Six-time Olympic medalist, Aly Raisman isn’t just standing up for the next generation of gymnasts, but for girls everywhere. Though not currently training, her gymnastics radiates the same kind of confidence, boldness, and realness that her activism does. There’s a reason that between Instagram and Twitter, she has a following of over three million. Now, she’s using that following to change the narrative surrounding sexual abuse, women in sports, and body positivity.
A gymnastics comeback seemed to be in the cards for the 23-year-old, but she soon realized her efforts were needed elsewhere. Raisman turned her attention to being an advocate for change not only in USA gymnastics but also regarding how society handles sexual assault and views women. For now, this work has proved more important than a gymnastics comeback.
“This is the focus,” Raisman told NBC Sports.
In Chapter 22 of her book, entitled “The Survivors,” Raisman stresses the need for the removal of societal shame and stigma surrounding sexual abuse. “We have to keep the dialogue going to remove the stigma for those who survive abuse,” she writes. “There aren’t enough people saying it’s okay to speak up if you something might be wrong. Take it from me: It is.”
Raisman has also partnered with Darkness to Light, an organization that works to empower adults to prevent sexual abuse of children. She is helping to promote and spread awareness of the #FliptheSwitch campaign, which calls for adults involved in youth sports to receive training in sexual abuse prevention via Darkness to Light’s program.
#FlipTheSwitch 42 million Americans are survivors of child sexual abuse. We MUST change that horrifying number. I urge u to go to https://t.co/C3tnm0hw4W. U have the power to make change. Here is my certificate of completion (Will personally sign yours if U complete the program!) pic.twitter.com/bHhgiF1m0k
— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) March 9, 2018
She’s participated in Sports Illustrated’s “In Her Own Words” project, and regularly gets approached by people on the street, both women and men, who want to share their stories of survival and how Raisman speaking out has helped them. “When I go shopping or out to dinner, people want to share their stories about abuse, which is never something I expected,” she told InStyle.
She’s also a proponent of body positivity, having been featured in the #AerieREAL campaign, where none of the photos were retouched.
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Love the swim you’re in! On set with my @Aerie family ❤️. Good vibes. A reminder to be kind to yourself— No one has the perfect body and our imperfections make us unique. I have found meditation to be a helpful reminder to take time for myself and appreciate my body, how do you take time for yourself? For every unretouched swim photo you share with #AerieREAL, @Aerie will donate $1 (up to $25K) to @NEDA, a non-profit that supports those affected by eating disorders. #AeriePartner #NoRetouchingNeeded 💕 #BeKindToYourself #YouAreBeautiful
Promoting body positivity goes back to the message that ties all of Raisman’s work together, including her gymnastics: Being your real, true self is enough, and more than enough. By promoting body positivity through modeling appearances, she’s helping change the culture surrounding how women view their bodies in relation to society.
She’s well-aware of her platform and influence, influence that especially falls on young girls and teens. “If a brand isn’t supportive of the #MeToo movement, then I don’t want to be associated with it,” she said. Raisman is using her power and influence to change the narrative, system, and culture. If that’s not the mark of a feminist icon, I don’t know what is.
Cover image via ESPN.