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CrossFit, crotch shots, and respect

An issue has exploded this week which brings together themes from two of our most popular blog posts. I first noticed traffic spiking from two search terms “CrossFit women” and “crotch shots” before I even knew the source.

The searches were leading people to the following older posts: Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies and Women of CrossFit.

Later things clicked into place when the wonderful blogger behind Fit and Feminist shared on Facebook the following story about CrossFit, Dear CrossFit: Talayna Deserves Better.

The story begins with a photo of Talayna Fortunato climbing a rope at the CrossFit Games.

About the photo, writes: “That’s Talayna Fortunato climbing a rope at the 2013 CrossFit Games, posted on both Instagram and the CrossFit Facebook page by CrossFit’s media team. Now, you may notice that she is highly ripped, and has fantastic arms. But that’s not why the picture was posted. The picture was posted because her legs are splayed directly into the lens of the camera. ”

I like the photo. I like strong women. And my first thought looking at the photo isn’t anything to do with Talayna’s crotch. I think she looks like an amazing athlete. I’m wow-ed.

But my reaction changes when I read the comments under it which are crude and disrespectful. “I’d like to give her a post work out protein shake.” Ugh. People. Mostly, ugh, men.

McCarty says CrossFit ought to know better posting photos like that. He writes, “CrossFit Media – stop it. You guys should be better than this. You can’t feign ignorance and claim you had no idea that what you were posting was potentially embarrassing, inflammatory, or disrespectful. You know what you’re doing. It’s certainly good marketing, but it shits on the very athletes who make your sport grow more popular every day. Grow up. You no longer need your edgy, guerilla marketing. CrossFit is a snowball rolling down a hill now. Take the high road and I am willing to bet you won’t lose one single dollar of revenue.”

But did CrossFit listen? Um. No.

There’s another crotch shot photo on their Facebook page. It’s a photo of a woman swimmer advertising Women’s The Pool (Re-run) on ESPN tonight. This time I didn’t have any of the “Wow, what an amazing athlete” thoughts. I immediately thought “Dear God. Another crotch shot.”

This time comments under the photo range from the usual, immature nonsense such as  “I didn’t know camels could swim?! Well, it is hump day…lol” to people criticizing the decision to put this photo on their page. In the middle are people criticizing the immature reactions, “What is wrong with you people making these horrible comments?!?”

There is a discussion of strength and athleticism versus the focus on the way female athletes look. I chimed in and posted links to my earlier posts. We’ve got some new followers. Welcome!

I know the controversy gets CrossFit publicity. But it does so at the expense of treating women athletes with the respect they deserve. Now, I’m with McCarty. CrossFit, grow up!

And once again I feel obliged to say that I haven’t seen or heard any of this sort of discomfort with women’s bodies at either of the CrossFit locations I’ve trained at. CrossFit deserves better media representations of its female athletes.

9 thoughts on “CrossFit, crotch shots, and respect

  1. I think that just like you can end up with a really great CrossFit gym or you can get something very crappy, you can have a really empowering CrossFit experience or you can end up with something oppressive.

    While I don’t love the crotch shots, I do appreciate that in the majority of the pictures we see of the women of CrossFit, even if they’re in their short shorts and sports bras, they’re DOING something. The men are also half naked (not that this makes it okay). I think the issue is that even though now we get to actually do something (and it’s not just toning or fat loss targeting or fixing our bodies), we still are expected to look a certain way (which is not always the case). I’ve certainly been empowered by the things that I can do in CrossFit but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still affected by wanting to fit the ideal. I think there are lots of women who come into CrossFit and give it a go hoping to look like Camille and end up realizing that it’s not doing it for them any time soon and leave. Luckily, there are others who come in with aesthetic goals or willing to see what their body can do and end up loving the feeling of accomplishment instead of getting too attached to what they see in the mirror after all is said and done (I think it helps that there aren’t mirrors in most CrossFit gyms!).

    What I’ve noticed to go along with this is a lot of attention given to CrossFit women for being “strong but beautiful,” which I think is problematic in more than one way (because it suggests that the two don’t normally go together, because it’s still emphasizing the aesthetic, etc.). End rant.

    1. Thanks for this. And thanks for pointing out the absence of mirrors. I like that too.

  2. Thank you so much for continuing the conversation on this most important topic. Women athletes have been stuck in a really tight bind around this for years. In the past, and to this day in a lot of places, women were encouraged not to work out too much lest we acquire “unfeminine, unsightly muscles.” One of the best long-term gains of the women’s movement has been the gradual disappearance of the proscription against muscularity that has stood between women and our love of sports that build muscle.

    Personally, I have put the word “feminine” in the garbage pail where it belongs. “Feminine” is an arbitrary, restrictive, value-laden concept that doesn’t serve the whole person. Its purpose is to keep me in line. I have no obligation to anybody to demonstrate through dress or action that I’m what I am (female). I will do whatever the heck I like with my body, thank you very much.

    So now, in our supposedly post-feminist landscape, women are “allowed” to do CrossFit, lift weights, get strong and muscular, and be respected for it. But guess what happens? The same underlying, gnarly male attitudes prevail and we’re treated to crotch shots of elite athletes with the accompanying rude comments. Old attitudes die hard. Many men still see it as their right to have full access to the female body and to view, comment and get off on it whenever and wherever they please. Every female CrossFit athlete should be standing up and rejecting this stuff, and I hope that eventually we all do. Enough internalizing of the male critique that if we oppose such treatment we’re “uptight prudes who hate men.” Sorry. It’s not about hating men, it’s about respecting women. Crotch shots are not a compliment, and the forgiving, boys-will-be-boys acceptance of crotch shots is so 20th century. Put the whole thing in the garbage pail where it belongs, right next to “femininity.”

    I’m grateful that grown-up men like Mr. McCarty have taken the high road, and that you’ve further publicized this issue on your blog.

  3. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it or not, but Talayna also blogs on the WordPress platform and mentioned both the photo and her reaction to the blog saying she deserved better in her own space.

    As an avid Crossfitter, and a fan of the athletes, I wish that they would speak up to HQ when things like this are posted. There were probably a thousand great photos of T on the rope climb, and it makes me sad that was the one that was chosen.

    1. No, I didn’t see it. Do you have a link to her blog? I’d like to read it/follow it.

      1. Sure. Her blog is here:

        She posts mostly just her workouts, but under her “lots of words” entries is where she will post more commentary. I believe it was on September 11 or 12 when she commented on the photo.

  4. “So it is known: CrossFit asked my permission prior to posting this picture. As far as I’m concerned there’s nothing to be ashamed about! There’s no need to be offended on my behalf. And for those of you worried about aesthetics you can unbunch YOUR panties and worry more about an athlete’s accomplishments than how they look in action.”

    Might want to check that Facebook link again

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