Less than a week after Michael Phelps retired from swimming, he is back in the water–but this time posing for a new ad for Louis Vuitton. The shot features Phelps in his signature Speedo with his legs spread in an obvious attempt at sex appeal to market these high-end bags. And yes, sex does sell. And yes, it’s perfectly OK for a male Olympian to use his body to market a product, but as we saw from Lolo Jones, it’s not OK for a female to do the same. Can you say, sexist double standard?
In what will surely be the first of many product endorsements by Phelps, he is featured in the new campaign for Louis Vuitton while posing in a bathtub, goggles on his forehead with a Louis Vuitton bag beside him. His scantily-clad body is dressed in a tiny Speedo with his legs sprawled wide open, making it difficult, we must admit, to even notice the bag at all.
Will Louis Vuitton see a boost in sales by having Phelps as their latest endorser? Probably. Will using him in a sexy pose like this help even more? Of course. No one is denying that a lot of women find Phelps and his rock-hard body irresistible. Sex sells, people. That’s just Marketing 101, like it or not. Except, of course, if it’s Lolo Jones, who the New York Times shamelessly ripped apart for using her sex-appeal in marketing campaigns and as part of her image to draw attention.
You may recall what they wrote about her (which they later admitted was a “bit harsh”):
Women have struggled for decades to be appreciated as athletes. For the first time at these Games, every competing nation has sent a female participant. But Jones is not assured enough with her hurdling or her compelling story of perseverance. So she has played into the persistent, demeaning notion that women are worthy as athletes only if they have sex appeal. And, too often, the news media have played right along with her.
In 2009, Jones posed nude for ESPN the Magazine. This year, she appeared on the cover of Outside magazine seeming to wear a bathing suit made of nothing but strategically placed ribbon.
So, basically, it’s OK for Phelps to pose practically nude, leaving little to the imagination, but it’s not OK for Jones to do the same. Nobody objected to Carlos Bocanegra, of the U.S. men’s national soccer team, when he posed nude for ESPN this year–or any other guy for that matter. And no one is going to complain about Phelps using his body in the exact same way to garner attention and sales. But put a female athlete in that situation and all of a sudden she’s a slut who is all about using her body–not her accomplishments–to get people to notice her.
When will the media stop viewing women’s sex appeal as something we should be ashamed of?
Tell us what you think.