Thus Spake Zuska

Lindsey Vonn is on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Womentalksports.com notes

Vonn is first a GREAT athlete, but she also represents norm of feminine attractiveness. The combination of athleticism and attractiveness make Vonn the likely poster girl of the US Olympic Team, and the media hasn’t disappointed in constructed her as such.

Not to be left out, Sports Illustrated is featuring Vonn on their February 8,2010 cover (pictured here). For those of you who follow SI Covers, know that female athletes are RARELY featured on the cover.

Over the last 60 years researchers have shown that about 4% of all SI covers have portrayed women.

When females are featured on the cover of SI, they are more likely than not to be in sexualized poses and not in action-and the most recent Vonn cover is no exception.

Silly ladeez! Chris Chase mansplains why you are WRONG!!!! (Though I note, alas, poor Chris is unable to actually directly link to the womentalksports.com post he is mansplaining.)

Because the ladybranes are tiny, I am here to help. I am going to translate Chris’s mansplaining post into a more direct communication that really gets the message across, so that even the teeniest tiniest ladybraned ladeez out there will understand what is meant. Chase’s original text is in boldface. Here we go!

Vonn’s semi-provocative pose has drawn predictable ire from some whiny women who are probably ugly. She’s an athlete, not a sex symbol, the shrieking harridans wail, as if women athletes could ever be just athletic.They have a point that SI never puts women on the cover except in swimsuits, but Vonn’s cover is awesome because, while she is posed in a classic come-hither-and-fuck-me-hard-you-know-you-wanna stance, the pose at least resembles the tuck stance vagina skiers (though, of course, not penis skiers) take when barrelling down the hill. It’s exaggerated, of course, but not gratuitously so. It’s not as if SI put her in blackface and had her sing a minstrel tune. That would be racist.

Also, this is Vonn’s moment, so it’s especially important that we be reminded that she is hot and fuckable. If she wins multiple golds in Vancouver, Vonn has the potential to become a major crossover star. She’d be like Michael Phelps, only with better looks and an actual personality (plus hetero d00ds would want to fuck her). Landing on the SI cover with her hot ass in the air, that long blond hair swinging in the breeze, and the plummy mouth ever-so-suggestively open is a good way for her to start the Vonn saturation campaign. It’s as important for her as it is the magazine, and pornifying Vonn to sell a few magazines is just the beginning. The pose is suggestive, sure, but it’s not objectifying, because all women are pornified in America like this. The headline reads “America’s best woman skier ever”, for Jean-Claude’s sake! Why can’t she be both the best skier in the world and a sex object, too? Tom Brady’s a great athlete and a handsome dude and I don’t hear people whine when he’s shirtless in GQ, and that is so exactly the same thing in a culture that objectifies women 24/7 as the playthings of men who are glorified for their sexual prowess.

Most importantly, this cover is almost identical to the one that ran on SI’s Winter Olympic preview in 1992. That one featured a gentleman named A.J. Kitt and I’m pretty sure nobody complained that it was too provocative, possibly because he was wearing helmet and goggles and wasn’t lookin’ all sassy at the camera as if begging for some hot d00d to come ram a stiff cock right up his humped up ass. Or even just because images of bent over d00ds on magazine covers aren’t burnt into our collective brain as a signifier of “take me, I’m yours”.

Comments

  1. #1 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Von is on my list of why I will be boycotting the Winter Olympics this year. She has shown strong evidence of being very provincial and possibly xenophobic, which might represent the US accurately, but not well. I might be misinterpreting, but this is a very strong impression that I get from her.

    My boycott of Sports Illustrated began in or around 1985, as I recall. Not that I ever read it before that. In fact, I’m not even going to click on your links.

  2. #2 Kobayashi Maru
    February 5, 2010

    Whatever, I’d hit it. Totally wreck that shit.

    And the female athelete isn’t too bad looking either.

  3. #3 bikemonkey
    February 5, 2010

    That AJ Kitt photo is just bizarre- wtf is it? Is he launching the start? Landing a jump? It doesn’t even illustrate the freaking sport!

    This one is more like it. It illustrates the actual athletic performance.

    Why not put up a picture more like this one in a NYT article.

    Even better would have been a mimic of that Bill Johnson cover….Homegirl, full tuck, 12 feet in the air doing 60 down the Alps in a driving storm to kick all the Eurotrash to the curb…whew, I’d have to sit down and fan myself. now that would be a cover shot..

  4. #4 Kobayashi Maru
    February 5, 2010

    They don’t put that second picture up, bikemonkey, because it looks like she’s pinching a loaf on her downhill run. Where’s the sex appeal in that, besides to a few German porn fetishists?

  5. #5 ambivalent academic
    February 5, 2010

    I think that one of the glaring differences between those two covers is that the male skier is depicted um, actually skiing. He’s not in tuck, sure, but there are other positions required to keep one’s balance going down the hill at speed. He’s wearing his helmet and goggles and looking downhill, because he’s you know, actually skiing in that image.

    The female skier is posed. And posed in a sexualized manner. If her appeal were solely as an athlete, couldn’t they depict her also *actually* skiing (the NYT managed to pull some shots of her ripping up the slopes as bikemonkey pointed out), or at the very least wearing her helmet and goggles and in a natural unexaggerated stance? Is there some SI rule against showing female athlete action shots on the cover? The bend-me-over-fuck-me-hard pose is even further accentuated by image manipulation. They clearly took a photo of her in a real tuck on flat ground (notice that her hair does not hang on the vertical) then tilted it to stick her ass in the air. Of course, skiers do ski downhill, and the tuck does sometimes result with ones ass in the air, so I suppose one could hide behind the excuse that it would look stupid to picture her in tuck on flat ground, but the angle does seem to place her ladybits in a pretty “opportune” position for sexual fantasies.

    Do the athletes get any say in how they are depicted in situations like these? Or was she just told to do a couple tuck poses for the cover (and the end result was out of her hands)? I’m sure they could specify “no nudity” or whatever, but would they even think that they would have to say “don’t make me look like I’m doin’ it doggy-style”? Would they even get the chance to issue a veto on being represented in a manner with which they are not comfortable?

  6. #6 D. C. Sessions
    February 5, 2010

    Shows how out of touch I am — last I looked, SI’s profit is almost entirely from their cheesecake factor, and I haven’t known anyone for decades who so much as pretended otherwise.

  7. #7 Stephanie Z
    February 5, 2010

    AA, the only people who have any say in the cover are generally the top editors or perhaps a small committee, although obviously the layout artist makes suggestions. Even then, they may be overruled by the publisher. Covers = management.

  8. #8 ambivalent academic
    February 5, 2010

    I suspected as much. If I were her and told in the photo shoot that they wanted some tuck poses for the cover, and *that’s* what ended up on the cover, I would be pissed. But then, I don’t suppose that in such a position one can turn down the opportunity either (and may not be allowed to given the team USA promotion that comes with it). Exploitative.

  9. #9 bikemonkey
    February 5, 2010

    Exploitative? At least she didn’t have to let some right wing talking head punditard fondle her leg to drum up funds for her team…pathetic.

  10. #10 doctorgoo
    February 5, 2010

    Tom Brady’s a great athlete and a handsome dude and I don’t hear people whine when he’s shirtless in GQ.

    You know… in my mind, I just keep thinking about the “role-model” factor for my nieces and my (potentially future) daughters.

    Why isn’t it easy to understand that with Tom Brady being shirtless in GQ, it doesn’t scream “YOU MUST BE ATTRACTIVE TO BE A POPULAR ATHLETE” like it does when women take a provocative pose.

    She’d be like Michael Phelps, only with better looks and an actual personality.

    And yet, Michael Phelps is pretty damn popular, even without being overtly sexualized for the media. Why not treat Vonn the same?

    Are you saying that her more outgoing personality, along with (potentially) a bunch of gold medals, isn’t enough to become “a major crossover star” like Phelps?

    I mean seriously… this guy seriously lacks the ability to empathize with the opposite gender!

    But I must say I agree with DC@6… for SI, this really is a tame photo. But should we give them credit for NOT putting her in a partially undone string bikini, posing in the snow?

    Hell no!

    This is one of those companies that really needs some more gender equity in senior leadership before they can EVER start making any real progress. But currently, they see “sex sells” instead of “sports sells”.

  11. #11 Zuska
    February 5, 2010

    Greg, it’s interesting that your remarks are about Vonn and what kind of person she is. For the purposes of the post, does it matter if she is a saint or a devil?

  12. #12 DrugMonkey
    February 5, 2010

    He probably means she had it comin’ because of her alleged poor character, Zuska….

  13. #13 Sven DiMilo
    February 5, 2010

    jeez
    The cover: beyond belief.
    The guy dude dood d00d (right?) you’re mocking: oblivious and entirely deserving.
    Your mocking: pretty funny.
    Laden: saintly or sanctimonious?
    SI: they’ve employed some excellent writers. *shrug* As I recall.
    The link to the pic of Kitt: features thumbnailed links to Galleries of “Phoenix Suns dancers” (54 pics!) and “swimsuit editor’s picks” or some shit. Which seems bleakly humorous in light of the reason the guy linked to it in the first place.

    OK, but I thought this much of this sentence (filled in however; Mad-Libs!) was the funniest part:

    Over the last 60 years researchers have shown that about 4% of all SI covers have portrayed…

  14. #14 SKM
    February 5, 2010

    Greg, it’s interesting that your remarks are about Vonn and what kind of person she is.

    Well, Zuska, now you know–there is this other, much much more important thing we should be talking about instead!

  15. #15 SC (Salty Current)
    February 5, 2010

    Greg, it’s interesting that your remarks are about Vonn and what kind of person she is. For the purposes of the post, does it matter if she is a saint or a devil?

    That couldn’t have been any funnier if it had been intended to be. Wish I agreed with the premise.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Zuska, no, it does not matter at all. Is there a restriction in place on this thread? Do I have to go to the “I fucked up because I have a dick” thread now?

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Wow. It really is true, what they say. When I comment on a Kliqueon’s thread, the thread becomes all about me. It must be my superpower.

    Zuska, I thought you had an interesting discussion going here. Sorry I ruined it for you. I’ll go back to my blog now.

  18. #18 Hi
    February 5, 2010

    “the plummy mouth ever-so-suggestively open”

    What cover is everyone looking at? She is smiling in the picture, so I don’t see why people see something suggestive about it.

  19. #19 Zuska
    February 5, 2010

    Greg, if you’ve followed my blog over the years, you’ll have noted that I don’t moderate comments at all. I have deleted a handful of comments over the years, for violent threats, jokes about the Holocaust, and one or two other issues. The last set of comments I “deleted” weren’t deleted but were moved prominently to their own blog post for the purposes of FWDAOTI.

    But I’m interested in this Kliqueon you mentioned. Who are “they” that speak of them? I googled it, but the top hit was your blog. Where can I learn more?

    And lastly, I do invite you to rejoin the conversation. Do you have any interest in answering the question I posed: For the purposes of the post, does it matter if Vonn is a saint or a devil?

  20. #20 Zuska
    February 5, 2010

    SC, what premise are you disagreeing with – the premise that Greg’s remarks are about Vonn and what kind of person she is?

  21. #21 Zuska
    February 5, 2010

    Whoops, sorry Greg, I missed this:

    Zuska, no, it does not matter at all.

    I think I was distracted by it being so quickly followed by this non sequitur:

    Is there a restriction in place on this thread? Do I have to go to the “I fucked up because I have a dick” thread now?

    I was going to ask you if you frequently react this way to getting a question tossed at you on a blog comment thread but then thought better of it.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    OK….

    No, as I said, I don’t think it matters at all. All that probably matters is that the person on the cover is a female athlete in the games. The fact that she is an independently annoying person (if my assessment is correct) does not earn her a job as a Sports Illustrated barbie-athlete chimera. Furthermore, at some meta level someone might not care if she is used/abused in this way if they don’t like her for some reason, but this particular person as objectified is hardly the point. This is not merely a personal act, but a large scale act with social implication and effects as well.

    Which should all be fairly self evident, and I’m a little perplexed that you need to ask the question.

    This is not her moment, by the way. He moment is later if she medals. Then she can come back and they can try a different pose, and thus, try for a different subset of the audience that might have different preferences. If she is wearing a couple/few medals new and marvelous opportunities are opened up for the photographers. The possibilities are endless, and the producers of Sports Illustrated only lament that there are twelve months in a year (I’m assuming this is a monthly?)

  23. #23 SC (Salty Current)
    February 5, 2010

    SC, what premise are you disagreeing with – the premise that Greg’s remarks are about Vonn and what kind of person she is?

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/02/oh_no_im_full_of_guinness_youv.php#comment-2253581

    (Carlie raises some interesting points below, but I haven’t yet had a chance to respond.)

    Of course, in this case, Laden’s comments about her alleged provinciality – whatever the hell that means here – and xenophobia aren’t directly relevant. Unlike, for example, here

    http://scienceblogs.com/thusspakezuska/2009/11/can_we_talk_about_science_i_me.php

    where Azkyroth’s clearly were, given your first two silly paragraphs and the misrepresentation therein. But I digress….

  24. #24 jc
    February 5, 2010

    “I’m a little perplexed that you need to ask the question.”

    Because when a woman is harassed, raped, abused, or murdered, HER character and HER person are called into question. What was she wearing? Did she flirt with him? Was she drunk? Did she say NO? Was she a saint, a good little girl or was she the devil spawn who was asking for it? I hear the same arguments for support of women. It goes like this: “Oh, I support women, I loooooove to work with women. My mom is a woman! I just don’t support THAT woman over there. SHE’S a bitch and doesn’t give me cookies.”

    “This is not her moment, by the way.”
    Tell her that as she’s flying through space for the biggest sports event in the world. Her moment is exactly now because she’s showing women everywhere what is possible.

  25. #25 Christie
    February 6, 2010

    OK, am I the only one who doesn’t think it’s that sexual a picture? I was expecting something like this with the way people were reacting. I just see a skier posing in a ski-like position that allows her to also be smiley and personable.

  26. #26 MPL
    February 6, 2010

    I especially like how Chase dodges the point of the WomenTalkSports complaint: not that the Vonn photo is especially bad, but that Sports Illustrated only makes room for women when they’re sexually attractive.

    Whether the Vonn photo is very or merely slightly exploitative is beside the point when the evidence is that women can barely make it to the cover of SI without simultaneously serving as a pinup model.

  27. #27 Karen
    February 6, 2010

    I honestly think that this debate is kind of silly.

    Yes, Sports Illustrated is a publication with a serious record of sexist portrayals of women. I’m not even going to debate that one; it’s how they’ve maintained their audience, and it’s what they market towards.

    However, I don’t know why Vonn being “the norm of feminine attractiveness” is even an issue here. Of course she’s in fabulous shape; she’s an internationally competitive athlete. Of course she’s ridiculously made-up and airbrushed on the cover: that’s what magazines do, no matter who they’re marketing to. Just try to find something on a magazine rack, anywhere, that’s not airbrushed. It doesn’t matter if the subject matter is a bunch of adorable puppies — they’re airbrushed to be just that extra bit more adorable.

    Is it that she’s white, with blonde hair and blue eyes? Um … take a gander through the list of Team USA athletes, would you? Nearly everyone there is white: http://www.teamusa.org/athletes/find

    So a white girl being the “poster child” shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

    As for her pose and her “come hither” look, try tilting your head to the right when you look at that image, so that her feet are on a level plane. Suddenly the arch of her eyebrow doesn’t seem so “come hither”, and her pose doesn’t look nearly as exaggerated. Yeah, tilting it like that was a bad move on Sport’s Illustrated’s part (it just looks goofy, with her hair falling in a way that defies gravity), but it’s not as though she was making any special effort to look sexy … and while it’s tempting to assume that the Sports Illustrated people placed her at that angle to get a more sexy effect, I don’t think that’s an assumption we can make. They could just as well have been simply trying to match her feet up to the hill, because a skier on flat ground looks a bit odd.

    But what gets me the most is the idea that having her look at the camera is sexist. Really? Have none of you people studied art theory? One of the first things you learn in feminist art criticism is that women were, for centuries, objectified in art by having them NOT MEET THE GAZE OF THE VIEWER. When art first began to appear where women were looking directly out of the painting, meeting the viewer’s eyes, it was considered scandalous and offensive — not because it made the women sexy, but because it made them into a person instead of just a “model”. It gave them more strength than a bowl of fruit, and turned paintings of them into an interpersonal exercise instead of just a voyeuristic stare.

    Now, I know nothing about Vonn as a person. I’m a Canadian, and don’t follow American news channels, so I frankly don’t know and don’t care what she’s like. But if you’re going to criticize the choice of her for the Sports Illustrated cover, at least do it in a manner that doesn’t simply make it look as though you’re jealous.

  28. #28 Zuska
    February 6, 2010

    Ah, yes, that must be what this is about: jealousy.

    Once again I’m gonna just throw this idea out there, Karen, that the post is not about Vonn in particular.

  29. #29 Sven DiMilo
    February 6, 2010

    It’s clearly a cheesy, made-up, airbrushed, studio-lit, fake-looking pose that they wouldn’t even ask a male athlete to strike. Number one. Number two, tilted. To make her look ski-ing-ish? With the hair?
    It sucks; it’s bullshit whoever “she” is in this case.

  30. #30 skeptifem
    February 6, 2010

    W had a black and white series of brad pitt photos that did not visibly airbrush his features. I could see all his pores and wrinkles, in a lot of detail. It was neat to see the actual texture of an over 40 face in a fashion magazine.

    ANYWAY, stephen colbert’s shoot for SI makes a really interesting contrast. He gets to wear the athlete gear, and he wears the speedskating body suit and does a jokey kind of pin up pose thing on the non cover photo. GQ featured sasha cohen (as bruno) in the same kind of pose on their cover, again as a joke.:

    http://contexts.org/socimages/2009/07/08/satirizing-sitcoms/

    Acting like this is supposed to determine the sexual/social worth of women, but it is regularly crapped on as being silly and dumb. It is the ‘haha stupid feminine girls’/’you are defective for not being a feminine woman’ problem that exists in just about every part of our lives.

    You can bet that pictures of her doing sports would cause a rash of dudes saying that she isn’t showing enough skin, she is so pretty why doesn’t she flaunt it, etc if she wasn’t sufficiently suitable for dude usage in that form. IBTP had a post awhile back about some pole vaulter who had a perv following spontaneously form on the internet, and it creeped her out severely. the pictures were of her being an athlete, but they were passed around and she was talked about pornagraphically where they were posted. If i recall correctly she was still a teenager at the time.

  31. #31 MadScientist
    February 6, 2010

    WTF – when I saw that cover I thought it was an issue of MAD Magazine – it’s so fake and suggestive that I expected it to be Alfred E. Neumann. Why can’t they have a photo of her really in action – you can’t see her face, just the snow being thrown around as she maneuvers, but that’d be her engaging in the sport she loves. They could always put photos of her sitting at a table giggling for the story inside.

    “Tom Brady’s a great athlete and a handsome dude and I don’t hear people whine when he’s shirtless in GQ.”

    Yeah, SI – how could you get this so wrong? If you really wanted to sell, she’d be wearing a bunny tail and ears along with her skis and showing us her Grande Tetons. Ooh la la!

  32. #32 skeptifem
    February 6, 2010

    “Zuska, no, it does not matter at all. Is there a restriction in place on this thread? Do I have to go to the “I fucked up because I have a dick” thread now? ”

    “Wow. It really is true, what they say. When I comment on a Kliqueon’s thread, the thread becomes all about me. It must be my superpower. ”

    Zuska, I thought you had an interesting discussion going here. Sorry I ruined it for you. I’ll go back to my blog now. ”

    Omg you guys, zuska hurt gregs precious feelings by asking a reasoned and polite question regarding his post. If we don’t fix it fast he might weepily return to his blog, where ‘interesting discussions’ are ones where people don’t question what he has to say. If greg leaves, I fear this blog will seriously become deficient in passive agression. Appologize quickly, zuska! Let him assimilate into the kliqueon, where pesky things like conflict and question marks are banned.

  33. #33 essman
    February 6, 2010

    I think the fact that her boots say “HEAD” in big letters is ample proof of the sexism built into the photo.

  34. #34 Oran Kelley
    February 6, 2010

    Just so we can establish a baseline: Why do we care to read about athletes and athletics in SI in the first place? Why are athletes so well paid, so much paid attention to, so heroized?

    Why do we care so much to get to know the personalities of these people who ski fast? Why do we want to know their problems, their strategies, their backgrounds . . .

    I mean there is an background assumption here that interest in athletic prowess require no explanation, and that Von’s cover *should* be more like how men are depicted. But what exactly is being depicted when men are on the cover? What’s the audience’s interest?

    SI Cover vault: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/home/index.htm

    Typical cover: Male athlete, in action, face visible, eyes toward camera.

    Common variation: posed shot, some simulation of action or preparing for action, smile, eyes toward camera.

  35. #35 Greg Laden
    February 6, 2010

    jc: You just read me the riot act because you thought I needed to learn that “when a woman is harassed, raped, abused, or murdered, HER … etc etc”

    The reason I said to zuska “I am a little perplexed that you need to ask” is because “when a woman is harassed, raped, abused, or murdered, HER … etc etc” is so utterly obvious and well known and basic that there seemed no reason for Zuska to ask me that. Zuska does know that I am a liberal minded 51 year old anthropologist. So, not to mansplain or anything, but that’s sort of like telling a person who’s been driving a bus for 30 years that the round thing in the front steers the vehicle left or right.

    It is possible that Zuska asked the question so that I would express incredulity about why one would ask the question then we could start the Manufactured Indignation Event at the Oppression Olympics. but I assume no collusion between Zuska and “jc” in this regard.

    Regarding “her moment” I was saying something quite different than you infer, and I think the difference is in what we each mean by “moment.” I was referring to the cover on this mag, and I said her real moment is when she goes to the Olympics. Which is what you said. In the broader sense of the term you are correct, of course.

  36. #36 Greg Laden
    February 6, 2010

    Karen: Just try to find something on a magazine rack, anywhere, that’s not airbrushed.

    I was going to snarkily link to an image of the cover of the one magazine I regularly read in paper form: Linux Journal. But the penguin was clearly airbrushed.

    Is it that she’s white, with blonde hair and blue eyes? Um … take a gander through the list of Team USA athletes, would you? Nearly everyone there is white:

    Which shifts the question to a different context. Rather than this being a matter of choosing the right mag-candy for the audience (members of which are disappointed every month that it is not Swimsuit month) it shifts to a different question of who gets to play these sports, who has access to ski slopes and bobsled runs and such early in life, consistently (like a kid might have access to a ball field or a track team via public school and neighborhood facilities). The whole “[fill in the skin color] people are good at some sports” thing is off topic of this thread but worth noting. The Winter Olympics vs. Summer Olympics (and some variations within summer games) provide excellent evidence supporting the “opportunity” and “self selection” hypotheses for “racial differences” in sports achievement, to the exclusion of the innate racial difference hypothesis (a.k.a. the racist model)

    skeptifem [31]: You totally ruined the silent treatment I was getting for a while there. But I’m glad the thread did shift back to me for a moment there. Gives me the warm fuzzies and a little shot of testosterone.

  37. #37 Anonymous
    February 6, 2010

    Just for the record, when I showed that picture to my husband he said… “what a great ass”. I’m at least relieved that he is NOT a mansplainin’ this away… Chris Chase take note.

  38. #38 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 6, 2010

    I honestly think that this debate is kind of silly.

    DING! DING! DING! DING! Phil, please show our contestant and the studio audience what she has just won!

  39. #40 Greg Laden
    February 6, 2010

    Does anyone know why the women’s sports talk post is now gone?

  40. #41 Tom
    February 6, 2010

    Silly me, I just though it was a picture of her in the downhill tuck.

  41. #42 J. J. Ramsey
    February 6, 2010

    Zuska: “the pose at least resembles the tuck stance vagina skiers (though, of course, not penis skiers) take when barrelling down the hill.”

    Errm, I think the tuck in question is done by speed skiers (which is what I presume Chris Clarke meant by “skiers like Vonn”) in general, whether male or female.

    That said, the rest of what Zuska says still holds. Speed skiing, and really most athletics in general, is not about TEH SEXY. It’s about striving, trying to be faster or stronger or more agile, etc., so why not make a photo that emphasizes that? Heck, with the men, that often is what they emphasize. Maybe someone with some mad Photoshopping skills should do a sports version of Girl-Wonder.org’s “Totally Appropriate Covers.”

  42. #43 Pteryxx
    February 6, 2010

    *shrug* I’ll just go on getting my cheap thrills from the NFL, where a whole bunch of guys stick their spandexed butts in the air on every… single… play.

  43. #44 Greg Laden
    February 6, 2010

    JJ: The stance does resemble that, and as such may be appropriate for what a skiier simply looks like while skiing. But… that isn’t what this is a picture of, she’s not really skiing, the helmut and her intense focus on the course in front of here, which are equally important as the stance, are not there but we do get to see her bright smile and lowing hair and she is paying attention to us.

  44. #45 Karen
    February 6, 2010

    Zuska: if it’s not just about Vonn in particular, then don’t make it about Vonn in particular. As I said before, your point about Sports Illustrated being sexist is right on (if rather obvious). What I’m debating is your specific objections.

    Greg: I actually think that a discussion about racial exclusion from sports would be a lot more interesting and productive than a discussion about “ZOMG she looks hot, it must be sexist!”

  45. #46 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 6, 2010

    I actually think that a discussion about racial exclusion from sports would be a lot more interesting and productive than a discussion about “ZOMG she looks hot, it must be sexist!”

    DING! DING! DING! Karen, you win another prize! Phil, please tell Karen and the studio audience what she’s won this time!

  46. #47 Greg Laden
    February 6, 2010

    Karen: I would not want to compare the two but … On one hand, Chris Chase’s discussion provides an excellent opportunity to discuss this issue now, and with the Olympics coming up this is grabbing the iron while it is hot, as it were. On the other hand, yes, the Olympics as a context for the discussion of race-based sports exclusion/etc is an opportunity not to be missed.

    CPP: I like DrugMonkey’s “Repression Olympics” joke as much as the next person, but is it really the case now that every time a discussion of one issue leads to a side comment or mention of another that this particular conversation-regulating side show has to be unleashed? (Or were you referring to something else.)

  47. #48 Diane G.
    February 6, 2010

    Don’t think anyone’s commented on a couple of aspects of the photo that stood out to me. Her ass being the highest point in the shot, acccentuated by overlaying the title lettering, is designed to be the first element of the cover most eyes will be drawn to. Takes a while to follow down to the face…And the left side of the “u” in Illustrated is positioned (or rather, her butt is positioned relative to it) to be subliminally suggestive.
    …Of course, I date back to the time that Subliminal Seduction first appeared, and we were all looking for sexual imagery in advertisment ice cubes…

  48. #49 J. J. Ramsey
    February 6, 2010

    Greg Laden: “JJ: The stance does resemble that, and as such may be appropriate for what a skiier simply looks like while skiing. But… that isn’t what this is a picture of”

    That’s why I said that the rest of what Zuska said still holds. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

  49. #50 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 6, 2010

    CPP: I like DrugMonkey’s “Repression Olympics” joke as much as the next person, but is it really the case now that every time a discussion of one issue leads to a side comment or mention of another that this particular conversation-regulating side show has to be unleashed?

    Dude, when the fuck are you gonna wrap your mind around the fact that mocking people for acting like douchebags is not “conversation-regulating”?

    Anyhoo, since you’re here, what do you think about the idea being promulgated that “1337″ is a “culture” with its own language just like diaspora Jews and Yiddish, and American Blacks and Black English? So far, it’s just me and a coupla other assholes hashing this out at ERV’s blog, and we could sure use some input from someone who knows a fuck of a lot more about this “culture” shit than any of us:

    http://scienceblogs.com/erv/2010/02/rule_30_there_are_no_girls_on.php

  50. #51 Hi
    February 6, 2010

    JJ: The stance does resemble that, and as such may be appropriate for what a skiier simply looks like while skiing. But… that isn’t what this is a picture of, she’s not really skiing, the helmut and her intense focus on the course in front of here, which are equally important as the stance, are not there but we do get to see her bright smile and lowing hair and she is paying attention to us.

    Wait, if a woman looks at the camera and says cheese, that’s sexist?

  51. #52 Greg Laden
    February 6, 2010

    Hi, probably not. Let’s check the last 10 Sports Illustrated covers to see how often the athlete is in-form (a fencer en guarde, a skater skating, etc) but frozen in place and smiling at the camera… brb.

    CPP: I’ll try to go look at that post. I don’t speak i337, though.

  52. #53 Greg Laden
    February 6, 2010

    Huh.

    Here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/cover/

    are all the covers for several years. Interesting to go trough them one by one. I just looked at about 20. About half had the athlete in a pose related to the athletics, some “real” looking some just posing in form, and only one looking into the lens, a guy and he looked mean. One other person was looking at the lense and that was a woman in a nonathletic pose but totally sexualized.

    It could be interesting to categorized the covers and look for trends, etc. Possible senior thesis project in psych or anthro. Well, it’s a thesis if you do a bit more, but it’s a start.

  53. #54 thebewilderness
    February 6, 2010

    The shot is entirely about the male gaze.
    It is completely contrived, as are all presentations of women for the male gaze.
    It isn’t about skiing or athleticism or sports or the Olympics.

  54. #55 History Punk
    February 6, 2010

    It’s fusion paranoia manifest. The right-wing version is more amusing. As Howard Bloom documented in The Lucifer Principle:

    “During the early eighties, a group of women in Orange County, California, were convinced that the dark forces of “secular humanism” were using elementary school textbooks to destroy their children’s minds. The women’s group was certain that the godless foes of true religion were trying to swap their youngsters with brain-crippling pornography. Sure enough, they discovered minuscule pictures hidden subliminally on the pages. These microscopic images portrayed women with naked, nippled breasts and men enormous erections. The outraged mothers actually succeeded in getting some of the textbook illustrations changed on the basis of their ‘discovery.” (84)

    The only difference here is that the microscope is less literal and more ideological. Both incidents are based on zero evidence, just a world-view applied mindlessly to every situation both because of lazy thinking and because it allows people to project their own hang-ups, failings, or other negatives ideas on to others.

  55. #56 Oran Kelley
    February 7, 2010

    are all the covers for several years. Interesting to go trough them one by one. I just looked at about 20. About half had the athlete in a pose related to the athletics, some “real” looking some just posing in form, and only one looking into the lens, a guy and he looked mean. One other person was looking at the lense and that was a woman in a nonathletic pose but totally sexualized.

    I think you might have some sampling bias here. I looked through a lot of them and found

    1) Most of the photos are action photos.
    2) In these photos, there seems to be a distinct preference for photos where a) a face is quite visible; and b) eyes are aimed close to the camera angle. Naturally they are rarely so lucky as to get the athlete looking precisely into the lens.
    3) Almost all of the posed shots have the subject looking into the camera

    What I began thinking looking through these photos is that the criticism “this is not about athletics” aimed at this particular cover is kinda funny, because I don’t think SI covers are about athletics generally speaking.

    The covers seemed to be about the valorization of these figures. The Vonn cover may well be an epic fail at valorization, for a number of reasons . . . but I think her sport poses problems–too much equipment, no direct competition, greater concern with personal backstory among the audience (which makes the 92 downhill cover another epic fail), etc. This makes the standard SI cover pretty much impossible, and so the silly posed thing.

  56. #57 Greg Laden
    February 7, 2010

    Oran, I did not count the portrait gaze, looking off to the side of the camera, as looking into the camera. I only counted looking into the camera as looking into the camera.

    I didn’t have a sampling bias. I looked at the twenty covers starting with 2008 or something, without skipping any. Clearly we are simply coding them differently.

    It was obvious to me that there would be coding problems, which is why I chose to not report details and instead suggest that it be a Sr. Thesis project!

  57. #58 J. J. Ramsey
    February 7, 2010

    Hi: “Wait, if a woman looks at the camera and says cheese, that’s sexist?”

    If there is a double standard where covers showing men tend to focus their power or talent while covers showing women tend to emphasize sexiness, that’s sexist.

  58. #59 DJ
    February 7, 2010

    Mansplainer bumper sticker idea:

    “Have dick, will opine”

  59. #60 Chelydra
    February 7, 2010

    Am I not correct in thinking that the headline should read “America’s Best Female Skier Ever,” or did the word woman become an adjective while I wasn’t paying attention? I assume you would never see “America’s Best Man Skier Ever” on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

  60. #61 Endor
    February 8, 2010

    I just KNEW this thread would have more than one moron going “I don’t see the problem, ergo, there isn’t one!” I must be psychic. I need a spot on Oprah, stat!

  61. #62 Sven DiMilo
    February 8, 2010

    Am I not correct in thinking that the headline should read “America’s Best Female Skier Ever,” or did the word woman become an adjective while I wasn’t paying attention?

    b. Sort of (a noun-modifier, not an adjective).
    And you haven’t been paying attention for the last 300 years.
    Safire

  62. #63 Endor
    February 8, 2010

    “I assume you would never see “America’s Best Man Skier Ever” on the cover of Sports Illustrated.”

    Of course not! Male is the default. Female is that freaky, weird, non-human diversion from the standard and therefore needs pointing out.

    Woman skier is, imo, a way to slap her down. It’s like say “lady doctor” or “woman senator” – a way to remind everyone of just how freaky and weird it is there’s a non-standard male in the position.

    Female skier would be correct, despite being completely unnecessary.

  63. #64 J. J. Ramsey
    February 8, 2010

    Endor: “Woman skier is, imo, a way to slap her down.”

    Not quite sure I agree with you there. Sometimes “female” is the condescending term. Also, there actually is a legitimate reason for referring to her as a “woman skier,” since in the Olympics, men and women skiers compete separately, not with each other. That doesn’t apply to doctors, who aren’t supposed to be segregated by sex.

  64. #65 Endor
    February 9, 2010

    @64 – that some find “female” to be condescending is very true. I was only speaking for myself and, obviously, I consider the ‘woman’ modifier to be the mocking one.

    That said, it’s irrelevant that men and women compete separately. We can look at the picture and see she’s female. The modifier is completely useless for any other purpose.

  65. #66 J. J. Ramsey
    February 9, 2010

    Endor: “That said, it’s irrelevant that men and women compete separately. We can look at the picture and see she’s female. The modifier is completely useless for any other purpose.”

    If SI had called Vonn “America’s Best Skier,” that would indicate that she was better than male American skiers, but if male and female skiers don’t compete with each other or are otherwise rated in comparison to each other, how could one tell if any female skier was better than any other male skier, or vice versa? That’s why it’s relevant that male and female skiers (and most other athletes) compete separately.

  66. #67 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    Top page of google searches for “America’s best skier” each include these phrases:

    Tommy Moe places 5th in combined, establishing reputation as America’s best skier

    Check out the photos of America’s Best Skier Lindsey Vonn on The Cefalo Blog and let me know if it’s too hot

    America’s best skier ever and maybe the hottest!

    Tommy Moe places 5th in combined, establishing reputation as America’s best skier

    This week’s national SI cover features America’s Best Skier Woman Ever

    America’s best skier! (woman or man!) Lindsey Vonn is the best

    Phil retired in 1985 but retains the title of America’s best skier as no one has yet to duplicate or better his record.

    It should just say America’s best skier ever not best female skier ever.

    America’s best skier ever and maybe the hottest! Check out past Pictures of the Day

    Well. That’s certainly plenty of fodder for additional analysis.

    Aside from that analysis, I think I like the grammatical construction “Best skier-woman” and “Best skier-man” :)

    (or “he-skier” and “she-skier” would work too)

    But seriously, the construction “Best X ever [something about hotness if X is a female, otherwise leave out a gender term]” seems to be the normative form. Which might possibly suggest that language can be a little sexist. On Google, anyway.

  67. #68 J. J. Ramsey
    February 10, 2010

    Greg Laden: “Which might possibly suggest that language can be a little sexist.”

    The language isn’t the only thing that’s sexist here. It is rather disappointing that when it is a male skier competing in an all-male competition, he gets referred to as a “best skier,” period, rather than the best male skier, as if being male is somehow the default.

  68. #69 Greg Laden
    February 10, 2010

    JJ: That’s what I meant. The language is gendered, which is an issue, but the use of the language as we see it here is sexist.

    The default is to not mention gender if the gender is male, to mention gender if the gender is female (this seems to occur in man sports: “Basketball” vs. “Women’s Basketball” and I think golf tournaments are often non-gender tagged unless it is a “ladies” tournament, etc.)

    And the trend (but not necessarily default) i the present case is to link the hotness factor to the female.

    Also notice that in the case of the hot female skier, the reference is in two cases to a photo of, rather than to the person.

  69. #70 Glendon Mellow
    February 10, 2010

    Karen from comment #27 brings up an interesting art historical point, when the female gaze depicted in art began to shift. A lot of female nudity in European fine art up until the 1800′s was based on platonic ideals of beauty and other fancy notions of socially acceptable male gazing at nude women.

    Paintings like Grande Odalisque with an impossibly long spine and vacant eyes continued that tradition. IMO, Manet really disrupted the centuries-long tradition with Olympia. But it was still a form of satire, using the visual language against itself, not departing from the language.

    In any case, LaVoi’s assessment is certainly correct about SI’s cover being predictable. In addition, Western left-to-right lines leading the eye, constructed background, colour choices of fuschia & grey which have returned in design as part of 80′s nostalgia…yep.

  70. #71 Endor
    February 10, 2010

    “how could one tell if any female skier was better than any other male skier, or vice versa?”

    oh, C’mon. This is Sports Illustrated. To Sports Illustrated women exist to be decorations. To Sports Illustrated, of course women aren’t better than men! They don’t compete against men, therefore they will never be good enough.

    It’s function as a modifier has one purpose – to put her in her place. She’s America’s best WOMAN skier, cuz we all know chicks don’t measure up against dudes!

    “The language isn’t the only thing that’s sexist here. It is rather disappointing that when it is a male skier competing in an all-male competition, he gets referred to as a “best skier,” period, rather than the best male skier, as if being male is somehow the default.”

    So, if you understand what I’m saying, why are you arguing against it?

  71. #72 Endor
    February 10, 2010

    “And the trend (but not necessarily default) i the present case is to link the hotness factor to the female.”

    This is virtually ALWAYS the case. Female athletes have to be hot to get any notice at all, unless they are so good they can’t be ignored. in which case, their looks are used to berate them. I.e. The Williams sisters constantly being critiqued for not looking feminine enough (muscles too big), etc.

    Try to think of a single female athlete who isn’t first and foremost described in terms of her sexual attractiveness to men. I’d love a single example.

  72. #73 Greg Laden
    February 11, 2010

    Endor: So, if you understand what I’m saying, why are you arguing against it?

    I certainly was not arguing against anything you said. I was responding to JJR’s comment, and I wasn’t arguing against that either.

    This is virtually ALWAYS the case.

    Yeah, you’re right, it probably is the default.

  73. #74 Endor
    February 11, 2010

    “I certainly was not arguing against anything you said.”

    My question was directed at JJR in #68, Mr. Laden. I thought that quote I used in #70 was JJR’s. If not, apologies. I was asking JJR.

  74. #75 J. J. Ramsey
    February 11, 2010

    Endor: “So, if you understand what I’m saying, why are you arguing against it?”

    I think we are only half-agreeing here. We agree that treating being male as the default is a bad thing. Where we seem to disagree is on the matter of whether SI had a legitimate reason for referring to Vonn as “America’s Best Woman Skier” rather than just “America’s Best Skier,” period. Of course, the implication of that legitimate reason is that calling a man “America’s Best Skier” rather than “America’s Best Man Skier” would be incorrect as well.

  75. #76 Endor
    February 11, 2010

    “Of course, the implication of that legitimate reason is that calling a man “America’s Best Skier” rather than “America’s Best Man Skier” would be incorrect as well.”

    Bingo. Which was my point. They differentiated Vonn by noting her gender, just as a way to remind the reader that she’s not the BEST skier, she’s the best WOMAN skier. Meaning, in no uncertain terms, that she’s not a man, therefore is not THE best and that needed to be pointed out.

  76. #77 MarkusR
    February 12, 2010

    Feb 23, 2009 cover is pretty sick too.
    Others would include 4.27.09, 12.08.09, 8.25.08.

    I think the baseball pictures are just wrong in general.

  77. #78 Greg Laden
    February 12, 2010

    Oh, I just realized Lindsey Vonn is my homegirl. That must be why she’s constantly on TV here.

    Well, when all the dust settles (from the Olympics, not the blaws) I’ll look her up and cop an interview. See what she things about the SI cover.

  78. #79 Greg Laden
    February 12, 2010

    And by blaws, I mean blogs.

  79. #80 Elfie
    March 4, 2010

    Feminism is all about telling other women what they can and cannot do.

    Sweet, I can get used to this.

  80. #81 Endor
    March 4, 2010

    Poor Elfie has no reading comprehension.

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