Brandi Chastain

Flaunting her strength: Brandi Chastain’s winning strategy.

Last weekend’s phenomenal Women’s World Cup match sparked debate both in Slate and between a group of men on a San Francisco-based email list. The debate wasn’t about the phenomenal match between the U.S. and China, it was about whether Brandi Chastain was trying to advance an ad strategy or personal branding in throwing off her shirt in victory when the U.S. won the game.

Feh. That’s all I can say to that kind of yammering which misses the obvious point of this enormously meaningful event.

It’s a thrill to see some women getting attention for being competitive, strong and elegant as opposed to just getting noticed for their choice of husband It’s all about context . Chastain wasn’t flashing her thong in private, she was flaunting her strength and victory in the face of everyone. Who could deny her what she wanted at that moment? Her winning kick gave her a throne of power women once only held on their wedding day.

Was it an obvious brand play? Would any brand have even considered such a blunt show of female strength as an important symbolic image to use if Brandi hadn’t given it to the moment? I think we’d be more likely to see a fresh-scrubbed face and ponytail. Ask Martina Navratilova how many endorsement dollars her strength garnered her. This was part of changing the landscape. Endorsers will be following Brandi, not leading her. The chick is hot.

I can hardly believe that no one is saying, “What an unattractive unladylike thing to do!” (Or as I once heard from my own mother after returning home from winter hockey season: “What is that lump on your leg?– “It’s a quadricep, mum.”)

In Chastain’s rippling, clenched fist, scream of joy we all felt the double thrill of last weekend: a victory in an important soccer game, and the beginning of the end of women having to explain away their strength.

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