Female Athletes Show Their Skin

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Dave Zurin at the Huffington Post spoke to  Dr. Mary Kane (Kinesiology, Minnesota) about the  appearance of Danica Patrick in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition:

As for the young men excited to see Danica in leather, spread out on a car: “They want to buy the magazines but they didn’t want to consume the sports,” Kane said to me. In the end, she feels the research is unequivocal: “Does it increase the interest in women’s sports? At least for the seventy-plus people we spoke to, the answer is a resounding no. It does not.”

This should be an earth-rattling revelation for every executive in the Women’s Tennis Association, the WNBA, and the LPGA tour, who have for decades thought that a little leg goes a long way ….

“This is deeper. This is also about what runs in the bone marrow of women’s sports, namely ‘homophobia.’ They are very well meaning but they also want to distance themselves from the ‘lesbian label,’ ” she says. “How do you do that? You reassure the viewing audiences, the corporate sponsors, the TV networks and the female athletes themselves, that ‘no, no, no, sports won’t make your daughter gay.’ Women’s sports will be more acceptable if you believe, even though it is stereotypical and inaccurate, that if you are pretty and feminine in a traditional sense then you are not gay.”

The full article is here.

I couldn’t help wonder if the Kane’s criticism would apply to equally to the bikini shot of  swimmer  Dara Torres, this  week’s cover of Time magazine (European edition).  On the one hand, both are pictures of women in swim suits.  Both pictures function to sell magazines.  Both pictures invite us to contemplate the body of the photographed.  But what makes the Time cover different is the absence of dumb props (no need to bring the race car driver’s helmet along on a swim); her pose is completely different; her swim suit is different (uh…there is a reason that you don’t want a white suit to get wet).  And the invitations are different.  “Look at me.  I’m sexy!” vs. “Look at me.  My body is amazing!”  Or maybe the difference is in the eye of the consumer.  My guess is that a 40-something male and a 40-something female respond quite differently to the each photo (let alone the magazines).  At least I did.  Go Dara Torres!

-Bridget Crawford

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3 Responses to Female Athletes Show Their Skin

  1. bob coley jr says:

    “LOOK AT ME, I’M SEXY” V “LOOK AT ME, MY BODY IS AMAZING” SEEM TO BE THE SAME THING, with one being slightly (only slightly) more subtle. We all know that an Olympic caliber athelete’s body must, by nature, be amazing. No need to see it, but we also know the old marketinng axiom “sex sells”. A picture of Ms. Torres in street clothes looking at a picture of the time clock with her name and time, superimposed over the faces of the other swimmers and a copy of her birth certificate (with the apropriate info blacked out) would have conveyed the feat without the sexual undertones. Besides, some have never had an atheletes body. Seeing something one can never reach can be a potential source of angst, especially when viewed in the context of age. She should be pround of herself for her effort and determinatiion to succeed. This attribute is what should be lauded and exposed, not her body. A body is only nature’s lottery and is not indicative of character.

  2. clueless says:

    My daughter (four) walked by as I was reading this and asked, “Who’s that girl?” I said it was a famous race car driver. Her response: “Why is she in underpants?” By accident she hit on a fairly important point.

    One difference between the two pictures is that Dara Torres is always in a bathing suit in her sport — while she probably wears a one-piece when actually competing, we’re still seeing a swimmer in a swimming context. In contrast, Danica is never going to wear a bikini when driving a car. We’re seeing her in a totally different environment from her competitive arena; now, she’s just a hot chick on the beach.

  3. Pingback: selfish teams » Blog Archive » Olympian for Swimsuit Issue Cover

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