Yesterday the fine investigative journalists at Stab Mag revealed that in a recent briefing the WSL had advised its cameramen not to zoom in too close on female competitors wearing bikinis as they surfed.
In light of the #metoo campaign, corporations everywhere have been sitting down with their staff to remind them of what is appropriate behaviour and lay out active steps to ensure gender equality within their organisations.
The meeting was routine, rather than reactionary, as the WSL itself has not received any public allegations of misgiving, and actually appears to be ahead of much of the corporate curve when it comes to gender equality. They, unlike 93% of Fortune 1000 companies, have a female CEO and through a concerted effort, have ensured women’s surfing grow in popularity and prowess in every area from the WLT to the WBWT ever since they took over from the ASP. The only area where there is still a discrepancy is CT prize money, which is still far higher for the men.
This meeting and the advice administered seems like further diligent work by the WSL to ensure its female athletes are respected and scenarios which encourage objectification are avoided. However, if the social media mob are to believed, asking cameramen to treat athletes differently depending on what they are wearing is in fact tantamount to the very worst of sexist oppression.
The article provoked a furious comment stream (which was distinctively lacking in female voices) featuring criticism from a wide span of opinions. Many demanded that the female athletes should not be wearing bikinis if they did not wish to be leered over, while others decried that changing the way waves are filmed based one what the competitors were wearing was discriminatory.
We understand the criticism that treating people differently to achieve equality seems inherently contradictory, but the world is full of inherent contradictions that actually produce the desired outcome when applied. Like when footie managers assert that defence is the best form of attack or when politicians suggest cutting taxes to raise tax revenue or when doctors give someone a little bit of a disease so they don’t get the disease. It’s what happens when you live in a complex system.
Other commenters came at it from a different angle, insisting that it was the women deciding to wear bikinis, knowing they would be filmed close up and broadcast around the world- and so they obviously didn’t mind. One commenter responded the athletes might be obliged by sponsors to wear bikinis and for a minute it looked like the feed might turn into an interesting debate about socialisation and objectification, however it quickly turned a corner and descended back into intelligible barks about beach volleyball players, JJF’s tackle and hijabs.
Will you miss the bottom turn bikini clad close-ups? Is it good sense or terrible oppression on the part of the WSL? Let us know in the comments.
Cover photo: Warm Winds surf shop