Photo Credit: Dewey Nicks for The New York Times
Currently making its way around the web is a slow-motion video showcasing tennis phenoms like Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters hitting balls while wearing outfits small enough to fit in a Wilson canister. The New York Times' "Women Who Hit Hard" video gallery originally appeared as part of a larger feature story called “How Power Has Transformed Women’s Tennis” and was, it seems, created in an effort to showcase the grace, power and agility these athletic phenomenon possess.
But some viewers are crying foul, asserting that the videos are exploitative, casting female athletes as sex objects – a not-uncommon occurrence in tennis (remember the hubbub at Wimbledon last year, when the more conventionally attractive players netted center court time, while those deeming not-so-easy on eyes were relegated to lesser-seen courts?)
True, some of the shots seem a bit gratuitous. For example, Clijsters lunges for a ball, ending in a wide middle split; Samatha Stosur wears a comically unsupportive strapless nude bandeau bra that wouldn’t contain my small Bs on a bumpy bus ride, let alone in a professional tennis match. (I will admit, I was momentarily intoxicated by Stosur’s breasts as they moved in super slo-mo; it reminded me of the 2007 research out of England that showed that when women run, our breasts bounce in a figure-8 pattern -- travelling up to eight inches to and fro in some cases. There’s actually an online lingerie store called HerRoom.com where you click on a bra -- Champion, Donna Karan, Moving Comfort -- and a headless model appears on the screen, clad in the garment you picked. Then, she (the torso) starts jogging in place, allowing you to see exactly her boobs bounce. Which, you may then infer, is how your boobs will bounce in that same garment. Talk about becoming an informed consumer!)
But my overall impression of the video was not one of anger or disappointment. Rather, I found the shots to be mesmerizingly beautiful, capturing subtle nuances not normally witnessed by audience members, like Victoria Azarenka’s masterful breath control, or Williams’ intense gaze. Do we see their breasts bouncing and hair tossing like a Pantene models’? Sure we do. But it’s simply not done in a lascivious or leering way. Much like porn is hard to define – you know it when you see it – the video gallery just isn’t striking a misogynistic chord with me.
In fact, one could argue that the images are inspiring, motivating women to work out harder and pursue their passions to the fullest.
Besides, women aren’t the only ones being featured in gloriously slow motion: Check out Roger Federer in this Rolex ad.
What do you think of the tennis video? Chime in below.