In an interview full of revelations not altogether surprising, yet nonetheless disturbing, world-champion hurdler Jana Rawlinson (nee Pittman) tells Woman’s Day that in a span of only 14 months she got breast implants and then had them removed. It is a classic example of what is perhaps best called the ugly paradox. Snippets from her interview throw into relief this paradox:
“When I looked in the mirror I just saw muscled arms, broad shoulders and big, strong legs,” she says. “These are assets I need to run well, but they didn’t make me feel like an attractive woman.
“There are a couple of girls – who I won’t name – in world athletics who are Olympic champions, but they look like men – and I don’t want to be like that. I feel masculine enough as it is. That’s what pushed me into getting the first surgery for the enhancement.”
While female athletes (and women generally) feel out of place in athletic bodies there can be little hope of raising the status of women in sport: it’s hard to be a superior athlete without an athletic body. Thus by needlessly holding herself back the female athlete gives comfort to those who view her and her sport as inferior (always DIII to men’s DI). I sometimes see talk of troubled trends in women’s sports (persistent problems, in truth), yet here is the too often ignored root of it all. Progress will remain arduous until this last, most inimical hurdle is cleared.
I’m glad that Rawlinson decided to have the implants removed. I only hope that the deeper lesson doesn’t endure unlearned:
Jana’s breasts went to a DD when she was expecting her son Cornelis, 3, and while she was breastfeeding. “Then I felt like a different person, soft and womanly, and I absolutely fell in love with my big boobs.”