The Warwick Rowers' charity calendar for 2019 is here, and the message is more relevant this year

The project aims to combat homophobia in team sports; it is also a cheeky way to tackle stereotypes about masculinity


                            The Warwick Rowers' charity calendar for 2019 is here, and the message is more relevant this year

With the new year just around the corner, the Warwick Rowers' recently released their 2019 charity calendar created to combat homophobia in sports.

The 2019 edition of the Rowers' calendar showcases students from the University of Warwick's Boat Club striking strategic nude poses in various exotic locations including Italy and Australia.

The group has been taking out these calendars since 2009, and according to reports, it is now sold in more than 77 countries and has raised more than a $1 million since its beginning.

Ten years down the line, Angus Malcolm, LGBT rights activist and producer of the calendar, along with generations of male rowers from the university have achieved recognition through fundraising initiatives and public awareness campaigns. As in previous years, proceeds from the project benefit UK advocacy organization Sports Allies Foundation, which aims to combat homophobia and gender bias in team sports.

In an interview with MEAWW, Angus along with his Warwick Rowers team members spoke to us about how they realized that homophobia in sports needed to be addressed, the key factor that pushed them towards achieving the goal and how they cope with the nudity, especially behind the scenes. 

The rowers, who happen to be mostly heterosexual males, donate the proceeds from their calendar and other merchandise to Sport Allies, an organization championing sport as inclusive and diverse while combating homophobia and gender bias. (Angus Malcom)
The rowers, who happen to be mostly heterosexual males, donate the proceeds from their calendar and other merchandise to Sport Allies, an organization championing sport as inclusive and diverse while combating homophobia and gender bias. (Angus Malcom)

When the UK Warwick Rowers' calendar started in 2009, it raised just £300 in the first year, but 10 years down the line the amount has grown considerably.

Talking about the exponential growth, Angus said, "Hopefully it’s because we are trying to do something real. There is plenty of skin around on the internet, but not always a lot of soul! They could be called a bunch of straight jocks, but hopefully, we can transcend that. We are getting naked to make people more aware of how much our society is still run for the benefit of straight men, and also to say that men can be allies in changing that. Fortunately, at least in some places in the world, things are changing for the better. Women and LGBT communities are starting to call the shots in ways that were previously unimaginable, and we can see that in the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, and the withdrawal of Kevin Hart from hosting the Oscars. We want to be part of helping that change, and we think people can see that." 

The Warwick Rowers project is a gay/straight alliance that dates back to 2009, when their first calendar was launched. (Angus Malcom)
The Warwick Rowers project is a gay/straight alliance that dates back to 2009, when their first calendar was launched. (Angus Malcom)

Revealing that the idea to combat homophobia in sports came from Angus, one of the team member from UK Warwick Rowers told us why it really needed to be addressed.

"Angus, our producer, who is gay, he was surprised at how comfortable the guys were with being naked for an audience of gay men. His experience of sportsmen — and we know it’s the experience of many gay men around the world because they write and tell us — is that the sporty guys were the ones who bullied them at school. We wanted to show — to really make the point — that sportsmen don’t have to be like that," he said. 

These charity calendars have changed and helped a lot of people around the world. The charitable efforts have also affected the team members. When we asked the team their views on being being objectified as nude models, this is what they said, "So much that we see around us in the world is about the objectification of women for the benefit of straight men. The point of the Warwick Rowers project is that we are naked, and you can look at our bodies, but we are doing this to celebrate everyone’s right to live in a world that reflects their needs. We don’t seek to be objectified, but how you look at us is up to you." 

The team has won a large number of awards for excellence, innovation and social impact, including twice being voted the UK Charity Calendar of the Year. (Angus Malcom)
The team has won a large number of awards for excellence, innovation and social impact, including twice being voted the UK Charity Calendar of the Year. (Angus Malcom)

When we asked how they deal with nudity, especially behind the scenes, a team member said it was a liberating experience. "A lot of the new guys feel uncomfortable for the first few minutes, but the truth is that pretty much everyone who takes part in the calendar finds it a liberating experience and one that helps them to become closer to the other guys, to build better relationships with each other. Not sexually, but emotionally. Men aren’t always very good at intimacy, but spending a few days together naked seems to help us there! To find out more, you’ll have to watch our behind the scenes documentary films - we’ve been putting them out since 2012, and people love them!" he added. 

To date, the Rowers have raised over $1 million in sales for both the Sport Allies foundation and the rowing program at Warwick University. (Angus Malcom)
To date, the Rowers have raised over $1 million in sales for both the Sport Allies foundation and the rowing program at Warwick University. (Angus Malcom)

Angus also shed some light on how he plans on working with men only and not women because there is already a lot of female nudity around. "Our view has always been that there is a lot of female nudity around. We are doing what we can to balance that out, but we can’t do it by ourselves. So our plans for the future involve getting a lot more men like us to join in!" he added.

Angus concluded with a piece of advice for upcoming groups looking to raise funds for a good cause. "Be clear about what you want to say, and say it with conviction, power, and style. And then remember, this is the start of a conversation. You have to listen and respond, as well as speak. We feel like we have grown with our supporters as a result," he signed off.