When I recently read the headline “National women rugby team members bare all for calendar” on the website of my local newspaper I was immediately annoyed. To be fair, I tried to suspend judgement until I learned more. Learning more, however, did not ease my annoyance; it increased the feeling instead.
The story in the paper discusses how members of the Canadian women’s rugby team have, for the fourth time, taken off their clothes to pose for a nude calendar as a fund-raising tool. The money raised will help fund their training for the next World Cup and the 2016 Olympic qualifiers. While I have no objection to fund-raising and no objection to calendars, I am dismayed that these women have chosen to go with a nude calendar. I am not a prude and have nothing against being nude, but I don’t believe that a team that represents its country should go naked for money.
Barbara Mervin, one woman on the team says, “Having muscles is very beautiful and being physically fit is very attractive. We are elite athletes and we are proud of our bodies.”
Pride in their bodies is a marvellous thing, and I have no desire to take that away from the women. I wish more women had such pride. But posing nude does not celebrate the athleticism these women have worked so hard to achieve; instead it diminishes it by shifting the focus away from their roles as athletes and turning them into sex objects to be ogled for a fee. Posing nude is not the necessary outcome of pride in one’s body. A woman can be proud of her body—its strength, its grace, its beauty—and not need to display all of it for the world to see.
Women in sports have struggled for a long time to be respected as equal to men in sports, particularly in male-dominated sports such as rugby. I believe that naked calendars reduce that respect and undermine the idea of strong women in sport, making it hard for other women athletes to get the respect they deserve. If these women on the Canadian national rugby team want to celebrate their athletic bodies, why not produce a calendar of themselves in action on the field? Why not focus on the beautiful things that their hard work and talent has brought them the ability to do instead of just how their bodies look? I hope next year they’ll try that instead.