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Harvard rugby project promotes female strength
ESPN Staff
July 21, 2014
The Harvard women's rugby team are involved in the Rugged Grace project to promote female strength © Lydia Burns / Harvard University

The very thought of rugby conjures imagery of brawny men and testosterone, but Harvard University has taken the sport and used it to promote female strength and beauty through body positivity.

The Ivy League university has used its women's rugby team in a photo project called Rugged Grace, which took an unorthodox approach in discovering what sport and the community meant to the rugby players.

"We asked team-mates to write what they loved and appreciated about each player on their body, in the hopes of opening a visual discussion about beauty, strength and appreciation," a project photographer said. "Rugby is so much about physically throwing your body on the line for your team-mates during games, and that intense appreciation, love, trust and support for each other is what we wanted to reflect."

The initiative was well received by Helen Clark, a member of the rugby squad, who said that many women face body image issues every day.

"Many female athletes struggle to balance societal expectations that say women should be small and delicate," Clark told the Harvard Political Review. "We want to send the message that women's bodies are not merely decorations for billboards and magazine advertisements, but rather the physical presentation of strong, powerful people."

A recent Harvard survey suggested that 86% of female students reported to experiencing an eating disorder by age 20.

Body image issues for women are fuelled by society, and it is certainly problematic. But when a team can embrace together when one of their girls gains weight, it can only be a good thing. After all, that is body positivity at its best.

A recent Harvard survey suggested that 86% of female students reported experiencing an eating disorder by age 20. © Lydia Burns / Harvard University
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