When you’re a gold-winning Olympic gymnast, your body is your armoury.
Years of gruelling drills mean your muscles are primed to respond exactly as you want them to, each ligament ready to support a series of deftly executed back flips, half twists and tumbles.
So, it’s unsurprising that US champion Alexandra “Aly” Raisman did not take kindly to a random stranger criticising her arms during an encounter at airport security this week.
Raisman, 23, vented her frustration over the incident in a series of on-point tweets:
Lady at TSA: "Gymnast? I recognized u by ur biceps"— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) 24 May 2017
Man at TSA: "I don't see any muscles" & continues 2 stare at me
How rude & uncomfortable
I work very hard to be healthy & fit. The fact that a man thinks he judge my arms pisses me off I am so sick of this judgmental generation.— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) 24 May 2017
If u are a man who can't compliment a girls 💪🏻 you are sexist. Get over yourself. Are u kidding me? It's 2017. When will this change?— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) 24 May 2017
He was very rude. Staring at me shaking his head like it couldn't be me because I didn't look "strong enough" to him? Not cool.— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) 24 May 2017
It’s not the first time Raisman, who competed at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, has spoken out on the issue of body shaming.
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In November, she shared a post on Instagram addressed to the boys at her school who used to mock her muscly arms as “weird and gross”:
Shoutout to all the boys from 5th-9th grade who made fun of me for being "too strong". Thanks for forcing me to learn to love myself and my body. My muscular arms that were considered weird and gross when I was younger have made me one of the best gymnasts on the planet. Don't ever let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn't look. There is no such thing as a perfect body type. I love being a part of the #PerfectNever campaign. #GirlPower #Supporteachother
A post shared by Alexandra Raisman (@alyraisman) on
In a world where women are routinely judged for their physique, behaviour and even whether they look “happy” or not, we could all do with a dose of Raisman’s fighting spirit.
As the gymnast articulates so eloquently, we need to replace body-shaming with respect and appreciation.
And strength, especially when it comes to women, should get the kudos it deserves. After all, it’s not everyone who can make their bodies do this:
Photos: Rex Features