RIO 2016! It's a showcase for the triumph of the human spirit, opportunity for the world's top athletes to have all the sex, and a possible looming health disaster of epic proportions. High jump over here for all of Thrillist's coverage of the games, and the games beyond the games.
It's time for the Summer Olympics! You know what that means: the greatest, most talented athletes on Earth; gathered together for a friendly competition promoting world peace, equality, international favor, good will among humans…
And another long-standing Olympic tradition: the endless onslaught of internet posts, slideshows, listicles, and round-ups of the hottest female athletes competing this year. Just think of how proud the women from the 1900 Paris games (the first Olympics to welcome female athletes) would be to know they broke barriers so you could touch yourself to list after list after list (after list… really it just goes on forever) of objectified female forms.
Sorry to burst your semi, but women don't spend their lives honing their bodies and athletic abilities in order to be sexy. Surely they don't mind being sexy (who would?), but that's not why they sacrificed friendships, families, and careers. Slideshows that round athletes up like a Victoria's Secret calendar completely undo decades of battles over gender equality; battles STILL raging today as we grapple with bigger issues like equal pay, abortion, and the race for the White House. But before we push THOSE hot buttons, let's just start with a definitive takedown of these reductive and backward pussy parades.
Female Olympians are not there for your enjoyment
Like any male athlete, female Olympians epitomize hard work and power: years of sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears. Yet lining them up in a slideshow perpetuates the overtired, long-ingrained idea that women are objects for men's pleasure. Even Olympic athletes are there to get men off. It promotes the notion that whatever a woman does in this world has to somehow be repackaged for a man. All while being told once again by the media how beauty is defined and packaged.
Athletes are more than just body parts
You might congratulate yourself for celebrating the athletic female form, versus the emaciated Kate Moss-style models in barely there couture. But let's be real here. These slideshows are not titled "Female Olympians With the Strongest and Most Muscular Bodies" or "Most Successful Female Olympians." You are not clicking through these slideshows to get up to date on Anna Kournikova's stats… not unless her stats are tattooed on her bikini line.
This isn't about athletic accomplishment. At all. Unlike ESPN's "Body 2016" study, which does a brilliant job of showcasing the bodies of athletes of all shapes, sizes, and genders, "hottest female athlete" slideshows have nothing to do with athleticism or celebrating the human form.
They are about hot women. Who also happen to be athletes.
They break badass women down into basic, drool-worthy body parts. These women have come a long, long way to compete in an arena in the same capacity as men on an international level -- but what we do is render them to nothing more than tits and ass… albeit with a few more muscles in between.
But seriously, congrats on being so progressive.
This has NOTHING to do with the Olympics
Imagine if you saw a slideshow titled "The Sexiest Women In Congress," or "11 Hottest Female Professors in the Country," or "The Hottest Female [INSERT ANY CAREER BESIDES CAREERS BASED ON PHYSICAL APPEARANCE]." It minimizes, nay, eclipses, the accomplishments of these women and you'd think these aforementioned slideshows were ludicrous, chauvinist, and plainly in poor taste.
It's the same thing with sports
These women are not in the Olympics to be "sexy." Their bodies are byproducts of training rigorously their entire lives. Nothing about being in the Olympics has to do with vanity or cosmetic validation. It's about setting seemingly unattainable goals and working every day to achieve them. The goals just happen to be physical. But these slideshows put the sports part second. It says that women's sports aren’t "real" sports -- but as long as you look good doing them, then you're cute for trying, honey!
It means attaining Olympic status isn't enough
Lining up powerful and athletic women in a scrolling sex collage drives home the notion that women have been desperately trying to undo -- that to be successful you can't just be good; you also have to be gorgeous. Otherwise, you're "less than." Where is the pre-Games slideshow of the past female gold medalists? Best goalies? Best in freestyle? Oh right… they don't exist because those click-values pale in comparison to the click values of the Olympians who might not necessarily be the best, but my Lord, do they look good with their legs splayed and their honey-glazed abs.
The fact that male slideshows exist doesn't make this OK
To say a male slideshow is just as demeaning as a female one is a double standard that completely ignores gender disparity. Women have NOT had it the same as men in any type of professional setting. Working women (including professional athletes) make 79% of what men make. Regardless of what you feel about politics, it's 2016 and we JUST nominated our first female presidential candidate… and still at least four major news publications chose to run that story using a photo of her husband, instead.
Sure, the slideshows objectifying men are bad. But… is that really the argument you're going to make?
As much as we want to think all men are created equal (and by "men," I'm SURE our founding fathers meant "men AND women") we still very much aren't treated as such. The bottom line is that female Olympians don't go to the Games for YOU. Their perseverance and endless physical toil is not so that they fill out that backless dress to perfection. They are machines. Powerhouses. Women who strive to kick as much ass and take as many names as any other human: man or woman.
And they don't need you to tell them they are sexy, and therefore, successful. The gold medal will be enough, thank you.
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