Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Olympic heroes?

191 pounds
Unless you live in a cave, you know the Olympics have been going for a week and a half now. I always love the Olympics even though I'm not much of a big sports fan. Maybe it's because the Olympics is one of the few athletic venues where there are almost as many women involved as men.*

For that reason, I'm often interested to learn more about the female athletes representing the United States and was thrilled when Lindsey Vonn won a gold medal for downhill skiing and Hannah Teter won a silver in the half pipe.

Unfortunately, Vonn and Teter aren't exactly the best role models for American women.

Though I am by no means a fan of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, I don't really have a huge problem with the fact that Vonn and Teter modeled for it this year. (You can see one of the SI photos above.) From my way of thinking, if they want to pose in their swimsuits for a publication that teenage boys will use to fuel their sexual fantasies, that's their problem.

But I do take issue with their comments about the swimsuit issue, specifically what they are NOT saying.

When criticized for appearing in their bathing suits in the infamous swimsuit issue, Vonn and Teter defended their decision to do so. Vonn claimed people shouldn't make a "huge deal" out of it, and Teter said she thinks that "Bodies are beautiful and should be appreciated" and that she doesn't believe "women [should have] to be ashamed of their bodies."

Of course, I totally agree with the idea that women shouldn't be ashamed of their bodies.

But what Teter—and Vonn by extension—fails to understand is that no one in their right mind would be ashamed if they had a body like hers!

In fact, it seems a bit more than a little self-absorbed and naive for Teter to say that women shouldn't be ashamed of their bodies while she parades her impossibly perfect body across the pages of Sports Illustrated.

It would be one thing if she weren't in perfect shape and refused to be ashamed of her body. Then I would be impressed.

It would even be okay with me if she said something like that while appearing next to or in the same issue as a curvy woman or if she admitted how many hours a day she has to work out to maintain her flawless figure and how that's all but impossible for people who aren't athletes, but to say that she refuses to be ashamed of her body without an iota of recognition about what an anomaly she is in our society seems a bit hypocritical or, at the very least, completely clueless.

Ironically, a Yahoo Sports article that is actually called, "Teter comfortable with her body; you should be, too" unintentionally points out the absurdity of Teter's statement.

Because by appearing nearly naked in Sports Illustrated without any recognition of how difficult it is for people to look like them, Teter, Vonn, and the other Olympians pictured above are not helping regular women feel good about themselves or be less ashamed of their bodies. Instead they are reinforcing the notion that women must have next to no body fat to be attractive, a fact that is simply not true.

I mean, let's face it: A woman struggling with her body image is NOT going to feel better about herself by looking at some insanely hot twenty-something Olympian posing in her bikini. No, she's going to feel worse because, as we all know, publications like that one create unrealistic expectations for all of us.

So though I applaud Vonn and Teter for their award-winning performances in Vancouver, I also strongly encourage them to try to think of ways that they can be better role models for regular women.

Here's a tip: wearing your bikini in Sports Illustrated—or in Teter's case, just your bikini bottom—and bragging about how you're not ashamed of your body isn't one of them.

*There are still a few noticeable oversights, specifically the ski jump; even though the women athletes in this sport are as often as good as the men, the International Olympic Committee oddly still does not allow women to compete in this event.

1 comment:

  1. I had to track down this quote, because I heard it discussed somewhere. It's Lindsey Vonn on her training routine:

    "I train all dry-land in the summer, so this year I spent almost six weeks in Austria with my private Red Bull trainers doing my own program. We did six to eight hours a day of training. About half of that was strength—a lot of stability and core, using exercise balls to work on balance and agility training outside with quick moves like stepping through cones and ladders and hurdles. Then I'd do about three hours a day of biking. On nice days, I'd ride up the mountains although it rained a lot, so I'd be on the bike in the gym too. For fun, I'd play tennis against my trainer."

    [via TV.com]

    I imagine most people could have her body if they spent eleven hours a day exercising. Although how someone could earn a living while doing that, I don't know. Cut out sleep, maybe?