2011 is off and running: Sexism, Comparisons & Nudity

We’re off and running in 2011 and it doesn’t take long for some interesting items to pop up related to sports and gender.

1. A great example that sexism is alive and well lies in the firing of ESPN announcer Ron Franklin after he made a derogatory remark (i.e., “sweet baby”) to sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards in a meeting before the Fiesta Bowl. YEAH ESPN for doing the right thing.

2. The “apples to oranges” comparison between male and females athletes is also alive and well and is being perpetuated by both men and women. This was recently evident in the non-stop comparisons between the UConn vs. UCLA basketball streaks (note: many of my predictions about the coverage of UConn streak were fulfilled), and was taken to a new level by this sports blogger who is also misinformed about the target audience and purpose of espnW (note to said sports blogger: espnW does not just cover women’s sports, it is targeted toward the female sport fan). The problem with comparisons is that women’s sport and female athletes will always come out as “lesser than.” Can’t female athletes be appreciated and not constantly compared to their male colleagues?

Screen shot of New Balance homepage Jan 10, 2011

3. It appears that the trend of featuring naked/nude female athletes in the sport media or to sell a product is all the rage. Examples of this trend can be found in ESPN The Magazine: Body Issue, Sports Illustrated, and the most recent example a colleague sent me (see picture). This is a screen shot of the New Balance homepage. How is this picture related to selling shoes? Does New Balance want to be lumped into the “sex sells” and exploiting females athletes to sell products category? Nude female athletes is a new twist on an old pattern of female athletes being portrayed “out of uniform”...literally. And for those who are going to call me a prude and outdated feminist, go right ahead. It won’t stop me from continuing to point out that portraying female athletes in this manner does NOT honor their athleticism or promote women’s sport, but marginalizes female athletes and possibly perpetuates sexism and the constant comparison I mentioned above. Can you really take a female athlete seriously as an ATHLETE when she is portrayed naked? I would argue this NB ad sells sex, not sport shoes. Disagree as you will, but I challenge you to prove me wrong that proportionately female athletes are not portrayed “out of their uniforms” more often than male athletes.

Happy 2011!

4 Replies to “2011 is off and running: Sexism, Comparisons & Nudity”

  1. You rock. I’m glad Volkman turned me on to your blog.

    I do want to comment on #3, though. Personally, I have no problem with the naked body; it’s a natural state of being. The image on the New Balance page is beautiful, and I don’t find it offensive at all. Thumbs up for artfully done nudity. What irritates me is the scantily clad, trampy, sex object images that are typically used. In this case, NB is selling beauty, not sex.

    They could balance out the male and female nudity, though. A man in an identical pose would make an equally impressive image.


  2. I feel along the same lines as Kim – the human body is an amazing thing, and for serious athletes who are able to manipulate it and train it with such precision, I am in awe of the beauty of that. Likewise agreed that a male athlete in the same position would have been equally impressing.

    However… I definitely look at that NB add as in a different class than many of the other cover shoos or ads your referencing. I’ve seen cover photos of women IN clothes (for some reason Danica Patrick’s cover stands out to me) that look less tasteful, less to the point of the FEMALE ATHLETE than this one.


  3. Ref 3 as well – it’s a difficult thing. When you’re that fit and healthy you want to show off too, it’s not all about exploitation. What gets me is that for whatever reason it’s usually (not always) the women athletes who get portrayed in this way. Is that the male athletes don’t want to be seen that way or is that as consumers we wouldn’t react in the same positive manner as we do to a woman’s body?
    Men’s Health mag is one of the few I can think of who use the male form to promote and sell their product, GQ etc usually (not always) use clothed-males. But women’s magazines like the Shape cover referred to above ( at least I think you are talking about Danica Patrick on Shape?) don’t seem to think it’s at all problematic to use semi-dressed women. As long as we vote with our dollar, nothing is going to change.
    And to return to my first point, I wouldn’t want to go back to a time when the female body was seen as shameful – posting from Ireland where we have a long history of denigrating the female shape – and would prefer to just see a balance or use of nudity when it’s appropriate not simply sexual.


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