What we can all learn from Lindsey Vonn’s naked butt

Mainstream media, bloggers, influencers and Instagramers rushed this week to repost Lindsey Vonn’s latest butt revealing marketing stunt filmed poolside at Portillo, Chile.

Why the rush? Because she exposed her bare bottom in a g string style bikini and took up a repetitive motion in a pool of water and we all know sex and sexual motion sells, gains likes, readers, viewers and creeps. No I won’t post the footage here for extra hits, I am sure you have Google. But here’s a pic of Lindsey doing other stuff.

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Pic by Cody Downard for Vail.

Shortly after the first sighting of Vonn’s naked Portillo bum, everyone got up in arms about how she is not doing her bit for young female ski racers and reducing all of her record breaking sporting accomplishments to no more than a tight butt with no sign of cellulite. Well not everyone, some did other things we won’t mention.

But as easy as it is for people to express their disappointment (or celebration) in Lindsay, she is, in my opinion, a messenger and we all know not to shoot those.

Until a young girl stands in front of Vonn and say “I gave up my promising racing career because I wasn’t pretty enough, or the editors didn’t think I looked good in a bikini or my race coach touched my arse when I was 10” she may not yet truly comprehend the full impact and responsibility of being a female role model. Young girls crave others to help them navigate what is a complex, messy and at times terrifying world and they look to their social media to do so with sad results.

I can’t speak for Lindsey, I have only met her twice – once at an autograph booth with a young three year old skier who thought she was tops and the other time from the front row of a press conference before a World Cup race in Aspen. The former she was pleasant and kind the latter she was fierce and determined. As expected in both.

But what I can reveal is the world in which Lindsey has grown up because as a middle class white female I grew up in it too. This messenger in a bikini is surely just acting out or influenced by the values of a society in which she has lived. She clearly knows how to get eyeballs for her sponsors who often value image, age and attractiveness in women and strength in men. Yawn.

This is the world as we western women (wives, sisters, daughters, mothers, girlfriends, nieces, colleagues, friends) know it.

  • Your body is wrong unless it is one size fits right (whatever the body size fashion is at the time). 42% of 1st through 3rd graders want to be thinner. 81% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat. 90% of 15-17 year olds want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. [Westerberg-Jacobson et al, European Eating Disorders Review 2011]
  • You are not worthy. Women earn 79% of the male dollar in the work place.
  • You are highly visible (see next points) and yet invisible at the same time. You might win a RIO Gold Medal but your husband will be credited, you might set a world record but the male who won silver will get the headline and other Olympic coverage sexisms… See what I’m saying, or not?
  • Sexy is what counts. 39.4% of 13-20 year olds in the top grossing films of 2013 were portrayed in sexy attire, 37.4% were partially or fully naked. [USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism]
  • Sexy is better than strong. Forty percent of all sports participants are female, yet women’s sports receive only 4% of all sport media coverage and female athletes are much more likely than male athletes to be portrayed in sexually provocative poses. [Tucker Centre for Research on Girls & Women in Sport]

https://youtu.be/KGQTzuF1cbo

  • Don’t walk down the street. 65% of women have experienced street harassment. 23% have been sexually touched, 20% followed and 9% forced to do something sexual. [stopstreetharrassment.org]
  • You’re not safe. 1 in 3 women will have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, 1 in 5 have experienced sexual violence. The perpetrators of violence against women and violence against men are overwhelmingly male. [Australian Bureau of Statitics Personal Safety Survey 2012]
  • You won’t see or hear yourself in media very often.  Men accounted for roughly 74 percent of guests on major USA TV networks’ Sunday morning news shows. Women were 26 percent. None of the five major TV networks’ Sunday morning news shows had equal numbers of male and female guest analysts and journalists. Of the five, NBC’s “Meet the Press” had the most women experts, with fe- males accounting for 29 percent of its 422 guests in 2014. Men were 71 percent on that program. [Status of Women in the US Media 2015] NB Those stats get worse when reviewing snow sports media.
  • Women don’t play sport. Women are vastly underrepresented in sports journalism: Of the 183 sports talk radio hosts on Talkers magazine’s “Heavy Hundred,” only two were women. [Time Magazine]
  • Believe what you see. When they were asked to rate the importance of particular qualities for women, white and African-American high school students who consumed more mainstream media attributed greater importance to sexiness and beauty than did students who consumed less media. [Ward, 2004; Ward and Averitt, 2005]

Who can blame Vonn when she lives daily in a confusing mixed message world like above. Besides, it’s her life, her body. But we haven’t even gotten to women’s representation in resort management, sports committee administration and women on boards in the world of snow sports (especially in Australia).

It gets more depressing when I am consistently sent press releases where the male winners of world rated ski competitions in the Southern Hemisphere are mentioned in the release headlines and I have to search through the copy of the release to find out which women won.

When ski and snowboard films consistently feature less women and women have to go and make yet another all female film. It gets more depressing, again, when I am sent video edits of squads of skiers and snowboarders in terrain parks without a single female in them.

When major snowboard and ski brands forget to invite female snowboarders and when I am given the same standard blurb from more than one that “the girls need to push themselves more, I never get sent edits from girls.”

But it is our responsibility to find an appropriate representation of our market and the ski and snowboard market gender stats are very clear (see below).  Women ski and women snowboard but rarely do we see a full representations of ourselves.

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I think we’ve all been doing it wrong (myself included). This is an industry wide issue, a snow community issue, and we must all address it.

I don’t write about sexism in the snow world to be liked though know that it is not personal and these are not attacks. Instead this is genuine concern for an industry and a sport I love and I want other girls and women to love too, not at the cost of men but with them.

There’s also a damn good reason you want to work with women of all ages and not just because we make 80% of all consumer household decisions. Females are more active on social media, we share more. 76% of female internet users use social media (74% men) and 69% like to stay in touch with friends using social media (54% men). Women have 55% MORE posts on their social walls than men do, that’s a lot of sharing to be had for your brand.

So Lindsey while I don’t necessarily agree with your latest Instagram video post, I thank you for opening up yet another discussion on how we can give young girls the confidence to stay within the snow sports world and not have to reveal their butt to do so.

Read more…

When she skis better than you do – a video interview with Mike Douglas, Jen Hudak and Pip Hunt

When women in action sports are not pretty by Alexa Hohenberg from Still Stoked

Footy’s not the only place where sexism rules – SnowsBest writes for Fairfax

 

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

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