Aly Raisman was ready for critics who questioned her decision to pose topless in Sports Illustrated’s latest swimsuit issue.
“I knew people were going to say that I wasn’t a good role model and all of this stuff,” the Olympic gymnast told Motto on Tuesday. “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,” she added.
Raisman also spoke out about the importance of educating young people about sexual assault. “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,” she said. “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.”
The three-time gold-medal winner also stressed the importance of encouraging body positivity and self-confidence in young girls. “A lot of people feel really uncomfortable when they get their period or they’re going through puberty — especially with all the pressure of social media and the comparisons to other girls,” she noted. “Girls feel really insecure and awkward at that stage — your body starts to change. Instead of feeling uncomfortable and not talking about it, I think it’s important to have this conversation.”