It drives me nuts!
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the female form as much as any 53-year-old American male. But when I turned to Page 45 of the Nov. 29 Sun-Times, it made me want to shout my favorite single-word Italian invective, “basta!”
Because there was Wimbledon finalist Maria Sharapova kneeling in a skimpy bikini, arms strategically positioned to hide a likely skimpier top, all the while staring seductively at the camera. And that photo was also accompanied by one of Ashley Harkleroad (misidentified as Caroline Wozniacki) in a similar pose wearing an impossibly short tennis skirt, a well-placed towel, and get this, high heels.
Even worse, there are those athletes who abandoned all pretense by taking it all off for a Playboy pictorial—swimmer Amanda Beard, ice skater Katarina Witt and volleyball standout Gabrielle Reece, just to name a few.
Even Danica Patrick, the first legitimate female Indy car driver, has managed to create a second career out of donning a bikini at the drop of a hat. Perhaps if she put that modeling time into racing, she might actually win one!
It’s one thing to see those Lingerie Football League floozies involved in this kind of salacious behavior, but is this really what we want our world-class female athletes to ultimately aspire to? Is it worth the deprivation and relentless training it takes to reach the top of a sport, if you're only going to throw away all that hard-earned respect by appearing semi-nude or nude in a national publication?
I can just see the TV commercial now. “Maria! You just won Wimbledon! What are you going to do now?”
“I’m taking off all my clothes! Got a camera?”
And while we’re at it, shame on my beloved Sun-Times for running those photos in the first place. That’s not what a newspaper should aspire to, either.
“But Jeff! Adult women have the inalienable right to 'bare arms' and anything else if they see fit.” That’s true! In America, every woman has the God-given right to act like a brainless bimbo.
But God bless Olympic softball sensation Jennie Finch, who actually turned Playboy down when they came calling, declaring she’d “rather be a role model to young girls.” Of course, then she went ahead and posed in a skimpy bikini.
And there you have it! This is why this female-athlete-as-stripper phenomenon just frosts my cookies. What kind of message are these accomplished women sending to their high school counterparts? “Great job on the floor, Jane! You have all the talent to make the Olympic volleyball team. Oh! And by the way, nice butt!”
And trust me, the message filters down!
Speaking of high school volleyball, have you seen the “uniforms” the girls are wearing these days? The fact that they even call ‘em shorts stretches any definition of the word.
My former business assistant, a Geneva High School volleyball standout, and I used to bicker about this all the time. She claimed those “shorts” were necessary for better on-court maneuverability. I, in turn, contended that if that skin-tight attire provided any kind of competitive advantage, the boys would be wearing it, too.
But the boys wear baggy knee-length shorts, don’t they?! She finally did admit the form-fitting attire did bring more people to the games.
And now, to my utter despair, this female-athlete-as-sex-object plague has infected one of my very favorite sports, cross country, where the “uniforms” are rapidly descending to string bikini-like proportions.
It may not be as widespread as it is in volleyball, but some high school girls cross country teams are sporting “shorts” that wouldn't fit an American Girl doll. And do you really require a bare midriff to run?
While discussing this “less isn’t more” sensation with Geneva Running Outfitters owner Eric Ott, he suggested I don a similar outfit for my next 5K endeavor to determine if it really does provide an edge.
And I’m seriously considering doing it, because the mere sight of me—back hair and all—dressed in one of those outfits might just scare spectators so much, it could mark the end this ridiculous fashion trend.
Not to mention the end of cross country as we know it.
At this point I was going to issue a call for mothers of daughters to rally to my cause, but have you seen what some of the moms are wearing to high school functions these days?
Not only that, but one of my first columns for The Beacon-News described my shock and awe at what one high school dance team wasn’t wearing at a carwash fundraiser. And then their mothers proceeded to tear into me like piranhas in a James Bond flick.
So I’m thinking I’m going to have to appeal to fathers, because as long as we stay silent, they’ll continue to sexualize our daughters in the name of high school athletics. It might finally be time to reissue that hackneyed phrase, “You’re NOT going out dressed like that, young lady!”
Of all the things I’ve managed to accomplish in this too-short life, and even though it took 30-plus years of consistent effort to do it, placing third in my age group in the last four 5K races I’ve run ranks very close to the top.
It hasn’t made the evening news. It won’t get me any endorsement contracts, and the U.S. Olympic team has, thus far, failed to call. But I can certainly tell you my first thought upon the completion of those small personal victories wasn’t stripping down to my jockstrap and looking for a photographer.
So my impassioned plea to world-class women everywhere considering the full monty is this: Please consider the tried and true notions of self-respect and setting an example before you undo that button on your blouse.