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Rugged Grace: Women's Rugby Promoting Positive Body Image Through Photo Project

The women's rugby team is making strides to promote positive body image for female athletes through its Rugged Grace project (Shelby Lin '14 & Lydia Burns).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The 2013 Ivy League champion Harvard women's rugby team has been in the news recently, helping to promote positive body image for female athletes through its Rugged Grace project.

As described on the project's Tumblr page, Rugged Grace is a photo project exploring what sport and community mean for the bodies and identities of the women's rugby team. Teammates were asked to write what they loved and appreciated about each player on their body, in the hopes of opening a visual discussion about beauty, strength, and appreciation. The team decided to have players write their favorite things about their teammates physically on their bodies to demonstrate the immense body positivity, encouragement of strength and utility, and the overall supportive nature of the team.

Rising seniors Brooke Kantor and Helen Clark, along with rising junior Lydia Federico, co-authored an essay entitled "An Exercise in Body Image" which appeared in the Harvard Political Review. The essay details some of the body image issues faced by young women today, and how the sport of rugby and the Rugged Grace project can help shed light on solutions to those problems.

The photos which are at the heart of the project were taken by recent graduate Shelby Lin '14 and rising junior Lydia Burns.

Rugged Grace has spread across the internet and has been featured on websites including Today.com, Time.com, HuffingtonPost.com and Cosmopolitan.com. Below are excerpts and links to these features.


'Strength is beautiful': Harvard women's rugby team spreads inspiring body image message
- Today.com

It's sad but true: Even young, fit female athletes struggle with pressure about body image. That's why the members of the Harvard women's rugby team recently took matters into their own hands, staging a photo and video shoot that's now going viral.

"Female athletes often struggle to balance social expectations to be delicate and feminine with the demands of athletics to be strong and powerful," player Helen Clark told TODAY.com. "Our team reconciles this by reminding each other every chance we get that our strength is beautiful… CONTINUE READING

Tracy Saelinger, TODAY contributor


Harvard Women's Rugby Team Wants You to Know Strength Is Beautiful
- Time.com

Amid movies and advertisements that promote stick-thin women, and even fitness magazines that focus on "lean" and "toned" bodies, the Harvard women's rugby team has an important message: strength is beautiful.

The team staged a photo shoot in which they all wore matching sports bras and spandex and wrote empowering messages on each other's bodies. "Powerful," reads one girl's knuckles. "Ripped," says another's bicep, and "Beautiful & Fierce!" announces another girl's stomach… CONTINUE READING

Tessa Berenson, Editorial Intern TIME


Harvard Rugby Team Makes A Play To Celebrate Strength And Beauty
- HuffingtonPost.com

When they're not charging their opponents, one women's rugby team is tackling the body love revolution.

Members of the Harvard Women's Rugby team shot a series of photographs celebrating body love and acceptance featured on their Tumblr blog, Rugged Grace.

Over the course of two days in May 2014, the women photographed themselves at the Kundalini Yoga Boston studio. The team decided to celebrate body love by sharing what they loved about each woman's body and personality, and writing those messages on each others' skin… CONTINUE READING

Nina Bahadur, deputy editor Huffington Post Women


These 10 Photos Show How Beautiful Athleticism Can Be
- Cosmopolitan.com

The female rugby players at Harvard have put together a badass photo series on how their bodies change during the season.

As they explain on their Tumblr Rugged Grace, "We asked teammates to write what they loved and appreciated about each player on their body, in the hopes of opening a visual discussion about beauty, strength, and appreciation. We decided to have players write their favorite things about other players physically on their bodies to demonstrate the immense body positivity, encouragement of strength and utility, and the overall supportive nature of this team."

"Hot" and "powerful" were just two of the totally accurate words they chose to make a statement… CONTINUE READING

Tess Koman, Editorial Assistant Cosmopolitan.com