body type for women? And then what kind of message does that send to the eight-year-old girl? What does it tell girls who aspire to be athletes?
“I’m constantly thinking about amazing athletes like Marta, Annika Sorenstam, Katie Ledecky, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Valerie Adams or even most recently, Dalilah Muhammad.
“Why aren’t their achievements and legacies familiar to more of us like those of Messi, (Cristiano) Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and all the other amazing sportsmen?
“We want to win. We want to be our best, to be the best. But we can see the double standard.”
Asher-Smith also recalled a time when she was eight years old and told herself that she wanted to start exercising in order to manage her weight.
“We need more conversations around what bodies are for, what it means to love yourself, about health and representation,” she added.
“We need more accurate portrayals of what it’s like to be a sportswoman, awareness with periods, with sports bras, with body image, physical health, mental health and self-esteem.
“We need more images elevated of women in sports in full flight; strong, sweaty, powerful and muscular.
“We also need to see them as rounded human beings, when they lose, when they’re frustrated, angry and upset.”
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