The weight game

The Americans were blowing out the competition. Again. That’s what often happens in international women’s hockey. As much I love the U.S.-Canada rivalry, I also love the sport and part of me wonders if it wouldn’t be worthwhile to, say loan Angela Ruggiero to Switzerland or Germany to raise the competitive level internationally.

I was pondering the question of international women’s athletics when the commentary on NBCSN caught my attention. Mike Emerick, Pierre McGuire and A.J. Mleczko started talking about the height of one of the players but how strong and muscular she was. Emerick and McGuire danced around the topic and deferred to Mleczko who had no problem talking about weight, particularly relaying the story of Hilary Knight.

“I actually talked to her about it and she said at the end of her career at Wisconsin she weighed 159 pounds and she deliberately put on weight,” Mleczko said. “She’s at 180 and she’d like to get to 185. And that’s muscle.”

It was a brief discussion both tasteful and cautious. But it got me thinking about a conversation I had with someone in women’s basketball sports information. He wondered why it is not common practice to list weight along with height for female players. After all, it’s common with male players.

Of course he understood why.

The why is because weight is such a touchy issue for women and particularly for female athletes. Self fat-talk is a way of life for many women. We like to hold ourselves to ridiculous standards, many of which are invented out of boredom on social media (see: thigh gap, bikini bridge). We judge ourselves, and each other, by the number on the scale. And for female athletes who are drawn to competition and ridiculously high standards of perfection, weight can be a precarious topic, leading to serious health issues, both physical and psychological.

Hardly unique, I find myself in a negative fat-talk trap more often than I’d like. I’ve battled with the numbers on the scale. As I stepped into triathlon I’d become frustrated, feeling fit and awesome only to see the numbers creep up higher than I thought they should be. I’ve played on the fringes of disordered eating. I’ve succumbed to the comparison game which I could only imagine would be worse if things like women’s athletes weights were routinely listed.

Or am I just assuming it be worse?

Perhaps listing the weight of female athletes might help to diminish the scale stigma. Perhaps if we saw that women, even really fit women who excel at their respective sports, have different body types and a wider range on the weight scale than we imagine, we’d be less inclined to judge our own bodies and punish ourselves for not measuring up.

I realize it could go the other way, that listing weights would discourage young girls from participating in competitive athletics. I’m not sure if listing weights is a practice that should be implemented. But am an advocate for having a nuanced and thoughtful discussion about it. I believe having open, honest and positive discussions about weight can only help women see the power in their own bodies, take ownership of their strength and leave the judgmental comparisons aside.

US Women's Hockey team at Sochi. (www.nbcnews.com)

US Women’s Hockey team at Sochi. (www.nbcnews.com)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: