Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, and Candace Parker Posed Nude Before the Olympics But No Female Boxers Did. How Come?

A Blog About the Olympic Games
July 26 2012 3:18 PM

Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, and Candace Parker Posed Nude Before the Olympics But No Female Boxers Did. How Come?

Cover Girl ad featuring American boxer Marlen Esparza.
Cover Girl ad featuring American boxer Marlen Esparza.

Courtesy Cover Girl.

It’s an Olympic tradition: In the run-up to the Summer Games, scores of female athletes (and a few male ones) shed their uniforms and swimsuits to pose nude or semi-nude. This year’s ESPN the Magazine Body Issue features soccer stars Hope Solo and Abby Wambach; basketball player Candace Parker; sprinter Carmelita Jeter; seven members of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, together, with strategically placed balls; and sailor Anna Tunnicliffe, who confesses, “I'm very self-conscious, especially about my stomach.”

There’s one group of Olympians that’s conspicuous in its absence from these magazine spreads: female boxers. Women’s boxing is making its medal debut at the 2012 Olympics, and this year’s crop of fighters has made a real effort to direct fans to their skills, not their boobs. Not a single woman has been caught in that classic chick boxing shot, looking coy in hot pink gloves.

Advertisement

American flyweight Marlen Esparza is a Cover Girl, but she appears in her television ad in a modest getup, looking fierce rather than foxy. While Hope Solo and Serena Williams (and Ryan Lochte) tarted up for a sexualized Vogue cover, Esparza was inside the magazine, in a dress, throwing punches. Esparza’s teammates Queen Underwood and Claressa Shields are also more likely to flex than flirt. And it’s not just the Americans: Ireland’s Katie Taylor, appears in an energy drink ad punching the daylights out of a heavy bag. And just try to find a sex kitten photo of India's Mary Kom, China's Ren Cancan, and Great Britain’s Nicola Adams and Natasha Jonas.

Esparza has publicly described herself as “girly,” but that’s as far as the Americans seem to have gone in addressing the decision to keep their clothes on. For the Olympians, the tough-not-sexy posing may stem from a backlash against the Amateur International Boxing Association’s proposed dress code, which would have required the fighters to wear skirts to, apparently, help spectators distinguish them from men. The boxers balked, with Ireland’s Taylor delivering the knockout blow. “I don't even wear mini-skirts on a night out,” she said, “so I definitely won't be wearing one in the ring."

The way these fighters are choosing to portray themselves in the run-up to the Olympics might also have something to do with how female professional boxers are usually packaged and sold. For the pros—women like Holly Holm, Mia St. John, and Laila Ali—sex is the easiest route to ticket sales in a male-dominated sport. Holm, for one, has a tendency to show up at weigh-ins in a string bikini. It’s the same story in mixed martial arts, where Gina Carano parlayed her looks into mainstream fame. MMA fighter Ronda Rousey is following that same path. Phase one: a spread in ESPN’s Body Issue.

In the pro game, short skirts and bikinis still put butts in seats. But as these new Olympians seem to have figured out, that won’t be true in London, where everyone wears a modest get-up. During the games at least, the color of your medal matters more than the cut of your clothes.

Boxing in Skirts

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Republicans Like Scott Walker Are Building Campaigns Around Problems That Don’t Exist

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

The World

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies

They just aren’t ready to admit it yet.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

A No-Brainer Approach to Fighting Poverty: Better Birth Control

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 16 2014 11:56 AM Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 16 2014 1:23 PM Germany Has Asked Google to Reveal Its Search Algorithm, but That's Not Going to Happen
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 1:27 PM The Veronica Mars Spinoff Is Just Amusing Enough to Keep Me Watching
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:41 PM You Can Play the Original Doom on a Hacked Canon Printer
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 1:39 PM The Case of the Missing Cerebellum How did a Chinese woman live 24 years missing part of her brain?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.