Ask me if I’d love to see the day when a female athlete gains more recognition for what she does in her sport than how she looks?
My answer is ‘yes, of course.’
Now ask me if I think it’s wrong for women like Hope Solo and Alex Morgan to pose either nude or with only body paint because it’s a bad reflection on them and a step backwards for women’s soccer?
My answer is ‘what the hell is wrong with you?!?’ (And that is the family friendly toned down response)
This topic gets me a little fired up. I am more passionate about U.S. Women’s Soccer than almost anything (this of course excludes my mother’s lasagna). I love and respect this team and the beautiful game. I also respect the decisions of players making moves to help promote their name and the sport they play. If an opportunity arises that allows them to do this, why wouldn’t they? Especially if it is an opportunity that would showcase the obscene amount of hours they put into getting amazing bodies. Sure, the true pay off for them comes in the 90th minute of a game when the other team is starting to feel the ‘jell-o legs’ settle in while they’re ready to go another 90. By all means, the hours of work they put in are to better themselves as athletes and contribute to improving their game; which it obviously does. The US Women’s National Soccer Team is probably the fittest in the entire world, and it shows on the field. But once the final whistle blows and these players walk off with a sense of pride and accomplishment wouldn’t it also be nice to be recognized for their hard work by others as well? Last I checked, if an artist spends every day working on a painting; perfecting it, making sure every last detail was flawless, they’re not going to light it on fire once they’re done so it’s never to be seen. (Unless they’re like ‘Van Gogh crazy’ and the voices in their head told them to) They’re going to hang it on a wall or sell it to a gallery. They’re going to take pride in their work and say, “Yes, I spent endless hours of my life dedicated to this. And because I did, I came out with a beautiful painting which I can be proud of, and now I’d like everyone to see it.” Well guess what; The USWNT and Alex Morgan and Hope Solo have been painting their asses off. They have dedicated their lives to something which they are brilliant at and that they love. Their hard work has paid off on the field and now I’m happy it’s paid off for them in these opportunities as well.
Can we also keep in mind what these photo shoots were for as well? Hope Solo posed for the Body Issue of ESPN. It’s dedicated to show off athletes at the peak of their physical fitness. Alex Morgan posed for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition as one of only 3 female athletes chosen for it because of her toned physique. Notice I said ESPN and Sports Illustrated, not a cheap porn site. They’re not doing anything tasteless or risqué. They’re not going out on weekends, getting smashed and giving TMZ nip slip photos. They’re posing for sports related magazines showing that hard work pays off. People need to relax and look at the positives; that they are getting good publicity and that they are becoming household names as good, strong role models for anyone to look up to. I haven’t even mentioned the biggest reason for why people shouldn’t care if they’re doing these shoots: If they want to do it, and they enjoy doing it then why the hell not? They’re hurting no one and they are young and beautiful, so why not work it? It is not up to any of us to decide if it’s “What they should be doing” or not.
With that being said, going back to my initial statement; yes, I want to see the day where female athletes are recognized more for what they do in their sport than how they look. I will stand behind these next two statements no matter what. In my opinion… 1) Hope Solo is the best female goalkeeper in the entire world. 2) Alex Morgan is young and has a lot to prove, but is still one of the best female strikers in the world and has the potential to become the best we’ve ever seen. So would I like to hear people talking about them for those reasons or because of how they look? Obviously for the reasons I listed on their talent. But the fact is, in female sports how someone looks weighs heavily on how much publicity they are given. That doesn’t change their talent level though.
Let’s say this swimsuit edition gets 500,000 people who never gave women’s soccer a second look; noticed Alex Morgan and said, “Wow, she’s hot. Who is she?” Then they notice she plays for the USWNT. Out of those 500,000 people; even just half of them decide to check out the next game just because they like Alex Morgan now. And out of those 250,000 people: half are impressed by the skill and poise they possess in a game and decide to keep watching future games and become true fans. That’s 125,000 new fans to the game just because of a couple of beautiful pictures in a magazine. They may watch their first game with no intention of continuing to watch, saying they just want to get a glimpse of Morgan. But if from that, they get hooked…that’s amazing! And if they don’t, then who cares? It’s not going to be for everyone, but at least they are giving it the chance. And that’s what publicity is for. To reach new fans who may have an interest in watching, but haven’t had that one thing that has hooked them to actually sit down and watch a full game. (These numbers are completely hypothetical to prove a point, so if you’re ready to pounce on me about them- take a Valium and go away.)
There are luckily only a small group of people who seem to have problems with these photos. Mostly everything I have seen has been very positive and people are thrilled for them; as we should be. I’m in the front of the line waiting for female athletes to be judged less off of how they look and more off of how they play, but until that happens can’t we just be happy that we have athletes that are both gorgeous and immensely talented and being recognized for both? What more do you people want? Do they need some sort of magical power now too? Hope, Alex: you heard it here first. We not only need you to continue to be top shelf soccer players and really pretty but we also need you to fly, master time travel and breathe under water to make everyone happy.
Embrace the fact that they are getting publicity and embrace that they are phenomenal at what they do. And oh yeah…one more thing…THEY LOOK UH-MAZING! Congrats to Solo and Morgan for not only being some of the best female soccer players in the world but also for getting some rock star status publicity.