Monday, February 25, 2008

Since I'm on the topic...

of female athletes posing in a sexual manner I thought I would comment on this article that came out about a month ago in an Australian paper. It's about female golfers selling themselves and their sport by selling sex. And it focuses on one of the original purveyors of sexy golf: Jan Stephenson who is arguably more well-known for a picture of her naked in a tub of golf balls than for her actual golfing abilities--even though she won three majors and is considered one of the best Australian golfers alongside Karrie Webb.

Here is what Stephenson has to say about sex and sports more than twenty years later:

"You still have to market with sex appeal. It's not just women's golf. All sports are marketed with sex appeal. Until women support women's sport, for sport - and it's still 70% watched by men - men are visual. It's true!"

Yikes! She doesn't really mean "all sports are marketed with sex appeal." She means all women's sports. And then we get the lovely, Nancy Lieberman-esque blame the women for not supporting women's sports argument. And then we get some essentialism for good measure: men are visual. What the hell does that mean? Men are visual? Oh, you mean that even though the majority of the world's population can see and respond to visual stimuli that men only respond to sexualized images.

And of course there is the inherent heterosexism in this statement. Stephenson is probably not too keen on acknowledging that there may be some "visual" women out there as well. It's not news that many lesbians like golf. She wants women to support women's sport. Some of us are already here--and we're queer. And there is so little marketing directed at us.

And finally there's the actual evidence that sexualizing female athletes does not promote any kind of acceptance of or win over committed fans to women's sports.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm....I'd have to say that many men's sports are marketed with sex appeal as well, it's just a different sex appeal. Tight football pants, bulging basketball biceps, shave swimmers, etc. You can't say that the male athletic body isn't fetishized in a sexual (and racialized) way -- even if that way serves to reinforce dominant heterosexual codes.

Diane said...

sportlabel, while it is true that we see male athletes' bodies sexualized in ad campaigns, etc., there is a big difference: Those men have already made it, based on their athleticism.. The money they make from selling razor blades or jockey shorts is, as we say in Louisiana, lagniappe. With women, no matter how accomplished they are, they do not "make it" until they are the object of pornographic Web searches, and even then, their "success" has much more to do with their legs or their breasts than with their athletic accomplishments.