Bo Stanley promotes a natural, healthy body and encourages women not to feel bad about the perfect imagery on social media but instead focus on body positivity. We take a look back at the article Bo wrote for SurfGirl Magazine last year, it’s a good one!
I grew up in a family of tall, strong ,competitive athletes and surfers so it was only destiny that I too would become one. Early on my focus was on surfing, strength and fitness over a marketable image. As I began competing on the Women’s WQS I realized that this focus was not going to cut it. That if I wanted to be represented and be financially sponsored to make it to the events , I also had to have a marketable image. What I also noticed was the huge power of advertising in sports, and I saw there was a different standard for the male surfers vs the females. Why did we have to be “sample sized” and pretty at all times. What was wrong with just marketing us as the amazing strong and capable athletes we were, just like the men?
Luckily around this time my mother gave me a book by seven times world champion Layne Beachley, “Beneath The Waves”, Layne being a woman I admired and looked up to. In her book, Layne bravely opens up about the same pressures she too felt as a professional female surfer, and speaks about getting liposuction on her tummy at the very young age of 24. Her strength, athleticism and pure surfing capability were not JUST the focus of the surfing industry, and she too succumbed to the pressures of trying to be that “marketable image”.
Thank goodness for pioneers like Layne and others, who opened doors and awareness to help make a difference for future female athletes. In short, I didn’t want to keep fighting to be marketable or sample sized, I wanted to be a part of the change. It was around this time a shift began to change in me and I found my passion in helping women love their strong, capable bodies without any pressure of marketability or being a certain size. What I have come to realise is that if we focus on our strengths and what our amazing bodies are capable of doing, we begin to feel confidence from within, and that is where true beauty begins.
Jessi Miley-Dyer, Deputy Commissioner of the World Suring League said it best about 6 Times World Champion Carissa Moore. Carissa’s body inexplicably had become the focus over her surfing capability. Miley-Dyer said “For some reason people attacked the way that she looked…and people were talking about her weight. Which to me was ridiculous because for someone to be attacking the body that has just given someone a world title and who’s now the best int the world at a sport, you’d have to think ‘clearly it’s doing something right’
So where do we go from here? How do we encourage the upcoming and current generations of female athletes to not succumb to a societal pressure of feeling negative about our natural healthy bodies?
We can start with a basic general rule: each of our bodies are genetically built differently, so it is nearly impossible to try to fit the same cookie cutter image. Health and strength, scientifically come in many shapes and sizes. So if you feel strong, capable, and healthy, then allow your body to rest at whatever size it may be. For me I am a US size 10/12, far away from the advertising and sponsoring industry’s ideal “sample size” 2/4.
Next, you are your own best mentor, if social media, or certain posts make you feel bad about your natural strong bodies, block it! Continue to look at things that empower you, make you feel good about your body. There is just as much negativity on social media as there is positivity So seek out the good stuff, and then be a part of it! Empowering, and encouraging other women to love their bodies not only helps you stay mentally healthy, it also helps spread the message.
If a brand is marketing itself in a way that does not represent the reality of women’s bodies, find another brand, one that supports a positive and realistic representation of female athletes bodies. There has been a lot of forward movement in the advertising world at large using body diversity in advertising, and as we continue to set boundaries for the respect we demand as females in the athletic world ( and the world at large) those boundaries will hopefully be listed to and reflected.