Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Olympics Question

This happens every two years. The Olympics roll around and the world's premiere athletes finally get to show off. It raises a bit of a mores question for me: are you allowed to think the athletes are sexy? I say yes, and I don't think it lessens my respect for their ability.

Now, obviously there is less skin in the Winter Games, and I'm sure Lindsey Vonn looks a bit heavier than she is with the skintight padding, but still she is a sexy woman. Does this detract from her athleticism? Does this detract from 2010 silver medalist Julia Mancuso's?

Part of what defines sexiness to our primitive brain is health. The reptile in you wants a mate that can bear young or impregnate you, depending on your tendencies. Olympic athletes are typically young and they have physical superiority over most of us, otherwise we'd be Olympians. Great physicality demands symmetry, strength, and conditioning, all of which are keys to our primitive centers; and obviously if you hit the genetic jackpot in so many areas, chances are you will not have a hideous face. The dice just don't roll that way (often).

I often joke that the only sport I watch is Women's Beach Volleyball, which is somewhat true. I prefer it to men's, and I prefer women's tennis to men's. I freely admit that the sexy factor is part of it, but also I find women's sports to often be more about finesse than power. Not that a spike from Misty May wouldn't black my eye, but there is more of a "smart game" feel with the women.

Also, the competitive aspect is different for women's sports. Save for the WNBA, there are few career prospects. Sports can get you to the Olympics, or pay for college, maybe get you a good coaching job, but not into the NFL. These women compete against each other, but there is also a desire to prove that women in general are strong athletes and competitors — this is a generalization, but I have yet to meet a female athlete who would belittle her skill versus her male counterparts.

When informed of Danica Patrick's bid to race NASCAR, Richard Petty remarked:

"I just don't think it's a sport for women. And so far, it's proven out. It's really not. It's good for them to come in. It gives us a lot of publicity, it gives them publicity.

"But as far as being a real true racer, making a living out of it, it's kind of tough."¹

Now, granted, Richard Petty is an old man who won most of his races because Dodge made cars that were so superior horsepower-wise to Ford and Chevy rather than on ability. He is, unfortunately, someone people interested in racing listen to and has a bully pulpit in that realm. NASCAR is the last place where sexual dimorphism should come into play. I'll agree that driving 500 miles is no picnic, and the stress level is certainly high, but to discount women's abilities and to indicate that they are just looking for publicity is exactly the kind of thing holding women's sports back.

Ultimately, I don't care for professional sports. I am not convinced of their economic or societal benefits. I think they have helped cheapen our universities, and frankly they are sexually discriminatory. Even in the Olympics, women and men do not compete directly, and many sports like luge and golf have different start points for female players. I say, if women want to follow Annika Sorenstam's lead and hit from the male tees, let them. If it is a handicap, then it is one they choose to take, and eventually it will push women's athleticism to a point where it is a handicap no longer. Also, when you make men play against that "smart game" it will improve them as well.


Unknown said...

I love hot jockette chicks. Hubba hubba.

Nathan said...

I see no problem with finding athletes sexy, as long as you aren't actually going to the Olympics and catcalling at them. And even then, it's highly doubtful they'd hear you.

Darius Whiteplume said...

It is good to see the females getting some play on the Olympic coverage, other than the obligatory figure skating.

Big ups to Julia Mancuso on a second silver last night, BTW.

Ghoul Friday said...

I'm always surprised (though I should be) that we're still having "this ain't no place for a lady" conversations when it comes to sports.

The IOC denied woman ski jumpers from joining their male counterparts at the Olympics. One official said having women ski jumpers is "not appropriate from a medical point of view." What? Their official argument was that there wasn't enough women athletes to compete in the sport. Tell that to the women 160 women in 18 countries registered with the ski jumping federation (and that's more women than there is Olympic bobsled, luge and snowboard cross).

80% of the medals won by Canadians at the Olympics this year were won by female athletes.

Granted, there are sports where men are better than their female athlete counterparts, but I would argue a big part of that is there is less funding for women athletes, and as you say, less opportunity for women to sharpen their skills in arenas beyond the Olympics or international competition.

And on the topic of sex symbols: as long as there are saucy pics of male athletes, I don't have a problem with men drooling over images of women athletes.

Ghoul Friday said...

That first line should read "I'm always surprised (though I SHOULDN'T be)

Darius Whiteplume said...

I did not realize there was no women's ski jumping in the Olympics. I guess I have not been paying attention.

"Not appropriate from a medical point of view." - I would love to know what this means. Are they afraid someone's uterus will fall out?

I guess for equal time I should have included a David Beckham/Calvin Klein pic. I am comfortable enough with my sexuality for that.

As for women competing with men, I'd put Zoƫ Bell in the ring with any man, and it would not be a push over. Tough is tough, despite what your genitals look like.

Post a Comment