Sunday, August 10, 2008

Girl Athletes

At the Beijing Olympics' diving venue there are cameras aimed at the pool-side showers. Divers shower in their bathing suits every time they get out of the pool, presumably to wash off the chlorine. I'm in Bulgaria this month and my hotel TV only gets the Olympics on the German EuroSport channel, so I don't know if this applies elsewhere, but EuroSport shows the female divers showering after every dive. In terms of time, we see more of these teenagers in the shower than anywhere else. (And lest you think that this is time-filler in a live broadcast, EuroSport is showing clips on a time delay.)

I know - big deal - it's pretty mild stuff. But think of it this way: There is no justification for showing anyone in the shower. The Olympic committee makes its money from TV ratings, and it appears to be using the bodies of female athletes, mostly underage teenagers, to boost ratings. (It will be interesting to see whether male divers get the same treatment - we may reach "equality" by exploiting teens of both sexes.)

The central Olympic committee is not the only group to blame. The national organizations that choose the outfits their athletes have to wear are also pretty crass. The French female gymnasts are wearing outfits that are cut so high in the leg that they're bare almost up to their belly buttons. The male beach volley ball teams were given nice, comfortable outfits: baggy tank tops and baggy shorts, while the female teams were given little two-piece bathing suits.

The commercialization of young women in sport is not the exclusive domain of the Olympics committees, of course. Young women sometimes sell themselves, which is why the top earners in women's tennis are frequently not the top seeds. One of the gymnasts I saw today was wearing light blue glitter eyeshadow that was about as tacky as anything I've seen. But it's fair game for a woman to want to capitalize on her looks, get herself noticed, vie for endorsements. It's a whole nother thing when women who just want to compete are forced to become sex objects. It's quite possible that most of them want to look sexy, but what of the female athletes who don't?

Update August 11: Yup, the boys are also being filmed in the shower. I guess I'm starting to change my mind about the shower thing. In the town where I grew up, women taking showers was a strip club favorite that was regularly advertised on the front page of the KW Record's entertainment section (with tag lines like "Our girls get wet for you"). (Kitchener-Waterloo has since got rid of most of the strip clubs, and the Record has instituted some standards in advertising.) So to me, filming women showering is pretty gross. Now that I see the boys, even though they're also wearing itty-bitty bathing suits, it takes on a different tone. The Olympics are a celebration of the body, after all, and the triumph of the mind over it; the celebration is about the body at its finest, which in most sports means the teenage body. Our society has got so creepy with the commoditization of people that I think I misinterpreted this.

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8 comments:

matthew said...

The "showers" you are referring to are warm water spouts that help keep the divers warm. The water is colder and so is the inside temp. They usually have a camera there since the results are given at that time and they get the divers' reaction.

It's NOT about selling the "girls in the shower." They are a bathing suit and fully aware there are cameras around.

Anonymous said...

How about the CBC showing entire female beach vollyball games that are not Canadian athletes, while scores of Canadians go completely without coverage? It made me sick the other day and I turned it off. Beach vollyball shouldn't even be an Olympic sport. Why beach vollyball and not female ski jumping or female boxing? Maybe if they skijumped in bikinis the women would be allowed to participate. The CBC shows them showering as well and I agree it's ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

How about the CBC showing entire female beach vollyball games that are not Canadian athletes, while scores of Canadians go completely without coverage? It made me sick the other day and I turned it off. Beach vollyball shouldn't even be an Olympic sport. Why beach vollyball and not female ski jumping or female boxing? Maybe if they skijumped in bikinis the women would be allowed to participate. The CBC shows them showering as well and I agree it's ridiculous.

Yappa said...

Hi Matthew,

Yeah, I wrote my update about that before you commented. Thanks for the clarification on why there are showers. I haven't seen a single reaction of any of the divers in the shower, so I don't think that justifies it. Plus, I never thought they were hidden cameras! But I think you're right that it's not about "girls in the shower."

Yappa said...

Hi anonymous -

One good note though: I think they dropped that ridiculous event where women hopped around twirling a ribbon on a stick!

invisiblechild said...

so eh, where in Bulgaria are you staying, mate? I rather like your political views by the way :)

Yappa said...

The Kempinski... much nicer than the Vitosha Park, where I stayed on my last trip.

Yappa said...

The Kempinski... much nicer than the Vitosha Park, where I stayed on my last trip.