21-year-old Michelle Jenneke is a medal winning hurdler. She plays footy, soccer and handball. She is also studying mechanical engineering and electronics. But what her sponsors want to show us is three minutes of gratuitous shots of her bum.
Since 2010, Janneke has been winning medals and fans with her hurdling and her fun pre-race warm up dance.
But in the 21-year-old athlete’s latest video appearance she isn’t doing much sport or much dancing. In fact, aside from her best Bond girl impersonation while pulling herself out of a pool in slow motion, I’m not really sure what she is doing.
We do know, however, what her bum is doing. Because her bum is the star of a three minute video made by her sponsor World Star Hip Hop. And it has been viewed more than 1.6 million times.
During the clip, there’s a very small amount of time spent watching her from this angle:
And a whole lot of time watching her from this angle.
And this angle:
We’re basically sitting in on this woman’s endoscopy.
Michelle Jenneke is an impressive sportsperson. Aside from being able to run ridiculously fast, her hobbies include playing footy, soccer and handball. She is also studying mechatronics, which is a combination of mechanical and electrical engineering.
She absolutely has the right to celebrate her body in any way she sees fit. But I suspect that’s not what this is about. What bothers me about this video is that it is just the latest example of female sport stars being celebrated for their sexuality, rather than their sporting prowess.
Or more directly, being exploited by sponsors in a way that no male athlete would ever expect.
You’d never see Stephen Smith like this. You’d never see Buddy Franklin like this.
So why is this what Janneke has to do to get sponsorship?
Because apparently being a sportswoman who is good at sport is not enough.
Australian cricketer and soccer player Ellyse Perry said in an interview last year, “when you look at the sponsorship of athletes in sport the majority goes to male athletes because they’re more visible and public – the public is a lot more exposed to them.”
“When you look at female athletes and look at the level of sponsorship, you see that there’s a lot less because [women] they aren’t as visible and people aren’t as aware of them so I think looks do come in to it a bit more,” she said.
“It’s not just about their athletic ability, it’s about how marketable they are from an aesthetic point of view. This doesn’t happen as much in male sport because they’re in the public eye a lot more.”
Watch the video here.