What do you think of the cover of ESPN's "Body Issue," featuring a naked Serena Williams. Lisa Wade at Sociological Images writes:
Why is it that a woman rarely makes it onto the cover of ESPN and, when she does, she’s freakin’ naked? And, of course (*sarcasm*), it’s for “The Body Issue” (because women’s bodies are where it’s at, right fellas?). I did a google image search for “espn cover” and the first page of results includes only two women. One is naked (Williams) and the other is pregnant.
On the other hand, here is Serena Williams, so often demonized for her large, muscular body and branded "ugly" and "unfeminine" (demonstrating inherent sexism and racism in our society), being celebrated on the cover of a national magazine in a shot that seems not to hide the parts of her physicality that make people so uncomfortable. In this "Body Issue" athletic bodies are represented by a black woman whose body is usually disrespected.
Me? I'm torn like the folks over at Sociological Images. But I suspect I should ignore my initial thrill at seeing a black woman's body celebrated, because what seems like celebration is often objectification. If Williams can't rate a cover for exceptional athleticism, should we cheer that she gets one for her exceptional body?
I'd like to see female athletes on the cover of ESPN with their clothes on, being lauded for their skill and strength and tenacity, not just for their bodies. Did Lisa's Google search miss something? Anyone know whether there have been any naked male athletes on the cover of this mag?
Until female athelete are lauded like male ones on ESPN's cover, and male athletes are ogled for their rockin' bods like the female ones, women are still marginalized at this publication, allowed to shine only when doing appropriate "lady things" like posing for naked cheesecake photos or being pregnant. In that context, the Serena Williams cover isn't progress.
What do you say? Can any regular readers of ESPN clear up my questions?