How Would It Look If We Photographed Male Olympians Like Women’s Beach Volleyball Players?

A Blog About the Olympic Games
Aug. 3 2012 10:48 AM

How Would It Look If We Photographed Male Olympians Like Women’s Beach Volleyball Players?

Danell Leyva
Zooming in on the gluteal area of a photo of U.S. gymnast Danell Leyva performing on the floor during the London Olympics.

Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages.

If medals were awarded for Olympic media criticism, Metro’s Nate Jones would deserve gold. Jones noticed that many of Getty Images’ photographs of female beach volleyball players are—hmm, how to put this?—headless. And taken from behind. In short, they’re close-ups of the athletes’ butts.

They are undeniably lovely butts, but lovely butts (and other lovely body parts) abound at the summer Olympics and are therefore not exactly newsworthy. And photographers leering at women’s bodies under the guise of doing their jobs is, as Jones puts it, “kind of gross.”

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So Jones decided to crop some Getty photos of male Olympic athletes to see what they’d look like if taken from the same perspective as the photos of the women volleyball players. The results are devastating.

Close-range photographs of male basketball players’, hurdlers’, and swimmers’ torsos and glutei maximi look ridiculous. And yet that ridiculousness—the fact that I want to laugh when I see a photo zoomed in on a male gymnast’s crotch but don’t even think twice about seeing an editorial photo highlighting a conventionally attractive female athlete’s scantily clad behind—just underscores how inured I’ve become to sexism in the media. Jones’ simple, elegant technique highlights how thoroughly chauvinism pervades the images we mindlessly consume on a daily basis—during the Olympics, and every other day of the year.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong.