Sexualizing Collegiate Gymnastics

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m a big gymnastics fan. I’ve recently come to love college gymnastics for the publicity it gives the sport, as well as the opportunity it allows for athletes to continue competing beyond their teen years.

When the gymnastics word starting applauding University of Utah’s new wesbsite, I was pretty excited. That is, until I looked at the actual website.

Utah Gymnastics: opening page

The opening page features the gymnasts. However, it features them all made-up, displaying their asses to the camera. Wouldn’t it be more fitting for them to be engaged in their actual sport? Maybe they should be pictured with their hair they way they might actually wear it. Those cute side bangs are a  total safety nightmare. [Added 1/7/09: This picture is not awful by any means. It’s even sorta cute. I’m pretty sure my friends and I took a similar picture before our senior prom. It just isn’t the best depiction available. Why cute?] It’s not new, we like to glam up female athletes. But honestly, I’m pretty sure gymnastics already has enough glam.

It only gets worse.

Utah Gymnastics: Tradition

I’ll give credit when credit is due: at least this gymnast is engaged in activity. However, we never see her face. The primary focus of this photo is her butt and her legs. (That funky looking rash under her left cheek might suggest a doctor’s visit is in order). The individual’s feat of athleticism and flexibility is unimportant. It’s all about the body.

This one is my favorite. I get the feeling the photographer shoots porn for his other job. Arched back as though mid-orgasm, check! Bedroom eyes, check! Airbrushed legs, check! Asian woman to fulfill the hyper-sexual and submissive stereotype, check and check!

Utah, as the #2 ranked team, I’m disappointed. Gymnastics is already struggling with its reputation. Gymnastics is already sexualized enough, as are college aged women. Why not show your gymnasts for the athletes they really are?

Now this is impressive!

[Added 1/7/09: The “Attendance picture” has been replaced by a montage of the stadium and this still shot:

It might not be as exciting, but I am pretty sure this better demonstrates Utah’s high rates of attendance than the back-arched photo.

I’m still surprised when internet uproar leads to change.]

    • Alisha
    • January 6th, 2010

    Haha Gael Mackie is most definitely not asian! In fact I wouldn’t be suprised if that photo was her idea, considering the pictures on her facebook page…. not to mention that this one was her profile picture for a long while! (the arched back photo)

    • Alisha,

      I stand corrected. I love gymnastics, but do not closely follow individual college gymnasts. My error.

      You say this was Gael Mackie’s profile picture, bringing up an interesting point. These are adult women. They are allowed to be sexy. As a young woman myself, I sometimes want to assert my sexuality. I don’t think that is a problem, and I fully expect young women to do that on their facebook pages, with their friends, or when they go out to clubs. I think the problem is presenting this image as the official image of the team. It only reinforces notions that women should be defined by their physical bodies, instead of their talents, achievements, and abilities.

  1. First off, THANK YOU! I’m glad there’s someone else out there who feels that gymnastics is TOO sexualized. This crap didn’t happen in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Instead, female gymnasts were presented as ATHLETES. Now? You know as well as I so about the overdose of french-cut-leotards and disgusting amounts of makeup and glitter. These girls aren’t presented as athletes anymore, as the panting coverage of Alicia Sacramone after Beijing indicates. IMO, it’s disgusting.

    • NanMichyganWomyn
    • January 8th, 2010

    The entire sport of gymnastics is purely a creation of the paternalistic overlords and should be banned. Every womyn who is in gymnastics is a victim of rape.

      • Shana
      • January 14th, 2010

      Excuse me? Rape? I’ve been involved with the sport for over 30 years – gymnast, coach, and judge. Never once have I ever felt like a victim of anything while participating in the sport. A statement like yours demonstrates how little you know of the sport. I will grant that there are parents and coaches out there who have crossed the line, but they are not the norm. The large majority of individuals involved in the sport make every effort to maintain the gymnasts safety and self-esteem as well as make the sport enjoyable for however long the gymnast participates. Gymnastics was one of the best parts of my life and I’ve never regretted participating.

    • T-Rex
    • January 10th, 2010

    Well now, that last comment was a little intense.

    Also, have you seen this?:

    It’s not just gymnasts, unfortunately.

    • Free speech, I suppose. I’m pretty sure the poster above was being sarcastic.

      Yes, I saw the article you linked to. I actually linked to it in my original post. It’s this idea that female athletes cannot be athletes, they have to be “women” first.

        • T-Rex
        • January 14th, 2010

        Oops, I should get better at clicking on links in a blog post before posting about related articles. My apologies.

  1. January 6th, 2010
  2. January 7th, 2010
  3. February 4th, 2010
  4. February 13th, 2010

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