Oxford University Women’s Rugby Team Poses Nude To Raise Awareness About Eating Disorders

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The Oxford University Women’s Rugby Team are tackling eating disorders and unhealthy body image ideals in a unique way: by stripping off while on the field and showing what it means to be women of strength.

The women wore only socks and rugby cleats in order to raise money for a UK charity named Beat, which is the country’s leading organization supporting those with eating disorders. They work with victims, families, health and educational professionals to beat the type of diseases that are known to cause the highest mortality rate out of all mental illnesses.

For every calendar sold, the team will donate £1 to the charity which has previously received funding from the Amy Winehouse foundation.

“The message that Beat promotes really fits with the positive body image and confidence that we promote at OURFC Women,” team president Helen Lamb to People magazine.

“If each calendar sold gets just one person talking about these often-avoided topics, then OURFC Women and Beat have been very successful in their mission,” added captain Carly Bliss, 27.

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In the vein of sending a positive message about healthy body image, none of the images were photoshopped so that the portrayal of female strength could be seen in a raw, authentic way.

“This year we specifically wanted to use the calendar to promote female athleticism and positive body image, highlighting that rugby is a sport for players of a variety of strengths and sizes,” Carly said about their visuals.

“The team promotes a positive body image, and this choice was essential to represent the team accurately and demonstrate the confidence of the team,” said Helen Lamb about the choice not to use photoshop.

Aside from raising money for a very important cause, the team hope to encourage other girls to sign up to the rugby team as well as portray the diverse range of bodies that are part of the existing line up. They are certainly not the first athletes to bare all in the name of promoting a body positive message.

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Each year ESPN’s Body Issue celebrates the diverse nature of athleticism by choosing athletes from a range of different sports to strip off. In 2014 they chose African American baseball player Prince Fielder to grace the cover and it sparked a whole lot of discussion about the portrayal of men’s bodies in the public eye, simply because he doesn’t have a six-pack and happens to be a larger build than what we imagine most male athletes to look like.

This year’s Body Issue had Olympic Hammer thrower Amanda Bingson grace the cover sans clothing and the fact that she is not a size zero also got people talking. There were many who expressed outrage and disgust over ESPN’s decision to choose both Amanda and Prince, which essentially proves how brainwashed we have become about the portrayal of bodies in public spaces.

The Oxford University Women’s Rugby Team are part of a growing number of athletes around the world who are boldly tearing down stereotypes while also advancing a noble cause. Along with their mission to raise money for Beat and start discussions about women’s bodies, they also want to use their platform to ensure women’s sport gets equal treatment alongside men.

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On December 10, the women of Oxford took on the Cambridge University Women’s Rugby Team, (unfortunately they lost 0-52) who are their fiercest rivals, but the most significant thing about the match was that it was played at Twickenham, known as the true birthplace of rugby, for the first time. Women rugby teams have not played there before but finally getting to play on the same grounds as the male varsity teams was a big deal for the team.

“It demonstrates how women’s sport should be regarded as equal to that of men’s, and highlights the prestige associated with the Varsity Match and the great honor it is for individual players selected to represent their university,” said captain Carly Bliss in a statement ahead of the match.

They may not have won that historic match, but in our eyes they scored a hat trick for women everywhere: raising money for a charity that supports those with eating disorders, posing naked for a calendar which will diversify the portrayal of female athletic bodies, and speaking out about the need for more equality in women’s sports.

To find out more about the calendar and see more images, you can take a look at their website.

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