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Bare in Mind
Rick Reilly
September 04, 2000
Wow, Jenny Thompson has a nice pair, doesn't she? Massive. Firm. Perfectly shaped.
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September 04, 2000

Bare In Mind

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Wow, Jenny Thompson has a nice pair, doesn't she? Massive. Firm. Perfectly shaped.

Her thighs, I mean.

At least that's what blew me away when I saw the five-time Olympic gold-medalist swimmer topless, hands over her breasts, in these pages recently (photo, page 18). Killer thighs that could crush anvils. Calves sharp enough to slice tomato. Biceps that ought to be on a box of baking soda.

So why do some women have their girdles all in a wad? Why is the Women's Sports Foundation ( WSF) so upset? Why did former WSF president Donna de Varona say of Thompson and other women athletes who have posed nude, "I want them to keep their clothes on." Why did USA Today columnist Christine Brennan go all Aunt Bea, complaining that the Thompson picture "sends [girls] the insecure message that an old stereotype still lives and thrives. If you doubt this, look at the picture and notice where your eye goes first...right to her chest."

What a load of hypocrites. When Dennis Rodman posed nude on a motorcycle, I don't recall Brennan complaining about where women's eyes went. Lance Armstrong, Dan O'Brien and Ricky Williams have all posed nude, and I don't remember de Varona rushing around trying to get them to put on a towel.

"I don't get this," WSF executive director Donna Lopiano told The Orlando Sentinel. "When you've spent half your life looking down at the line at the bottom of the pool—and you've given up everything—it's incongruent to take that body you worked so hard to build and use it for sex."

I agree, Ms. Lopiano. You don't get it. Thompson took her clothes off because she spent her whole life looking at the bottom of swimming pools. If she had to miss a lifetime of proms and parties and triple fudge cake, at least she should be able to show the world what she was building in the gym six hours a day. "I'm proud of my body," Thompson says, "and the work it's taken to get it where it is."

Retired Olympic swimmer Anita Nail told ESPN's Outside the Lines that the picture gives young girls the message that "women achieve empowerment through sexuality." But I don't see sex in that picture. Thompson isn't half in heat. She's not pouring a pitcher of milk on herself. She's not biting her knuckles. She's just standing there, staring right at us, confident, strong, with a look that says, C'mon, let's wrestle. You'll lose.

I mean, look at that picture! That picture tells you more about the kind of dedication it takes to be an Olympian than could be said in an entire issue of Women's Sports and Fitness. Maybe that's why Women's Sports and Fitness just ran nude shots of Thompson along with sister swimmers Dara Torres, Amy Van Dyken and Angel Martino.

And it's not just them. The Australian women's soccer team and Katarina Witt and Brandi Chastain and 12 women U.S. track and field athletes, including middle-distance runner Nnenna Lynch and high jumpers Amy Acuff and Tisha Waller, and plenty others have also posed in the buff. There's no old stereotype here. These women aren't hung up about getting liberated. They are liberated, were born that way. They're coming from a whole new place in feminism—rugged, gorgeous, prideful athleticism—free of the old butch, male-hater stereotype women jocks used to fight.

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