I found this interesting tid-bit the other day on Fox Sports online The Naked Truth: Beard not hurting sports. Apparently, Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard is posing nude (or has already posed nude) for Playboy. The male author of this article claims that Beard posing nude, as a commodity for the male gaze, is not hurting her sport or any other sports for that matter as female athletes aren’t so much considered athletes like their male counter parts but “famous people”:
Do they have to pose naked to become famous? Of course not — most famous female athletes have not posed nude. But are good looks a prerequisite for female athletes to become famous? Yeah, pretty much.
Granted, good looks are usually a prerequisite for most people to become famous — anybody except athletes.
And maybe that is what this tells us: We see famous male athletes as athletes, but we see famous female athletes simply as famous people. Most sports fans know who Amanda Beard is, but I would bet that at least 95 percent have no idea what her best stroke is. Michael Phelps is famous for being a great swimmer; Amanda Beard is famous for being an attractive swimmer, even though she has won seven medals in three Olympics and is preparing for her fourth trip to the Summer Games.
The author goes on to compare female athletes who pose for magazines of any variety to Sports Illustrated swimsuit models–the consumer (which is mostly male) wants to feel as though they “know” the individual posing. Apparently, a study showed that placing the name of the model beneath her picture in the SI issues that by this mere placement of a name a man felt that he knew the model, and that men are such simple creatures that this is all that they need (insert sarcasm here).
So… male athletes become a commodity and we remember them for their prowess on the field or court or whatever, but female athletes are commodified not because they are talented, but because they are physically beautiful.
If I was athletically inclined, and gifted to boot, I’d be incredibly offended by what this man has written. I would argue that the kind of spokesperson/advertising that is made available to female athletes is in no way shape or form comparable to that of males. Men are offered, for example, the opportunity to sell Campbells soup with their mommies while women are offered the opportunity to sell bras. Men become spokes people for shoe companies while women are offered the pages of Playboy. A woman is not the sum of her gift, but rather her body parts and if those body parts are too masculine, and therefore “scary” (think the William’s sisters) only then can they be remembered for their athletic talent?
Personally, I’d rather have Venus or Serena sell me a bra any day over Sharipova for the simple fact that I KNOW those two work their butts off on the court and therefore need something that is going to, er, strap them down, versus a beautiful face and willowy body that might be occasionally good at wacking the ball back over the net. Simply put: I’d rather buy products that I know have been tested, and survived that testing, rather than those that are hanging on a pretty body.