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It's one word and one photo. And it's caused one hell of a fight.

This was the image of Kelsey Williams which accompanied Claire’s blog post.

By NATALIA HAWK

Chunky.

That’s the word currently making headlines around the world after a blogger decided to use it in the same sentence as the word “cheerleader”.

Here’s what happened.

Claire Crawford, a writer for US news site CBS Houston, wrote a blog post about a cheerleader named Kelsey Williams and used this photo of Kelsey to accompany it.

In the blog post (which has since been taken down), Crawford asked if Kelsey was “too chunky” to be a cheerleader. Because according to Crawford, Kelsey “has been criticized by some folks for having ‘pudginess’ around her waistline.”

The blog post included a poll question which asked readers what they thought of Kelsey’s weight. The optional answers included: “she could use some tightening up in her midsection” and “she has no business wearing that outfit in front of people”.

The Internet saw the post and collectively lost their shit.

There were hundreds of comments on the post, as well as hundreds of votes on the poll. News outlets from Canada to Australia covered the story as a lead news item, slamming Crawford for calling Kelsey fat. There were calls for her resignation.

The only problem here? Crawford never actually said called Kelsey ‘chunky’. She simply made the observation that Kelsey had been critiqued by “some folks” in Oklahoma and used it as a starting point for a story. She was the messenger, reporting on a community reaction to one girl’s weight.

I do believe that we had this exact conversation about Leisel Jones just before the Olympics last year.

There was tsunami of news coverage about her “pre-Olympic body” and how it didn’t look fit enough. Toned enough. Skinny enough.

And then Leisel dived into the pool and proceeded to win her 9th Olympic medal.

Good one, world. Because why should we focus on how good her swimming is if we can talk about how good she looks in a swimsuit?

Similarly – Kelsey is a veteran cheerleader. She’s been doing it for many years and she’s good enough to be doing it at a professional level.

She’s also a very nice person, judging by her reaction to the media storm over the last few days. She tweeted:

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Kelsey’s tweets

But despite our outcry and frustration and Kelsey’s delightful reaction – the world isn’t talking about her achievements or her personality. They’re focused on her midsection.

And that desperately needs to change.

The sound you can hear is the body image of  millions of women taking a beating as they – consciously or unconsciously – compare their own bodies with  Kelsey Williams’ and join the dots. If she’s considered ‘chunky’ and her weight (her HEALTHY, UNREMARKABLE WEIGHT) is deemed newsworthy enough to be news? We start to think – what must that mean about the rest of us?

What does that say about the society in which we live and how it views our bodies?

This is a conversation we shouldn’t need to have – and yet we’re having it. Over and over and over again. The stupid comments of a few have become the obsession of the many.

Let’s get this clear: of course Kelsey isn’t too fat to be a cheerleader. She isn’t too thin, either. You know what she is? She’s just herself. Giving something a go that she enjoys.

As a result, she’s also fit and healthy. She has to be healthy because cheerleading can be bloody hard work. It’s physically demanding and requires a lot of muscle strength and cardio fitness as well.

In fact – the great majority of people voting on the NBC poll agreed. 82% said that Kelsey had the “perfect look” to be an NBA cheerleader.

So why are we still talking about it? Why do the other 18% think Kelsey needs to change the way she looks?

Simple. We’re very used to seeing women wearing revealing clothes. They’re in every swimsuit ad, every underwear ad, every music video.

But unless you’re at the beach, we’re not used to seeing women larger than a size 6 baring flesh. And in this way, we’re subconsciously taught that the only women allowed to wear teeny-tiny outfits in public are the ones who look like Victoria’s Secret models.

And that sucks. Because theat shouldn’t be the one and only ideal. Healthy and happy needs to be the ideal. Whether you are a size 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 etc – if you are healthy and happy, you deserve a pat on the damn back.

(And also a cheerleading outfit, if you want it.)

Why do you think this story has attracted so much attention?

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