Beauty Shaming

The World Cup isn’t just about soccer. It’s about bright colors and constant singing and flag waving and tears of joy and sorrow rolling down the faces of really, really, really good looking people.

On the field and in the stands, World Cup matches are overflowing with beautiful women, handsome men and adorable children of every shade and ethnic origin.

So, it’s no wonder Getty Images couldn’t resist a pictorial called World Cup 2018: The Hottest Fans.

The following caption appeared beneath a photo of a gorgeous young blonde Russian woman wearing a crop top and pigtails:

“Soccer is known as the beautiful game, and that includes its fans. Check out photos of some of the sexiest of them here.”

It didn’t take long before dour, humorless female soccer fans threw a hissy fit. Within hours, Getty caved to the pressure and removed the images while issuing an apology.

The images were considered “demeaning” by a particularly vocal group who started a photography project called The Fan Girl. Its goal is to capture female soccer fans who would not be included in a pictorial called World Cup 2018: The Hottest Fans.

Lead Fan Girl, Emma Townley said in an interview with The Independent, “If you google women football fans, you’ll see that all the images are overly sexualized--tight clothing and very exposed. It’s kind of awful. We wanted to show that most women don’t subscribe to this.”

Just one problem, most women may not subscribe to this but some women do. And those are the women who were no doubt thrilled to be included in something called Hottest Fans.

Why are the women who are showing up dressed in an “over-sexualized” manner being punished because other women want to wear Birkenstocks and a pussy hat? And, let’s be honest, if you show up to a World Cup match wearing a crop top, you want everybody to notice your sexy abs.

These women, who you think are “kind of awful” are real women with agency. They’re not robots. They made deliberate fashion decisions before they left for the stadium. They may not represent you but they do represent themselves. If they want to enjoy the game while looking sexy, it’s really none of your business.

As a heterosexual woman, I would have preferred Getty Images to release a second pictorial of Hottest Men instead of removing photos of the hot women.

I’ve been a soccer fan my entire life. I love the nuances and excitement of the game. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy also looking at a bunch of sweaty men in peak physical condition. During a rather boring game I tweeted, “Somehow, the Uruguay jerseys are getting tighter as the match goes on. It’s the only thing keeping this game interesting.”

If Getty had posted a series of photos called World Cup 2018: The Ugliest Fans then humiliated a bunch of unattractive women, I would have been one of the loudest protesters calling for it to be removed. But they didn’t. Their only crime was posting pics of gorgeous babes.

Somehow, we’ve gone from ending fat shaming to promoting beauty shaming.

Recently, Sports Illustrated has included plus-size models in their annual swimsuit issue. I think that’s a good thing. Not everybody subscribes to the theory that a size 2 is an ideal standard of beauty. But, I doubt the inclusion of larger models will be enough to satisfy the beauty-hating mob. I predict there will be a time when SI will be pressured to feature only “normal” size women or stop printing the issue altogether.

Sadly, the efforts by these “well-meaning” broads are never really about inclusion or diversity. It’s about punishing the people--in this case, beautiful women--who have made them feel sad and uncomfortable all of their lives. They don’t want to stand next to the model--they want to stand in her place.

I’m reminded of the Kurt Vonnegut short story Harrison Bergeron where, in the year 2081, the US Constitution dictates that “all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else.”

I was 11--and a pretty girl-- when I first read this story. I was haunted by the idea that people who were too beautiful would be forced to wear masks.

I see versions of this happening in 2018. While there are no laws dictating such behavior, mob rule often has a similar outcome.

I am far past the age to be included in a Hottest Fans pictorial (unless it was done by AARP.) But I still appreciate beauty in others. As I tweeted during one of the games, “After seeing the Iceland players and their fans, I’m convinced everyone in their country looks like Thor, Mrs. Thor and Thor’s side piece.”

I suppose The Fan Girl girls would think I was “awful” for being so lookist. But, I would also debate soccer with any one of them because I know an love my sport.

The beautiful game has room in the stands for beautiful and not-so beautiful people. Next time, I hope they leave their ugly attitude at the gate.