Saturday, March 01, 2008

Women, violence, and contact sports

Since I am all about ice hockey this week and because I just finished teaching about sport and violence in my sport sociology class I thought I would point your attention to this lovely spectacle:

This is a recent game between the University of Minnesota Mankato and University of North Dakota.

I showed it to my sport soc class the day after we had made a long list of violent events in sports 99 percent of which involved men. (The Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan incident was the lone exception.) What was disturbing was that many were laughing while watching the video clip, commenting on the effectiveness of the actual fighting, and referring to them as girls and/or noting that it looked like little kids fighting. Because apparently we don't really want to talk about what it means when women get violent, unless we can paint them as pathological i.e. female serial killers. But we can't do that with female hockey players because then we might have to start talking about male athletes and the violence they commit; and we certainly don't muster much concern for male hockey players throwing punches.

They were right about something the other day, though. They surmised that perhaps violence does occur in women's sports but it doesn't get any coverage. I tried to find more information about the brawls after viewing the video. The only coverage was on each school's respective website which barely mentioned the fights or what provoked them. Two brawls in one game; 140 minutes of penalties; no context, very little coverage, next to no commentary.

It also seems like my students were not the only ones trying to diffuse the dissonance of women fighting using inappropriate humor. If you listen closely when watching the video you can hear playing in the background "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

[BTW, read about this story over on Women's Sports Blog which is very thorough in its coverage of all women's sports. It's the new addition to my list of favorite blogs. Check it out.]

UPDATE: Just came across another women's ice hockey incident this time out of Canada. A university player has been suspended for the whole season after, during the course of a brawl, punching a referee three times in the face.

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