2021-10-03 15:52:24 Breast Implant Company’s Sponsorship of Women’s Chess Draws Backlash

Breast Implant Company’s Sponsorship of Women’s Chess Draws Backlash

The International Chess Federation, the game’s governing body, has come under fire from female chess players and others after announcing that a breast implant company would sponsor women’s chess events.

The federation, known as FIDE, announced on September 27 that it had reached a “landmark partnership agreement” with Establishment Labs, a medical technology company that manufactures Motiva breast implants.

The partnership was described by FIDE as the “first-ever corporate sponsorship agreement specifically aimed at supporting women’s chess events,” and it will last until 2022, which the federation has designated as the Year of Women in Chess.

The announcement sparked an immediate backlash among some of the game’s highest-ranking players, where women have long complained of unequal treatment and misogyny.

Jennifer Shahade, a two-time US women’s chess champion and the US Chess Federation’s women’s program director, stated that she does not believe the company should sponsor women’s events.

“It’s not like breast implants are inherently bad,” Ms. Shahade explained in an interview on Saturday. “It’s just another example of how women’s appearances are frequently given more attention than their movements and minds.”

She added that the sponsorship clashed with the surge in chess interest, particularly among women, that followed the success of “The Queen’s Gambit,” a Netflix series about a troubled chess prodigy named Beth Harmon navigating the male-dominated tournament world.

“We are at such a great time for women and chess right now that we should be focusing on that inner beauty and intellectual bravery that are underrepresented in our culture,” said Ms. Shahade, author of the books “Chess Bitch: Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport” and “Play Like a Girl! Tactics by 9Queens,” which promote women’s advancement in the game.

FIDE’s managing director, Dana Reizniece-Ozola, emphasized the benefits of breast reconstruction for cancer survivors undergoing mastectomies in a statement announcing the partnership with Establishment Labs.

“At FIDE, we appreciate Establishment Labs’ dedication to women’s health and well-being,” Ms. Reizniece-Ozola said in a statement. “The company supports increased access to breast reconstruction and has been a pioneer in offering technologies that can improve these women’s outcomes.”

According to a statement released on Saturday, Establishment Labs’ sponsorship “highlights our core commitment to respecting and promoting confident and independent-minded women who are unobjectified and fully capable of making their own decisions without being labeled, judged, or disparaged.”

“We are committed to changing the perception that women make decisions based on insecurity rather than empowerment and self-love, and we are disappointed in any commentary that suggests otherwise,” the company stated.

FIDE’s statement did not specify the monetary value of the sponsorship. On Saturday, the federation did not respond to requests for additional comment.

Debate about the partnership came as the FIDE World Women’s Team Championship, the first event sponsored by Establishment Labs, was being held in Sitges, Spain.

According to Fiona Steil-Antoni, a top chess layer from Luxembourg, the only promotional material from Motiva distributed at the tournament discussed how to perform a breast self-exam.

“I saw nothing about breast implants/augmentation, and it is not the plan for this to be promoted within this sponsorship,” Ms. Steil-Antoni said, adding that she was “personally involved” in the collaboration.

Some prominent chess players believe the sponsorship will help women advance in the game, where they have long been underrepresented. Only 37 of the world’s more than 1,700 regular grandmasters were women as of last year.

Chess.com quoted Jovanka Houska, a nine-time British champion, as saying that it “could be a very exciting sponsorship deal, but it is highly dependent on how FIDE promotes and frames it.”

“As many have pointed out, breast reconstruction surgery is a very worthwhile cause,” Ms. Houska said on the website. “I also want to emphasize that women should not be scorned or mocked for opting for breast enlargement surgery. This is because there appears to be a judgmental undertone on social media.”

Chess.com, which was covering the tournament in Spain and was planning to cover other women’s tournaments, announced on Saturday that it would “not be promoting Motiva as a sponsor in our broadcasts of these events.”

“We acknowledge the importance of reconstructive surgery and supporting breast cancer survivors, and we also recognize that elective plastic surgery is a personal and positive choice for some,” Chess.com wrote. “However, as a company, Chess.com does not believe that this sponsorship association is beneficial to women’s chess or an appropriate marketing promotion to the larger Chess.com community.”

Beatriz Marinello, a former president of the United States Chess Federation and a former vice president of FIDE, and the first woman elected to both positions, stated that finding sponsors for women’s events had been “extremely difficult.”

“We haven’t been prioritized,” she said in a Saturday interview.

While Ms. Marinello was not personally offended by the collaboration with Establishment Labs, she did express concern that “my only concern is targeting teenagers or girls who do not have any medical condition and may decide to do this to make themselves look better.”

“Women are constantly bombarded with propaganda about how our bodies should look,” she said. “And it has absolutely nothing to do with chess.”

Sabina-Francesca Foişor, the 2017 U.S. women’s chess champion, warned against jumping to conclusions.

“Whether we like it or not, male players dominate chess at its very top, so I can relate to those who see this partnership as a result of a ‘male gaze,’” she wrote in an email.

Alcoholic beverage companies, on the other hand, frequently sponsor sporting events, “and that never causes any controversy,” she claims.

“So, as FIDE struggles to find sponsors for traditional events,” Ms. Foişor wrote, “perhaps we should just see how FIDE promotes the sponsor and what kind of message will be conveyed through this partnership.” “From what I’ve read so far, the message they want to convey appears to be positive.”

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Breast Implant Company’s Sponsorship of Women’s Chess Draws Backlash