Beauty at the Olympics

// 23 August 2008

I seem to be burning my bridges with lots of my sources of work over the course of the Olympics, but this made me so angry I can’t help but post about it.

The Times’s Chief Sports Photographer Marc Aspland has put together this photo gallery for his colleague Simon Barnes, “all my red-blooded colleagues who are into their third week away from home and all the lads in my 5-a-side football team back home.”

The gallery focuses on Elena Isinbaeva, the Russian pole vaulter who is Olympic champion and the world record holder. Well, I say it focuses on Isinbaeva – mostly it focuses on her buttocks, although it does also feature her stomach. A photo of her face is noticeable by its absence.

I’m not going to go into the theory of fetishisation and the gaze and dehumanisation, because it’s patently obvious to anyone with half a brain that reducing this magnificent athlete to a couple of body parts is offensive and asinine. The comments below the piece from readers do, in the main, bear this out.

And as some have said, there would never be a similar gallery produced of, say, Alexander Despatie or Rafael Nadal. But then, I can’t imagine any of the straight women or gay men I know who work in sports journalism even thinking about doing this – not just because it’s disgusting, but because the profession is a bastion of male heterosexual privilege. Anyone on the inside who deviates from the standardised beliefs and opinions and objects to nonsense like this or attempts to redress the balance will be pretty firmly and promptly squashed.

Comments From You

Fran // Posted 23 August 2008 at 10:46 am

Grr, I remember being put off being sporty as a girl because of similar discussions over whether men (that totally homogeneous group) found women athletes’ six-packs sexy.

And of course, the comments on that piece have turned into a discussion on what men find attractive, including the gem: ‘If you’re a male getting hot and bothered by this body, then you are in all likelihood also homosexual. Nothing wrong with that, just don’t pass this off as female beauty.’ (Plus plenty of other ‘she looks like a man’ comments.)

I have no problem with men having personal preferences, or discussing them. It’s just sad when the media try to refocus attention away from the achievements of women and onto their bodies instead.

Audrey // Posted 23 August 2008 at 10:54 am

I have been baiting The Times all week on these issues and not had any of my comments posted online. Owned by Rupert Murdoch, they have adopted a tabloid style view of women in the Olympics by arranging them on a hierarchy of how well they fulfil male sexual desire: outrageously sexist. Now when women have got half the medals that GB have won, they still belittle them and degrade them. Unbelievable.

Kirsty // Posted 23 August 2008 at 11:24 am

“Do you think Elena would be able, with those beautiful eyes that look through you forever, to grasp and embrace the concept of, “sugar daddy”?”

That comment actually made me want to weep.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 23 August 2008 at 12:04 pm

Proves once again that despite the achievements british women athletes have accomplised in winning half of all GB medals, women must be reduced to men’s sexualised commodities. Why? Because it is imperative women are never acknowledged let alone accepted as fully human because this immediately threatens men’s fragile egos. Women athletes? No they are just dehumanised men’s sexualised commodities.

Qubit // Posted 23 August 2008 at 12:51 pm

Hmm, the main comments on the board seem to suggest Elena Isinbaeva is too masculine to be considered attractive. In some ways it is hopeful that at least those who support the photos are not only attracted to real, healthy bodies (even if the body type is a rarity as few people are at that fitness) they find her passion for sport and the work she put in to achieve the physical fitness admirable.

I do find it slightly depressing that female athletes are being reduced to body parts but male athletes undergo the same from (some) female commentators and admirers. The fact she has a slim but not traditional attractive figure (ie not excessively large breasts etc) at least shows a small trend away from the idea that there is only one definition of female attractiveness.

John // Posted 23 August 2008 at 3:46 pm

I actually think this is a sexist post.

Faces are a body part. Any body part can be attractive and not only those people/women with pretty faces are beautiful. I don’t understand why admiring someone’s ass is any more “reducing” them than their face. Where does it say someone’s personality resides in their face and only their face?

Women have suffered for centuries because of the colossal socio-economic effects of men judging them by their faces alone. If we have come to a time when we all can admire people for their other body parts instead, that is a huge leap forward for humaity and human happiness. Oh, and equality. Why should someone’ face trump someone’s else’s boobs or ass or stomach or whatever?

If you think that only erogenous zones are capable of being sexuality commodotised then you probably need to learn that the porn industry (bigger than Hollywood) concentrates primarily on pretty women performing oral sex and having men ejaculate on their faces. NOTHING is as sexually commodotised as a female face in the C21st. So get real.

chem_fem // Posted 23 August 2008 at 4:53 pm

qubit – The fact she has a slim but not traditional attractive figure (ie not excessively large breasts etc) at least shows a small trend away from the idea that there is only one definition of female attractiveness.

Can I just point out that no breast size is ‘excessively’ large!! What is it with people criticising large breasted women??

Firstly large breasted women are rarely seen as attractive (what is actually called large breasted normally refers to a medium sized chest or sometimes a large surgically enhanced one). Seriously find me a few examples of naturally large breasted women who are considered attractive. There aren’t any because we’re all considered saggy or droopy (or worse yet cheap).

Secondly beyond which chest size must a woman go to be considered excessive. I didn’t deliberately grow my boobs this large, and for the most part they are an inconvenience – try finding clothes when you have a large bust! I’m sick of anything above a D cup being seen as negative or better yet ‘unprofessional’. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to dress appropriately with large breasts?

Nina // Posted 23 August 2008 at 5:05 pm

Ooh! Lacan in action! So is it Marc Aspland or Simon Barnes that’s experiencing the psychosexual development of a 6 year old?

Anne Onne // Posted 24 August 2008 at 12:07 am

This is a perfect example of the way society puts women in their supposed place in thousands of little ways that people never realise.

Taken on its own at surface value, many might just think ‘well, what’s wrong with men finding women with X features attractive and being honest about it?’, and if it was one example on its own, in an equal world, I’d agree. There IS nothing wrong with anybody finding anyone else attractive, and for many of us, sexual urges and desires are a natural part of life.

The problem is, women are not allowed to escape from being judged on how they make men’s penises feel.* No matter how successful we are, how irrelevant beauty is to our chosen field, how smart or kind or funny or interesting a person we are, we will always be primarily judged on looks in a way that men aren’t.

But let’s not take it on its own. This comes hot on the heels of Chickipedia, and countless other stories. Just look through any magazine, especially something with adverts in it. No matter what they’re advertising, changes are, there’s a half-naked woman in the advert somewhere. Read an article about a famous woman, and see how far you get before her appearance is mentioned (probably not very far).

Stuff like this and chickipedia reminds us that women aren’t taken seriously, because men are not objectified to the same level. Society does not look at men through a lens that shows them as merely how they might service women, but as individuals whose achievements are relevant and foremost. I won’t deny that men’s appearances are mentioned, and women do openly lust after men, but anybody seriously at the media could never claim that there is any degree of equality in how men and women are portrayed, and in how often they are portrayed as objects to be sexually objectified. Even the way women are posed and made to act subtly highlights how women are ‘supposed’ to service men, whereas men, even when being portrayed in a sexual manner, are portrayed as having power and agency.

But you only need to look at the cliche that ‘sex sells’ to see that things are unequal. What do people mean when they say sex sells? I don’t see lots of half-naked men in agonising poses and high heels for my delectation as a woman. The only way one could imagine that sex sells is if they think that only white, heterosexual males’ sexual desires matter.

It’s despicable that any woman, no matter what she looks like, will elicit comments insisting she’s ‘not feminine enough’, and therefore unshaggable, from some troglodyte who thinks that anyone gives a flying fuck what they would or wouldn’t find attractive. Women can’t win, because we’re always told we’re too fat, too thin, too flat-chested, too saggy, too short, too tall, too hairy, too pasty, too dark, too strong, too weak, too masculine, too girly. We truly can’t win, because no matter how hard a woman might try to follow society’s rules (and many do try, which I can’t fault them for) there will ALWAYS be lots of people telling us that we fail at being attractive because someone wouldn’t fuck us, and that therefore we’re a failure as a woman.

So I don’t think this is really a compliment to the female athlete, unless it’s a very backhand one. If I spent my life training to be the best athlete I could be, I don’t think some men thinking themselves so important that their decision on whether I am fuckable (apparently so) would make me feel like I was being respected for what I wanted to be.

Many women do seek approval for their looks, because they are taught by society that looks and sexual appeal is the only thing we’re really supposed to care about, and I’m sure some women would take it as a compliment. The problem is, it’s the only compliment we ever get, and it’s the first thing people try to insult us with. Clearly for a lot of people, when it comes down to it, they really do judge women by appearances above all else. And we’re perfectly entitled to get damn pissed off about that, whether or not they find us attractive.

* Clearly, penises don’t actually have a mind of their own. It really irks me that people like to pretend that parts of their body have a mind of their own. And I don’t agree that what or who you are attracted to is something you can’t do anything about, something that one must accept, even if what they are attracted to is illusory or plain wrong (Thinking paedophilia, bestiality or necrophilia here, clearly where the object is unable to meaningfully consent), because what we are attracted to is a conditioned response. We change what appeals to us as we age, and as we mature, things that would have tempted us before mean little.

Men don’t have a natural predisposition to like ANY body type (HATE evo-psych, how dare it masquerade as genuine science?!?!), because throughout history many different body shapes and sizes have been seen as the height of sexual attractiveness. No matter how hard people try to explain all the different body types and why someone secretly likes them for evolutionary reasons, the main reason will always be a mixture of social pressures and fashions of the time, as well as personal reasons.

I say this, because I find the big problem with all the ‘I would/would not hit that’ comments (apart from assuming anyone wants to sleep with them!) is that they feel that a hugely unrealistic expectation, especially compared to their own mortal appearance, is entirely justified and sacrosanct, on the grounds that it’s what turns them on. It’s like yeah, you can like what you want, but A) don’t expect that anyone has to live up to your standards, or that anyone who does has to sleep with you, because you’re not owed anything, and B) whatever you like isn’t inbuilt or above reproach. It says a lot about you as a person, and if you have standards that make you a shallow misogynist and see women only as objects that attract you and owe you sex, your holding them does not make them above criticism. What people like is NOT separate from society, and says a lot about them and society, and how they treat the people they like, and how willing they are to unlearn harmful behaviour and grow up is important.

Probably verging on tangential here, but in the end, it all interlinks. Damn that pesky Patriarchy.

Victoria // Posted 24 August 2008 at 10:42 am

Anne Onne, wow, you are spot on as always. I agree with every word you said. Thank you!! You should write a book.

Fran // Posted 24 August 2008 at 11:09 am

John: I can’t speak for Carrie, but I don’t think that by pointing out the lack of a face in the pictures she was claiming that women’s faces aren’t judged or commodified.

However, faces are the primary way in which we recognise each other. They help us to distinguish an individual. Removing the face from a picture has the effect — intended or not — of dehumanising someone, and I think the absence of a face in any of these pictures implies that Marc Aspland really does see women as pieces of meat for him to ogle.

Cockney Hitcher // Posted 24 August 2008 at 11:22 am

John, miss the point much?

If we have come to a time when we all can admire people for their other body parts instead, that is a huge leap forward for humaity and human happiness.

Why can’t we admire people for their skills, such as (in this case) their amazing ability to pole-vault?!?

Qubit // Posted 24 August 2008 at 1:16 pm

I have nothing against large breasts however I think it would be difficult to find a woman that is shown in the media as being attractive to men in lad’s magazines etc (the beauty standard in a woman’s magazine is different) that doesn’t have breasts far larger than is average for her frame. I’d also say long blonde hair is also common.

Yes chem_fem you are probably right in that the breasts are often fake or if not shown at an angle that make them behave fairly unnaturally. However I feel women with small breasts are considered inferior in general in that type of media.

I disagree that naked woman are only used to sell to white hetro males. Their images also have a large effect on white hetro females who want to obtain their beauty and many of whom also prefer looking at women to men. As for people of colour or people who aren’t heterosexual I can’t comment as I don’t fit into that category myself and this isn’t a conversation I have ever had with my friends.

I also disagree that women don’t objectify men in the same way. It is less prominent due to the fact their are less women in the field however women’s media do treat male athletes in a similar way to this photo gallery. I also think their is an increase in adverts in which a male’s body is used to sell a product. I imagine in a few more years this will be a lot closer to being equal.

Lucie // Posted 25 August 2008 at 2:16 pm

I’ve tried several times to post comments there, but I don’t think this time will be any different. It seems like mild criticism is allowed on the site but not anything which shows you might be genuinely offended and upset. It’s like light debate. Inconsequential.

Thanks for posting this, all the way through the Olympics this kind of shit has been going on. I read something on Fox News the other day which consoled an American gymnast for her team not having won an event with ‘it doesn’t matter, because you’re hot. Your page has had millions of hits, so cheer up!’

Bad paraphrasing there, but that was the gist of it.

Jack Leland // Posted 26 August 2008 at 11:50 am

Why can’t we admire people for their skills, such as (in this case) their amazing ability to pole-vault?!?

Frankly, this view of athleticism makes no sense. No one who watches sports is amazed by the abstract ability to pole-vault, whatever that is. They are amazed by the actual bodies of the pole-vaulters, the actual feat performed by the real athlete with the real body in real time, and the real person who disciplined his or her body to accomplish the feat and bask in the glory once victory is his or hers. In no way is admiration fo athletes divorced from an appreciation of their bodies, including their sexual aspect. To think otherwise is simply to misunderstand and lack enjoyment in sports.

Sabre // Posted 26 August 2008 at 12:19 pm

I’m just finishing reading ‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf (what a life-changing eye-opener, everyone should read it!).

Ensuring that women are prized first for their looks (and sometimes only for that) is a way of preventing women achieving everything they are capable of, by distracting them, instilling worry and fear, ensuring they spend their hard-earned money on beauty products and clothes. Treatment of the female Olympic athletes illustrate this evil pressure perfectly – they have achieved something amazing yet they must be kept in their place with the reminder that they must worry about their appearance. The more women achieve the stronger the beauty pressure placed on them (in almost all professions). They can rise to the top but must always remember that it can be easily negated if they don’t look sexy at all times. Ladies, remember that the men are watching you!

Something I noted during the BBC’s Olympics coverage; at the end of the highlights programme they show a few clips that are meant to be funny (like people falling over). One was of a very young female athlete (I forgot who) and she was wearing full make-up, including heavy eye-makeup, and it was all melting a bit because she was doing sport. The presenter made a joke about her appearance (going to the disco later?) and it made me furious. That poor woman obviously felt so much pressure to look good in front of the cameras and then was ridiculed for it. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Cockney Hitcher // Posted 26 August 2008 at 2:21 pm

In no way is admiration fo athletes divorced from an appreciation of their bodies, including their sexual aspect.

I agree that admiration for athletes constitutes an admiration for their bodies’ abilities to excel at sports…but there’s a difference between admiring an athlete’s body in the context of how he or she uses it to excel at a sport and

admiring an athlete’s body in the context of how well it matches up to contemporary, arbitrary, male-imposed standards of female beauty (which don’t have anything to do with sport). It was the latter kind of response that annoys me. I hope this makes sense.

FWIW, my enjoyment from watching sport isn’t derived from an appreciation of the ‘sexual aspect’ of the athletes’ bodies.

Tony Moll // Posted 26 August 2008 at 4:06 pm

There is absolutely nothing wrong with admiring sportswomen in a sexual way – even if don’t care about their sport. I do that all time when I see the Venus Williams playing. it’s my right, it’s my mind.

However, it was inappropriate for a national newspaper to run that article. It is the public and pointless sexualiastion of a sportwoman that I find offensive.

Elizabeth // Posted 27 August 2008 at 8:58 am

I think it’d help if they didn’t insist on putting the bloody female athletes in such skin-tight outfits. The male volleyballers for example were wearing normal baggy non-sexualised type shorts and long baggy singlets. Why the insistance that the women have to have their bodies so revealed, that they have to look so sexy in the first place when they are there to play sport just as the men are.

The male atheletes and/or spectators were definitely not sexualised in the same way. I never saw one male ‘arse’ shot (apart from incidentals that just happened in action). Getty provided some typically “sexualised” shots of women though with f%cking annoying captions. Did anyone see the line up of tanned bikinied arses with the caption “Not in contention for any medals but no doubt the star attraction”. What? Why?? Why “No Doubt”??? What, was the entire audience of the Olympics hetersexual men? Those sort of male-centred assumptions leave me speachless. Imagine peoples’ suprise if they read a female/gay male centred assumption touted as “unisex media”: “No doubt all our viewers agree that Michael Phelps has got a hot arse”. Do we ever read that kind of thing in ‘unisex’ media? Um, no.

Sabre // Posted 27 August 2008 at 2:13 pm

Elizabeth, I agrre with you on the skimpy clothing. For many of the sports the women would have performed just as well, and also probably been more comfortable, in shorts rather than little hotpants or underwear-type garments. And if the argument that those tight little clothes improve performance for whatever reason (e.g. areodynamics), the men should wear them too. In fact the men could probably do with the extra support!

The few times a camera accidentally focused on a man’s butt or crotch it was very hastily moved away. That’s because men’s bodies are respected in a way that women’s are not.

Anne Onne // Posted 27 August 2008 at 7:35 pm

To quote Jack Leland: ‘In no way is admiration fo athletes divorced from an appreciation of their bodies, including their sexual aspect. To think otherwise is simply to misunderstand and lack enjoyment in sports.’

Ah, but that’s just it. The definition of exactly what we admire about them. We admire pole vaulters for their physical ability to pole vault, yes, because it is an active ability. It is a feat we cannot do. We admire the training, the dedication and the physically honed bodies of athletes as they actively go about their business, breaking records and whatnot. We admire what they are actively doing, the action as well as the physical machinery that makes it possible.

But by definition, objectification of women turns them into a passive object, something not admired for prowess, strength and technique, but for the abstract posession of female physical traits, and often criticised for being too active, not ‘feminine’ enough. The focus is not on admiring acheivements, and how hard they worked to achieve their results, only the focus on the physical appearance of the body parts deemed attractive by society.

Besides, most men are unlikely to say that they are sexually attracted to their favourite football players, and that this is an inexorable part of why they enjoy watching football. What attracts you about an athlete (or not) is personal, and down to what gets one off, but not inherent in the athlete, or the sport, and should definitely not be seen as essential to the reporting thereof.

It is not the fact that individuals are attracted to other individuals that is the issue. humans are often attracted to the physical aspects of other humans, so much even the feminists know. This is not the issue, the reporting is. It is one thing if say, Bob was watching the awesome reporting of a women’s event, where the female athletes were renowned for their prowess, and treated as serious competitors, and found it sexually interesting. Same for his partner Roberta. It is another thing if the reporting involved photos of the women’s body parts, jokes about wet t-shirt competitions, pointless fanservice, and a general assumption that the viewers are mostly male, and that all they really want to see is some tits and ass.

It is not that the viewer may be attracted, but that the broadcast and commentary often reduces female competitors to little more than how sexually attractive they are. In the prior, the sexual attraction is an offshoot from watching a fit person at the peak of their field competing with all their might. In the latter, it’s reducing competition and the effort involved, to little more than a side-effect, the main focus being softcore porn.

As Tony Moll pointed, there is nothing wrong with an individual being sexually attracted to the body of another individual, and nobody here claimed there was. We can do that very well on our own, without pointless and objectifying articles and lingering close-ups of arses. Hell, heterosexual women survive with having to brave seeing male athletes focused on for their power and physical ability.

I do agree with Cockney Hitcher that someone’s own admiration of an athlete, whether it be sexual or not, is separate to the mainsteam pornified image of sexuality we are presented with and constantly reminded of. Just as ‘sex’ and ‘porn’ are not the same thing, so personal admiration, even if sexual, does not depend on the athletes being offered up for sexual gratification as if they are a strip act.

The point is that the coverage in the case of women focuses not on the physical fitness needed to achieve the given task, but in many subtle ways it focuses on their looks and sexualises them in a context where that is unneccessary.

Qubit, naked white women are used to sell all things to all people, but the images are primarily out there to attract heterosexual white men. I hardly think that the aim is to sexually appeal to heterosexual women, or to gay men. they are used, in part because it is convenient to focus on the privileged group, and in part because there are multibillion pound industries in making women feel inferior, reminding them to be a sex object, and telling us that if we try hard enough, we can look like a photoshopped model. The fact that these images can be used as cues to remind women that they should be objects does not lessen the fact that they are also there for the titillation of male viewers. After all, randomly half-naked women are in general society understood to code for ‘sex’.

Looking at the admitted ‘target audience’ of most products, whether they are a film, appliance or service, it is very often stated that they aim to appeal to men.

Elisabeth, Sabre, consider that thirded!

Stacey Hurndall-Waldron // Posted 27 August 2008 at 7:39 pm

I had this same argument with my partner, when we saw a femal athlete wearing a hijab and full tracksuit compared to the outfit worn by the GB athlete which looked more like a bikini. I had just read an article about the women athletes who were wearing the veil and scarfs for their sport which suggested that if those women wished to cover up then more power to them. What I’m trying to say in a slightly roundabout manner is that it is seen as odd if a woman chooses to cover up.

I’ve also noticed that women in whatever field are judged on appearance. I’m studying politics at the moment and it is frighteningly obvious that if a woman wants to succeed then she should look impeccable at all times, and if not, she can expect her appearance to be analysed regularly in the press. She must not, however, be seen to TRY to look good (look at what happened to Cherie Booth when her hairdressing bills were made public) It’s a major part of the US presidential race too, the wives must be just that, wives. No careers in the White House because the men must be seen to and sacrificed for.

On the subject of breasts; I’m a FF and a size 10 everywhere else and people think it entirely acceptable to ask if my breasts are real or not (they are). I cannot find clothes and even the consultant who will be carrying out some major surgery on me (nowhere near my breasts btw) carried out his conversation with my breasts; despite the fact that I was wearing a polo neck.

Anne Onne // Posted 27 August 2008 at 9:21 pm

Stacey: this may be tangential, but I think the very issue of whether breasts are ‘real’ or not is dehumanising. For all the problems we feminists rightly have with the pressures associated with silicon enhancement of breasts, the way people talk about silicon breasts as being ‘fake’ as if they are not breasts at all, or the way that people assume that if a woman is big-breasted she’s ‘easy’, especially if her breasts ‘aren’t real’ is worrying. We judge women so much for not being attractive enough, thin enough, or having breasts that are big enough, and then we judge women for living up to the standards they are harshly judged by.

I know that’s not what you’re saying, but I think it’s part of why you have that problem, because breasts are seen as public property, but especially so if the woman wanted them. It’s kind of like an extension of the ‘short skirts invite rape’ meme, the idea that women are somehow always responsible for the negative attention they get, and should expect it.

I do agree that there are negative views and pressures on women whatever their chest size, and that’s enough of be derailing this.

chem_fem // Posted 27 August 2008 at 10:16 pm

Qubit – Yes chem_fem you are probably right in that the breasts are often fake or if not shown at an angle that make them behave fairly unnaturally. However I feel women with small breasts are considered inferior in general in that type of media.

I’ve always felt the opposite (I guess this depends on where you’re viewing from) that plenty of women (actresses, models or misc. celebs) have smaller breasts and that the silicone variety are the only deviation. As someone who fails the so called ‘pencil test’ a few times over its something that I feel quite defensive about.

thanks for replying to me anyway.

Qubit // Posted 28 August 2008 at 10:29 am

I think the problem is the majority of breasts women see are either enhanced or photoshopped. This means we have very little idea how normal breast tissue behaves. I and friends have been guilty of being surprised about things our breasts do because we think they are weird because the majority of breasts we have seen have been silicon and behave differently. (Basically the way breast tissue behaves under gravity compared to silicon.)

While I don’t think women should be judged for it I think the fact that since the majority of breasts are shown are enhanced people expect natural breast tissue to behave completely differently to how it does. This is a worrying sign that the enhanced is becoming considered the expected and everything else wrong.

I have always been so convinced women with big breasts are considered better that I guess I don’t believe people when they say it isn’t true. It seems no matter what you look like you feel inferior and if you are the idealised image then you suffer abuse for it. It doesn’t seem fair really. I am not sure if men suffer in the same way though as I haven’t lived as one.

Jack Leland // Posted 28 August 2008 at 11:58 am

We can do that very well on our own, without pointless and objectifying articles and lingering close-ups of arses. Hell, heterosexual women survive with having to brave seeing male athletes focused on for their power and physical ability.

This is a dodge. Any number of broadcasts of male athletes focus on their biceps, calves, chests, and asses. It is not uncommon for women to make comments about athlete’s asses during sporting events that involve men bending over, such as American football. Not to mention, many women are sexually aroused by male athletes portrayed as physically able and powerful, so they are getting exactly what they want to see. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, as everyone knows that athletic bodies are appealing.

I do agree with Cockney Hitcher that someone’s own admiration of an athlete, whether it be sexual or not, is separate to the mainsteam pornified image of sexuality we are presented with and constantly reminded of. Just as ‘sex’ and ‘porn’ are not the same thing, so personal admiration, even if sexual, does not depend on the athletes being offered up for sexual gratification as if they are a strip act.

Of course sexual admiration does no depend on athletes being offered up for sexual gratification as if they are a strip act, because no broadcast of any sport anywhere in reality depicts athletes, male or female, as if they are strip acts. (Except perhaps a strip act competition.)

Jack Leland // Posted 28 August 2008 at 12:00 pm

But by definition, objectification of women turns them into a passive object, something not admired for prowess, strength and technique

By this definition, objectifying female athletes, especially Olympians, is impossible.

Jack Leland // Posted 28 August 2008 at 12:01 pm

The male volleyballers for example were wearing normal baggy non-sexualised type shorts and long baggy singlets.

But their arms and calves were exposed and male volleyballers often go shirtless.

Sabre // Posted 28 August 2008 at 12:31 pm

Slightly off the main topic of this post but relevant to some of the recent comments, here is a good link where you can see what real breasts look like! http://www.007b.com/breast_gallery.php

Brilliant

Also I’ve perfected my best ever “fuck-off” stare and tone of voice for when people stare at my chest. It really works!

Anne Onne // Posted 28 August 2008 at 8:33 pm

I think which size breasts are seen as ‘better’ isn’t a simple thing. On the one hand, big breasts are fetishised by the media. On the other hand, what is being fetishised is clearly not natural breasts and how they react and age. I would agree that society does prefer women with bigger breasts in that it idealises thin women with big breasts.

Big breasts are seen as attractive, and I can see what problems smaller-chested women face with the bigger = better obsession that society has. The thing is, few women with naturally big breasts have breasts anything like the shape and appearance and texture of the breasts deemed attractive. Even if your breasts are bigger, if they’re saggy and covered in stretchmarks, with big dark areolas, or both completely different sizes, you’re not going to feel sexy at all, compared to the photoshopped images of symmetrical, impossibly pert round breasts we are all taught we are supposed to want or have.

And of course, whatever is seen as ‘better’, women still suffer. Getting unwanted attention on the street is unpleasant, whether someone is ‘complimenting’ you on your breasts, or insulting them.

I think the reason we all think differently is because as a woman, you just can’t win. Big, small, natural or augmented, because the patriarchy will still heap crap on you regardless. I think it’s apt to say that no woman escapes from scrutiny and judgement for her figure, however she measures up. The pressures are different depending on her size and shape, but there is no ‘easy ride’. Damn!

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