A Lingerie Company is Taking Flak From Female Athletes for Hiring Olympic Rugby Players to Model Their Goods

As you navigate your way through this vale of tears we call life, every so often you'll come across people arguing about something that you have no stake in. It might be at work. Your spouse's family. Some strangers out in public. Whoever and wherever it is, when these battles take place and you have no dog in the fight, the best thing to do is just sit it out. Which is another way of saying, pull up a chair and enjoy the brawl. 

For some reason, you find this dynamic almost any time the culture crosses the streams of sports and the female form. Whether we're talking about ESPN the Magazine putting out their Body Issue or Livvy Dunne posing for the SI Swimsuit issue:

... somebody somewhere is going to complain that women are being exploited for the sake of the male gaze, and our society has gone full Handmaid's Tale. I actually know people who would just as soon do away with NFL cheerleaders because their existence is objectifying the female form. I'm not kidding. 

Well this is one of those moments, courtesy of the above ad campaign by Bluebella Lingerie:

The Telegraph - Martina Navratilova has led a backlash against a “regressive” campaign featuring Team GB’s Olympic rugby players in lingerie.

Sharron Davies, the former swimmer, and Mara Yamauchi, the former British distance runner, also expressed dismay at a photoshoot purporting to change perceptions that “strong female form is not ‘feminine’”.

Ellie Boatman, Jasmine Joyce and Celia Quansah … were signed up by lingerie company Bluebella’s #StrongIsBeautiful campaign. …

Navratilova, who won 18 major singles tennis titles, and other leading campaigners for women’s sport unimpressed. Navratilova said the campaign “feels really regressive and sexist to me”. …

Davies and Yamauchi said the campaign will not help tackle this issue. Davies wrote on X: “What the actual ---- this is an utterly shameful campaign, whose braindead idea was this? Oh yeah let’s get professional female sports women in porn underwear! Extremely regressive… stereotypes yet again.”

Yamauchi said that the campaign is “exploitative, demeaning, sexist, regressive rubbish”. “Of course the intended audience is men,” she added. “Portraying women as sex objects will not encourage teenage girls into sport.”

The #StrongIsBeautiful campaign has been running for the past eight years and has previously included female athletes for the Rio and Tokyo Olympics.

It seems to me that last line is the most telling. This ad campaign has been around for eight years and is on its third Summer Olympics and we're only just now hearing about it. Why is that? Because the lingerie has gotten smaller or the photos more offensive? Or has the reaction to them changed? My money is on the latter. 

But again, this is not my war. I'm not in Bluebella's target demo. Nor am I someone who sees a grown woman who's comfortable showing her body and assume she must have been kidnapped by the Eurotrash who took Liam Neeson's daughter in Taken. I just see someone earning a living and not hurting anyone. But you kids fight it out amongst yourselves. 

Still, looking at this as a neutral, I would appreciate it if the Navratilovas, Davies, Yamaguchis and that NCAA coach who was so mortally offended by Livvy Dunne's success would hold a summit meeting and decide exactly where we're all supposed to draw the line. 

Because right now they seem to have decided that going topless at a protest or a Pride parade is empowering. That when, say, Lena Dunham would get naked on HBO, it was breaking the patriarchy and shattering the traditional norms of feminine beauty. But an objectively attractive gymnast gets attacked for modeling in a bikini. And it's "exploitative, demeaning, sexist, regressive rubbish" for Olympic athletes to pose for a fashion photographer wearing lingerie.


As Spinal Tap put it when they were accused of having a sexist cover on their album Smell the Glove:

So all I'm asking on behalf of the rest of us is that you come up with some standard so we know where that fine line is. Or don't. Unlike you, I'm not here to tell these grown women what to do.