Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Russia's female athletes bring the "REAL" show to Sochi

A couple of weeks ago I posted the following piece by Russia Beyond The Headlines on Facebook voicing concern about the sexual connotations that could be read into it: "Olympic beauty: Sochi girls to meet world famous athletes." A Russian (female) friend was outraged at my direct and immediate association of something seemingly so innocuous with sex/prostitution. The issue however, is not just that it feeds directly into the image of an oversexualized Russian/Slavic/Eastern European woman, but that it actually promotes it - even if indirectly - as yet another attraction in Sochi specifically, and Russia more broadly [yet another example of wonderful public diplomacy put on by the Russian authorities, eh?].

That said, a piece on Huffington Post today just blew my mind. It was basically a collection of samples from various photo-shoots featuring scantily-clad Russian female athletes who will be representing the country in what is perhaps the most scandalous Winter Olympics in the past few decades. (The photos can be found here and here.) After a little more research, it became apparent that the story is not THAT new and that the UK's Daily Mail had put together an even more impressive feature on the matter, already. I'll let you enjoy these collections later, but here's a basic preview:

Anna Prugova, hockey. Image from Evophoto.

Alexandra Saitova, curling. Image from WeirdRussia.

I don't know if this is the Russian take on "trash talk" to intimidate rivals -- especially with the pre-game rankings not being very favorable for the host right now -- but I guess it gives everyone something more to watch out for.

I was even more surprised by where the idea for the project came from: Rossiya 2 channel of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (the sports channel of the State TV network -- that is, the government sponsors and supports all this). The channel apparently has been running a [daily?] program featuring prominent Russian athletes in "casual settings". As a part of this program, they've also come up with a "special project" - "Girl of the Month": a collection of R-rated photos and videos of female athletes, who are then rated and voted on by the general public. Here's a preview:

More videos here; many more pics here. [This actually hurts...]

I guess if you're a female athlete in Russia, this is just a part of the deal. Unless, of course, it's really true that the Russian [Slavic?] women enjoy presenting themselves as hypersexualized objects available for use by [straight] men. [Hmm.. Really doubt it.]

The saddest part, however, is that this becomes a tool not just for the amusement and entertainment of the domestic public, but for the international audience as well. Do they really have nothing better to show for the Olympics that they need to resort to such cheap tactics? Or do the organizers hope that this might make up for all the public diplomacy disasters and blunders already happening [and many more to come, I'm sure]?

Simply tragic...


P.S. - One thing just keeps bugging me: so this is OK for the kids to see -- this is a great message, especially for the young girls to be getting. However, god forbid they witness anything LGBT-related. That will undermine the much-coveted values of family, religion, and childhood innocence...

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