A Whitman’s sampler and athletes in the buff

I’ll refrain from making the obvious “Leaves of Grass” references to ESPN The Magazine’s annual body issue since that’s been done here and here from the ESPN executive heading a new women’s initiative I wrote about last week.

The Bard endures!

taurasiskinInstead, I’ll let Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs slam dunk the reaction in some prudish, feminist corners about the decision of basketball star Diana Taurasi to bare it all:

Anybody who has a problem with Taurasi’s pictures ought to move from 21st century to 17th century New England and take up residence in the Puritan village next to Hester Prynne’s house. That’s no Scarlet Letter on Di’s hip, Bunky. That’s a tattoo. Either that or it’s a lingering bruise from hip-checking Tennessee out of the Final Four three years in a row.”

I have taken issue with the self-appointed arbiters of female athletic imagery. They also like to be very bossy about declaring who’s a feminist and who’s not.

My first reaction upon seeing Taurasi, whom I first met as a high school senior a decade ago and covered throughout her UConn career, was this: “Gee, I’ve never seen her hair like that.” There was absolutely nothing distasteful about this shot, and it would behoove the fusspots to go back into Jacobs’ column and read what Geno Auriemma’s daughter has to say. Women of that generation are definitely not bothered by all this. Bravo!

But some folks can’t get past what we like to describe down South as “nekkidness.” As if there’s something dirty and unwholesome about taking what nature gave us and sculpting it into fabulous shape, and daring to show it to the world.

Sadly, sports feminism hasn’t evolved much in the past decade in its quandary with the female athletic body, because what Taurasi is hearing is not all that different than what Brandi Chastain endured from The Sisterhood.

How absurd is it to talk down to full-grown, professional women as if they’re grade school girls who flashed their underpants in front of the boys’ room? How maternalistic is it for women clearly uncomfortable with the expression of any notion of sex appeal to determine for an entire gender what is appropriate? That is the double standard here, not when women disrobe.

To paraphrase Chastain, Taurasi played her ass off for that body, and has won just about everything a basketball player could ever hope to win. At 28, she’s far from finished. She should reserve the right to display her body and what it symbolizes to her any way she wishes.

But my hunch is that with a new NBA season on the horizon Amar’e Stoudemire might endure more grief than any of the women.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 6, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    To paraphrase Chastain, Taurasi played her ass off for that body, and has won just about everything a basketball player could ever hope to win. At 28, she’s far from finished. She should reserve the right to display her body and what it symbolizes to her any way she wishes.

    I agree with this. When people complain about female athletes appearing in various stages of undress outside of their sport (let alone in it, a la Chastain in 1999), they seem to forget that the athletes volunteered for those opportunities.

    I second your thoughts about DT’s hair. Photoshop, man, totally.