Found April 13, 2012 on Fox Sports:
The most eye-opening thing I've read online this week didn't involve Ozzie Guillen, Bobby Petrino or Facebook buying Instagram for a billion dollars. It was about the American media's fascination with and coverage devoted to women's bodies. And it was written by . . . Ashley Judd. Yes, Ashley Judd. In this revealing column written for The Daily Beast , the actress analyzes a career spent obsessing about, then ultimately ignoring, the media's coverage of her own physical appearance. It's a fascinating read, and one that concludes with Judd writing: "Consequently, I choose to address it because the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about." Judd's passionate take on the subject made me think about girls in bikinis. I've always been a fan of girls in bikinis, and I don't suspect I'm alone. Whether it be a Beach Boys album cover or a "Mad Men"-esque Mennen aftershave ad from the '50s , the image of a woman in a bikini has been a part of American pop culture since, well, the dawn of American pop culture. The bikini has survived the test of time, and for better or for worse, it is somewhere in between apple pie and the motorcycle when it comes to iconic slices of Americana. Warhol's soup cans. Wood's "American Gothic." Brooklyn Decker emerging out of the ocean in nothing but a yellow piece of string in a bad Adam Sandler film. Ain't that America? Or something like that. But not every country has a place for the girl in the bikini and not all cultures permit it, making a sport that requires wearing one awfully difficult for athletes representing those nations. The International Olympic Committee had an interesting decision to make last month in regards to the bikini and the women's beach volleyball competition at the 2012 Summer Games. In wanting to expand the sport to all possible participating nations -- including ones that typically forbid women to wear bikinis -- the IOC passed a rule that gave participants in this summer's women's beach volleyball competition the option to wear shorts and sleeved tops instead of the typical bikini uniform that's been the norm since the Olympics went back to the beach. Women's beach volleyball athletes have exclusively worn bikinis in the Games since the sport became an official Olympic sport at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. In cold-weather events, bodysuits have been permitted, but for a Summer Games, last month's announcement marked a landmark ruling for the sport. According to the new rule, "shorts of a maximum length of (1.18 inches) above the knee, and sleeved or sleeveless tops," will now be allowed, as well. The IOC is looking to expand its participants in all sports, and with the new bikini rule, several nations that otherwise would have had no place on the beach volleyball court can now bump, set and spike on an equal playing field. But is that playing field necessarily equal? The rule change made headlines for women's rights and cultural reasons, but there is an interesting sports story, here, too. The bikini-clad athletes will have a significant playing advantage over those wearing the long shorts and sleeves. The women's beach volleyball bikini, like a high-top sneaker in basketball or a superior swimsuit in the pool, has been constructed to provide the optimal athletic experience. There's a reason female volleyball players wear bikinis, and it's not because of vanity or fashion. It's because they work. And now, some athletes will be wearing them while others won't? In the Olympics? It's a tricky situation. Team USA star Kerri Walsh, along with teammate Misty May-Treanor, will continue to wear bikinis. In a Sports Illustrated podcast earlier this week, Walsh said: "I've played in a bikini for a very specific reason and it's that it's most comfortable. I've worked really hard with Oakley to get a really good suit that I'm not worried about wardrobe malfunctions, and it's really sporty." A USA Today article on the subject noted, "Players say they prefer the beachwear because it allows them free movement and the minimal material leaves less room for sand to get into their clothing and cause chafing." "It's something I feel empowered by, not distracted with," Walsh added. "I'm not a sex symbol; I'm an athlete. I want to be streamlined out there." Which leads me back to the IOC's ruling. If wearing a bikini -- one that's been shaped and formed to provide the optimal skill level required to excel in volleyball -- serves as a significant advantage over a uniform requiring sleeves and a long shorts, is it at least worth considering a rule change requiring all women's beach volleyball teams to wear the latter? Or is that going backward? Is that ignoring both technology and women's and national/cultural rights? Furthermore, is that minimizing what women like Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, and Gabrielle Reece and Monique Oliver before them, have worked so hard to accomplish -- making women's beach volleyball as respected a sport as any other competition in the Summer Games? Would changing the rule to make standard-issued uniforms include sleeves make the bikini -- and not the world-class athletes -- the story? What would it say about the actual women participating? And would that rule change spark a negative reaction among non-Muslim nations who'd view the switch as an attack on those nations' political and spiritual beliefs? I'm not sure anyone has the answers to all, if any, of those questions. But I do know it's going to look awfully strange seeing one team wearing wardrobes that give them a clear athletic advantage over their opponents in an Olympic sport. I'd imagine it wouldn't go over particularly well with a casual male viewing audience used to beach volleyball as portrayed in beer commercials and old "Baywatch" episodes. What would the public's reaction be to women's beach volleyball players no longer in their bikinis? I think back to Judd's piece, I think about Walsh's comments about being athletes, not sex symbols, and I think of the snark and, quite frankly, the potential outrage that would be the result of a universal uniform change to the sport. The bikini! Who knew it could be so complicated? There are several intersecting themes, here: women's rights, marketing dollars, media perception and treatment of female athletes, an even playing field in the Olympics and political, religious and cultural values from a host of intersecting nations. I've always been a fan of girls in bikinis. But this summer in London, the bikini could be more than just a piece of clothing. It could make for a very spirited discussion topic. As if it weren't one already.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

Miami faces Astros in first full series at home

Ozzie Guillen will not be in the dugout this weekend when the Miami Marlins play the first full series in their new ballpark. After the new manager's recent comments about former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, that might be for the best. With Guillen in the midst of a five-game suspension, the Marlins hope their fans remain supportive as they try to overcome a rough first week of...

Marlins try to bounce back at home vs. Astros

Ozzie Guillen is having a hard time watching the Miami Marlins from afar. Looking to bounce back from a late collapse in their last game, the Marlins play their final contest without their manager Sunday against the visiting Houston Astros. Serving a five-game suspension for his comments about former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Guillen told interim Miami manager Joey Cora that he...

Should Ozzie Guillen Have Been Suspended for His Comments About Fidel Castro?

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen has been suspended by the team for telling Time Magazine that he “loves” Fidel Castro. Below is Guillen’s quote as it appeared in the online edition of the magazine: “I love Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60...Read the Rest...

Of course there's an Ozzie Guillen book coming that focuses on his 'management' style

Given Ozzie Guillen's Fidel Castro publicity, expect his book, Ozzie's School of Management: Lessons from the Dugout the Clubhouse, and the Doghouse to fly off shelves. And Chicago Sun-Times writer... Full story at Bob's Blitz ~ http://www.bobsblitz.com

Ozzie, You’ve Got Some ‘Splaining to do

On Tuesday, the Miami Marlins suspended manager Ozzie Guillen for comments he made to Time magazine concerning Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. "I love Fidel Castro", Guillen said. The reasoning behind Guillen's statement was that so many have wanted to kill Castro over the years and yet, the Cuban dictator has managed to stay in power for more than half a

Astros-Marlins Preview

Ozzie Guillen will not be in the dugout this weekend when the Miami Marlins play the first full series in their new ballpark. After the new manager's recent comments about former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, that might be for the best. With Guillen in the midst of a five-game suspension, the Marlins hope their fans remain supportive as they try to overcome a rough first week of...

The Slant: Episode 21

On the next episode of The Slant, host Brad Stein talks about Ozzie Guillen's comments, Bobby Petrino's firing, Dwayne Wade's comments regarding Olympic basketball, and more. To download the podcast, right click the link below and select "Save Target As." Download Podcast

Marlins and Guillen Have Trouble Understanding English and the Phillies

The Phils took two from the Marlins this week, while manager Ozzie Guillen was busy claiming that he “no speakada eenglis”. The breakdown: The home opener was a bit of a lackluster game. Cole Hamels pitched better than his line would have indicated. He allowed 8 hits and 3 earned runs, but still posted 9 strikeouts in 5.1 IP throwing 66 strikes on 96 total pitches. He took the...

The Deep Slant with Mike Ferguson (Week of April 7-13)

I've decided to begin a new segment where I give my perspective on the week that was in sports. I hope to continue this for weeks to come. Sit back and enjoy! Ozzie the Commie? Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for five games for his comments to Time magazine concerning Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Guillen claimed that he

Guillen: Watching team hurts my head

Watching the Miami Marlins from afar makes Ozzie Guillen's head hurt.

A Hectic Week For Coaches, Some Hocket Predictions

It’s been a  pretty wild week so far for a couple coaches of big time teams. Miami Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen was in hot water as he made some wildly inappropriate comments about Fidel Castro. Meanwhile, the Arkanasas Razorback’s college football coach Bobby Petrino dropped his bike and ended up in a huge pile of trouble. First Guillen, who told Time magazine that he loved...

Picture Perfect: Marlins Ballpark PERMANENTLY CLOSED

So I was thinking, why don’t I go and catch a Marlins game. The Astros are in town tonight. You know, new ball park, new manager (suspended), new unis, a home run sculpture that looks like an ant hill. How do I get there? Well, that is why I have an iPhone. Siri can find anything, right?  Well, my lovely assistant found the new home of the Fish. Turns out the shiny new ballpark...

First Week Ramblings

Here we are a couple of weeks into the season (depends if you count those weird Mariners A’s games in Japan) and there is no clear cut leader.A lot of big bats haven’t gotten hot yet and a few smaller bats have (Emilo Bonifacio and his .421 avg).  Two weeks into the season and Ozzie Guillen is already serving a suspension for his comments about Fidel Castro.ESPN already thinks...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.