light of a recent article posted on Freeskier.com featuring
the "Ten Hottest Women In Freeskiing,” I’m compelled to address an issue
that has been discussed time and time again. Last year around this time,
the Bleacher Reportposted an article on the 25 Hottest Female Winter Sports athletes (in which I
was included) which prompted me to write me to write my own article on the 25 Hottest Male
Winter Sport Athletes. As entertaining as it was to write
this article and as enjoyable as it was to look up photos of attractive men on
the internet for a few hours, I really wasn’t targeting the root of the
problem. I was taking my frustration out (albeit in a humorous way) on
men, who are deserving of attention for their athletic accolades, not their
physical appearance. And therein lies the problem. Female athletes
should be acknowledged for their success in their athletic pursuits, not for
how "hot” they are.
guilty myself of falling into the trap of using my sexuality to gain exposure.
As a 17 year old girl (at the time of the photo shoot, not of the
publication) I was asked to be a part of Freeskier’s "Women of Freeskiing”
issue. The magazine came out in the fall of 2004, I believe it was the
3rd annual issue, and I had just turned 18. The previous winter I landed
on the podium of the US Freeskiing Open in Vail, CO and followed it up with a
4th place finish in Whistler at the World Ski Invitational (WSI). Back
then, I was known for having "man-sized air” as one article noted, and I burst
onto the scene with so much motivation and enthusiasm for what would lie ahead.
Little did I know that my first chance to be in a ski publication would
have more to do with my good looks than my skiing talent. I posed in a
bubble bath. A bubble bath. And I don’t even like baths! At
the time, I thought it was great. I actually really enjoyed the photo
shoot–I love sports but I’ve always loved being a girl too, I love to get
dressed up and I’m really not shy in front of the camera–but my 17 year-old
self didn’t realize what I was allowing to perpetuate. Thank heaven the
internet wasn’t as prevalent back then, or when you google "Jen Hudak” today,
an image of me sitting in a bubble bath would be the first image to come up.
is the real problem. These sexy images of female athletes live on forever
and can actually do the athlete disservice. The more attention that is
paid to a woman’s looks, the less attention gets paid to the woman herself, her
accomplishments and her athletic achievements. She just becomes another piece
of eye-candy. You see that with Danica Patrick right now! Danica
consistently gets criticized for having bought her way into NASCAR for her
marketability (ahem, hotness) and not for her driving ability. The fact
of the matter is, that woman is fast behind the wheel of a car. (You can
read more on my assessment of Danica Patrick here).
But because of how much she has allowed her appearance to be exploited,
people actually lose sight of how talented she is.
example, recently Elena Hight became the first woman to land a double in the
halfpipe on a snowboard (and only one of 3 people, male and female alike, to do
that particular double) and subsequently this summer she posed in ESPN’s Body
Issue. ESPN usually does a terrific job at showing off athlete’s bodies
in their unique sizes & shapes and displaying the strength of the women
through the photos, so I understand Elena agreeing to do the shoot. Elena
is an amazing woman, athlete, and spirit- she cares greatly about health and
fitness as you can see from her website and blog, but I worry about the effect
of these photos. Elena’s accomplishments on her snowboard may get lost in
the shuffle because of the images that ESPN released. But how much
control is given to the athletes during these shoots? What kind of artistic
direction, guidelines and limitations should be set? It can get really
frustrating as a female athlete to put thousands of hours into your craft, and
not get deserved exposure for it. At a certain point, it feels that these
opportunities are the only way we can share what we do!
is hard to pinpoint where to place the blame. Is it the media’s fault for
covering women in this way, or is it the fault of the men who want to read
these articles over other articles pertaining to women’s athletics, or is it
the women themselves who are to blame? When a specific photo shoot is in
order (like the one I did in 2004), I would say the women that partake have
some responsibility in it, but in this case, it seems only Freeskier is to
blame. This issue has been debated before, but this time around it has
been different. I’ve seen men engaging in the conversation, men who are
just as frustrated about this kind of exploitation as women. That takes a
different tone. Perhaps the biggest issue with this most recent list is
the fact that it was posted from Freeskier. Freeskier’s focus should be
on the "skiing.” There are plenty of other publications out there whose
soul focus is on attractive women: FHM and Maxim to mention a few, so perhaps
we can leave the objectification to them.
where do we go from here? Freeskiing is still fairly young in its roots
but it does have an aging audience. I’ve been doing this sport
professionally for over a decade now which means that the guys who were 17 when
I was 17 are now 27 year old men. Perhaps they would be interested in
seeing some skiing out of these women who are acclaimed to be the "hottest”
things in freeskiing. I know the women are up for it, they’re living it
and doing it every day. Maybe we don’t have front flips off of 100+ foot
cliffs, but 60′ ain’t too bad, is it Rachael Burks?
we don’t have triples on jumps, but we’ve got girls doing doubles (ahem, Lisa
Zimmerman, Jamie Crane-Mauzy, Tatum Monod and others…).
maybe we haven’t gotten the dub 12 in the pipe yet, but 1080s are pretty cool,
right, Brita Sigourney, Anna Drew and Roz G? (Oh, and maybe me too [insert
these ladies do on the hill is more than most men in the world can do and that deserves some attention.
just for curiosity’s sake… go ahead and Google images for Danica Patrick,
Kristi Leskinen, and Lindsey Vonn. Now google Jimmie Johnson, Tom Wallsich and
Ted Ligety. The images that come up are a little different aren’t they?)