In today's edition of "masculinity is the most fragile," ESPN's2017 Body Issue revealed its cover stars this week, and their debut caused dozens of male Twitter users to clutch their pearls in outrage. One of the covers, you see, features Dallas Cowboys running back Zeke Elliott totally naked, clutching a football as he runs through a cascading waterfall. Although the naked-and-dripping look isn't exactly groundbreaking, the sight of a famous male athlete in such a state left certain Twitter users reeling.
Each year, ESPN Magazine's Body Issue celebrates the human body by photographing athletes of all kinds in the nude. In the weeks leading up to its official release on Jul. 5, the network has been rolling out photographs from the issue. On Monday, Elliott's cover image was released as a GIF on ESPN’s Twitter account, followed by tennis player Caroline Wozniacki’s cover on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the difference in the covers’ receptions speaks volumes about how men and women are portrayed in typical media. Nobody batted an eyelash at Wozniacki’s nude cover, but the same couldn’t be said about Elliott’s. The comment section below ESPN’s tweet was quickly filled with users expressing disgust at the sight of a naked man on the magazine’s cover.
A common complaint was that ESPN shouldn't "force" users to look at a naked man, as if they couldn't look away on their own, while some implied that Elliott was gay for posing nude. None seemed to realize how perfectly they exemplified the double standard between male and female models.
However, that didn't stop other Twitter users from commenting on the irony, pointing out that pointing out that sometimes, the same people who feel threatened by a naked man applaud the sight of a naked woman.
For a demonstration, look no further than the replies to Wozniacki's cover tweet. Comments range from the vulgar to the outright explicit, with a dose of sexism for good measure. Even the headlines announcing the two covers are different. Elliott's is described in fairly neutral language, while Wozniacki's photograph is "steamy."
Considering the Body Issue has been running since 2009, you'd think that sports fans would be a little less taken aback by the sight of naked athletic bodies. However, the fact remains that it's far more common for nude women to be featured in popular magazines than men. Women's bodies are considered public property, to be viewed and criticized by total strangers. Then there's the problem of masculinity. Many criticisms of Elliott's cover seem to stem from feeling threatened by his physique, and still more equated nudity with femininity — hence all the accusations of being gay.
The good news is that neither Elliott nor Wozniacki appear to be fazed by the comments on Twitter. The tennis player tweeted that she was "proud and excited" by her cover photograph, while Elliott posted his own cover on his official account. Haters far, far to the left, please.