Strong Is Beautiful Campaign Misses Its Own Point
The woman falls forward, her flowing dress rising to reveal her barely concealed bottom. Another is shown clad only in a crop top and tight bike shorts, sweat licking her glistening body. A pretty blonde steals the camera’s attention as her dress swings open and hints of cleavage. The screen flicks to another shot of a heavily made-up girl, her face a mixture of concentration and desire. This should be the opening to a bad soft-core porn film, indulged in by 13 year olds after their parents have gone to bed. Instead it is the latest installment in the WTA’s hit and miss campaign, ‘Strong Is Beautiful.’
Strong Is Beautiful started out as a refreshing, important idea. The title of the campaign promised to represent tennis players as strong, independent women, sending all the right messages to young girls. It was an exciting thought that girls would be given a different type of role model: one that isn’t snapped falling out of nightclubs, doesn’t snort cocaine, and encourages a realistic body image. Women worldwide could see an alternative beauty ideal that encourages strength, dedication, and personality complete with a side of carbohydrates. The WTA had the power to show us strong, healthy women who are beautiful and botox-free.
When the campaign finally did release, there were mixed results. Some videos seemed to fit the theme. Ana Ivanovic was dressed in a pretty but modest gown and spoke in Serbian of the strength she had to develop growing up in war-torn Serbia. The video was interesting, showed another side of the tennis favourite, and she looked naturally pretty without being sexualised. The dress showed that sporty girls needn’t confine themselves to the jock stereotype; athletic girls can enjoy fashion just as much as anyone else.
It is a shame the WTA couldn’t continue with those themes. Victoria Azarenka in particular was shown in a barely clothed state, the camera moving slowly up her sweaty body as she spoke of crushing the ball. What the WTA was showing wasn’t the strong woman Azarenka is, but a hyper-sexualised version of her best suited to men’s magazines. In the latest film – the one mentioned in the intro above – the WTA really lost its way. With sweat dripping off their faces and plenty of flesh, the WTA seemed to be fitting right in with the attention-seeking celebrity campaigns we are already over-exposed to.
Over-exposure is the main problem with the Strong is Beautiful campaign. By showing so much flesh and disguising natural beauty behind layers of make-up, we are seeing the women as objects of desire, not the strong personalities they are. Sport is supposed to empower females, not objectify them. The WTA still has time to redeem themselves and refocus on the original message. Until then, they’re sending a completely different message we’ve heard time and time again that harms both womenkind and the WTA. Sex sells.