Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ll have heard something about a sporting competition going on in Russia this winter. These 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have had their fair share of controversy. Some of that controversy has focused on Sochi’s preparation (or alleged lack thereof) to host the Winter Olympics. Then there were concerns about terrorism and cyber-security. Russia’s anti-gay laws also drew the ire of many in the western world.
These have proven not to be the last bombshells to drop with regard to Sochi — on the contrary, yet another controversy has arisen and gotten many westerners raging mad. What’s the issue this time? Russia’s Olympic Team wanted to get fans more excited about the games, and released a series of photos of female Russian athletes in lingerie in order to do so. The Russians are quite attractive; the feminists are very unhappy:
Just look at the different message emanating from these awesome images of Olympic snowboarder Elena Hight and Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried in ESPN’s Body Issue, versus the Russian female Olympians.
Александра Саитова, керлинг. pic.twitter.com/lwySHZNNl0
— РосТролль (@rostroll) February 4, 2014
For starters, it’s clear these women are athletes and not lingerie models. Did you have any idea that Alexandra Saitova (the one with the mic) would be competing in curling? Or that Ekaterina Stolyarova (white stilettos) was a freestyle skier?
— Кот Вопроскин (@Voproskin) February 6, 2014
A piece of advice to the Russian team: you don’t need to try so hard to make your female members look beautiful and sexy. Because guess what? Female athletes are already beautiful and sexy. They have incredible, powerful bodies; grace and inner poise. They’re confident and successful. They’re some of the worlds best athletes. Reducing them to pin-ups suggests you think they should be valued only for their sex appeal. They’re worth so much more to your country than that.
The many feminist critiques on this subject are broadly similar: they feel that the Russian female Olympians are being “objectified” in these photos, and take issue with the fact that the sexy pics seem not to focus at all on the athleticism of these women, nor do they make it obvious that the women are Olympic athletes. The fact that the women in the images could pass for standard pin-up models is an issue.
My issue is with all of this is the same as the one I highlighted a couple of weeks ago in my post about feminist hostility to the traditional woman:
This is one of the first things a feminist will respond with when her ideology is challenged by someone:
“Feminism is just equality! Feminism is just choice! That’s all it is – equal treatment and respect for ALL choices! How can you possibly disagree with that?”
And she’d have point. If feminism were solely about equality and the sanctity of female choice, it would be much harder to disagree with.
The problem is that this isn’t what feminism is all about. The words sound nice, but actions speak much louder and feminist acts paint a much less inclusive and substantially more hypocritical picture than they prefer to articulate.
Feminists love to bang on about female choice and how important it is, but when push comes to shove they appear to have a much harder time actually putting said ideology into action. Take this quote from an article I mentioned earlier:
They’re confident and successful. They’re some of the worlds best athletes. Reducing them to pin-ups suggests you think they should be valued only for their sex appeal. They’re worth so much more to your country than that.
Note the use of the word “reducing”. The implication here is that a model is somehow inferior to an athlete by virtue of her chosen occupation. One is apparently worth more to society than another. Why is that? Aren’t all of us (men and women) striving for equality? Aren’t feminists striving to prove the notion that a woman is valuable regardless of the choices she makes? If a woman chooses to be a pin-up model instead of an athlete, is she to be looked down upon for her “reduction”? Is she worth less to her country than her peer who becomes an athlete? That’s certainly what it sounds like.
It used to be the case (at least according to feminists) that the pin-up model was elevated above the female athlete as the more feminine, natural and virtuous woman. Feminists worked hard to break down the social stigmas associated with females participating fully in sports during the darkest days of “the patriarchy” and, in doing so, have managed to obtain mainstream acceptance for female athletes today. Are they now going to turn around and claim that said athletes are superior to and more virtuous than models? Are they going to turn around and erect the same kinds of gender barriers they claimed to have devoted themselves to breaking down?
By claiming that the very act of posing in lingerie “reduces” the value of these athletes, feminists seem to be heading in precisely that direction. Many of the comments on facebook have the same tone:
Charlotte Bellis I actually think it’s sad that any athlete has to pose nude or in some variation of nudity, period…Whether you are posing in lingerie or with your snowboard you’re still naked. What does posing nude with your snowboard actually have to do with your sport? It completely deflects from your skill and talent. Instead of talking about whether you are any good at what you do, people are talking about whether they like your body or not…Let’s actually be known for what we do, who we are and what we stand for; not what we look like.
She says that it is “sad” that any athlete “has” to pose nude. That’s just the thing: no athlete actually has to, but some choose to do so of their own accord. Why is that wrong? Should female athletes not have the choice to pose how and when they wish to pose?
Bellis goes on to ask what posing nude (or in lingerie) has to do with an athlete’s sport before claiming that said nudity “completely deflects” from the athletes “skill and talent”.
This I do not understand. Surely, females have the right to choose what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Ms. Bellis implies here that it is somehow wrong for an athlete to do engage in any sort of activity that doesn’t explicitly relate to their chosen sport. Are we to claim that an athlete’s right to display her own body is governed by the sport she chooses, and not her own free will? Doesn’t this limit the god given right of those athletes to do with their bodies as they please?
It is true that when an attractive female athlete strikes a pose in lingerie or nudity, people talk about her body. Ms. Bellis and the rest of the feminist hivemind have an issue with this, but I can’t see why. Must all conversation about a given female relate entirely to her athletic activities? If she consents to other people seeing her body and talking about it, and if she is proud to show it off, what exactly is the problem? That’s her choice: are we not bound to show respect for that choice and for the pride she has in her body? Can’t a female athlete be known for what she does, who she is and what she stands for while also being known in part for her looks (if she’s proud to show them and consents to doing so)?
Reading feminist literature objectively, you’d think the answer to this last query would be positive, but feminist critiques of these Russian Olympic photos seem to point in the other direction.
And why did the Russian team feel the need to shoot these photos? Isn’t it enough that these women are world-class athletes? Is the Russian team concerned that if their athletes aren’t hot, fans won’t be interested? And if they did want to show off their beautiful athletes, did they need to be dressed so provocatively? They would have been beautiful wearing their uniforms, holding their equipment (their actual equipment — remind me how an old-school microphone plays into a curling match).
Can a woman only be beautiful if she’s wearing next-to-nothing? (Spoiler alert: no)
Nobody implied that women are only beautiful in nudity or near nudity. The women could have been beautiful wearing their uniforms, but why should they be beautiful in only that way? If woman can also be beautiful in more provocative dress and they choose to adopt said provocative dress of their own accord, why can’t they do that? Why do they need uniforms and equipment? Isn’t their choice to go without those things just as valid and worthy of respect as a choice to go with them would be? Are we so puritan now as to find issue with women voluntarily showing off the feminine forms they’re proud to have and display?
I understand that the United States was essentially founded by religious fundamentalists who took serious issue with most things relating to human sexuality, but this is getting a bit ridiculous. Do women have the right to freely show their bodies and embrace their sexuality or not? Can the American feminists claiming to be so “uncomfortable” about these photos make up their minds? I’m not seeing the sex positivity and respect for free female choice here.
This Facebook commenter doesn’t seem to have an answer:
Divyapriya Raghavan Athletes are not models. While there is nothing wrong with being a model, it’s shameful to reduce competent athletes to bodies used to showcase sex appeal. They are strong and healthy women.
Again, note the use of the word “reduce” here. Competent athletes are superior to lingerie models in the feminist mind. We’re all equal but some of us are more equal, apparently.
Athletes are not models? Says who? Is it not possible to be both an athlete and a model?
These Russian athletes chose to display their bodies in a way they felt comfortable. That was their prerogative. The fact that they did so does not invalidate their strength or character. They can be known for their physical attractiveness while also being respected for their athleticism as Olympic athletes. These things are not mutually exclusive.
They can be athletes and models; these things are not mutually exclusive.
Feminists have spent decades supposedly working to break down rigid stereotypes and barriers while enforcing the sanctity of female choice and the right of those choices to be respected. Yet, as we see with this recent controversy and with the Obama controversy I outlined a while back, modern feminists too often seem willing to erect new stereotypes and barriers while simultaneously disrespecting the choices women make that they don’t agree with.
So long as feminists continue with this hypocrisy, they will remain their own worst enemy. Actions speak much louder than words, and modern western feminist actions leave much to be desired.
Read Next: How Feminists Attack The Traditional Woman