In that moment, she was playing her game, in her body, in her sports bra, on that pitch.
August 2nd 2022 2:26 pm(Updated 2:27 PM)
type “women’s Health cover” and you’ll see lines of women in workout gear explain what it means—according to a tagline—to be “strong, fit, and fierce,” but no one is actively involved in any Doesn’t engage in any type of exercise. Instead, after spending hours in hair and makeup, each cover star is buffed, oiled, and standing still in clothes designed to be taken inside. Applies to almost all advertisements for K sports apparel where the description reads “sweat resistant”, but the model does not sweat.
I’m not a football player (or even a full-time fan), but it was electric to see England’s Chloe Kelly pulling her shirt over her head and running across the pitch in her sports bra. Roaring with pride in grass-hued shorts, the 24-year-old forward embodies the immaculate, immaculate freedom to play and have fun. Finally, a true representation of what it means to be strong, fit and fierce.
As a kid, I used to enjoy sinking all kinds of stubborn stains—mud, sand, sweat, seawater—deep into the fibers of my clothes. With a dry face and messy hair, I ran, dropped, rolled, kicked and jumped with fearless speed. It was only when I entered puberty and started buying glossy magazines that my understanding of what it meant to “play” changed. In 2003 from where I stood at age 14, the rules were clear: Men played sports to have fun while women worked to look good. At 32 years old in 2022, there has been no change in the messaging of the mainstream media. In fact, thanks to so-called fitness influencers with contoured cheekbones and tanned midriffs, it may be even worse.
Anyone who has set foot in a public gym has seen grumpy, red-faced men giving their all in the weight section, while a lone woman in false eyelashes walks self-consciously and mindfully on a treadmill, with her upper arms. Wipes sweat from lips. It’s not because women don’t like to push themselves; To improve their skills, to get stronger and feel their hearts pumping in their chests, it’s because they’ve been taught to smile, pat and slender, not grin and gurgle. “I have an ugly exercise face,” a friend once told me. “And I look like a knobby doing burpees.”
There’s a billboard outside a very specific gym near I Newspaper office that shows a woman using battle ropes that has been airbrushed, blow-dried and heavily restyled. When I use battle ropes I feel like I’m giving birth and that’s not an exaggeration.
It can feel like every situation, even sports and games, has a sex subtext. But the truth is that away from prying eyes, women prefer to move their bodies more than compliments and calorie deficits. A close friend of mine recently admitted that she likes to lock herself in the front room with her AirPods and “dance like crazy” until she gets tired.
I feel most like myself when I’m exercising. As with every woman in my life, I know that my body is expected to look a certain way. I also know that my body isn’t always safe, a terrifying reality that’s not always excruciating but exhausting—sometimes distracting—and can’t be turned off. But the act of moving my body—running, jumping, lifting, dancing—makes me feel confident and focused in a way that nothing else does.
Chloe Kelly’s raw, unconstructed sports bra festivities on Sunday night—hands dangling above her head, Nike labels glued to the back, feet pounding the turf—came in by more than 17.9 million people. In that moment, she was in her body, in her sports bra, on that pitch, playing her game, and it was a pleasure to behold.
Lucy Clark-Billings i. is an associate news editor at