Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Beauty Myth

Hmmm... WTA once again you baboozle me.  I just don't know how to respond to this- your new 'Strong is Beautiful' campaign for the women's tennis tour.

Regular readers may know I have some issues with the WTA and how it promotes its female players and the womens tour.  For example I have taken issue with the 'Women Are Getting A Call' ad for the End of Tour Finals which feature the top women at the time walking in the park, laughing with friends, talking on their mobile phone (ah it's the Sony Ericsson Tour, didn't you get that yet?), and generally looking pretty without doing anything sporty at all.  The mens tour equivalent advertised a fight to the death (or close to it) between the top players with shots of them looking tough and...gasp...playing tennis! 

But the WTA doesn't need tennis to get in the way of a good pictorial, especially when attractive women in short skirts have proved incredibly easy to market- although this does raise the question of what the WTA are trying to sell.  Within this context it's easy to see why Maria Sharapova would earn most of her millions off court with Sports Illustrated swim suit specials, Ana Ivanovic went topless, and Venus Williams wore her underwear to a match to 'bring sexy back to tennis'.  

Female tennis players suffer from less respect than their male counterparts, their performance often criticised and scrutinised, while their achievements relegated to the realm of 'women's' tennis.  Their good looks and appearance can often be a saving grace in that in can usual garner them some praise, attention, or, at the very least, some cold hard cash.  Although obviously working your cute, toned ass off at tennis every day only to have people tell you it looks nice in your shorts would get rather irksome after a while, I assume (not really being an issue I have to deal with). Simultaneously female athletes must also deal with a world that does find athletic women all that attractive- if you hadn't noticed slim is in this century. 

Daniela Hantuchova  
Cut to the WTA latest campaign 'Strong is Beautiful'.  It features top players and up-and-comers photographed as their rackets hit the balls, in strong athletic poses.   Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO of the WTA was saying the right things, "The personal stories are inspirational. The unique combination of athleticism, strength and determination on the court and success, interests and inner beauty off the court is what makes women's tennis so attractive to millions around the world."

In a world where professional female athletes can't get their names in the paper despite great success because male footballers have stolen all the headlines it is gratifying to see a large scale ad campaign that promotes the women's tour.  It is also nice to see that strength and determination are being recognised as attractive in women as they have long been in men, and that female tennis players are recognised to have such qualities as they are so often criticised for lacking heart by commentators. 

I suppose my question is why does strong need to be beautiful?  (Similarly I wondered 'why does tennis need to be sexy' when Venus strolled out in skin coloured shorts)  Why can't the campaign ads say 'Strong is...Really Good For Tennis'...ok yes much less catchy but hopefully you get my point.  It is still the beauty and glamour of the athletes that's being celebrated, particularly when you look at the pics in which the players are oiled up, wearing make-up, and glamour outfits designed to show just enough leg and, as usual, it is very difficult to recognise certain players due to the pose, make-up, and air brushing.  I find it a little strange that the campaign is saying these athletes are strong and beautiful so you should support us but we still felt the need to cover them in foundation because they were looking a bit peaky...

Victoria Azarenka

Lucie Safarova

Petra Kvitova

The title of this blog is 'The Beauty Myth' and I think the myth I am referring to is the believe that changing the parameters of beauty, by saying strong, athletic, and determined is attractive for a woman when so long it has been considered undesirable, has solved the problem.  It hasn't.  Picking a new way women can be beautiful endorses the idea that beautiful is best, and encourages further discussion of female tennis players bodies.  I guess what I'm saying WTA is that I like this idea better than your others but I just don't get why the ladies have to look lovely to play tennis?

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