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The naked truth

Word has arrived that two women with sports connections, one more tangential than the other, have announced plans to pose nude in the not-too-distant future.

One of them, Kimberly Bell, is more famous for her relationship to an athlete, namely San Francisco outfielder Barry Bonds, than for anything she's done herself. Bell, 37, had a 10-year relationship with the surly slugger, from 1993 to 2003. Bell has already testified before a federal grand jury looking into charges that Bonds committed perjury regarding his alleged steroid usage, and reportedly calls her decision to pose in the November Playboy, "liberating." It sure won't be illuminating.

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The decision of the other woman, tennis star Serena Williams, is more baffling and troubling. It was announced Monday that Williams, who won the Australian Open this year, will pose for Jane magazine in a yet to be announced edition. In a photo that is available online, Williams has her back to the camera with a flower placed strategically.

There's a vein of thought that a physically fit woman should be able to display the product of her hard work. While that's all well and good, women like swimmer Amanda Beard, figure skater Katarina Witt, volleyball player Gabrielle Reece and now Williams who pose nude -- even with the best of intentions -- still make it easy for many men and women to marginalize female athletes and to reduce them to sexual objects rather than competitors.

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