By Katie Culver
There is not a lot of media coverage of female athletes, but when there is I like my daughter, who is five years old, to see it. I try to records as many women’s sporting events as I can for her to watch.
Recently, we were watching the U.S. vs. Canada women’s soccer game on TV. As a 5-year-old, she’s a tough media consumer — few events hold her attention for long.
But on this day, we were excitedly watching and cheering on Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, and Abby Wambach. We noticed their incredible skills and talked about the positions they play on the field. My daughter was particularly taken with Alex Morgan with her tenacious play and goal-scoring drive (and yes, her pink headband, too).
For me, watching women’s sports is really important. I want female athletes to be household names that my daughter and sons recognize, talk about, and admire.
So I have to tell you, I am incredibly disappointed in Alex Morgan. Along with two other athletes, Morgan is featured in this year’s SI Swimsuit Issue, much like teammate, Hope Solo, who bared all for ESPN the Magazine last summer. Beyond my disappointment that she would actually pose in SI for the annual sexist, exploitation of women issue (and more 0ften now, exploitation of female athletes), Morgan is NAKED, wearing only a painted-on bikini.
Even more disturbing for me was the accompanying interview in which she justified her choice, stating that because women get paid less than men, “We do need to branch out and look at different avenues to make more for ourselves. There are some things like modeling, but other athletes can do things like coaching or broadcasting.”
Why is getting naked the opportunity successful women too often embrace?
I don’t buy the quasi-feminist argument that they are empowered in displaying their bodies, in the name of making money and more recognition. I expect more from female athletes. They need to be the ones challenging the media’s degradation of women; who are proud enough of their athletic skills as world-class soccer players and courageous enough to say “no” to Sports Illustrated and any other media stronghold that continues to publish only what sells and not what makes this world a better place for women; to work to insist that women be valued for their skills and smarts, rather than STILL, ONLY—or at least over everything else—THE ATTRACTIVENESS OF THEIR BODIES!
So as a mother, what do I do now (except hope that my daughter never sees these pictures)?
The superstars — like members of the US women’s national team — are people that little girls like my daughter look up to and emulate. They need to keep the standards high, taking themselves as seriously off the field as they do on. Luckily we have Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy, Billie Jean King and many others who are committed to their responsibility as role models for young girls. Alex and Hope, maybe you can learn something from them.