Meet Winifer Fernández, the Volleyball Player the Internet Reduced to a Sex Object

Meet Winifer Fernández, the Volleyball Player the Internet Reduced to a Sex Object

You don’t have to be a volleyball fan to know who Winifer Fernández is. The Dominican athlete has become an Internet sensation, and not because the talented 21-year-old is considered one of the best players in her position, though she is. Instead, videos, GIFs and stills of Fernández are making their rounds on a social network near you because of her sex appeal, and that’s kind of effed up.

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Don’t get it twisted: I’m always here to celebrate a baddie with a booty, which the so-called “volleybae” is, but can we not reduce the skilled dominicana to a sexual object?

Media’s sexualization of female athletes isn’t new. Unlike men, women who do sports are primarily portrayed as things to gaze at, with their on-field performances or record-breaking feats overshadowed by their beauty and sex appeal.

It’s why female tennis players make news when a photographer gets a “good” shot of her bare cheeks. It’s why profiles on high-ranking athletes always mention her “natural beauty.” It’s why female NASCAR drivers, snowboarders and ballplayers are asked to strip down for magazine covers while their male counterparts can don the uniforms they use on the track and in the field. And it’s worse for Latinas, who, like other women of color, have historically been exoticized, sexualized and dehumanized.

The media projects female jocks as “women first and athletes second,” and Fernández is no exception. This treatment is blatantly sexist and just plain ol’ insulting to someone who dedicated their life to their sport, someone who can simultaneously be a stunner and stunter.

Last year, the volleyball player, who spiked 270 cm (106 in) and blocked 265 cm (104 in), competed at the FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship with her club Mirador. Before then, at 19, Fernández was recognized as one of the best liberos, a player who specializes in defensive skills, in Latin America. Today, she’s among the top eight in the world.

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This mujer is a badass – and not just because she has a bad (as in good) ass.