2010 Winter Games gold medal winner and all-around media darling Lindsey Vonn showed up in magazines in a big way last week. Sports Illustrated called her the “Best Woman Skier Ever” on the cover of their special edition Olympic Preview Edition.
Meanwhile, Vonn peeled off her snowsuit to pose for SI’s 2010 Swimsuit Issue. (Fellow US Olympic skier Lacy Schnoor and snowboarders Clair Bidez and Hannah Teter also stripped down for the issue.)
In response to some controversy over the pics, Vonn said, "I honestly thought it was a great opportunity. I mean, I'm not a skinny model, I'm an athlete, I have muscles. And I think that it's great that I'm given the opportunity to show that. It's a lot different body image than what's normally out there."
True – I thought that when I glanced through the forty-five bikini pics of her online (In a sauna! In the snow with a helicopter hovering overhead! On a ski chalet bed!) She doesn’t have the standard green-bean-with-implants physique we often see in lad mags, and some of the shots showcased her in unconventional, rather modest suits.
But still, a few things:
First of all, isn’t she cold?
Secondly, isn’t the whole female-athlete-trading-on-her-sexuality a bit played out? So many women sports phenoms have done it – Gabrielle Reece, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, to name a few. All oft them are star-quality athletes at the top of their games when they stripped down. But why? To become more popular? More popular with men? Because they think the only way they’ll watch is if they know how hot they look under their uniforms?
But the third and perhaps freshest take on Vonn’s dueling magazine spreads has to do with the actual pose she’s assuming on the SI cover. True, it’s a ski position. But to have an Olympic gold medalist bent over and smiling has clear sexual connotations, whether SI intended that or not. It’s not as obvious as the Joe Camel-penis link, but it’s there nonetheless.
Women are rarely featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated (though ALWAYS on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue), so it makes me sad that when one IS highlighted, it's in a suggestive pose, clothed or not. I’ve read the statistic that over the last 60 years, about 4% of all SI covers have been female. I have no idea how reliable it is, but as someone who sees the magazine in her mailbox every week, it seems about right.
So Vonn earned a primo spot on the typically male cover…and she’s bent over and smiling.
Maybe I’m reading too far into this, but the sexualized pose seems obvious to me. SI basketball covers don’t show NBA power forwards standing with their legs spread and holding two giant basketballs, do they? Although, to play devil’s advocate, open-legged shots like these are a dime a dozen… and was I the only one who thought this Michael Phelps cover made him look like he was sporting a halter bikini?