From Emma Windsor Wood’s article for The Morning News, featuring work by Brian Finke:
Toned yet tiny fitness models like Jen Selter and Kayla Itsines are considered athletic and beautiful, while larger—and stronger—professional athletes like Serena Williams and Karyn Marshall, a prominent figure in female lifting in the US, are mocked for looking masculine. In a recent phone conversation, Marshall recalled being asked to appear on a news show at the peak of her fame in the 1980s. The host asked her to rebut the claim, made by a representative of the Ford Modeling Agency, that women who lift weights don’t look good and shouldn’t model. “To have society come down on you and say, ‘you’re too big, you’re too muscular, you’re not feminine,’ is not something you want to hear,” Marshall said, “especially when you’re an athlete. If I’d been a man, I would’ve been praised.”
This double standard has persisted since Title IX opened playing fields to women 43 years ago: Yes, the law says women can participate, but our society insists they must remain feminine while doing so—or face censure. In a culture that prizes female beauty over all else, telling women that they will be ugly, freakish, and/or undesirable if they look too athletic is a highly effective, and entirely legal, way to keep them out of the weight room and on the elliptical.