"Attention all men"
by Marcus Browning "ATTENTION ALL MEN! Difficulties obtaining or maintaining an erection?" So ran an advertisement in the November 28 Sun-Herald, strategically placed beneath an article — with photos — about the Australian women's soccer team's nude calendar. There were the Matildas, 12 of them crowded together in the frame, flesh against flesh. The photo uses an old contrivance from the perve magazine industry pandering to male fantasies. The subject — here the soccer team — is incidental to the aim and composition of the picture. They are not merely the subject, but are objects used as a means to an end. There is a soccer ball in the photo, but the photo itself has nothing remotely to do with soccer. The perve fantasy goes like this: after a workout and shower team members naturally get together naked, all pressing against each other. Maybe later they'll have an all-in wrestle or a whipped-cream fight. But now, as they're gathered together as usual, a photographer surprisingly comes into the room and starts taking pics. Well, they're embarrassed, but pleased, even flattered that this guy has sneaked in with his camera. Of course they don't grab for their clothing (there are no clothes inside that frame anyway), nor do they attack the intruder and shove the camera up his nose. Instead, they laugh, try to cover up vital parts while staying firmly inside the confines of the confining camera's frame. This is because they are, as all women are secretly, nymphets, passive and vulnerable, surging within with all manner of unsatisfied sexual urges and at the mercy of an innate desire to be naked and exposed. That is the message in the nude calendar of the Matildas, for sale at $24.95, with $1 from each calendar going to the players who posed. If the 45,000 printed are sold each will end up with $6,000. One team member, a lawyer, declined to participate on the grounds it could hurt her professionally. Those behind the calendar's conception, such as Australian Women's Soccer Association chief executive Warren Fisher, can twist and turn arguments all they like, but there is no escaping the fact that it is crass exploitation, part of the increasing sexploitation of women in advertising. For this is the big sell using women's bodies, their human flesh. Certainly, the intention is not art celebrating the beauty of the human form, as some apologists are claiming. Fisher even tried to deflect responsibility onto the players themselves: "It is a fine line. People say `Gee, if that is Amy Taylor she must be a terrible person'. That is a matter of judgment." He called the photo of defender Taylor "startling, sexual, provocative, predatory". ABC sports commentator, Karen Tighe, described the Taylor picture thus: "She is a beautiful looking girl but there is a fine line between a tasteful representation of the human body and, for me, hers is a very provocative pose that could have come out of Playboy. It's a `Hi, come and get me' sort of thing." Fisher claimed the calendar is "to raise the profile of our sport" in order to "show how good these girls really are". His comments actually serve to raise another issue, that of the players "volunteering" for the shoot. No doubt the betterment of their sport was foremost in the players' minds, but there are many ways and means of coercion, from threatening to beat someone over the head to unspoken but unmistakable signals that one must comply. Whatever the case may be, the players are the meat in the sandwich, in more ways than one. The team now has three new sponsors in Mitre soccer balls, Lauda Air and Fiora smallgoods, the latter's advertising pitch leading with, "Preserving meat has been one of mankind's ongoing challenges ever since he evolved out of the Primeval swamp." It actually comes down to the status of women in this society. Next year in Sydney women's soccer will be an Olympic sport for the first time, and to gain the necessary funds our national team has had to resort to taking their clothes off in public. That is a telling commentary indeed.