Two-time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman expected some criticism when she decided to pose in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.
But in a recent interview with Time Inc.’s Motto, Raisman revealed that the public reaction made her “realize women do not have to be modest in order to be respected.”
“I knew people were going to say that I wasn’t a good role model and all of this stuff, Raisman told Motto. “I did the issue because I love my body. I can express myself in any way that I want. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to judge me. I think being a role model is about being a kind person.”
“It really made me realize, women do not have to be modest in order to be respected.”
Raisman spoke with Motto about the importance of girls pursuing sports, appreciating her body and about the sexual abuse allegations against USA Gymnastics and former team doctor Larry Nassar.
[More from Excelle Sports: U.S. Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles and Aly Raisman pose for SI Swimsuit]
On the importance of girls pursuing sports:
“It’s important for young girls to be inspired and do something that makes them want to be a better person — to work hard or to push themselves to the limits — no matter what that is. That and working out makes me feel confident and more like myself. I think it’s a really powerful thing, it teaches girls to love their bodies and love themselves.”
On appreciating her body:
“It’s something that develops over time. I think everyone goes through phases in life where they feel insecure. I have plenty of times. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to appreciate my body. Young girls should be taught that there’s no ideal body type. We’re all different and unique in our way — if we all looked the exact same, we’d be very boring.”
On the USA Gymnastics sexual assault accusations and its affect on young women in sports:
“I think it’s really important to teach young girls to know what’s right and wrong. I think there should be a class in all schools — from elementary school to high school and college — that teaches young girls and boys to respect each other. It should be just as valued as taking an English or a math class. It doesn’t matter if a girl is wearing a short skirt or a belly shirt, it doesn’t matter. There is absolutely no excuse for raping or sexually abusing women ever. Of course, boys are obviously sexually abused as well.
“It’s very hard for young women to speak up. I think young girls need to understand that if something doesn’t feel right or if they feel uncomfortable, then it’s probably wrong. And it’s OK to speak up. I know it’s difficult and uncomfortable and what’s going on is very horrible, but we need to change it. I think everyone’s afraid to have the conversation and talk about it in schools.
“Girls need to grow up to feel that they’re strong, confident, independent, smart and that they can be anything that they want to be. But there’s so much pressure for women. I think that women feel like they don’t really have a voice. And I hope that we can change that.”