- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Swimmer Jenny Thompson is in trouble with the gender police after she elected to pose nearly topless in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated.
The gender police, many of whom couldn't get picked up in a crowded bar of oversexed drunks, are inevitably dismayed by any overt show of beauty, especially if the show is put on by a woman who has assets other than physical ones.
The gender police can live with Pamela Anderson Lee, if only because she has no discernible talent other than her two well-documented assets.
Thompson, though, is not just some superficial babe only capable of being a decorative piece in a bad television series. She is a world-class swimmer who doesn't need the exposure and the political baggage, much less the plaintive protests of the envious.
Thompson is said to be sending a poor message to young girls across America, although given all the genuinely poor messages being dispensed to young girls in America's beauty-obsessed culture, her G-rated pose in Sports Illustrated would seem to be fairly innocuous.
Thompson does not make the gender rules, and even if she did, she might not change a one. She looks appealing, after all. Even that assessment, however positive, is deemed objectionable by the ultra-sophisticated.
In certain rarefied places, commenting on someone's good looks is outdated. You just aren't supposed to notice the aesthetic differences between Gheorghe Muresan and Michael Jordan.
Sports Illustrated's editors play this game, too, out of respect to the enlightened, with whom they share cocktails and deep, thoughtful questions.
Don't ask, don't tell and don't even think about it.
"Skin-deep still counts," the magazine announced in mock horror earlier in the summer.
The subject was Anna Kournikova's stunning good looks and popularity, which exceed the quality of her tennis.
The magazine professed not to know that the beautiful people, however you define beauty, enjoy advantages over the overweight, homely, balding and the like. This is not a new development. Only the contrived pretext is new.
The beautiful people reach out to you in a zillion images, starting with the politically correct Hollywood crowd that rarely practices what it preaches and usually treats middle-aged actresses like lepers. The hypocrisy is business.
Thompson probably did not intend to offend anyone, and her two clenched fists conceal the body parts that elicit the most concern. Not to bring a measuring tape into it, but the clenched fists appear to cover the parts better than many bathing tops.
"I'd like for young girls to have an image of strong, muscular women as a positive thing," Thompson told reporters at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Indianapolis. "I'd just like portraying strong women, not flimsy models."
The two-legged clothes racks who strut down the catwalk send another loaded message to young girls, only their message comes with a riddle. No matter how well these malnourished, emaciated human forms are compensated, they are unable to afford groceries.
They are celebrated anyway, held up as pop icons, despite their POW-like nutritional deficits.
Attractive men are not celebrated in similar fashion, and even their one conspicuous body part, taken to the extreme by Mr. L.D. Silver, is consigned to extremely bad films in back rooms.
Dennis Rodman, who sometimes appears to be obsessed with his nudity, once threatened to play his last NBA game in the buff before he challenged David Stern to a fight in the buff. He found no demand for either proposal in the marketplace.
That is not necessarily fair to men, but Rodman, like Thompson, does not make the gender rules.
Thompson, in her red, white and blue bottoms and red boots, appears to be standing tall in the photograph shot on a beach. No explanations or apologies are necessary.
She is looking good, feeling good. She is a picture of strength, and she can prove it in the water.
You have to perform a series of intricate mental maneuvers to find something wrong with that message.

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