Wednesday, August 8, 2012


In 1972, Olga Korbut turned an international eye to the world of women's gymnastics while sporting a bad case of bed head and a blah, ill-fitting leo.

She looked like a rumpled kid practicing her craft in the gym.

As she should have.

Four years later, another little girl took the world by storm.  She charmed us with her shy smile and her perfect routines. 

When Mary Lou Retton hit the scene in 1984, she drew attention for her powerhouse performances and her girlish grin.  Even with her eye makeup in this studio appearance, the producers capitalized on strength, patriotism and joie de vivre, not sex. 

photo credit: The Indy Tribune

Times changed quickly after that.  The 1996 team, including stars Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug, look more produced in their satiny outfits and glossy lips.

Although they still look girlish, the sexify ball had begun to roll.  These gymnasts plucked their eyebrows and traded the national uniform for costumes that varied from event to event. 

Dominique Dawes completing her floor routine in 1996

Fast forward to 2008 where Nastia Liukin gives us pink and sparkly sequins.  Really?  No red, white and blue on the gold medal podium?

Compare Nastia, who wore at least three different costumes during her 2008 events, to Nadia who not only wore the same leotard in every 1976 appearance, but had the gall to bring it back for the next Olympics in 1980.  Clearly, we didn't watch Nadia for her outfits.

If you're going to wear a fancy sparkly costume, then you better go for the make up too, right? We could easily put these polished head shots of Nastia and Shawn on top of evening dresses.  While the makeup may be reasonable for prom night, is it really the look of athletes who just medaled in the Olympics?


Which brings us to 2012.

Jordyn Wieber - USA

McKayla Maroney - USA

Aliya Mustafina - Russia

Phrases like "girlish grin" and "prom queen" no longer come to mind.  If the eye makeup isn't enough, we have glam shots like this rather grotesque NBC representation to make us squirm and perhaps, vomit.

Is this the 2012 gymnastics team or a glitzy club ad for the night's erotic entertainment?

I know lots of folks have complained about NBC's Olympic coverage for reasons of timing. I give them a fail for their willingness to throw young female athletes under the sexify bus in their rush to get to the ratings parade. 



  1. Totally agree! In fact, one of the reasons my daughter and I fell in love with Gabby Douglas in the prelims was how fresh-faced she looked compared to the rest of the overly-eyeshadowed team. How did we lose sight of the fact that these are teenagers, not Cosmo models?

    1. yes - Gabby was definately refreshing to see out there, just looking like a regular kid (who also happens to be a world class athlete)!

  2. First of all, I LOVE Olga!

    Second, omg, it's so true what you write. Our sexification of young girls is so silly.

    Why can't a woman be an athlete without having to prove she is also feminine?

    1. i think because people still don't associate femininity with athleticism. as if strenght makes you less a woman. ridiculous.

  3. PS. Been thinking of your daughter a lot with the olympics and wondering if she's watching her sport. :) is she enjoying it?

    1. she has watched some of it. she's decided she wants to be an olympian. ironically, synchro has that dramatic element where you are supposed to wear lots of makeup! egad.

    2. yeah. to me it turns it into a dance performance. and while i get that, it down plays the pure athleticism.

  4. I agree! But to me the worse offenses came AFTER the last Olympics when I took my little girl to Disney Gymnastics Superstars. They had these Olympic Champions (Nastia, Shawn) crawling all over the mats in sexual poses. We were there to see their craft, not that. I felt sorry for them. They were the best in the world, yet it was as if that was NOT ENOUGH.

    1. wow. that is disgusting and so disappointing! that is exactly the feeling i had from the makeup this year - that it wasn't enough to just be good. they had to go for sexy too. ugh.

  5. not enough. that's so much the point. it's not enough to be you. you have to entertain me. we are a consuming culture. and for young girls to have to be sexy...ugh. deeply disturbing.