Size-ism: how it is targeted toward female athletes 

Walking into the gym where my cheer team was about to hold our annual “Mini Cheer Camp” the first thought that invaded my mind was not “I do not belong on this team because of my size.” Of course, a fourth grader whose mind has been brainwashed into thinking that girls should look a certain way to be on a certain team, did have this thought. I had only been in the room for around fifteen seconds before, without any form of trying to hide it, a little girl asked out loud why I was even on the team. You might be able to predict, that was not the biggest confidence booster. I had to constantly remind myself throughout the rest of the afternoon that my size had nothing to do with how good I am at what I do, and I deserve to be on this team just as much as everybody else, even if I do not look the way most people probably think I should.

Normally, people are expected to fit in with a certain social standard. In a world where kids, teenagers and adults are ridiculed about their bodies and forced to conform to a certain body type, there is bound to be judgment upon those who don’t “fit in” with the social standards. Women especially are made to feel like they have a body image to live up to. When you include the deeply-ingrained societal demand of being a certain body type for female athletes, the judgment is even more extreme. This can easily be 

In football, it is praised when a boy is big and buff. He is expected to be able to be one of the best. People look at it as a great thing if boys on a football team weigh over 250 pounds, it is welcomed even. So why is it that when females in their sports are overweight, it is looked at as a completely wrong and negative thing? 

People in the world of athletics tend to be extremely prejudiced when it comes to women’s appearances: their size, weight, and what they look like. They do not seem to understand that a person’s size and weight has nothing to do with their athletic ability, and should not be a factor in whether or not they are good enough for an athletic team. For example, in a large amount of collegiate cheerleading teams, there is a body fat percentage limit, and sometimes even weight limit, that can affect someone’s chances for making the team. The University of Colorado has a  weight limit for female cheerleaders stating that if they wish to be on the competitive cheer team, they must weigh no more than 120 pounds. At the University of Southern Mississippi, there is a body fat percentage limit of 14-22 percent for females and 8-15 percent for males.

Of course there is always the argument that being overweight is unhealthy and to be healthy you must be this size and this weight. The fact that there are people who are at an unhealthy weight, overweight and underweight, is definitely acknowledged but what happens when somebody is perfectly healthy and they are simply being judged on their size. 

From a personal experience of being a plus sized cheerleader, my size and weight has yet to put a damper on my talent and success in cheerleading. Of course, people question my talent and ability due to my size, but that does not change the fact that I have a natural and growing talent in the area. 


“Ugh, why is she on the team?” 


Easy question, easy answer. Size is not a factor of who you are as an athlete, or as a person. Being a size that is not to society’s standards should not affect whether or not somebody is on a team, or make one question their placement on a team. If the skill factor and athleticism is there, who cares? 


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December 9, 2019 11:43 pm

Hello Zya. I agree with much of what you said, but I think that it would be interesting for you to know that size-ism is actually not targeted at female athletes. Male athletes struggle with body positivity just as much as female athletes. Your comment about the 250 ibs man being celebrated can be true on the football field, but the 125 ibs kid who cannot grow no matter what he does is still prevalent. And people will not only go up to that kid and say they shouldn’t be on the team, but they will also disrespect them because they think they could squash them like a bug. And the 250 kid will get made fun of off the football field for being to heavy. It is a lose lose situation and it is not gender specific. This article could say what I am trying to say in a more formal way,

October 1, 2019 1:18 pm

I agree size really shouldn’t restrict what you can do but unfortunately that’s not the case. You gave the example of guys in football being praised for being 250 pounds and when women are that big it is the opposite. This is not because people are prejudice towards women, it’s because in the sport of football if you are that big it will help the team win which is the goal of sports. It is all about ability restrictment. In other words, if you are a bigger girl and you can do all the same things as a smaller girl and contribute just as much then there is no issue, but if your size is making you not as good as another competitor then it makes sense you should be cut from the team. You are contradicting what you are saying about being fair and giving equal opportunities if you think plus sized athletes should get a sort of special treatment. In the example about Mississippi cheerleaders and their weight limit, they have a point for that limit. That organization probably has hard conditioning routines and also things they do will be much more difficult for someone above that weight. It makes sense. Although I agree with what you were saying about if the size doesn’t restrict what you can do then it shouldn’t be an issue, but when it does restrict your ability or if it makes you not as athletic or as skilled as someone else then it becomes an issue because you have to remember, nothing is personal, it’s not about feelings for these organizations it’s about being the best they can be.

September 30, 2019 12:30 pm

The world is carved with people of different backgrounds; different social cultures, and different experiences has led some to believe what others have praised upon them. Therefore, it’s good to have the confidence of sharing our own opinion and the fact that there are many others with the same thought process about a common interest. I found this article interesting and I liked the way it’s very organized and complete. I found it interesting and confident the way you ended with saying, “Who cares”. To be able to pursue your goal, you need to live for yourself besides other people’s opinion; no one can stop you with their opinion.

Youth Voices is an open publishing and social networking platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.  See more About Youth VoicesTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


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