Instead of being revered as an upcoming star in women's figure skating, for the past few days Kaetlyn Osmond has been known as the girl whose crotch shot was printed in a national newspaper. And that's the real tragedy of this story.
Canadians have been critical of the Globe and Mail's decision to showcase the 17-year-old in such an evocative position (gasp! -- she is showing flexibility and wearing a normal costume by figure skating standards) and the paper's public editor, Sylvia Stead, called the photo "unacceptable."
The image has sparked a national discussion about body image, but by wagging their fingers critics have actually done a disservice to women's rights: The conversation has once again been about a female's body rather than her professional success.
The true irony of the outrage is that Osmond initially thought nothing of the photo. She told a Toronto radio station that high kicks and short skirts are par for the course in her world, and that she was simply excited to be on the cover of a newspaper for the first time. But since many Canadians saw her media splash as more of a sink, that mentality has clearly tainted Osmond's thinking: "I was really excited about it," she said on air. "Then people were talking about the picture (not being) the greatest."
And therein lies the problem with the photo's critics: They are crossing that ever-so-blurry line between standing up for a cause and being judgmental. In an attempt to make a point about female body image, they are making this otherwise proud athlete feel insecure about hers.
Feminism has a bad habit of working in absolutes (girl in underwear-like spandex: bad), rather than seeing the bigger picture (girl kicking ass in her respective sport: good). It reminds me of that episode of Girls, the HBO series about four 20-somethings struggling to navigate post-college life, where the prudish Shoshanna is touting a dating book for its wisdom applicable to all womankind (or as she refers to them: "the ladies"). The rebellious, free-spirited Jessa is horrified by this over-simplification ("I am not 'the ladies'"). She says: "I'm offended by all the 'supposed to's'. I don't like women telling other women what to do, or how to do it, or when to do it."
So let's stop telling Osmond how to feel about her photo and let her feel the only way she wants to: proud. The best thing we can do for women's rights is not to dissect this image, but to focus on the achievements it represents.
When you think of Osmond, think of this: In the past two years she's placed first at the 2013 Canadian Championships, the 2012 Skate Canada International competition and the 2012 Nebelhorn Trophy event. In her first ever world figure skating championship this year, Osmond landed in the top ten, securing herself a spot at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Because of her performance, three-time world figure skating champion Patrick Chan now feels Canada is the country to beat in the Olympic team event, according to the Toronto Star.
Maybe if we talk about Osmond's successes, she can grow confidently as an athlete and a woman, rather than feel self-conscious the next time she does a high kick as part of her job.
Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir is famous for his flamboyant style on the ice -- this pink and black number he wore for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics was all anyone could talk about. It's no wonder that Weir has been called 'the Lady Gaga of figure skating'; he was even the holiday face of MAC cosmetics in 2011.
The Ukranian pair defied convention for the Vacouver 2010 Winter Olympics by donning matching electric-blue shiny unitards instead of the standard pants for men and short skirt and leotard for women that skaters typically wear.
The Estonian duo stood out on the ice in neon green costumes with daisy detailing during the ISU Grand Prix Figure Skating Series in China on Nov. 8, 2007.
It's hard to believe that this Italian pair could actually<em> skate</em> in these stunning outfits! The skaters looked like they were headed to a black-tie event, with Luca in a handsome black tux and Anna Cappellini in a gorgeous rose-inspired dress at the Cancer.Net Skate America competition on Nov. 12, 2009.
Russian couple Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin got in some hot water with Australian Aboriginal groups when they wore this controversial costume at the 2010 after the Vancouver Olympics. Critics felt that the outfits and dance moves were offensive towards aboriginals -- and to fashion.
Japan's Miki Ando never fails to disappoint with her intricate costumes. She wowed the crowd at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final on Dec. 4, 2009 in Tokyo with this Egyptian-inspired look.
Olé! The American duo looked <em>muy caliente</em> in these Spanish-inspired outfits for the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in L.A.
Russian superstar Ilia Kulik won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics, but he didn't win any style points in this confusing, giraffe-print and white pleather vest ensemble.
Surya Bonaly dazzled in a pale-blue beaded number at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, performing her trademark backflip -- an illegal move -- that would leave her mark on the skating world.
<em>This</em> is why Russians have a scary reputation -- Oskana and Maxim looked like psychopathic private school kids at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in 2007. Yikes!
American (can you tell?) skaters Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto performed during the 2006 State Farm U.S. Figure Championships Exhibition and got a whole lot of brownie points of their patriotic look.
Mao Asada looked supremely elegant in black and fuschia, incorporating a fan accessory into her routine at the All Japan Medalists On Ice event on Dec. 27, 2009 in Osaka, Japan.
Was Cotesti's look at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic games avant-garde or just sloppy? We'll let Johnny Weir be the judge: 'I thought it was very fashion-forward and a very big risk, even riskier than man cleavage and a pink ruffle,' <a href="http://espn.go.com/olympics/blog/_/name/winterolympics/id/4920616/johnny-weir-outtakes" target="_blank">Johnny Weir said of Contesti's overalls.</a>
Miki Ando went for a scary, Halloween-inspired spidery outfit for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final on Dec. 5, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan.
This wacky black/red flame costume sizzled at the World Figure Skating Championships on April 27, 2011 in Moscow.
Aliona and Robin are quite well known for out-there outfits, changing into this quirky costume at the 2011 World Figure in Moscow.
This costume emphasized the theatrics of figure skating while the French pair performed at the Turin Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 20, 2006.
The English duo were glittery perfection in matching black sparkly ensembles at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating on Nov. 5 in 2009 in Nagano, Japan.