By: Emily Beers
Making noise in the CrossFit community this week and last was the topic of CrossFit women and sponsorships.
My Coles Notes version of how the controversial discussion went down down goes like this:
A friend of mine, Hilary Achauer, wrote an articulate story in the CrossFit Journal about women and sports. One of the story’s arguments was that—although CrossFit has done a lot to embrace women’s physical strength—“Our culture’s emphasis on a woman’s appearance—even when she is competing as an elite athlete—is insidious,” Achauer wrote.
From there, Achauer touched on the topic of sponsorship, punctuated by Elisabeth Akinwale’s quote, which has single-handedly caused all this online drama:
“I share sponsors with some women who have never done anything athletically. They train … and they post a lot of videos of their cleavage and stuff, and the camera angle going up toward their butt, but they are not successful athletes. …So, while I understand it, it’s sort of frustrating. … Are there any men (in CrossFit) who are sponsored who are just basically hot? I can’t think of any.” – Elisabeth Akinwale
When the latter quote was shared on social media, all hell broke loose.
Two of the recurring issues people had included:
1. Sponsoring hot women somehow takes away from the “real athletes.”
“How about we celebrate women and their strength, not just their ability to look ridiculously good looking. It’s not the booty shorts n cleavage, it’s the celebration of mediocre performance over real athletes based on Instagram followers. I’d be pissed too,” wrote one commenter on Facebook.
2. Sponsoring sexy women is somehow unfair and derogatory because it emphasizes society’s double standard when it comes to the unequal way we treat the two sexes.
“It’s just telling that the rules for women and men are different. That’s the issue for me,” wrote another commenter.
Here’s what I believe to be the underlying pain behind these opinions:
(The following is the perspective of a 31-year-old, big, strong female, who competed at the CrossFit Games in 2014, who doesn’t get sponsored for sex appeal, but who knows a bit about the way females think):
Point 1: Jealousy
Women who will never be sponsored based on sex appeal are jealous that athletes, such as Christmas Abbott, Jackie Perez and Andrea Ager are clearly capitalizing on, and possibly even making a living, from being fit and looking good (As a sidenote, does anyone even know what kind of financial compensation any of these athletes are getting?).
Just the other day, I looked over at my boyfriend on the couch next to me and there he was scrolling through Jackie Perez’s Instagram feed. I knew I was being silly, but an inkling of jealousy started to brew. I couldn’t help myself; I casually ripped his phone from his hand and said, somewhat jokingly—albeit there’s truth behind every joke,—“Why are you looking at that bitch again?”
The point is women know men gawk, admire and lust over female physical beauty. We secretly want to be the source the male erection. And we don’t like it when other women steal this from us.
Interestingly, when you scroll through the Facebook comments that exploded below Akinwale’s quote, most of the people who had a problem with hot women generating media attention and sponsorships were women.
Point 2: Learned?
In my opinion, human nature drives men to be more visual than women. I do not think my boyfriend was socialized into being attracted to Jackie Perez with her ass hanging out of her shorts. On the flip side, the thought of Rich Froning’s balls dangling from his shorts during a clean and jerk doesn’t turn me on.
And while I can see that objectively speaking Rich Froning might look sexier than, let’s say, Lucas Parker, I am much more attracted to Parker than Froning. I follow Lucas Parker’s status updates because he’s articulate, intelligent, witty. He is my Jackie Perez—my CrossFit crush. But this doesn’t mean my next thought is to picture him naked. Although I could if I wanted to.
I was working in the newsroom with CrossFit Inc. in 2012, the year Parker stripped down and ran naked during the triathlon event at Camp Pendleton. My colleagues in the newsroom described the scene as an odd mixture of humorous and disturbing.
If Julie Foucher had been the athlete to rip off her sports bra and cross the finish line tits out, ahead of many men, I might add, would the description have been “humorous and disturbing?”
I think it’s time we stop blaming society for shaping us in a way that admires and celebrates the sexual power of the female body, and start to embrace the very natural humanity of it.
Elaine in Seinfeld explained it well when she said:
“The female body is a work of art. The male body is utilitarian. It’s for gettin’ around. It’s like a Jeep.”
What if we changed our perspective?
Instead of women feeling slighted that there’s a double standard in terms of sponsorship between men and women, we should feel blessed that we have multiple opportunities to get noticed. While men often need to compete at multiple CrossFit Games to become stars in the sport, women can become known, admired, appreciated in two ways: Through performance and through physical beauty.
Proof of this can be found by looking at some quick Instagram numbers:
Lucas Parker: 104,000 followers
Dan Bailey: 209,000 followers
Jackie Perez: 212,000 followers
Christmas Abbott: 291,000 followers
Andrea Ager: 233,000 followers
Now imagine the power of a woman who has both. Oh, wait, she exists:
Camille Leblanc-Bazinet: 692,000 followers