I typically don’t get into the Should Women Pose Nude debate because frankly, I’ve got better things to do than duke it out over whether nudity is exploitative, Americans are too puritanical, or I’m an oversensitive feminist. Plus, after you’ve pushed a baby out of your vagina in front of a bunch of strangers and whipped out a breast or two to nurse her at the Cheesecake Factory, you just don’t see nakedness the same way.
So despite my ambivalence, or maybe because of it, I find the U.S. Olympic Women’s Indoor Volleyball team’s decision to pose sans clothes in ESPN magazine to be pretty stupid. If they want to be appreciated for all of their hard work and show how that dedication has impacted their bodies, how about pictures of, um… let me think about it here…. this is a tough one… them playing volleyball? Working out at the gym? How about doing anything other than sitting uncomfortably with their arms, legs and hair hiding their breasts and genitalia?
Good luck to all of the moms and dads out there who have to explain to their girls why the team decided to strip down for a magazine read mostly by men. I can just picture the conversations: "Well yes, sweetie, people should be judged based on their performance, but sometimes women need to get naked to sell magazines." Or "How you look doesn't matter. Unless you're female, that is." Or how about this one, "Yes, you too can realize your dreams, dear daughter, but sorry – you may have to pose nude in a national publication to do so."
This piece by Samantha Shultz, called Empowerment, sums it up better than I can. Here’s a link to her original article.
~By Samantha Shultz, July 10, 2012
Despite strong opinions from myself and those on Facebook, I never touched the Time magazine article about breastfeeding. And generally, I leave the blogosphere free of controversy or debate.
But when I saw this link to a photograph and article about the U.S. Women's Volleyball Team and their recent "feature" in ESPN magazine, I couldn't help but weigh-in.
I'll sum up my thoughts as this:
Nudity doesn't somehow equal empowerment.
At first glance, a photographer (and even lay persons) may agree that the photograph is "tastefully" done. But these aren't supermodels. These aren't high paid actresses. They are members of the U.S. Women's Volleyball Team. They have been chosen for their athletic ability to represent the United States in the Olympic games. They are powerful, strong, athletic women.
And yet, in one photograph, in one magazine feature, we have stripped them down to the bare natural essence of womanhood by using nudity.
ESPN magazine - geared primarily towards men - has chosen to feature strong women athletes as sex objects - using strategically placed hands, legs, and hair and later silhouettes of their bare bodies to illicit images of ___________. You fill in the blank. I certainly don't believe it's to show off how "athletic" they are or how hard they've worked.
Wendy of Families in the Loop said something in her Facebook post that also struck me, "What a bummer that the women agreed to it."
And as I thought more about this, I wondered the same. After reading the article, I was further troubled.
"I was a little nervous about doing the shoot, but looking back, I'm glad I did it," said team member Megan Hodge. "I thought it was a cool, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show the world the work we put in every day."
Really? You thought that showing yourself in a nude state shows the world the work you put into training and playing every day? I somehow don't see the connection. If you mean to show off your killer abs or rock-hard thighs, surely there are other outfits that would accentuate all that "hard work" without wearing nothing. I also don't think this sends the right message to the rest of the world either.
Another team member had this to say:
"My fiancé wanted to be at the shoot because he thought other men ... were going to be there," said Destinee Hooker. "He doesn't like the thought of others seeing me nude, but it's an opportunity of a lifetime."
Kudos to that fiancé for somehow thinking something was a bit off, but I wonder why his concern simply stopped at a photo shoot. Obviously, his future wife would be featured in a nationally-known and read magazine and it would be more than a few male photographers who would see her this way.
I'm all for empowering women, but I just don't see how this does it. This issue isn't about shaming sexuality and the controversy really doesn't lie there. It's about taking women, who have bucked the trend by becoming professional athletes, and reinforcing the ill-conceived notion that women are nothing more than sex objects.
I don't care to hear the argument about "selling magazines" either. Regardless of ESPN's motivations, I truly wish these women would have stood up and felt empowered to say no regardless of the consequences.