Stilletos, Sex Appeal, and some brave female athletes

The Summer Olympics finished a couple days ago, but an important societal dialog rages on—and I am so here for it. Hopefully, you intentional moms and dads are too. Let’s talk about the sexualization of women athletes. Whether the woke media machine likes it or not, they are having to tread delicately here.

For… well, ever, women have been objectified by our culture. It’s nothing new. But the attitude of the world’s movers and shakers (read: the media) has been to embrace it and remove the “shame” associated with the sexualization of women’s bodies. It’s as if they have been saying for decades—Just lighten up, already, ya prude.

Does anyone recall the praise and heroism attributed to Hugh Hefner after his death? The man responsible for making porn mainstream was a sainted figure who freed women from the patriarchal yoke of Christian society, all the while getting filthy rich doing it. And as the sexualization of women seeps into every aspect of the culture—I mean has anyone seen the outfits, makeup, & shoes many women news anchors are sporting these days??—thank you, Hef! And we're supposed to be super grateful to “heroes” like him, who have created situations where women are judged not on their abilities, but their stilettos and sex appeal?!?!

As we recently heard from these brave female athletes, particularly the Norwegian handball team and the German gymnastics team—it’s not ok to be sexualized.

They are leaders in their field who are focused on world class athleticism and competition, not their bodies hanging out of their ridiculously skimpy required uniforms, on display for all to ogle. Instead of bikini bottoms or high-cut leotards, they rejected the standard uniforms and chose to wear shorts, or full body leotards that don’t expose so much skin.

It’s a difficult stance in this topsy-turvy moral landscape where there is a no-holes-barred attitude towards sex, gender, and exploitation. Most female athletes probably don’t even think about their uniforms. Sexualization has sadly permeated our DNA. It’s in the cultural soup we inhabit every day. In a Kardashian, J-Lo world, where power and relevance are measured by weight and how well you fill out a string bikini, is it even ok to say—enough?

If J-Lo wants to shake her assets for the world to see...fine, but these are athletes, who want to be seen for their drive, talent, and remarkable willpower. Yet, the world upholds J-Lo’s for the “courageous” exposure of her body. The culture hails her as a phenom, not because of her singing voice, but because her voluptuous, sculpted body signals that she’s 30, when she’s actually in her early 50’s. And possibly with no… gasp, plastic surgery. In our culture, that’s the ultimate achievement—looking “hot” and younger than your years. But is that what we want to uplift for all women as the bar against which all are measured? 

These world class athletes certainly don’t want to be seen as “hot.” They want the world to see their accomplishments, their lifetime of work and dedication to rise to the top of their game—real history makers. 

The Olympic Association fined each member of the Norwegian team, amounting to just under $2,000. Pop singer Pink offered to foot the bill because she too recognizes their tenacity in swimming against the powerful and dangerous tide. In the end, it wasn’t necessary for her to pick up the tab. The fines were paid, but not by the Norwegian women. The European Handball Federation paid up, noting that it would donate the amount paid by the Norwegian Handball Association to “a major international sports foundation which supports equality for women and girls in sports.” I guess that’s a start. 

But a bigger point—the cracks of an aimless world lacking a true north is suddenly being exposed.

As we are seeing, living without character leads to generations of objectification and selfishness, and the media needs to face it once and for all. To our great surprise, modesty, one of the cornerstone virtues that has been around since the ancient Greek philosophers, is getting a second look.

The character strengths of generosity and respect are taking on profound new meaning. And as we move forward, raising the next generation of strong women and men who will become news anchors, athletes, moms & dads, and any other noble profession they can dream up, let’s continue to push back when we know the world has lost its mind. Let’s not buy into the sexualization of our daughters, friends, sisters, wives.

May we collectively herald the valiant leadership of some outstanding female athletes in their mission to reignite the flames that have long been burning in each of us—treating each individual with dignity, kindness, and respect. That we may continue to have the courage to build character one intentional family at a time. 


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