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Imaginary Letter from a Polish Tennis Star

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Sleep-deprived Moharowy Beret in Training 
A reader asked me to comment on a minor (I hope) Polish scandal, so here it is. No, the tennis star did not actually write to me. Yes, I made up her email. Yes, I'm sorry she was dropped by her group. But, no, I don't think a role model should pose for a cheesy soft porn photo. That said, I am unconvinced she knew that's what she was doing. NCGs often do or say suggestive things because you are so innocent, you have no idea what they look or sound like to other people.

Droga Ciociu Anielska,

A big magazine wants to publish this nude photograph of me in their issue dedicated to nude photos of athletes. They tell me that it is not at all about objectifying women--after all, there are nude photos of male athletes, too--and they want to show inspirational strong women. When they asked me if there was anything I would like to change about my body, I said my serving shoulder. It's really susceptible to injury. It would be so cool to have a bionic arm, you know? That would probably get me disqualified, though.  

That reminds me of my main point which is that I'm worried about how a nude photograph of me will be accepted in Poland. 

As you may know, I am a spokeswoman for a [Polish Catholic Youth Movement], and I have been on television encouraging my fellow Poles not to be ashamed of Our Lord and our Catholic faith. The Westernization of Poland is good in some ways and bad in others, and the last thing I want to do is hurt my people with this Western magazine. Also, I am  aware there is anti-Polonism in other countries. In Israel I was really furious when some of the fans started shouting "Polish sl*t" at me.  
Here is the photograph. I think it is really sweet. They got me to hold a fuzzy tennis ball in each hand, as you can see. 

Polish Tennis Star

Dear Polish Tennis Star,

I can't publish your photograph because of the Eavesdroppers, but I must say that it is obvious that you have a very nice body from an aesthetic point of view. Your muscles are long and lean instead of short and chunky like those of many women athletes. And you seem to have absolutely no hair anywhere on your body below your eyebrows so, speaking as a woman, I am now thinking "Wax or Photoshop?"

I'm sorry to be thinking about what your body looks like before I think about how much trouble you might get into with [Polish Youth Movement], but that is the power of images--especially images of naked women. As I already know many (if not most) young Polish women are tall and slim, all I can think about is whether Polish women really have no body hair, and if Polish Chopin took one look at French Georges Sand when she first got her kit off and said "Blah!"

As I am a traditionalist Catholic woman and yet think such shallow thoughts, perhaps you can now imagine the even shallower thoughts men will have if they see this photograph. Maybe you can't, though, as you are only 24, and your life has been dedicated to tennis, and you are a Nice Catholic Girl who grew up in Poland, currently the nicest, safest country in the whole world for practicing Catholics. So actually I do not look at this photograph and think, "What was she thinking?" but "Where was her mother?"

Agnieszka, PTS, quite obviously you do not know this, but it is very foolish of you to allow yourself to be photographed naked holding two fuzzy tennis balls together like that. Even now I don't want to tell you why because actually your mother or your favourite aunt or your married sister (if you have one) should be the one to tell you.

Beyond the fuzzy tennis ball issue, you should understand that although men take a strange delight in looking at photographs of almost any naked woman, they take a special delight in looking at photographs of women they think they really are not supposed to see naked, especially Girl Next Door types. As a top Polish athlete who exhorts your countrymen not to be ashamed of Our Lord, you are most definitely a Girl Next Door type.

And therefore, PTS, I advise you very firmly, not to allow this magazine to publish this particular photo of you, this one with your hair artfully tousled, and your make-up so heavy, and your posture as if you have been surprised sunbathing nude on that pool chair after getting a Brazilian wax job.

There are probably much more tasteful ways for a magazine to present the athletic female nude.  I myself do not have a problem with female nudes (well, almost nudes) if they are classical in appearance. But there is a big difference between looking like a Greek goddess and looking like a girl in a pin-up calendar at the mechanic's. As you are a role model and spokeswoman for Catholic youth, and, indeed, both a kind of Polish goodwill ambassador and a Catholic missionary, you do need to be careful and make sure people do not take advantage of you. Check with your mother or, better, your most scandalous aunt (if you have one), about any prop a photographer's assistant might hand you.

Grace and peace,

I'm sorry not to link to a news article, but I can't find one without the photo.

Update: Well, I found one in Nasz Dziennik. Hit Google Translate.