Feminist in Front of the Camera: Lanni Marchant Deconstructs Gender

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    While the skill and talent of elite athletes is appreciated, there’s still a double standard for female athletes at the top of their game. Lanni Marchant writes candidly about the perception of women in sport and how she deals with those who seem to say female athletes can’t be feminine and taken seriously.

    Long Beach Comic Con - 2016

    I learned something unpleasant when I was asked to speak to the Canadian government about women in sport. My arguments, well received by government officials, were dismissed by some because I didn’t wear enough clothing when I became the fastest Canadian woman to ever run a marathon

    Can’t I be feminine, including sexy, and be an advocate? Above I mimicked the cover from the March 2009 iRun, featuring Adam van Koeverden half naked—sorry, shirtless, fondling his runners.

    Did van Koeverdan have to think about whether his picture was too sexy? Did he worry that it would undermine his role as a strong athlete, an advocate, or a feminist? I can’t answer that. But I know I have to and that’s BS.

    Apparently female bodies are more sexual than males, so my shot isn’t on this issue’s cover. A man showing skin is OK. My picture is not appropriate for the “future is female” edition; the aim of which is to speak out against the double standards women face. I’m not shirtless—I’m half naked.

    We chose a different “look” for my cover–powerful, not playful–because being too playful might mean I’m not taken seriously. Being playful may even come across as flirty or sexy and not send the right message. But what is that message? The “future is female” but please be careful not to be too feminine. Be strong, but please do not be too confident. Be a role model, but cover up.

    Be you…but not really.

    During the cover shoot we paused because—according to the men in the room—the images were becoming too sexual. I was fully clothed. Was kicking my legs out on a chair too lighthearted to depict a powerful woman?  Was me standing with my hand on my hip too simple to convey strong? Was me staring at the camera too sexy?

    It’s easier to set Canadian records than to take a stupid photograph.

    iRun_0309_covers.indd

    Sex and skin sells (see: March 2009, van Kayak). Does my advocacy no longer mean as much if you think I’m sexy? If I’m sexy, does that make me a sell-out? Does a guy have to think these same thoughts or is his sexiness powerful and masculine?

    Male athletes receive unwanted attention for how they look with their shirts off. Are they told to shut up if they complain? Would a male face backlash if he said, See me as an athlete? Or would people agree that—no matter how many magazine shoots he’s done half naked—he’s an athlete and should be appreciated as such?

    Women deserve—and I demand—the same latitudes.

    When a man is asked to take his shirt off, does he think: Can I be a role model if I’m shirtless?

    Are my messages worth less in less clothes?

    Does Mr. Kayak’s  sexy cover mean he’s no longer a good feminist? Sorry Adam, your intentions might be pure but we have stricter standards. Feminism requires that you wear a shirt.

    I deal with these thoughts daily. I’ll receive backlash for writing this. Cowards online will tell me what I’m supposed to do with my body and male friends will man-splain why I’m wrong and how they too share in this experience. They might have received cat calls. Try being a 13-year-old girl knowing it’s going to happen for the rest of your life.

    I argued with iRun about the cover, and I lost. But I demand to write this. This conversation is important.

    I am an athlete. I am an advocate. I am a woman. I have to be me.

    8 COMMENTS

    1. The double standard is horse s@&$. You are an amazing athlete, a powerful runner and a strong women. How the rejected cover was inappropriate is beyond me – except if you’re a prude I suppose. Keep fighting Lanni, the world needs more women like you with the courage to call BS.

    2. Being a dad to 3 very energetic, smart, athletic young girls, I am not sure why your cover would have been rejected. I am sorry that we still live in a world where women are not equals. Hopefully, with models like you and reinforcement from parents like me, young girls will grow up to expect and demand and finally break this glass wall. Thank you for forging ahead and being the model you are for the younger generations.

    3. Lanni you are an amazing athlete and super sexy and I am very happy to hear that you are assuming that position. I think the female body is sexy and even more so when there is substance behind it. A great athlete, an intelligent mind, an artistic flavour, or all of the above combined. Why is sexy so taboo when it’s in a female version? Why can’t we be sexy while being strong is beyond me and I will immediately jump on board with you to continue to fight for it!
      Thank you!

    4. Why cant everyone simply realize that different IS equal? Do men give birth to children? NO, but we are equal. Can men feed babies with their nipples? NO, but we are equal. Just because women have more intimate/sexual body parts that many believe to be private, doesn’t mean that men are not equal. Start defining yourself as an equal and you will find that the things you don’t understand begin to make sense. The differences between everyone is what makes us all stronger together… and equal. Stop trying to measure yourself against others and simply realize that differences are good. Embrace who you are and you will find comfort and strength inside… and find that you do not need to compare yourself to others.

    5. Ron is very wise. I find it difficult to improve on his thought. Your complaint seems to be two fold: 1) Freedom to communicate whatever message you wish to convey.
      2) equality

      No doubt there are many dimensions to who you are. A photo that makes others consider other dimensions of your personality may be what you want to communicate. Your success has allowed you in a very powerful position to send whatever messages you want to send. As I see it, women and girls have plenty or roll models communicating their sexuality. Young girls have very successfully received the message. So much so, that they think if they are sexy looking they will be successful.

      In the argument for equality: men never have to take off their clothes or convey a sexual message to be able to communicate their ideas or prove that that dimension exists within them. So why should we?

      Empower the next generation. Show them the power of commitment to a discipline. Show them their dreams, God given talents and purpose in life, whatever they are, are achievable!

      No two people are equal by any comparison. We are creatively diverse. There is no human standard. Many foolishly think there is a standard and are horribly discouraged to find they don’t measure up! (I’ve lived on both sides of that fence). Equity is desired when we submit ourselves to be judged by a prearranged standard for a specific task. (i.e. Law, employment, education, etc) inanimate objects and ideas are also measured by standards. (i.e. Lumber, produce, science)

      Suffice to say, you will never be compared to the standards of a piece of 2×4 lumber to see if you are long enough, thin enough or strong enough. In the same way, you should never compare yourself to another human. Your standard is for you alone set in your purpose, like your DNA from the moment of your birth. Celebrate you and encourage others to celebrate their God given purpose, not how they compare to others or convey their sexuality. We are meant for soooo much more! (I know what your thinking…no I am not old or ugly by any standard, lol. That shouldn’t matter anyway if there is substance to my comments. They should stand on their own merit)

    6. You are an amazing athlete, the best female marathoner Canada has seen in a long time and yet you have to put up with this bias from our own government! Shame on them. It has bothered me for some time that you have not received the funding that you should, that’s another sore spot for me. I have three daughters, all very good athletes and all professionals now. You are a great role model for them and all women (and men for that matter). It’s about the sport, can we all not be a little sexy and be great athletes at the same time?

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