The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News December 16, 2005

Rugby Team Releases Nude Calendar
Rugby Rhinos Revealed; Uproar Over Calendar

Snow may have set in for the winter here, but Oberlin students now have a sultry means of counting down the days until spring. Yesterday, the Oberlin College rugby team formally released its 2006 calendar, whose monthly photos feature rugby players posing — and this is the catch — nude.

Junior Alia Kate, who did a lot to organize the project, said that the idea of a calendar was tossed around for a while before it finally took shape this fall. In late October, as others pulled on jackets and sweaters, the team took theirs off.

“It was really, really cold,” said Lynne Stewart, a sophomore who is featured in the January photo.

“It started off as something we could do that would be fun as a fundraiser,” said Kate. After taking the photos and assessing the level of interest in the photos, the team ordered 1000 calendars and looked into getting funding from the student union. Kate said that it was at this point in the process that she and other players began to think about the broader repercussions.

“We realized things could be blown out of proportion,” she said. She said that team members were told the calendar could be observed as an objectification of women or a misrepresentation of sexuality in athletics. She added that the team’s access to the rugby pitch and its spot on the student union board was implicitly threatened, and the worst-case scenario was team probation. Though it never materialized, the potential negativity they faced concerned many players.

The team responded to adversity by seeking advice from a broad spectrum of staff members.

“We talked to lots of people,” said Kate. They spoke with department members of athletics and gender and women’s studies, as well as the administration. Kate said that at this point, the calendar ceased to be simply a fundraiser.

Over the course of a few meetings, the team revised and rewrote a mission statement that Kate initially put together. Part of this statement (which is on the cover of the calendar) disassociates the rugby calendar from stereotypical Playboy calendars:

“In a society that brands female competitive sports athletes as masculine, this calendar parodies the standard beauty myth, by juxtaposing the concept of the seductive and submissive pinup with images of women who assert themselves not only as strong athletes, but also as empowered women.”

The team’s dedication to expanding this project did not go unnoticed by their adult advisees.

“I have been impressed by the willingness of the students involved to figure out and articulate their intentions in making this calendar, largely through conversation among themselves and with other students, faculty and staff,” said Frances Hasso, associate professor of gender and women’s studies and sociology.

In addition to staff support, Rugby players said they felt satisfaction from the positive result into which their hard work blossomed.

“The most amazing thing about making this calendar was how we were able to transform it in a way that was very positive,” said Kate.

The photographs, which were taken by soccer player Anna Beeke, a College junior, portray the creative messages emphasized by the humorous captions.

Every picture is tied to the sport, although Kate admits that some have more personal meanings that could be misinterpreted outside the team. For example, one picture portrays a rugby player on the pitch surrounded by PBR cans.

“For us, we see PBR and think ‘rugby’ and ‘team,’” she said. “It was pointed out to us that others might look at this and think ‘party’ and ‘binge drinking.’”

Hasso agreed that some criticisms are to be expected.

“Its release will, I am sure, provide them with more opportunities to learn, to respond to, and process the politics of representation, identity and empowerment,” she said.

For the rugby team, the calendar and its production process were incredibly personal. “Not just a calendar,” its mission statement concludes, “this is an authentic representation of our team’s collective personality and of our zeal for life.”

“In the end, all you have is a calendar before you,” Kate said. “People will take from it what they will.”

The 2006 Rugby Calendar will be available for $12 purchase for students through reading period, and $15 after that. They are available at tables in Wilder and A-Level or through team members.


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