Emma Cowing: The naked truth is - men should cover up
LAST week, Scotland unveiled its new rugby strip. It’s an odd affair, with an enormous Saltire emblazoned so tightly across the torso you might almost mistake it for a corset.
Although who would want to wear a Saltire-emblazoned corset outside of an underground Nationalist burlesque club I’m unsure and, frankly, if there is such a thing as an underground Nationalist burlesque club, I’d rather not know about it.
The strip was revealed to a breathless Scottish nation during a photocall outside the Omni centre in Edinburgh, where it was modelled by Scotland players David Denton, Sean Lamont and captain Ross Ford. Not that anyone was paying attention to the strip, however, or even the players wearing it. Instead, the eyes of passersby and photographers were relentlessly drawn to the 10ft tall images of the players plastered to the front of the Omni centre in which they were, not to put too fine a point on it, half-naked. Or, as Scottish Rugby preferred to put it, “up close and in the flesh”.
The new kits have now gone back to the dressing room, not to be seen again until Scotland play New Zealand next month at Murrayfield (after which I imagine, given the large amount of white on them, they will spend the next three days in the hot wash), but the naked torsos remain resolutely on show.
For those passing by the Omni Centre on the No8 bus this must, I imagine, be a mixed blessing. Most women, it is fair to say, would be somewhat appreciative at the view, particularly on a cold winter’s morning, of some of Scotland’s most buff male physiques. The men on the other hand, slouched in their seats and munching on a breakfast steak bake from Gregg’s, might be forgiven for thinking that the sight of so many six-packs at such an early hour is a little intimidating.
But there is another issue at stake here: is it not, perhaps, just a teensy-weensy bit sexist to put such gratuitous images of men on display?
I have noticed, lately, because frankly, how could you not, that images of semi-naked gents are becoming increasingly frequent on billboards, in magazines and just about everywhere else, too. Last week a number of paparazzi shots of a beach-frolicking Tom Daley, one of Britain’s favourite Olympians and proud owner of exactly the sort of six-pack you would expect of an 18-year-old diver, were droolingly published in several tabloids. Footballers are increasingly expected to get their kit off in photo shoots and for many young male pop acts (see: One Direction; JLS), stripping off and oiling up are part and parcel of any video shoot worth its baby oil.
Such images of women, of course, have been commonplace for donkeys years, as any veteran of a Rihanna video, most national magazines, watching television, going to the cinema or indeed, keeping one’s eyes open for more than ten minutes at a time will be able to tell you. Indeed, for much of the run-up to the Olympics, we were treated to endless images of beautiful and semi-naked young female athletes, including Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendelton.
Therefore, is the fact that an increasing number of topless men are now to be found on show merely an attempt to redress the balance? Should women not be rejoicing at the notion that, finally, we are getting a bit of equality here? That if they’re getting the chance to look at us, is it not perfectly acceptable that we get to oggle them, too?
Ah, if only it were that simple. But, much as it may be a nice little publicity stunt for the Scotland Rugby team, showing such images in a public place where everyone of any age can see them does nobody any favours in the long run.
The reason we now have a generation of teenage girls obsessed with image, struggling in increasing numbers with eating disorders and body dysmorphia and convinced that their self-worth is entirely wrapped up with their self-image is because they are bombarded with endless images of female body perfection.
Young women today are struggling to validate themselves because the multimedia barrage of nubile nudity has never been at such a high. Is this really something we want to impose upon a generation of young men? I really hope not.
And so it is with a heavy heart that I must say to the Scottish rugby team: boys, please cover up.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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