Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Marci Warhaft-Nadler

GET UPDATES FROM Marci Warhaft-Nadler

Respect Athletes for Their Talents, Not Their Looks

Posted: 07/12/2013 8:15 am

By now, most of us will have heard about the disgraceful, "not a looker" comment that was said about professional tennis player and Wimbledon winner, Marion Bartoli by BBC presenter John Inverdale.

Worse than Mr. Inverdale's comment was the way so many members of the general public took to social media after her win to insult, demean and verbally assault her on the basis that they just didn't think she was pretty enough to win such a prestigious competition. I, like so many others, felt completely disgusted with the way Ms. Bartoli was treated and couldn't believe that after accomplishing such a spectacular feat of athleticism, she was forced to confront criticism over how her body looked instead of praise for how well it obviously worked.

While I'm disappointed with the way she's been treated, I can't say I'm surprised. Sadly, Marion Bartoli is not the first female athlete to have her physical appearance be judged, mocked and ridiculed and I doubt she'll be the last. The whole, "she's too fat to compete" argument has become a familiar mantra of the most ignorant and shallowest of sports fans. Competing at the level that these women do is stressful enough, having to deal with nasty criticism from fans or even coaches and teammates can be too much to bear. It's not unusual to hear about professional athletes suffering from eating disorders after dealing with years of pressure to be thin. After several years of battling an eating disorder, Olympic triathlete Hollie Avil decided to put her health first and leave her sport and at the age of 15, Olympic diver Brittany Viola also developed an eating disorder.

While campaigns like Girls Unstoppable from Dove are encouraging girls to get off the sidelines and into the game, there are still way too many messages thrown at them on a daily basis telling them that what they can do isn't nearly as important is how they look while they're doing it. What is it about successful, talented, powerful women that make so many people uncomfortable? Why are women being crucified for caring more about skill than sex appeal? With sex taking over our magazines, TVs and music videos, can't we please keep it out of our sports?

Marion answered her critics with more class and respect than they deserved, but I'm still bothered by how many people are missing a key element to this story. When the internet trolls called her ugly, those wanting to defend her, replied by saying, "she's not ugly, she's beautiful!" The problem with this response is that it still puts too much emphasis on the wrong thing: Beauty. This isn't about whether or not Marion Bartoli is attractive, this is about the fact that it just shouldn't matter. She won at Wimbledon! That's a pretty amazing accomplishment and one that should stand on its own. I'm disgusted that there's more discussion going on about where she ranks on the "sexy meter" than any of her matches.

Interestingly, while there are some privileges that come along with being considered an attractive male athlete in the way of endorsement deals (David Beckham) and even reality shows (Ryan Lochte), I cannot think of any "average looking" male athletes who have been slaughtered in the media the way so many women have been. It's as if women, all women, have a responsibility to be sexy. It's expected that from the minute we're born we will do everything we can to maintain a level of attractiveness that others will find pleasing throughout or entire lives or be subjected to the harsh judgement of any goon with an opinion, as irrelevant as it may be.

During the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, photographers had a field day taking pictures of the female volleyball players. The problem is that most of the pictures focused primarily on their rear ends and completely ignored the rest of their bodies; like their FACES. This might not seem like a big deal until you see how ridiculous it would be if male athletes were treated the same way. Metro.us was curious enough to find out and published a compilation of pictures that highlighted male Olympians in a way we rarely ever see and cleverly proved a point that needed to be made. An athlete's body should be admired for its mechanics not its aesthetics and the best female athletes are the ones who train and compete the hardest, not the ones who induce the most erections.

All girls deserve the right to grow into confident women with the fearlessness to go after their dreams and to believe that they are worthy of achieving great success in the things that excite and inspire them the most. Our daughters need to understand that being respected is much more important than being lusted after.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Margo Oberg

    Margo Oberg is a three-time world surfing champion from the United States. She won her first world title in 1977, then won back-to-back titles in 1980 and 1981.

  • Serena Williams

    Serena Williams returns a ball against Danish Caroline Wozniacki during their match of the Madrid Masters on May 10, 2012 at the Magic Box (Caja Magica) sports complex in Madrid. Williams won 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

  • Jenny Thompson

    U.S. swimmer Jenny Thompson from Dover, N.H. practices with paddles 24 July 1992. Thompson is favored to win several gold medals during the women's individual events.

  • Mia Hamm

    USA woman's soccer player Mia Hamm prepares to center the ball during a practice session at Rice Eccles Olympic Stadium 13 June 2003 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The US will play Ireland in a friendly match 14 June, 2003, in Salt Lake City.

  • Gracia Leydon-Mahoney

    Gracia Leydon-Mahoney competes in the women's 10-meter platform final at the U.S. Olympic diving trials, Sunday, June 24, 2012, in Federal Way, Wash.

  • Brittney Griner and Chiney Ogwumike

    Brittney Griner #42 of the Baylor Bears reaches for a rebound in the second half against Chiney Ogwumike #13 of the Stanford Cardinal during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at Pepsi Center on April 1, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.

  • Mary Lou Retton

    Mary Lou Retton during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles where she took first overall.

  • Elena Hight

    Elena Hight practices for the ladies snowboard halfpipe finals during the U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Grand Prix on March 3, 2012 in Mammoth, California. Hight went on to win the event.

  • Gail Devers

    At the World Championships in Athletics, under the auspices of the International Association of Athletics Federations, in Seville, Spain, 1999.

  • Julie Zetlin

    US athlete Julie Zetlin performs with the ribbon in the qualifying round during the 31st Rythmic Gymnastics World Championships on September 22, 2011 in Montpellier, southern France.

  • Michelle Kwan

    Michelle Kwan competes in the short program during the State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships January 8, 2004 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • April Ross

    April Ross dives for a ball during the AVP Hermosa Beach Open at the Hermosa Beach Pier on July 17, 2010 in Hermosa Beach, California.

  • Laila Ali and Shelley Burton

    Laila Ali (R) of the US gets caught by a punch from Shelley Burton of the US during their WBC Super Middleweight Championship fight, 11 November 2006, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

  • Emily Jackson

    Emily Jackson competes in the women's K1 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials for Whitewater Slalom at the U.S. National Whitewater Center on April 14, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

  • Danielle Carruthers

    Danielle Carruthers competes in the women's 100 meter hurdles semi-final during Day Two of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 23, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.

  • Neva Day

    Neva Day of the USA in action during qualifying for the Women's Indiviual Pursuit at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classic at the Manchester Velodrome on February 24, 2007 in Manchester, England.

  • USA Team Synchro Swimmers

    USA team synchro swimmers perform 24 March 2007 at the Susie O'Neill pool in Melbourne during the team free routine final of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships. Russia won gold in the event with Spain taking silver and Japan the bronze. USA placed fifth.

  • Hyleas Fountain

    Hyleas Fountain of United States competes in the shot put in the women's heptathlon during day three of the 13th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Daegu Stadium on August 29, 2011 in Daegu, South Korea.

  • Michelle Wie

    Michelle Wie hits a shot during the first round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf at the Ko Olina Golf Club on April 18, 2012 in Kapolei, Hawaii.

  • Lindsey Vonn

    Lindsey Vonn of US competes during the women's first run of Alpine skiing World Cup slalom final in Schladming on March 17, 2012.

  • Florence Griffith-Joyner

    Florence Griffith-Joyner won three Olympic gold medals at the Seoul Games in 1988.


Follow Marci Warhaft-Nadler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fit_vs_fiction