15. August 2004 · Comments Off on Playboy’s Women Of The Olympics A Boost For Feminism · Categories: General

In today’s NYTimes, Diana Nyad is convinced that we have redefined “what is sexy”:

Fair enough, but there is no denying that a double standard exists when it comes to male and female athletes posing for magazines. Derek Jeter can look sexy on the cover of GQ, but we don’t really see him any differently than we do when he rounds the bases in Yankee Stadium.

Even Jim Palmer, stripped down for the old Jockey underwear ads, was still the Orioles pitcher in his body language and the twinkle in his eye.

But the stream of Anna Kournikova posters and calendars do not suggest a world-class tennis player: instead they show a demure, even submissive girl with a sly, come-hither grin. The feminist interpretation is surely that this is no longer the athlete Anna Kournikova — no longer the strong subject of the photo, but a mere sexual object.

So I was expecting the worst when I picked up the September issue of Playboy, which features the latest of these photo spreads. Amy Acuff, a high jumper on the Olympic team in Athens, is on the cover. I braced myself for depressing cheesecake, but instead found 12 elegant, full-page photographs of female Olympians who are decidedly more athletic than they are sexy. Or, rather, they are both athletic and sexy — the new sexy.

The definition of sex appeal seems to have gone under the knife, and it is athletes — not just plastic surgeons — who are carving out the new look. Back in the 1960’s, when I was a swimmer in high school with sizable shoulders and triceps, wearing a sleeveless blouse inspired unconcealed shock and dismay. Today, the running-back physique of Serena Williams may be setting the standard for a new femininity.

Comments closed.