The Canadian Senior Women’s Rugby Team is the best in the world, and the favorite to bring home the first gold medal awarded for women’s rugby in the 2016 Rio Olympics. So they’re good, as in they won every major tournament around in 2011. This is one reason why the team’s decision to pose nude for a calendar is causing so much consternation.
There’s nothing new about female athletes using their sex appeal (naked or clothed) to make money, gain exposure in the media, broaden their appeal, and draw attention to their sports. There’s also nothing new about the outrage flung at women who choose to use their looks to make money.
Frankly, I’m tired of it. Sure, I think in a perfect world women who play sports would feel no more compelled than their male counterparts to seek monetary gain from their looks. But that does not mean I agree with the idea that female athletes should be shouted down when they take a look at their funding options, which for many sports are meager, and use their bodies to cash in. No one got all righteously indignant when David Beckham posed in his undies for Emporio Armani. No, that’s just smart marketing, taking advantage of an endorsement opportunity. But when women do the same, show off the bodies they have worked years to train for their sports, we get a resounding chorus of “the sky is falling.” If Becks can parade his junk on billboards and in magazines why can’t these women do the same?
Then there is the idea that somehow a woman who is an athlete cannot be taken seriously as an athlete if she uses her looks or sexuality to make money. Give me a break. You know, I used to think Abby Wambach was a world class athlete, FIFA player of the year, goal scoring machine but then she posed naked for the ESPN Body Issue and gee whiz, I don’t know if she can remember how to put the ball in the net anymore.
It’s gross to assume that women can’t be more than one thing. We can be smart and funny, strong and sensitive, sexy and athletic. I don’t know if this harkens back to the days when girls who played sports were whispered about because they might be *gasp* lesbians and therefore unsexy. Or a time when pretty girls didn’t play sports because they were weak, fragile, or too interested in boys to be serious about sports. Can we move past this crap already? Have you see female athletes lately? You want to tell Alex Morgan that she can’t score goals in bunches and be pretty? You want to tell Serena Williams that she’s fragile?
If these rugby players feel comfortable being naked in front of a camera and being photographed nude for a calendar that will help them raise the funds they need not only to support themselves but the up-and-coming rugby stars of the future while also giving money to charities that support positive body image for women, why shouldn’t they? Getting naked and showing off the bodies they have spent years working to make stronger, faster, more flexible doesn’t make them lesser athletes any more than it makes them failures to feminism or women or anything else. These are grown ass women and one day maybe we will stop having to debate about the acceptable ways for grown women to use their own bodies. Any attempt to tell them what they should do with their bodies is offensive, antiquated, bullshit.
Until then, maybe we can try to celebrate women who are showing all of us that you can be a strong, badass lady and be beautiful and sexy.