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The opposition to Warwick’s Rowing Calendar isn’t crazy. It’s not some form of fascist-feminism. Instead, it’s a thoughtful reaction to the growing pornification and sexualisation of both women and men in society. It’s a genuine problem in Britain; the ‘ideal’ body is romanticised and fetishized. Sexual magnetism is made out to be the pinnacle of attraction, resulting in a damaging lack of self-esteem and confidence in people’s own bodies. When OK! puts an unflattering picture of a celebrity asking if they’ve put on weight in their magazine they are contributing to the erosion of thousands of people’s confidence in their own bodies. However, unprofessional naked calendars which are cropping up across campuses and other unlikely places in Britain are, I feel, a different kettle of fish completely. They’re fun, humorous, and often for a very worthy cause.
The Warwick Rowing Club, which has been embroiled in the controversy, raised £600 for the Macmillan Cancer Charity last year. If similar sums were re-created at universities across Britain then this would be a fantastic thing. The charity element of this is something that must not be forgotten. This isn’t the product of some sleazy old man yelling from behind a camera lens as he prays on the emotional and financial insecurities of young women. It simply appears to be some pretty close friends, who get a hell of a lot closer, having a nice time and doing a good deed. There may be some narcissism involved, but who can blame them? If I had the work rate, diet and genetics to resemble the Men’s Rowing team, I’d probably be whipping my top off at the sign of any temperature near 10°C.
There is an alternative school of thought as well though. In response to lads mags being banned from the Co-op in the summer, Jodie Marsh, not renowned for her thought-provoking philosophy it has to be said, made some interesting points. She claimed: “I earn money from lads mags. I’m in control. I’m holding the power” and said that she’d “rather my daughter see naked women celebrated in lads mags than being called too fat or too skinny in women’s mags”. And they’re principles that could well apply for naked calendars too. Posing in the buff is not just the preserve of the ultra-confident; it can for many people be a way of establishing comfort in their own body and celebrating it. Once you’ve stood stark naked around your peers in front of a camera with little to cover you but an oar other body issues may soon begin to disappear as well. It does need to be ensured that people aren’t peer-pressured into it and I can imagine that if everyone in your sports team is doing it the pressure to put on a brave face and do what everyone else is doing would be immense. However, for those who take the daring plunge, like most forays into the unknown, it could be a rewarding and confidence-building experience.
The pragmatic fact is that for many students seeking to raise money for a good cause, naked calendars can be one of the simplest and most effective ways of raising money for a charity. It’s easy to forget but raising money for charity, while studying for a degree, is an extremely difficult thing to do and a laudable one. Calendars have an organised format and can be done relatively quickly. It can create a buzz-effect around campus, which can generate lots of money for the charity, as their peers buy the calendars that contain fellow students covering their modesty in a number of creative ways. It may not be approved by everyone (you’ll always struggle to find something that is) but it’s far better to be affecting change and helping raise money for charity rather than carping on the side-lines.
Objectification of all genders is a genuine problem, but when it comes to societies’ naked calendars, in my eyes, they’re kind of exempt from the sleazy backstory of some ‘glamour’ shoots and pornography. Instead, in the form of a calendar, we’re presented with good-natured philanthropy and these students should be applauded for their efforts. Instead of lambasting them for pornification and sexualisation, we should be encouraged to do something for charity ourselves.