I am a huge fan of Gina Carano. Long before Rhonda Rousey reigned supreme in the UFC’s first women’s division, Gina Carano was making waves as a badass MMA fighter, destroying the vast majority of her opponents, all the while wearing a no-nonsense rash guard shirt. She was making waves when mixed martial arts in general was still considered a fairly underground sport. It’s a pity she retired before the UFC started allowing women to fight.
But that’s all right: Gina has gone on to have a pretty successful acting career. From her role opposite the Rock in Fast & Furious Six to her lead role in Haywire – easily the most intelligent action film I have seen in a long, long, long time – Gina isn’t exactly hurting for work. She’s been on the cover of magazines and on the red carpet and (especially while she was linked with Henry Cavill) very much in the spotlight.
And to that I say: awesome. We need more of that.
We need more (literally) strong women in the media. I’m exhausted by the Disney Princesses — with waists so impossibly small that the circumference is easiest the same as their necks’ — and I’m frustrated by movies like Colombiana, where the audience is supposed to believe that a woman with biceps that size of most women’s wrists is able to knock out a 205-pound man. I’m done with the actresses who look garish in real life because they are just that skinny. I’m tired of the “skinny is everything” message that spawned a legion of counter-messages that were just as unhealthy.
I want female athletes. I want beach volleyball players on the Victoria Secret catwalks (ironically, the lingerie they model will probably cover up more of them than their sport uniforms). I want Olympic swimmers to grace more than just the cover of a Wheaties box. I want WNBA players hosting shows. And I want more female MMA fighters taking on movie roles.
(This is the part where you interrupt me and talk about screen presence and talent. For that, I have only two words: Kate Bosworth.)
(…And let’s not forget the Rock’s incredible acting range and ability.)
Because, here’s the thing: I’m all about acceptance of everyone in all sorts of shapes and forms. I believe in eating right and staying active, but I also know that healthy and active will look different on every person. However, I also know that we are nowhere near where we need to be in terms of proper body understanding and acceptance. To this day, when it comes to females in the media, we have our “fat singer” (Adele) and our “fat actress/comedian” (Melissa McCarthy), who are labeled as much for their weight as for their talent. The media parades them about, not-so-subtly saying, “Look! Look at our one FAT singer! Look at our one FAT actress!”
We are a long, long, long way off from removing the barely-pubescent 14-year-old girls (aka the only people who can fit into the sample sizes now) off the catwalk. But a step in the right direction is including more female athletes in the media at large. We already have male athletes of all walks of life making commercials, promoting everything from cars to underwear to the Discount Double Check. We already see male athletes – even relative no-names — make cameos on TV shows and movies. It’s time to add in the women as well.
Call me a dreamer, but maybe — just maybe — if we have more female athletes in the media, we’ll stop it with the whole “skinny versus fat”. Maybe we’ll look at these women who look they way they are because of exercise and training (and not a steady stream of cocaine and cigarettes) and reevaluate what it means to be a woman. Maybe we’ll stop it with the “do anything in your power to lose weight” versus “eat up and get fatter”, and be perfectly happy with “healthy”.
Or maybe we’ll invalidate the whole thing and bitch about how we now need to look like trained athletes (and who has time for THAT?).