Letter to the Editor: Stop policing women’s bodies

When are we going to STOP sexualizing our female population?

Imagine this headline: “Athlete is disqualified after race due to violation of the modesty rule.

“The official commented, ‘I could see evidence of circumcision, and decided that outlining his genital area would incite lust and that must be punished.’”

Ridiculous? Yes — because no one has ever, or would ever, say that to a male swimmer. However, this is essentially what was said to the Dimond High athlete this past weekend. Her body, curvier than the others, in the same uniform as the others, was judged, and she was punished for not immediately picking a wedgie. Some official saw the curve of cheek and instantly sexualized the athlete, and declared that all her hard work and dedication to a sport she loves is immaterial and invalid in the face of a half-moon.

When — WHEN are we going to STOP sexualizing our female population?

My child wasn’t much for modesty rules, preferring comfort over clothing from the time she was born until now. Aside from insisting she put SOMETHING on before we went in public, I let her grow in a sort of feral freedom that only enhanced her independence and confidence. It was no shock she chose swimming — where she wore mostly skin, most of the time.

She grew up in locker rooms — swimming year-round, age 8-18 — and was ridiculed for her confidence that allowed her to change freely, not hiding behind a towel, awkwardly attempting to shrink from view. They called her names, shamed her, demanded she cover up, instead of normalizing the thought that this is a shower, and one showers naked. Also, it is ridiculous to hide your skin in a roomful of skin. It is JUST SKIN. If it is more than that to you, perhaps your own motives for being in the changing room should be addressed?

I stood by as she told me to let her handle it, a bristling angry mama bear, as she handled it with grace in the face of fire, saving tears for the privacy of her room where she thought I didn’t see, didn’t know — all the while proud of the strength of character and humanity my child exhibited.

I am glad that the athlete was given what she was due. I am sad that we have to have this conversation AGAIN. I challenge you — YES YOU — to stand up for our girls who are strong and determined and talented and yes, beautiful.

Our bodies are not a distraction. We do not deserve less than you. We are not possessions to be owned, and the fact that we are STILL having this conversation in 2019 is disgusting and exhausting. I will not be silenced, nor will my daughters — OR sons — until you realize that the curve of a cheek, or the glimpse of a collarbone does not give you the right to anything.

So stick that in your wedgie, and pick it.

— Beth Ulricksen, Kenai

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