'Hot' female athlete lists sexist

By ALISON KORN, Special to QMI Agency


American skiing superstar Lindsey Vonn is also on most of the Games' "Who's Hot" lists. Sun columnist Alison Korn says such lists take away from the intent of sport, and the Games. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

I’m getting really tired of reading about hot female athletes.

Who’s “easy on the eyes,” as opposed to who’s going higher, faster, stronger in Vancouver. The Olympics are the one time when female athletes get comparable attention to their male counterparts — and yet still, too much of it focuses on hotness.

Even though women compete fully dressed during the Winter Games, as opposed to Summer Games, there’s been no respite.

The most glaring example was Lindsey Vonn with the suggestive Sports Illustrated cover and “tasteful” — yeah, sure — bikini pics, before she’d won a single Olympic medal. Meanwhile her teammate, Julia Mancuso, an Olympic gold medallist from 2006 in Turin — and now triple Olympic medallist — gets overshadowed and why? Because she’s not blonde?

Take a look at NBC’s website’s series of slideshows on “model Olympians.” Or don’t. Included in there is Canada’s Mellisa Hollingsworth, who not only races skeleton at 130 km/hr, but looks hot while doing so. They also feature U.S. Olympic short-track speed skater Allison Baver, who “loses her skates and speed suit for high glamour.” Because isn’t that how you really wanted to see her?

Pirkko Markula, a professor of socio-cultural studies of sport and leisure in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, says that instead of focusing on sporting achievements, media coverage often focuses on women’s appearance and the shape of their bodies.

Markula has contributed to a new book called Olympic Women and the Media: International Perspectives. It discusses the results compiled by a team of researchers who analyzed international newspaper coverage before and during the Olympic games in Athens in 2004.

In media coverage of athletes before the Olympics, female athletes received 5% of the coverage, whereas male athletes got most of the attention with 87.6% of the coverage. During the Olympics, females received 25.2% of media coverage, where male coverage was at 40.2%.

An example provided in Markula’s book is about Chinese gold-medallist diver Guo Jingling, who was publicized for her appearance rather than her skill. The Chinese media described her as the “Beautiful Goddess of the Springboard,” while also calling her “ordinary” and “shy” and fabricating a romantic involvement with a male diver.

And before you call me sexist for focusing on women here, I do realize that male athletes also have their own beefcake shots. Most recently, six Canucks in Chatelaine magazine. But these are few and far between and also celebrate a variety of looks and body types.

By contrast, none of the female athletes in Vancouver who have been tagged as “hot” have unconventional looks. Why is it we don’t see any female athletes with man-size thighs and butts posing in their bathing suits? Are they really too modest, or perhaps never asked?

As an Olympic sports fan, I’m actually extremely uninterested in which athletes you think are hot, male or female.

It’s funny. All those lists of hot female athletes must assume the target audience is either heterosexual males or lesbians, everyone anxious for a peek under the spandex. Wrong on all counts.

alison_korn@hotmail.com

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