An Open Letter To Toughman Triathlon

To The Race Organizers of the Toughman Triathlon,

Yesterday I had the chance to attend a Toughman Triathlon 70.3 event. It was a spectacular day. A friend was competing and I went to support him.

I couldn’t help but notice (as I’m sure was the intention) the ladies from Maxim magazine who were located between the swim and T1 as well as at the finish line. First, I would like to understand your thinking in including these women in this event. If you would be willing to share that, I’d appreciate it.

I would also like to offer you a perspective on their presence from a spectator who is also a triathlete, a woman, a wife and a Mother to two daughters.

Yesterday, and many times since I’ve become involved in triathlon, I have seen amazing things. I have seen people finish races in times I didn’t think were possible. I have seen people in bodies of all shapes and sizes finish races. I have seen people of all ages race. I have seen people with disabilities race.

My triathlon coach is an Ironman finisher. She is also a Mother of four young children. I like working with her because, like me, she is balancing a family, work and a sport. I suspect this is the case for many of the phenomenal female athletes I’ve met and watched through triathlon.

When I saw the Maxim ladies at the Toughman race, they looked out of place performing an official race function even though I wasn’t familiar with Maxim magazine. There was no shortage of volunteers in lime green t-shirts, yet for some reason, the Maxim ladies, who were thin, attractive, well-endowed and dressed in short-shorts and black tank tops, were selected to help racers out of their wetsuits.

Never having read Maxim, I asked a couple of men what it was. These were their responses:

“It’s a men’s T and A magazine”

“It’s like soft core porn”

“It’s like the Victoria’s Secret catalog with articles”

Here is a screenshot of the Maxim homepage today:

 

One of the things that hooked me on the sport of triathlon in my first race was the community. People are so nice. They are so welcoming. Nobody cared that I was new and didn’t know what I was doing. People were encouraging. They were helpful. They were supportive.

When I did my second race, I finished last. Midway though the bike I knew I was in last place. The thought that crossed my mind which guaranteed that I wouldn’t quit was this: I can’t let my daughters see me quit.

When my friend told me about Toughman, he described the brand as being family oriented. In fact his own daughter competed in the kids race on Saturday.

I see nothing about the Maxim brand that embodies community, not quitting or family. It is about sexy women. It is not celebrating female athletes, or women who are competing and parenting, or competing and working. It is not even a celebration of the female body for all it can do. It is about the sexual value of the female body. I don’t see where there was a place for that at a triathlon.

When you were planning the event and you selected Maxim ladies to assist with wetsuit removal, what were your expectations regarding the experience of your female athletes? What did you think all the wives of the male athletes who were there to support their husbands would think as they watched these women help their husbands disrobe?

My daughters have watched me set a goal and work hard to achieve it. They have watched me come in last place and smile about it rather than quit. They have heard me correct people who have complimented me on being skinny by telling them that I am strong. My friend’s daughter completed her second triathlon at your event on Saturday. She is a beautiful young girl who can do anything she decides to do.

Maybe these girls will be triathletes, maybe not. Maybe they will be Mothers, maybe not. The one thing I hope they will not be is women who believe that what they have to offer is merely their sexual attractiveness. That is what the Maxim ladies were teaching at your race where there were so many other great lessons for these girls learn instead.

The presence of the Maxim ladies doesn’t just belittle women and triathletes. It belittles your race. You put together an otherwise wonderful event which I am certain required months of intricate planning and effort. Do you really want the take-away to be an insult to women? I doubt it.

I welcome your explanation should you choose to offer it. Thank you for considering my perspective.

Sincerely,

Laura Orban

 

 

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8 comments
liz
liz

LAURA ORBAN! YOU ARE MY HERO! AND YES, I AM YELLING!!!!!!!!

Erika Hoffmaster
Erika Hoffmaster

I respect your thoughts on this subject but as one of those "Maxim Ladies" you are talking about I couldn't disagree with you more. I will first say that I was very moved and inspired by the courage and strength that I saw from the female athletes that day and was very proud to be apart of such a great event. You say the Maxim girls belittled women at the race and that we taught young girls that sexual attractiveness is all women have to offer.... Do you even know anything about the Maxim girls that were there that day? You are judging them completely on looks... is that a quality you want to teach young girls??? Because I'm a " thin, attractive, well-endowed" female I can't balance family, work, and sport like you and your coach? Before judging me you should have come up and talked to me at the event. Maybe you would have found out that I worked my butt off to put myself through college, I played multiple sports throughout high school and on the collegiate level, I'm a Licensed Dietitian, I'm a TV producer and host, I surround myself with good and inspiring friends, I spend quality time with family, and I work very hard to live a healthy lifestyle to be an inspiration to not only the people in my life (including three young nieces) but the clients I have had the pleasure working with. I truly believe that the female body is beautiful and that all women should embrace the body they have. What is wrong with being a sexy woman and being successful at the same time?

Anne Zimos
Anne Zimos

Completely on point!!! Proud of you.

Laura Orban
Laura Orban

Liz, thanks and you can yell that at me anytime

Laura Orban
Laura Orban

Liz, thanks and you can yell that at me anytime :-)

Laura Orban
Laura Orban

[When I moved to the Disqus comment system, my replies on this post did not move. Below is my response made on the same day, Nov 18, 2011] Erika, Thank you very much for taking the time to comment. These are important issues and even if we don’t agree, discussion always leaves the situation better. I didn’t talk to you at the event. I didn’t need to. I have no doubt that you are a bright young woman with a lot going for you. But you weren’t hired that day because of the work ethic that got you through college, or your ability to balance hard work and family, or your skills as a dietitian or TV producer. Though you may have all those things to offer, you were hired so that people that don’t know you could admire you from a sexual standpoint while you helped men out of their wetsuits. The event organizer himself said that hiring you was “a goof”. As I said myself, I had to consider whether I was taking it all too seriously. But here’s why I’m not. On average, women in the US earn almost 25% less than what men earn for doing the same job. One in six women in America will be the victim of sexual assault in her life. One study reported that by the age of 13, 53% of girls were unhappy with their bodies. While I fully respect that it is your right to do what you do, I don’t think we need help showing the female body in a sexual manner. I don’t think that’s going to provide more opportunities for today’s young women. I don’t think that’s going to correct the inequalities that exist in our society. And I certainly don’t think there was any place for it at a family sporting event where women worked extremely hard to compete. Again, thank you for your comments. I wish you well in whatever you choose to do.

Laura Orban
Laura Orban

Erika, Thank you very much for taking the time to comment. These are important issues and even if we don't agree, discussion always leaves the situation better. I didn't talk to you at the event. I didn't need to. I have no doubt that you are a bright young woman with a lot going for you. But you weren't hired that day because of the work ethic that got you through college, or your ability to balance hard work and family, or your skills as a dietitian or TV producer. Though you may have all those things to offer, you were hired so that people that don't know you could admire you from a sexual standpoint while you helped men out of their wetsuits. The event organizer himself said that hiring you was "a goof". As I said myself, I had to consider whether I was taking it all too seriously. But here's why I'm not. On average, women in the US earn almost 25% less than what men earn for doing the same job. One in six women in America will be the victim of sexual assault in her life. One study reported that by the age of 13, 53% of girls were unhappy with their bodies. While I fully respect that it is your right to do what you do, I don't think we need help showing the female body in a sexual manner. I don't think that's going to provide more opportunities for today's young women. I don't think that's going to correct the inequalities that exist in our society. And I certainly don't think there was any place for it at a family sporting event where women worked extremely hard to compete. Again, thank you for your comments. I wish you well in whatever you choose to do.

Laura Orban
Laura Orban

Thank you Anne, I really appreciate that.