Monday, May 05, 2008

Is this the 1940s?

Picture the scene: group of female athletes, rookies, playing a sport joining a league that is trying to gain some credibility in the male-dominated world of sport and sport spectatorship. Learning how to apply make-up. How to dress appropriately. Comport oneself.
Sounds like a scene description from A League of their Own. But no, it's WNBA rookie camp.
So much for Candace Parker's belief that though this is important now, "as time goes on looks will become less and less important." I think it's time, again, to question exactly what progress is, and what we have given up, sacrificed, compromised in the name of simply having women's sports in existence. I am glad there is a WNBA; I am glad more and more women participate in the Olympics in more and more events (though still not in the same numbers as men nor with access to the same sports as we have seen in the battle over ski jumping). I am so psyched women's professional soccer is coming back.
But this orientation weekend when rookies learned how to make an arc with their eye shadow applicator is indicative of how far we have not come. I am sure there are women that had to sit through that ridiculousness who will never use that technique--because they will never wear make-up. There are a lot of women who don't wear make-up; athletes and non; gay and straight. If women playing sports has so much potential to counter hegemonic femininity then why are so many people still adhering to it--and making others do so as well?
Sparks officials, who have seen advance ticket sales rise dramatically from last year, seem to think getting Parker will bring in more men--because she's pretty. Oh yeah, and she's got game. One, she isn't the only one in the WNBA though that fits that description. This is almost beside the point because two, fans that show up because the athletes are pretty aren't going to show up forever. Because you can see Parker--and any other player--on the internet. You don't have to pay the price of a ticket if all you're looking for is a pretty face and a nice body.
Ticket sales are up--I hope--because Parker has been hyped for years and she has delivered on the hype. And people want to see her play. They want to see what kind of competition she is going to be up against. They want to see if a rookie can play with the veterans. They want to see if she really could be the best ever.
I know the WNBA has a problem getting fans. Putting the right eye shadow on its players is not the way to go about it. And if Donna Orender really thinks dressing and making up her athletes is the way to do it, maybe it's time for some new, progressive leadership.

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