|March Presentation of 2011 WWC kit|
This photo spread is in keeping, in fact, with early publicity for the 2011 Germany team. When Adidas premiered the World Cup kit, they sent a woman in body paint down the runway. Steffi Jones and other officials from the 2011 World Cup team were in attendance, smiling cooperative smiles.
The Playboy players present the world with what German officials think the women's game needs. Tits.
As those familiar with my scholarship already know: I don't have a problem with public nudity, in and of itself. But, as I've written over and over again: this is not a good marketing strategy - as sports media scholar Mary Kane has demonstrated in her research, fans are turned off by this stuff. Someone who wants to see a great rack goes not to a soccer match, but a strip club. Fans are insulted. It confirms the attitudes of those already not interested in women's sports and alienates the rest of us.
Maybe these Playboy girls are more interested in modeling than they are in playing soccer. Lord knows there's more money in the former than in the latter. So, who can blame them for using the World Cup to advance their careers off the pitch.
What is offensive to me: the issuing of this photo spread as "proof" that female players are "beautiful" (against the assumption they aren't) and that women soccer players aren't butch (as if butches weren't beautiful!). Chalk quotes one of these women as explaining "We want to disprove [our sport’s] butch women cliché."
I'm going to let my imagination run a little wild here: Maybe in German soccer, butches are so dominant, so overwhelming in their presence, so celebrated and privileged that coaches look at a ponytail and think "She's nowhere near butch enough to be any good."
Maybe femmes feel oppressed by the roughhousing tomboys, by the transmen, by the intensity of the female masculinity in German soccer. Maybe this Playboy spread is a femme manifesto of sorts - declaring for all who look at women's soccer and only see hard, fab butches in short hair and broad shoulders: "Hey, femmes are here too!"
Would that were the case. No - look at publicity and you'll see an intensely manicured vision of women's soccer.
The butchness of female athletes is treated by national federations (and the corporations that launder their money through them) as a constant source of shame and embarrassment. This can be brutally explicit as butch athletes might be called out onto the field in front of their teammates and humiliated as "bad examples" of womanhood - their short hair, musculature, mannerisms - all might be called out as something to be suppressed, hidden or eliminated. (See the stories about what's going on in Nigeria's camp, for example - but this is hardly a rare phenomenon confined to that country!) Long haired, feminine looking women might be pointed to as paragons of virtue.
Every female soccer player in the World Cup who shaves her head, opts for super short hair, or a shag makes a statement, whether she means to or not. And she didn't need to take off her sports bra to do it.