Female Athletes: With Fame Comes Nudity
I’ve always been a huge fan of UConn women’s basketball because of their ability to consistently perform at such a high level. As back to back national champions in 2009 and 2010, they remain at the top of women’s college basketball with a NCAA-record winning streak of 78 consecutive games. Diana Taurasi, a standout at UConn from 2000-2004, led the team to three consecutive national championships. In addition to the national recognition she received during her college career, Taurasi was held in celebrity status by many young girls and teenage athletes. We were her biggest fans! We continued to follow our hero as she was selected first overall in the 2004 WNBA Draft and went on to win a Gold medal at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
But most recently, you can spot Taurasi on the cover of the magazine ESPN, Body Issue.
Her nude picture has shocked many of her fans who once looked up to her as a role model. Getting naked once you’re famous seems to be the norm for most successful athletes, but why must the media go there? The media shows so few women playing sports, and the small number of images that we do see are intentionally sexualized. Women look quite strong and independent in their uniforms, but the media purposefully accentuates the sexier, feminine portrait off the playing field.
Many others came before Taurasi; the most well known seductive pose was of Brandi Chastain in Sports Illustrated wearing nothing but a soccer ball.
How do children make sense of these images? Today, girls are forced to compete with what they see in the media. The message to young girls is that to be any kind of athlete and to get any form of attention, they need to be beautiful and thin. While it’s acceptable to participate in a variety of activities at a young age, image is everything and it’s better to be an attractive, athletic super star above all else. Girls who play sports are most noticed and talked about when they look good.
Diana Taurasi claimed to have fun doing the photo shoot and said afterwards,
I am who I am…whether I have clothes on or off.
Taurasi’s agent echoed her with,
Every woman is multi-dimensional and Diana’s strength isn’t constrained to her undeniable athletic resume. Her photos are fearless and beautiful and the shoot was a challenge that she embraced.
I understand that such a decision is a personal choice and can be argued both ways. In the end, I am most disappointed that rather than continue to pursue her own identity, she let the media create one for her. My role model is just one more athlete that can be added to the list of Olympians who have made the choice to pose as nude models. As Audrey Brashich said in her article on girl power,
The universal message for girls becomes that it doesn’t matter how you start out – you’ll end up becoming a sexy, ultrafeminine woman.