Freestyle skier Jen Hudak (who lives in Salt Lake City) is none too fond of the emphasis that Freeskier Magazine puts on the looks of her female peers.
On Nov. 29, Freeskier.com published a list of the 10 "hottest women in freeskiing right now," from Ingrid Backstrom to Brita Sigourney, "who would be just as rad to shred with as to take out on a date." Most of the entries make some mention of the women’s skills on the slopes (though sometimes only in passing), but Hudak took to her blog the next day to share her concern that the media focus on their beauty distracts from their accomplishments.
Looking to another sport, Hudak used NASCAR star Danica Patrick as a case in point. "Danica consistently gets criticized for having bought her way into NASCAR for her marketability (ahem, hotness) and not for her driving ability," Hudak wrote in the post. "The fact of the matter is, that woman is fast behind the wheel of a car … But because of how much she has allowed her appearance to be exploited, people actually lose sight of how talented she is."
To further make her point, Hudak encouraged her readers to Google images for Patrick, Kristi Leskinen and Lindsey Vonn, then do the same for male athletes like Jimmie Johnson, Tom Wallisch and Ted Ligety, and see the difference in the results. I did, and what comes up for the women? Sexy photo shoots. For the men? Athletes practicing their sport.
"It can get really frustrating as a female athlete to put thousands of hours into your craft, and not get deserved exposure for it," Hudak wrote. "At a certain point, it feels that these opportunities are the only way we can share what we do!"
Lynsey Dyer, featured on Freeskier’s list, wrote an open letter to the magazine on her Facebook page on Dec. 2, the day after Hudak posted her blog entry. Dyer sympathized with Freeskier’s desire to get more web hits in a competitive environment, but asked the magazine to avoid appealing to a lower denominator and try harder, just as her fellow athletes do. Women skiers are performing at a high level and getting recognized as legitimate athletes, "beyond their value as models to sell a product," and producing their own shoots without objectifying themselves, Dyer wrote.
"After all, [that would] be the easy way, but they didn’t fall in love with skiing because it was easy," she added.
In her blog post, Hudak does not firmly place the blame for the bias on any one party, but added that Freeskier’s focus should be on the sport and to leave objectification to the likes of Maxim.
Hudak hopes to join the U.S. Olympic team in the 2014 Sochi Games. The Park Record spotlighted her in a recent profile.
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