Harvard's Women's Rugby Team Releases Inspiring, Body-Positive Photos

So often, being a woman at college can mean intense pressure to shape your body to a certain standard. It can be tempting to aim for that elusive thigh gap, or worry about the way you wear your makeup influences the thoughts of those around you. In a welcome reversal of those kinds of concerns, the Harvard women's rugby team has come forward with a series of photos that celebrates their bodies as strong, inspiring, and capable.

To spread this message of body positivity, the team created a Tumblr, Rugged Grace, to showcase the photos they shot at the Kundalini Yoga Boston studio in May. The pictures, which depict the athletes modeling uplifting messages that they wrote on each other's arms, legs, and torsos, demonstrate young women who are comfortable in their own skin. Each message, according to team member Shelby Lin, was meant to highlight the players' best qualities:

"We simply asked our teammates to write what they loved about each other, and refrained from giving much direction or expectations. From that there was an outpouring of appreciation about each others bodies, attitudes, and characters. I didn't expect the process to be so emotional, but after each day I felt full of pride for the women involved and how much we respect both ourselves and each other."

The team is hopeful that their project will show women everywhere that having strong thighs and muscled arms (among other traits that you wouldn't find in your average Revlon commercial or Versace ad) is not only normal, it is beautiful. In addition to the photos themselves, the team wrote an amazing and motivating essay for the Harvard Political Review, called "An Exercise in Body Image."

Here are some of my favorite quotes from it, paired with the images:

"Words cannot adequately describe the liberating feeling that being a part of a team with such body positivity provides. Imagine the relief of taking a breath of fresh air after being drowned for so long in the pressure that society places on women to fit some unrealistic mold."

"Although it is extremely difficult to maintain a constant state of positive self-image in our culture, every time a woman celebrates the beauty of her own body or of another woman she is making a political statement. She is saying that she refuses to accept the messages spread by mainstream culture, and she is refusing to accept that her body is only valuable as a visual object."

"Each girl uses her unique strengths to make a significant contribution to the team. Every body type is celebrated and appreciated. There is no such thing as an ideal rugby body."

Although I've never been much of an athlete (the most I'm capable of is a slightly-above-average tree pose on my yoga mat), these women make me want to take up rugby, stat. The way in which they write so passionately about the acceptance they've found through this sport — and, more importantly, each other is inspiring in ways that few other pictures of women's bodies are. Kudos to each and every member of this team for so publicly affirming that message.

Speaking of other examples, they do exist! Check out Carol Rossetti's artwork depicting women doing whatever the heck they want with their bodies and their lives, and this Nordstrom ad featuring women with disabilities.

Images: Rugged Grace/Tumblr (3)