Guardian columnist Zoe Williams suggests that we throw out the political correctness rule book and openly admit to our awe of Olympic competitors’ bodies: “For these weeks only, watching these near-deities for whom every muscle has a purpose and every tweak of a body hair is a bid for greatness, we are allowed to make remarks we would never normally make. We’re allowed to gawp at perfection, marvel at beauty, openly wish we could prod chests and have a go on triceps – it’s the Olympic Gaze, an objectification amnesty.”
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What’s the Big Idea?
Williams points out two key factors that make this unabashed admiration acceptable: the almost equal balance of commentary between male and female physiques, and the undeniable connection between the individual competitor’s body and their use of it: “When the perfection has a purpose, you get a sense of the bodies having a mind of their own. The normal business of objectification always downplays the fact that the body is attached to a person…Contrawise, you do not debase when you go on about an athlete’s thighs; her body is indivisible from her life’s work, it can clear 100 metres’ worth of hurdles in 12.54 seconds; it is her pride and joy. To say she’s perfect is like telling someone they have cute children.”