[Content Note: Body policing; fat stereotypes.]

Every year, ESPN's magazine does a "body issue," featuring the naked (but carefully positioned) bodies of prominent athletes. This year, the cover features professional baseball player Prince Fielder, and there's an additional photo of Fielder inside:

two images of Fielder, one on the cover and one from inside the magazine; he is a tall, muscled, fat, tattooed, black man with a shaved head and a full beard, posing naked with a baseball bat
[Click to embiggen.]

Those pictures are everything.

Fielder had to know when he posed for these shots, since he's already routinely mocked for being "out of shape," that revealing his body would not be met with universal approval. And it has not been. I won't be giving any traffic to the sites in which commentators are ridiculing and body policing him, or complaining about being "forced" to gaze upon Fielder's body with their delicate eyes, but they're out there, if you have any inclination to find them.

But Fielder posed all the same, and the resulting images are a challenge to anyone who thinks there is only one "athletic physique," any one way to appear "strong," any one definition of what the human body should look like.

The negative reactions to viewing these pictures says something about the people having them, not something about Fielder. He is brave.

And he is visible.

It's not about finding him beautiful; beautiful is beyond the point. No one need agree that he is beautiful to understand that he is a human being with a right to be free from judgment and hatred on the basis of his appearance.

The conflation of those two—asking to be found beautiful and asking to be seen—is the shortest (and most mendacious) way that conversations about body acceptance get shut down.

Prince Fielder, I see you.

* * *

The rest of the issue, as Travis Waldron notes here, isn't quite as radical. I've no idea, of course, whether they asked, say, Holley Mangold, to pose and she turned them down, or whether they didn't even ask. But I hope to see much more body diversity, especially among the women, in future issues.

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