TIME Body Image

Harvard Women’s Rugby Team Wants You to Know Strength Is Beautiful

Lydia Burns and Shelby Lin

"Ripped," "so strong" and "fearless"

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.

“I think the notion of strength being beautiful is so overlooked in our society because strength is historically associated with masculinity, and women are taught that they must be strictly feminine to be beautiful,” player Helen Clark told TODAY.com.

The photos were published in June along with an essay in the Harvard Political Review, and have gone viral in recent weeks.

“We hope seeing our photos will encourage women to go out and find a space like rugby where their bodies are celebrated for their inherent strength and power,” Clark said, “Rather than just for how they look in a bikini.”

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