Monday, July 02, 2007

Everything is Illustrated

One of my top five of all time presents came this year, from the other half, via a subscription to Sports Illustrated. No, I'm not joking. I love Sports Illustrated. It's generally very well-written, interesting and often historically illuminating, such as the articles on the school integration in Little Rock, or the Native American American Football team that beat Harvard, the army, everyone it could, and laid the foundations of modern play with its innovation and daring use of the forward pass. Seriously, it's good. Plus there is a lot about baseball, and I love me the ball of the base.

One thing that has come up in the last few issues was a female swimmer discussing her posing for playboy, and how proud she was because she'd "worked hard for this body." That provoked a letter in last week's issue, pointing out that women still have to be sexy / attractive as well as being bloody good athletes - that's simply not enough, despite the progress and, of course, Title X. I agree, to a certain level - Freddie Ljungberg's adverts are just an added bonus, not an expected part of his fame.

However, there is another level of discomfort I feel with the whole shebang. I bang on and on about how great I think sport is, and how women should play more, so admit I am not a neutral person. Nonetheless, the suggestion that even top sportswomen are doing this because it gets them a great body... that disturbs me. Women seem to rarely admit to playing sport because it's just fun. We go to the gym, we work out, but we don't play sport. I think that verb is incredibly telling - it's about enjoyment, not a chore, not another thing that we have to do to be acceptable or accepted. The bruising I get really does mean this is not for vanity, at least not traditional vanity (who doesn't enjoy showing off their war wounds, just a little bit?).

Not that taking care of yourself is a bad thing. I'm not even beginning to suggest that. Just that it might be a fun thing to do, and will boost your confidence in a way that stretching and contorting yourself in lycra, or pounding away at the cross-trainer may not do. Thinking of your body as a source of strength, of grace, of creativity, all these things can come from sport.

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