So the ESPN “Body” issue is out and it made some waves (that I wanted to ignore) because pro snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler is baring it all. Again. Bleiler, who has practically made a career of posing nude (and later regretting it) has bought in to the “respected publication” hype, saying this time, “I feel like I had control and so I felt more confident about doing it.”
I’m not some Puritan suggesting that people should feel shame about their bodies. On the contrary I wish we lived in a society that was more accepting. Unfortunately for all this talk about freedom and equality you’ve got to admit that we live in such a bizarre hyper-sexualized (and at the same time sexually repressed) society that this is kind of a big deal for all the wrong reasons.
For starters, it’s a big deal because it shouldn’t be a big deal. Women’s liberation, pride, equality, etc. Sexuality shouldn’t be repressed. The human form should be celebrated rather than shamed, etc. I’ve got nothing against any of that. But the other half of the people are talking about how they’d “take her to pound town” or “tap that ass” or some other vulgar misogynist fantasy. And on top of objectifying women in general, the focus contributes further to unhealthy and unrealistic expectations.
Is it wrong of me to infer that this is basically about selling sex to ESPN’s mostly male demographic? You don’t have to look much further than the ESPN teaser which includes three images:
- A full-sized two-pic split shot of Bleiler in the buff
- A full-sized pic of pro surfer Steph Gilmore
- A tiny thumbnail afterthought of Louie Vito
In my opinion this sort of piece is just a shock-and-awe campaign designed to sell more mags and more ad space. In the end, it takes the focus away from legitimately talented athletes and turns everything in to a “who has the best tits?” pageant.
What about the girls who idolize these athletes – what message are they getting out of this? Does this contribute anything positive to women’s snowboarding? Or even to women’s sports in general? Here’s a sampling of the pics (yes, for the most part they are tastefully/artistically well-done but may be considered NSFW).
What do you think?