Friday, May 30, 2008

Upset city

UPDATE: Still haven't found my pics but many thanks to Diane who sent me back one of my Srebotnik pics from last year's US Open.

Mostly this post is motivated by the fact that I have all these pics I take at tennis tournaments and never seem to use except to send to Diane over at Women Who Serve who uses them in the appropriate posts.
So here it is: my picture of Katatina Srebotnik who ousted Serena Williams today at Roland Garros. I, for some reason, really like Srebotnik. She has that certain female athlete swagger that I find attractive. I saw her at the US Open last summer which is where this picture is from.
[As I write it, big sister Venus Williams is teetering on the edge of upset as well. Maybe by the time I finish writing there will be a result.]
I don't have pictures of this but it does go with the theme. At yesterday's Women's College World Series--first day of play--number 1 seed Florida was upset by Louisiana-Lafayette. Also, Arizona State upset Bama though that was not as surprising given the Pac-10 versus SEC level of play/depth conversation.
[Yep, Venus is out. Beaten by Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta. There will be much discussion of whether Venus should have asked for play to be suspended because of darkness.]
Oops--now I'm upset. Because 1) something is wrong with ESPN2--there's frequent jitteryness. and 2) I can't find my pics from last year's US Open. I think my new computer--or maybe my old computer--ate them. I shall keep looking.

New NCAA sport for women?

You think I am going to say wrestling, right? Because there was that article earlier this week in the NYT about small colleges adding women's wrestling. But no, the NCAA has not even added women's wrestling to its list of emerging sports. This is unfortunate. Especially in light of the sport the NCAA has been considering adding: beach volleyball. An NCAA committee is investigating the possibility of intercollegiate beach volleyball. There definitely seems to be interest in places like Florida--where this article is out of. But one has to wonder at the viability of a sport that can only be played in certain areas of the country. (I know there are other sports like this--the issue is whether we want to add another.)
And one also has to wonder why the NCAA is investigating this sport as a potential emerging sport but not seriously considering wrestling. Hmm...could there be an image problem with women's wrestling? What else is on the list of emerging sports? Well there's squash and synchronized swimming. Are we seeing a pattern here? The emerging sports are appropriately feminine (and probably pretty white as well). Women in bikinis and sunglasses on a beach or women in singlets on a mat in a gym? It's not hard to see what the NCAA is thinking here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Girls get back into the action

Girls and women that is--who will be a more obvious segment of the competitors' pool at the X Games. I have never followed the X Games closely but I do remember that in their early days there were female athletes. Then as time went on they seemed to disappear.
This article in USA Today explains some of the history, which involved numerous cancelled events and competitions due to lack of participants and fewer events overall than in the men's field which really took off. But the S3 Supergirl Event is starting to change that. This year, the event's second, takes place later this summer in Huntington Beach, CA and has snow, surf, and skate events and will feature Olympic and X Games stars.
Supergirl will be creating a line of action clothing and is counting on marketing its product to the up-and-coming actionistas--the term coined to describe female action/extreme sports athletes.
As for one of the original action sports events, the X Games is expanding their program this year to include women's motocross. The event will join women's skating and surfing as the only other contests which feature women.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Love Memorial Day Weekend!

No, not because of the day off. My semester is over so every weekend is a three-day weekend in the summer. (Well, as any academic knows, that's not really true. What really happens is that you keep on going forgetting that certain days are holidays and become really confused when you can't find any place open for lunch and why there was so much traffic in the middle of the day which is what happened to me yesterday.)
Anyway Memorial Day weekend is a great time for sports. I watched a fair amount of softball this weekend and on Sunday found myself happily ensconced on the couch toggling between Serena Williams's first round match at Roland Garros and the Women's College World Series. There was golf on as well with the Corning Classic concluding in New York though I didn't actually get to see any of it.
I was even mildly interested in the Indy500 given Danica Patrick's potential. I followed the results on the ESPN ticker but before I could change over to watch (briefly because car racing holds no appeal for me) I saw the crash scene. Whoa was she pissed. I would be too. Haven't seen any media reaction to Patrick's near-confrontation with the driver who took her out. Someone let me know if anyone said anything particularly sexist or snide please.
Luckily I will not be having post-Memorial Day withdrawal because the final 8 in the WCWS head to Oklahoma this week and play begins on Thursday. Check out the contenders. It's a really interesting field and I don't think Arizona will be achieving a three-peat. I'm quite sad that Michigan--I remain Big Ten loyal despite how that loyalty continues to bite me in the backside--could not get past Virginia Tech. But Angela Tincher is too good. Feel-good stories and post-shooting sentiments aside, I think they're an underrated team. In the end, though, I just cannot put my full support behind a team with a male coach, especially with all this recent banter about how difficult it is for a man to get a head coaching position in women's intercollegiate sports. Of the eight teams Virgina Tech, Arizona, Arizona State, Florida, and Alabama are all helmed by men. Louisiana-Layfayette is co-coached by husband-wife team like Tennessee who did not make it to the final eight this year. That leaves me to root for a Texas team--A&M coached by Jo Evans which goes against my no-Texas rule or UCLA which I am happy to do because I like new coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. So it's official: Go Bruins! UCLA is due for a championship anyway.
Also starting the 29th is the Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika. It will be on the Golf Channel. This will be good since Tennis Channel is doing some of the French Open coverage alongside ESPN2 which means I am not getting to see as much of it as I had hoped. (There was none on yesterday, which ticked me off.)
I love summer! Hopefully I won't have to make too many choices between playing my own sports and watching others.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

They cetainly learned persistence

Some within the world of sport (sociologist, psychologists, advocates, coaches, etc.) suggest that sport teaches valuable life lessons and skills like teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution and other characteristics that make athletes (and former athletes) potentially more successful in life (in a liberal, capitalist world). Some of the data and research may be debatable but one thing does not seem to be in question. If you are an elite female ski jumper in this world, you have learned persistence.
Good for them. A group of jumpers--and former jumpers--have filed a lawsuit against the VANOC--the organizing committee of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics citing gender discrimination.
And here we find out how little I know about the Canadian legal system. A lawsuit was filed a while ago by a parent of a Canadian jumper but it ended when VANOC agreed to advocate on behalf of the athletes with the IOC--who, of course, listened and nodded their heads attentively and then said, no. How this lawsuit differs (it appears the jumpers are citing the same equal rights laws) from a previous one I cannot say. The ski jumpers, most of whom are not Canadian unlike in the previous lawsuit, are suggesting that if they are not allowed to compete, the men should not either.
Others are suggesting that the women should at least be allowed to enter as a demonstration sport but most of the women find this suggestion a little condescending. And well they should.
So if you thought the fight over ski jumping was over--think again, and stay tuned.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mini fact

I was listening to last week's episode of Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me (I am several episodes behind--thank goodness for podcasts) and the "Not my job" segment was all about miniature golf. Why was miniature golf created at St. Andrews in Scotland? Yep, for the "ladies." So they wouldn't play with the big boys because, the belief was, that they couldn't play the non-mini version.
The Wikipedia version of events fails to acknowledge the sexism of the game's origins, but contest Jesse Ventura (yes the former pro wrestler, former MN governor) aptly(?) addressed present-day sexism in golf when he said that he wishes things were still the way they were in golf in the 19th century when the game was founded.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Too good for the boys?

What's up with the west coast? Last month I wrote about a girl in British Columbia (ok the Canadian west coast in this one) who has been prevented from playing rugby with boys.

Now in Beaverton, Oregon (suburb of Portland) a 12-year old girl who has been playing with the boys on teams at a private club, The Hoop, has been barred from doing so in the future. Six foot one inch Jaime Nared is just too good apparently and parents are pissed. Under the guise of "the rules," Nared will no longer be playing on boys' teams after parents complained about her presence. Some of the arguments went like this: the boys won't push her because they have been taught not to push girls.*

In an age where in most mainstream sports winning is everything, the one thing that seems to trump even that is gender. What do I mean? Well Nared frequently scores nearly 30 points and outplays the boys. Thus she is an asset. Not that I believe her ability is the reason to let her to continue to play with the boys--just that the ban on her is likely inconsistent with most of these complaining parents' own philosophies.

Girls play with boys because they want to be better (a problematic concept I have addressed elsewhere) but boys won't play with girls because they don't want to be inferior--it's not about being the best they can be. This is equally problematic.

Check out Pandagon where this story has been covered and extensively commented on.

* If it's so easy to teach boys not to push girls why is it so hard to eradicate things like domestic abuse and sexism generally??

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Annika and the sexification of female athletes

Annika Sorenstam's recent retirement announcement has created a lot of press--all of it favorable that I have seen. And some of the articles have a particular focus: how Annika did not sell her sex appeal to gain fame and fortune.
It's a good angle. There are a few problems, of course. First, the implication is that Sorenstam didn't have the sex appeal to sell in the first place. In other words, because she just isn't as pretty as say her good friend Natalie Gulbis (the comparison made in this article in the Orlando Sentinel) she had to rely on hard work and excellent skills. Well indeed she did work hard and she is an excellent golfer. But the woman is by no means homely. I happen to find her quite sexy. But because the media rely on and help create a fairly narrow standard of beauty (in and outside of sports) the "ugly" girls are the good players and the pretty girls and just pretty girls. Note that this doesn't hurt the less than perfect female athletes; there is the Kournikova curse as well. The pretty girls are not seen as serious athletes (somewhat helped by the fact that many seem to be taking off their clothes in magazines and on calendars every time you turn around). The above article notes that Gulbis has only one title to her credit.
Also, this article suggests that Sorenstam's lack of attention is something that she has had to resign herself to:
For even as she won tournament after tournament, only to watch cameras stalk others of lesser stature, she never once made a show of disappointment. She had a legitimate gripe, being unappreciated, yet never griped. Staying with what she did well, she just sighed and won.
It seems to ring a little false. Like newly retired Justine Henin (also not considered a sex symbol)Sorenstam never seemed the type to desire a whole lot of attention anyway. But also methinks the media doth protest too much. Who was it, after all, that was stalking these lesser players? Even the Sentinel as they talk about how "ugly" the sexualization of female athletes has been includes in its online edition a 24-picture slide show of all the sexy female athletes.
In the end, the writers are all saying the same thing: Annika Sorenstam is a great golfer; she will be missed; the game will not be the same without her; it's a shame there aren't more athletes like her. And all this true. And that's a good thing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Saudi women and sports: The discourse

The AP ran a story a couple of weeks ago about a women's basketball team in Saudi Arabia. The article highlighted the "freedom" from restrictions placed on most Saudi Muslim women that basketball engenders.

Why is freedom in quotation marks above? Because when we talk about Asian and Middle Eastern Muslim women, especially in the context of sport, we have a tendency to impose Western norms. And, of course, we get into some problematic areas. Because of course many of the regulations placed on Saudi women's movement and dress are sexist and limiting--perhaps even debilitating.

But there are a few problems. First, Western society and Western-based religions have plenty of sexist practices and regulations too. Can we really hierarchize them? Well I suppose we do. But we shouldn't. They all wreak of patriarchal stink.

So such discourse as was put forth in the article (mostly in the titles that individual papers chose to place on the story) created a vision of sport as somehow inherently freeing for Saudi women. Consider this one: Underground sport: Saudi women shed veils to play basketball. The whole thing has an Orientalist tinge to it. Underground and secret and covert and women and shedding of clothes to reveal parts that rarely see the light of day. The whole shedding of the veils thing also suggests that Muslim women who do veil can never play sports with veils which is completely false. Additionally it suggests that through basketball (without veils) Saudi women are free from the "constraints" of their religion and society. Again the quotation marks because we don't know what these women choose to do (choice of course also being problematic and limited by one's situation) and what they might be forced to do. It also assumes that sports themselves are free from tyranny and sexism.

The other version of the article I found contains a similarly problematic headline: Under cloak of secrecy Saudi women compete. Not much else I can add. Same themes, different wording.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Abby Wambach breaks my heart

Two days in a row Abby Wambach has disappointed me. First she comments on how athletes should not be responsible for knowing about the political situations in the countries in which the travel and compete (a la China this summer). And now she has given a brief interview in a Colorado paper in which she says some not so enlightened things.

First, she almost contradicts her statement about athletes and their responsibilities when she goes on about how much she enjoys getting to "expand as a human by doing community work, by really helping the cause and the movement of women's sports. It's not a burden of professional athletes, it's a responsibility. It's not easy getting on a plane and having to go do something, especially sometimes if you're a rookie and you're not getting paid."

Apparently her idea of community does not include those outside the US or even those outside of sport.

But what really broke my feminist heart was this answer in response to a question about the forthcoming Women's Professional Soccer league: We don't want to be like any other league. We want something to be special and touch people in a way that is not the same as the NFL or Major League Baseball. Time will tell and patience will be the key. Which women are almost more suited for.

It is not in Wambach's, or any female athlete's, best interest to engage in such essentialist thinking. After all, once upon a (not too long ago) time people thought women just weren't cut out for sports. It wasn't in their nature.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Yes, they should

TIME magazine came out with an article at the beginning of the month entitled "Should US Olympians Speak Out?" Well, yes, they should.

Of course the article was published before the recent earthquake which makes it difficult to critique China--the whole kicking someone while they're down kind of thing.

But let's compartmentalize a little bit and not forget the myriad of egregious policies and behaviors enacted by China that did have everyone talking not so very long ago.

Well everyone except maybe, many--or most perhaps--athletes who are either being told not to speak their opinions about the situation(s) or don't care much at all about what has been going on.

Quite annoying have been the responses of some American athletes including Paul Hamm who believes it is up to the politicians to work this one out. Well no one is asking Hamm (who has already been that the center of quite a bit of Olympic controversy, why shy away now?) to solve the problem. It would just be nice to be informed. Because it would be nice if everyone was informed--not just athletes. And athletes don't get a special pass because they are athletes.

So when Abby Wambach says "That's a lot of responsibility, to ask an athlete to not only represent your country and perform and try to win a gold meal, and to have a political view," I just cringe. (I may need to ditch that Abby Wambach t-shirt I got for Christmas this year--oh that's right--no one answered my request for an Abby Wambach t-shirt. I guess it's a good thing. I need to stop having crushes on athletes--they only disappoint me.)

Abby Wambach, you too are a citizen of the world. Get informed. Being a soccer superstar means being a role model--which I know you know--and being a good role model means being politically informed.

This article was particularly poignant in light of one of the questions I asked on my sport soc final last week: what are the obstacles to athletes being agents of change?
Well lack of interest in knowing anything about anything outside of sport. But also there is pressure from above--sponsors, governing bodies, agents, etc.--who effectively shush athletes. That hasn't stopped athletes like Joey Cheek and Jessica Mendoza though who have both not only gotten informed about world events but spoken out about them. They are, though, just a few of the mere handful of American athletes who have taken it upon themselves to do so.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


So RP calls this afternoon and says, "have you heard the BIG tennis news?" And I say "no, when did it break?" (I had been away from my computer for a few hours). But no, it was hours and hours ago that Justine Henin announced her immediate retirement. R says, well they say she's been in a slump. Yeah, a slump that any other player would kill for. She goes out on top--the only woman to ever retire in the #1 position.
As much as I thought Henin subverted some of the dominant paradigms of the game, and as much as I liked her backhand, and as much as I like saying that I remember her when she was just starting to become something other than an unknown (I saw her upset Kournikova at the US Open on Arthur Ashe many years ago when she was still wearing Le Coq Sportif*), I was never really a true fan. I never thought she was a true sportswoman and I think the whole hand up not ready yet signal at Roland Garros against Serena Williams incident really tainted her in my mind.
So that sadness referenced in this post's title is really about Annika Sorenstam's retirement--not effective immediately but coming soon--the end of the season. So me the tennis player says to RP the golfer, "Well, did YOU hear about the big news in golf?" She hadn't.
Anyway I am quite sad Sorenstam is retiring. I try not to get too attached to tennis players because sometimes they can have very short careers. (I am actually currently preparing myself mentally for Amelie Mauresmo's retirement which I feel is not that far away--though her career was certainly quite a bit longer than Henin's.) But golfers I feel stick it out for a while. It seems easier for them to cut back on their schedule if they want to reduce their travel and general wear and tear. And I mean, come on, it's Annika. Tournaments are going to let her in. But she wants to retire, clean break, and get married (again) and do other things like cook (isn't that what Babe Didrickson told the press when she needed to convince people she wasn't a lesbian?) and build golf courses and run academies and make millions and millions off her legacy. Fine. She deserves it. But I am sad that I never got to see her play in person.

*Whatever happened to Le Coq Sportif anyway? They were so hip and French and trendy for a while.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Will the new WNBA campaign work?

Doubtful. If it's aim is really to draw in male fans by pointing out to them how stupid their own comments on the women's game are (like there's no action, the league is stale, women are not physical enough, etc.) my suggestion is to try again. Not that all the reasons why men don't watch women's basketball are not completely ridiculous. They are.
But getting the WNBA's stars to verbalize them in the new ad campaign, called Think Great, probably isn't going to make many men--or many people who are not already fans--stop and say "gee, they're right. Women can take charges and play a physical and exciting game." Some of us already think women's basketball is great. And those who do not are not likely to be convinced.
The ads themselves do not especially bother me. I think they should have more action shots in them. I think when a player says "women can't take a charge" the ad should cut immediately to a player taking a charge. There are action shots but they are at the end which emphasizes the players talking and not the players playing.
Of course this seems to be in keeping with the WNBA's tactics. Focus on the players; how nice they look, how well they speak, how well they learned to apply that eye shadow in rookie training camp--and people will come out to see them play. Um, no. People will go on the internet if they are truly only interested in how a player looks. Otherwise all this preening and presentation serves as further fodder for the naysayers: how serious can a basketball player be if she's thinking about makeup all the time? (And I am sure there are many different versions of this sentiment.)
I feel for the WNBA--it's a lousy catch-22-like position to be in. But they need to figure out a better way.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Good college, bad college

Nope, I'm not talking about all the sanctions the NCAA levied on DI teams this week based on academic performance (or lack thereof). I am talking about the decisions made this time of year by colleges and universities about which famous persons will receive honorary degrees and awards.
Bad decision: Washington University in St. Louis has decided to give Phyllis Schlafly an honorary doctorate. I won't go down the list of all the anti-feminist ideas she advocates (including marital rape!) because Katha Pollitt did a great job doing so in her piece in The Nation. Needless to say, it was a bad decision. I haven't seen anything specific but I am pretty sure, given her anti-ERA campaign, she's not a fan of Title IX. (I had to throw that in because this is blog about sports and I realized that my post yesterday wasn't really about sports at all.)
Good decision: Barnard College will award Billie Jean King the Barnard Medal of Distinction this month. The award is the highest honor the college gives out.
I'm not saying that these things even out--because they don't. But I am pleased with Barnard and I am holding out hope that Washington U comes to its senses--well that ship may have sailed. I am hoping that all the pressure on them forces a reconsideration.

By the way, today the Sports Museum of American opened in NYC. King, who as a wing named after her--the Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Center, was there for the event.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Discrimination beyond the numbers

University of Colorado has made some big news over the past few years. Controversies at the school have been in abundance, including--and maybe especially--the lengthy Title IX suit brought by former students sexually assaulted by football recruits and players. That case got settled--finally--last year. And part of the settlement included the hiring of a Title IX coordinator.
And CU made big news again when they hired Title IX expert and law professor Nancy Hogshead-Makar for the position. The move, announced a few months ago now, indicates that CU is serious about changing its image and changing its campus climate (the cynic in me believes that the changes are in that order but as long as there actually is change I am not going pick nits).
But a Colorado citizen can't seem to see the discrimination because the numbers just don't add up for him.
The undergrad population at CU is 48 percent women and nationwide women comprise the clear majority in undergraduate classes, the author points out. And female instructors, he states, comprise 51 percent of those in teaching positions at the university.
Here's what the numbers don't reveal: the percentage of women who experience sexual harassment and assault; the number of women among those 51 percent of instructors who do not have tenure. Women still are denied tenure at a disproportionately higher rate than their male colleagues and are often filling adjunct or instructor positions which provide far less pay and little or no benefits longer and in greater numbers than men.
Mere majorities--which hardly even exist at CU, do not change the climate; they do not change people's ideas about women; they do not seem to reduce incidents of abuse and harassment; they do not equal anything resembling equal treatment.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Just stuff

1. If you live in Maine--well Maine is a big state--if you live near Waterville, ME, I should say, then go tomorrow at noon to The Center to see a screening of the documentary Kick Like a Girl and a chance to hear and talk to co-producer Jennifer Jordon.
It's not that I think I have a great following in Maine, this news item was just a good chance and a reminder to me that I needed to mention and extol the virtues of this film which I ordered myself and watched over a month ago.
The documentary was directed and shot (largely) by Jenny Mackenzie who is the coach of her daughter Lizzie's soccer team in Salt Lake City. The team, after beating soundly every team in their league one year decided to try their luck in the boys' division. The film chronicles their season.
And it's very compelling. I showed it in my sport sociology class and we were running out of class time and no one was moving. I turned it off when class time was up and I actually heard complaints: "But I want to see what happens. What happens?" One student actually borrowed it from me so he could write a paper on it for another class.
My only concern came at the end when the girls on the team say what they learned from playing with boys and how they adjusted and most of them just reified the idea that girls are more passive and there is less competition in an all-girls league. In other words, these girls are anomalies. But in general, the film implies, girls do not have the aggression and competitive drive to compete with boys. This serves to reinforce the status quo. Yes, some girls are good but the majority are not. The potential threat to the social order that girls may present is thus contained. Some of this gets lost among the overall feel-goodedness and the compelling commentary from the players, the parents, and the boys the girls beat along the way.
2. So in case anyone didn't see the feel-good story of the week month year (?) check out (this link is to a brief video) how some softball players helped a member of the opposing team around the bases after she hit her only career home run but tore her ACL rounding first. The sportswomanship has been lauded on blogs and in the news--national news. Of course there are those that like to point out that such a thing would never happen in men's sports and that what the women did wasn't really sportsmanship (sic) because there is nothing in that ethic that requires such efforts. Whatever. Maybe it goes beyond sports--maybe it was just a good thing to do--to help someone succeed, to reach a goal.
3. (With thanks to JB for passing this info along.) So Sports Illustrated began the swimsuit issue to fill some proverbial dead air: "it seemed like a better idea than the dog shows and winter sports in Russia we were covering," said Mark Ford, an SI exec. And they have made billions off it. So while they could have been covering women's sports--something they clearly didn't even consider, they opted instead to buy into--and profit off of--the objectification of women.

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.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Please don't listen to this woman

Not too long ago I mentioned Yahoo's new women-focused website and claimed that the lack of sports coverage on the site indicated a lack of insight on Yahoo's part. But I certainly hope they don't go listening to this woman who claims to be a sports fan.
Brenda Scisson, a former sports reporter, has a column describing what she believes all women sports fans want.
While this assessment represents only one woman's view, I feel confident that fellow female sports fans will agree at least in part, if not in whole, with my list.
I wholly disagree with her whole list. It's a ridiculous accumulation of what women allegedly get out of sports that are uniquely feminine. Because sports themselves aren't gendered enough apparently. Because society has not gone to the greatest lengths possible to perpetuate the differences between men's and women's sports (and in the process inferiorize women's sports) already. Now we are gendered fandom. Okay, sure, fandom was already gendered to some extent. There were the football widows which implied that only men were fans. And now there are pink jerseys and hats and other apparel and accessories. But Scisson's column, probably intended to be playful, only makes female fans seem like ditzes. And she also puts forth a version of female fandom that DOES NOT apply to all--and I would hope very few--female fans. It also dabbles--not just dabbles, reifies unequivocally, essentialist notions of gender.
Here are some excerpts:
The nurturing side of women comes out in sports. We love entertaining before and after games. A tailgate party to a female fanatic is more treasured than a candlelit gourmet dinner and dancing.
Most women pray for good weather for outdoor sporting events. Our greatest opponents are heat, humidity and rain. Our makeup beads with perspiration, our hairstyles go flat or frizzy, and worst of all, our mascara and eyeliner often run.
We enjoy – actually, we require – a good cry or two during each sports season.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

News from around the world

1. A tween rugby phenom is being denied an opportunity to play with the boys. Jessica Neilson, 12, who has trained with elite female rugby players, was barred from competing on her middle school team this year after having done so for the past few years (along with several other girls) because the school does not have a girls' team. Some strange bureaucracy is at work. Neilson's junior high became a middle school, which means the sports are now under the auspices of the Lower Island Middle School Sports Association. Although it has a non-discrimination policy that prevents discrimination on the basis of sex it also has an explicit rule that no girls are to play on boys' teams and boys are not to play on girls' team. Though Jessica and her mother have appealed the rule, there has been no decision which means Jessica keeps losing opportunities to play.
2. A group of Saudi women are playing basketball and hoping to one day represent their country in international play. It will be an uphill battle, though, given the restrictions on women playing sports, traveling without male guardianship, and mingling with men. Saudi Arabia has been especially strict in their stance on women and physical activity with some clerics deeming it un-Islamic; the reason they successfully gave to ban physical education for girls. Gyms for women were closed in the 90s though some now exist in affiliation with hospitals. Unlike other Muslim countries in which women are participating in sports in greater numbers and accommodations are being made to allow them to remain practitioners of both sport and religion, Saudi Arabia seems to be moving backward. Recently cancelled were two events for women: a marathon, and a soccer match. And Saudi Arabia will have no women in its Olympic delegation this summer in Beijing. The IOC has pressured the Saudis to add women but in general outside pressure from Western countries usually has a limited (as in no) effect on engendering change because much of the concern is Western influence and decadence. It appears that change will have to come from within and it may given the dedication and desire exhibited by many Saudi sportswomen.