Accustomed to taking to the starting blocks in bathing suits that fit her like skin, she’s now showing off in her birthday suit in the latest edition of Playboy. So you know that you’re going to hear plenty about how the whole idea is demeaning to women in general and to women athletes in particular.
Pay no attention to any of it. Beard is a gorgeous, 25-year-old woman in the absolute peak of physical health and condition. If she wants to show off that body — and get paid a tidy sum to do so — it’s for her to decide and those of us who aren’t cluttered with hang-ups to enjoy.
She’s not a wide-eyed kid who doesn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain, but a strong and determined adult who knows where she’s going in life and is willing to work her fanny off to get there. As she told the Associated Press, this isn’t about narcissism, but business. Her long-term goal, after the 2008 Olympics and perhaps a few more medals to go with the seven (two gold) she has collected since 1996, is to go into business. She wants to have her own clothing line, among other things, and this is a way to get her name, among other things, in front of the public.
It’s a good decision, made for the right reasons. And it harms no one, including those impressionable little girls who want to grow up to be great swimmers just like her.
If nothing else, Dave Salo, her swimming coach, told the AP, she’s showing off what a real woman looks like, and not what the size-zero-obsessed fashion industry trots down the runway.
Beard put it this way: “I’m healthy. I work out like crazy. I’m not one of those people that’s partying wee into the hours. This, I think, is a better role model than most.”
If you’ve got a problem with that, take it to Monica Goodling. I’m sure the former Chief Prude of the Justice Department can help you hang fig leaves on the pictures so your delicate sensibilities aren’t offended and your libido isn’t tempted to assert itself.
I know all the arguments against women showing off their bodies. If you want to see them taken to their illogical conclusion, emigrate to Saudi Arabia or Iran or join the Taliban. Once you’re decided that the burqa is oppressive, you’re just talking about degree of exposure.
Without nudity, what would museums do? Since before Praxiteles put chisel to marble in ancient Greece, artists have been celebrating the human form, both male and female.
What’s amusing is that if a nude female is the subject of a painting, it’s art. If she’s the subject of a pictorial in a magazine, it’s pornography. At least so we’re told.
Here’s where the “yes, but” comes in, as in, “Yes, but isn’t it awful that in the first decade of the 21st century, nearly 25 years after Title IX, a female athlete still has to take her clothes off to get noticed? Shouldn’t their excellence in the arena be enough?”
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