By Madison Margolin, The Forward, July 7, 2015
In October 1977, Barbra Streisand asked, “What’s a nice Jewish girl like me doing on the cover of Playboy?” Now with Jewish two-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman posing naked for ESPN The Magazine’s Annual “Body Issue,” we’re asking a similar question. “It sounds like a Jewish mother’s nightmare,” writes JTA’s Andrew Tobin about Raisman’s photo shoot, “But Playboy, it’s not.”
While posing nude on the balance beam, Raisman bears her muscles, but reveals nothing, leaving plenty to the imagination, as Tobin points out. In the world of nude photography, her shoot may be as tznius, or modest, as it gets. Though the shoot may be suggestive, it suggests not only 21-year-old Raisman’s potential sex appeal as gymnast-Jewess, but also a triumph of body positivity amidst industries — both gymnastics and nude portraiture — where many girls have struggled with eating disorders.
“[The headline] sounds a little sexualized — that’s one frame — but when you listen to the interview, [Reisman’s] talking about what she’s able to accomplish with her body through discipline. That frame is a very different frame,” says Deborah Meyer, executive director of Moving Traditions, which runs Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing, a program promoting positive body image for adolescent girls through Jewish sources.