Breast implant company sponsorship of female failures sparks backlash

The International Chess Federation, the game’s governing body, faces stiff criticism from female chess players and others after announcing that a company that makes breast implants will sponsor chess events female.

The federation, known as FIDE, announced on September 27 that it had entered into a “historic partnership agreement” with Establishment Labs, a medical technology company that manufactures breast implants sold under the Motiva brand.

FIDE called the partnership “the very first corporate sponsorship agreement aimed specifically at supporting women’s chess events” and said the sponsorship would continue until 2022, which the federation has designated as the Year of the Chess. women at chess.

The announcement sparked an immediate reaction among some players at the highest echelons of the game, where women have long complained of unequal treatment and misogyny.

Jennifer Shahade, two-time US chess champion and director of the women’s program at the American Chess Federation, said she didn’t think the company should sponsor women’s events.

“It’s not like breast implants are outright bad,” Ms. Shahade said in an interview on Saturday. “It’s just another example of how women’s looks often get more attention than their movements and spirits.”

She said the sponsorship was also met with the explosion of interest in chess, especially among women, which followed the success of “The Queen’s Gambit,” the Netflix series about a struggling chess prodigy named Beth. Harmon who navigates the world of tournaments dominated by men.

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

In a statement announcing the partnership with Establishment Labs, FIDE Executive Director Dana Reizniece-Ozola highlighted the benefits of breast reconstruction for cancer survivors who undergo mastectomy.

“At FIDE, we appreciate the commitment of Establishment Labs to the health and well-being of women,” Ms. Reizniece-Ozola said in the statement. “The company supports expanded access to breast reconstruction and has been a pioneer in providing technologies that can improve outcomes for these women. “

Establishment Labs said in a statement on Saturday that its sponsorship “underscores our fundamental commitment to respect and promote confident and independent women who are unobjective 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 out of insecurity rather than empowerment and self-esteem, and we are disappointed with any comments suggesting otherwise,” the company said.

The FIDE statement did not indicate how much the sponsorship was worth. The federation did not respond to requests for additional comment on Saturday.

The partnership debate took place as the FIDE Women’s Team World Championship, the first Establishment Labs sponsored event, was held in Sitges, Spain.

Fiona Steil-Antoni, one of Luxembourg’s top chess players, told Chess.com that the only Motiva promotional material that was handed out during the tournament explained how to perform a breast self-examination.

“Nowhere have I seen anything about breast implants / augmentations, nor is it expected to be promoted under this sponsorship,” Ms. Steil-Antoni said, adding that ‘she was “personally involved” in the partnership.

Some prominent chess players have said the sponsorship could help uplift women in chess, where they have long been under-represented. Last year, of the more than 1,700 regular grandmasters in the world, only 37 were women.

Nine-time British champion Jovanka Houska told Chess.com that “could be a very exciting sponsorship deal, but it depends heavily on how FIDE promotes and frames it”.

“As many have pointed out, breast reconstruction surgery is a very valid cause,” Ms. Houska told the website. “I also want to stress that women should not be looked down upon / ridiculed for choosing to have breast augmentation. I say this because there seems to be a rather critical nuance in social media. “

Chess.com, which was covering the tournament in Spain and preparing to cover other women’s competitions, said on Saturday it “will not promote Motiva as a sponsor in our broadcasts of these events.”

“We recognize the importance of reconstructive surgery and supporting breast cancer survivors, and we also respect that elective plastic surgery is a personal and positive choice for some,” wrote Chess.com. “However, as a business, Chess.com does not think this sponsorship is positive for female chess or an appropriate marketing promotion for the larger Chess.com community.”

Beatriz Marinello, former president of the American Chess Federation and former vice-president of FIDE, and first woman elected to both posts, said it had been “extremely difficult” to find sponsors for women’s events.

“We weren’t given priority,” she said in an interview on Saturday.

Although Ms Marinello said she was not personally offended by the partnership with Establishment Labs, “my only concern is targeting teens or girls who have no health issues and who may decide to do so to help them. make them more beautiful “.

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

Sabina-Francesca Foişor, US chess champion in 2017, warned against rushing to judgment.

“Whether we like it or not, chess at its peak is dominated by male players, so I can relate to those who find this partnership the result of a ‘male gaze’,” she wrote in an email.

On the other hand, alcoholic beverage companies often sponsor sporting events “and that never arouses any controversy,” she said.

“So while FIDE struggles to find sponsors for traditional events, maybe we should see how FIDE promotes the sponsor and what kind of message will be conveyed through this partnership,” Ms. Foişor wrote. “From what I’ve read so far, the message they want to get across seems to be a positive one.”


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