Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard is swapping her swimsuit for her birthday suit in an upcoming issue of Playboy. And, as happens every time a professional female athlete decides to pose nude, everyone seems to have an opinion about whether she's hurting or helping her sport. On DollyMix, a blogger snarks, "Whether she's grown tired of trying to be famous for her breast stroke, instead of just her breasts, or she thinks any publicity is good publicity, she's chosen to just give into the stereotyping and the double-standards for male, and female athletes," adding, "You're not hurting sports, Amanda. You're hurting women." Oof.
Then, of course, there are the "Dude, let her take her clothes off if she wants to!" arguments. Michael David Smith argues in AOL's sports blog that there isn't any reason "you can't be a wholesome, All-American girl and still be attractive to men." He adds that "the fact that women with athletic bodies are considered attractive is a step forward, not a step backward." Fox Sports' Michael Rosenberg argues that she isn't famous for being an athlete, but for being a hot athlete, therefore "the notion that Beard is 'hurting' women's sports falls flat."
Not everyone's either supporting or scolding Beard, though. The San Francisco Chronicle's sports blog takes a middle-of-the-road stance, simply asking whether Beard's choice to pose for Playboy was much of a choice at all: "It seems that, no matter what endeavor [women in the public eye] choose or how much they accomplish, the 'hot or not?' question stays stubbornly on the table. Removing it is rarely an option." It seems to come down to the simple fact that female athletes -- as well as male athletes -- are expected to aspire to mainstream fame; success isn't just a gold medal, it's winning the meet and having your own calendar (action figure, clothing line, book deal, et cetera, et cetera). And for women in our celeb-obsessed culture, being famous means selling sex.
It's less an issue of there being a double-standard for men and women in professional sports as it is there being one in achieving celebrity as a whole. Be it acting, singing or swimming, men are expected to be skilled; women are expected to be hot with some talent on the side.