Growing up, my family life was wrought with negative experiences common to many other children of alcoholics. Despite the difficult times and life traumas, I have very fond memories of watching the Olympics as a family. I’m grateful to have carried that tradition to my current family, as an adult woman in recovery.
One of my favorite moments of this year’s Sochi Olympics was at the very beginning of the games. I sat with my husband and step kids watching the opening night for the figure skating competition. A young, rather emaciated female skater whisked and twirled about the ice with grace. Out of nowhere, my 12-year-old step son piped up and asked, “Daddy, are these girls slutty?” I was immediately grateful to be alive, well and present to experience this gift in my life.
My husband redirected our son for using the word “slutty” and started to explain the need for minimalism in skate uniforms. I intervened. It was a wonderful and legitimate question. I could certainly appreciate why he might associate scantily clad and highly made-up girls with “sluttiness.” I explained to him that the girl probably wasn’t slutty in any regard, but ice dancer’s outfits more often than not are “slutty” looking. I also pointed out that although the male ice dancers wear tight fitting uniforms, they don’t show anywhere near the amount of skin that the women do.
He naturally and curiously asked why. Being who I am, I took it a few steps further and discussed the connection between objectification, sexualization and eating disorders—all highly prevalent in elite female figure skaters. The sexualization of young women is ever increasing for those in the spotlight, and those who watch the spotlight—at a high cost to their well being. If we looked at Katarina Witt, both her body (athletic and strong) and her outfits, they were much less anorexic and sexualized than what we see on the ice dancers today.
Sadly, this phenomenon is pervasive in women’s sports…take a look at what has happened in women’s tennis.