I thought about just posting that one word. When I was a girl, few women were raised up to the level of idolatry in sports. They were a joke to many male athletes and the thought of women achieving success in any sports’ field was absurd. Perhaps, it still is. None of the female leagues, teams or individuals make any where near what their male counterparts do. Even the Canadian women’s soccer team waged a futile act of protest in an effort to gain financial equality, if not true unbiased equality. During the Olympics, we cheered on the women who set records, made it into the finals, won and even lost. It has been a 21st Century of women we can hold up for generations. Until now.
What will I remember about U.S. women’s national team goalie Hope Solo, U.S. gymnast Alicia Sacramone, snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, WNBA’s Sylvia Fowles, golfer Belen Mozo, runner Natasha Hastings, hockey player Julie Chu, tennis player Vera Zvonareva, surfer Steph Gilmore, roller derby player Suzy Hotrod and bowler Kelly Kulick? I will remember my utter disappointment when I read that they will appear nude in the ESPN’s Body Issue.
This is the third issue of the magazine. It obviously sells well. ESPN even promotes additional revenue streams by selling the photos for nearly $50. So, not only are these women posing nude, they are allowing their nude image to be marketed and sold, an image that no longer includes the team jersey that reminds us they are athletes. ESPN strips them down to flesh (consent to by the athlete), then parades them in front of their male readership who can now feel less inadequate because the women have joined the ranks of any other woman who would strip for money.
What I find most disconcerting is that young girls will assume it’s no big deal to show your nude body to more than 15 million readers, in fact they may even people it’s a sign of success. And, no surprise here, studies have show that media often acts as a “super peer” to our children. Can you imagine the amount of influence media has on our children. Does you daughter dress like you? Mine doesn’t. Where does she get her style sense – peers and the media.
While the influence the “Body Issue” will have on my child is disconcerting, I am more disgusted that these women are participating in media’s constant push to objectify women. No longer a talented athlete, they are now stripped down and posed for the readers of the magazine. Who reads the magazine? According to ESPN, “ESPN The Magazine is for young men who want to stay on top of the athletes, team, topics, and upcoming events in their own sports world.” Nearly 80 percent of the readers are men with an average age of 33. Women athletes are smart enough to realize why they are included. Because men want to look at their bodies and it makes the company enormous amounts of money.
Do I think these women athletes should be role models for my child and the millions of girls looking to them for guidance? It would be nice, but they certainly are not obligated, unless…they want my money. I expect they will seek out endorsement deals, selling everything from t-shirts to snowboards and soccer balls to skis and running shoes. Personally, I won’t make that purchase, and from this day forward I will forever remind my daughter of the women athletes that made us proud, only to sell out to the media establishment that wanted to minimize their accomplishments by showcasing them nude and leaving them vulnerable to millions of men who just can’t wait to see their ass.