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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Grrl power

So, way back during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the BBC website provided a widget - it's still there - into which you could enter your height and weight and find your body match among the competing athletes. I tried it and to my delight I was paired with Amanda Bingson, a hammer-thrower from Las Vegas:

I read about Amanda, even corresponded with her briefly, and still sort of semi-follow her career; she has a permanent spot of honor on WalakaNet Central. She didn't medal in London, but has been doing well since in competitions, and even made a merchandise ad for the USA Track & Field association.

As you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out my body match was one of the featured athletes in the ESPN Magazine Body Issue. (I was first surprised because I didn't even realize ESPN had a magazine.) This edition of the magazine was apparently developed at least partially in response to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (which itself was a gimmick to increase sales during the sports doldrums), but is much less salacious and a lot more artsy. The special feature highlights both male and female athletes nude or semi-nude, but instead of showing provocative or come-hither poses, the photos capture the power, grace, athleticism, personality, and sometimes whimsy of the individuals. Amanda was featured on one of the alternate covers, as above, but here's the spotlight shot of this wonderful competitor:

Besides my connection to Amanda, I thought this mainstream, for-profit enterprise was notable for two things: (a) its non-exploitative representation of female athletes (b) of all sorts of body types. We could use a lot more of this in our culture, not just on the progressive fringes, but in the middle of the road, where most of the world lives. Maybe if we get people's attention with some artistic nudes, our society will start paying more respect to the work and achievement of all women athletes in actual competition - without them having to win a world championship.

Go, Amanda!

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