On Sochi Charm Offensive, Female Russian Olympians Strip To Promote Patriotic Sexism

The latest bombshell from Sochi has just dropped. In an attempt to make fans more excited about the games — and possibly to take some attention away from the last-minute dash to get Sochi hotels ready — Russia's Olympic team has released a series of photographs of their female athletes in racy lingerie. On the website featuring the photos the Russian team calls the women "the best campaign for our team in Sochi" and says that the images "refute the stereotype that women in sport are a mountain of muscle and manly physique." Policy Mic's Matt Essert is less than impressed with the PR attempt.

While it's admirable that the Russian team is trying to refute the "muscle mountain" stereotype, they've just backed themselves into the opposite corner by going too far and objectifying them in these photos. It's as though they're saying "No, they're not all weird and muscly, look at how pretty and sexy and feminine they are." Is there no middle ground? Can female athletes only be a hulking strongwoman or a petite, feminine minx?

And why did the Russian team feel the need to shoot these photos? Isn't it enough that these women are world-class athletes? Is the Russian team concerned that if their athletes aren't hot, fans won't be interested? And if they did want to show off their beautiful athletes, did they need to be dressed so provocatively?

I couldn't have said it better myself. I am completely behind showing off the powerful machines that are athletes' bodies and celebrating the idea that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, but there's a much better way of doing that than, well, this.

I'm a huge fan of ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue, which publishes stunning nude shots of athletes — both male and female. Scrolling through these pictures makes me want to put down the cinnamon roll I'm currently munching on, get off my ass, and go to the gym. I, too, want to be a powerhouse.

Just look at the different message emanating from these awesome images of Olympic snowboarder Elena Hight and Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried, versus the Russian female Olympians.

For starters, it's clear these women are athletes and not lingerie models. Did you have any idea that Alexandra Saitova (the one with the mic) would be competing in curling? Or that Ekaterina Stolyarova (white stilettos) was a freestyle skier?

Thought not. And these aren't even the worst ones.

A piece of advice to the Russian team: you don't need to try so hard to make your female members look beautiful and sexy. Because guess what? Female athletes are already beautiful and sexy. They have incredible, powerful bodies; grace and inner poise. They're confident and successful. They're some of the worlds best athletes. Reducing them to pin-ups suggests you think they should be valued only for their sex appeal. They're worth so much more to your country than that.

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