You'd Be So Pretty If...

How to teach your daughter to love her body—even when you don't love your own.

Answering the Tough Questions

Empowering or objectifying?

I'm starting a long weekend today, so I'm pulling out a vintage post from my old Fit In Real Life blog. Here goes:

Sitting with my daughter the other night, watching some silly entertainment wrap-up show, a brief piece came on about female Olympic athletes...specifically, female Olympic athletes who'd chosen to pose for Playboy magazine's "Women of the Olympics" pictorial. We watched together in silence for a few minutes, then my daughter turned to me and said, "Why would they do that, Mom?"

I'm a pretty open-minded mom who doesn't back away from any subject -- I prefer that my kids get their answers from me and I've answered some doozies already in my time as a parent -- but I'll confess that this one stumped me. "I don't know," I told her.

We talked a bit about female empowerment -- you know, the old "it's my body and if I'm controlling how it's presented, and benefiting from it, then I'm in charge" argument that some women have used to justify their choice to become strippers or prostitutes or anything else that requires them to put themselves forth as sex objects. We also talked about objectification and how it can be very demeaning to put yourself in a role where others are invited to judge you solely on what you look like, or on their fantasy of you.

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First, the empowerment argument. Check out this piece from by writer Laura Boswell. Then, for another perspective on objectification, read this piece written by Caroline Heldman for Ms. Magazine.   

In the end, I told my daughter that many female athletes are rightfully proud of their bodies and the hard work they put into them...and that opportunities like Playboy pictorials offer them money to pay for their training, as well as opportunities for more media exposure (no pun intended) that will continue to bring in more fame and money. But we also talked about the price of such fame -- and whether you'd rather be famous for winning an Olympic medal for your hard athletic work or be famous for what your body looks like...because when they see those pictures, some people might not care or remember that you're a world-class athlete. To them, you might be just another naked woman.

I'm curious: What would you all have said?

Dara Chadwick is the author of You'd Be So Pretty If… :Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don't Love Our Own.


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