Instagram, Strong Bodies, and Sexual Harassment

Instagram, Strong Bodies, and Sexual Harassment

Warning: some explicit and suggestive language below. 

We use social media for all sorts of reasons. If you’ve followed WodBottom for a while, you know that we love us some good Instagram posts. It’s the way we connect with our clients, inspire women to love themselves, and share what’s happening in our world.

Female athletes love to use Instagram, too. Many CrossFit athletes and other strong competitors post their workouts, PRs, training tips, and more, hoping to encourage other women to chase after physical fitness. 

But Instagram can have a dark side, especially for strong female athletes. The trolling, harassment, and lude comments are more frequent than you might imagine. All too often, athletic women are sexualized online, resulting in completely unacceptable and, frankly, disgusting harassment behind the screen.

Now, female athletes are speaking out, sharing their experiences, and calling for change.

Using Instagram to Inspire

Many women use Instagram and other social media sites to connect with and inspire others. From athletes to teachers to wannabe gourmet chefs, it seems everyone has an Insta account these days. Female athletes, personal trainers, and other fitness enthusiasts have a unique role in the social media conversation. Sharing our stories, struggles, and successes can encourage others to overcome their challenges and get started on the path to a healthy life.

There’s something incredibly powerful about following a female athlete on her fitness journey. It shows us that women are powerful, capable, and downright amazing. It inspires us to raise the bar higher, shoot for bigger goals, and never give up. 

Many athletes, including top-rated female CrossFitters, use social media to inform and encourage their followers. But what happens when social media turns negative?

A Disturbing Trend for Female Athletes

In April 2021, Morning Chalk Up writer Tess Garcia published an in-depth look at the “dark underbelly of Instagram.” In the article, Garcia shares several stories from high-profile CrossFit athletes who have experienced horrendous messages, harassment, and sexual comments on their social media feeds.

CrossFit Games athlete Dani Speegle says her social media nightmare began when she opened her Instagram to see a photo of a stranger’s penis. Five years later, she has continued to receive sexually explicit and suggestive comments and messages from both known and unknown accounts.

Athlete Sola Sigurdardottir tells Morning Chalk Up that she has experienced harassment on Instagram for years, with some men becoming aggressive and threatening. 

Speegle and Sigurdardottir aren’t alone. Female athletes in all disciplines, in all parts of the world, find themselves combatting online harassment. On the one hand, athletes rely on Instagram to share news with their followers, promote events and sponsorships, and make a living. On the other hand, the constant barrage of inappropriate comments and messages is overwhelming and frightening.

Standing Up to Harassment

Speegle and Sigurdardottir, along with other female athletes, are now fighting back. Strong women and strong bodies are a magnet for sexual harassment. The sexualization of female bodies has gone unchecked for too many years. Too often, online trolls hide behind their keyboards, harassing hard-working women. We’ve been conditioned to accept the harassment as “normal” or “just part of being in the public light.” 

Now, female athletes are speaking up about the issue. They’re shining a light on a topic that too often goes unreported. Sexual harassment online is a far more common problem than many people realize. But by telling their stories, athletes like Speegle and Sigurdardottir are helping other women find the courage to stand up to the bullies.

Reporting Sexual Harassment on Social Media

If you or someone you know are experiencing harassment on Instagram, report it immediately (you can file a report here). Other social media platforms also have systems in place to identify inappropriate material, protect the recipient, and block the harasser. 

Harassment is never okay. No one has the right to comment on your body, send you unwanted messages, or share your photo without your permission. Let’s hold the trolls accountable and make social media a safe space to share our stories, uplift one another, and celebrate strong women.

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