Friday, November 28, 2008

We're not north of the Mason-Dixon line anymore

So yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I did this Turkey Trot thing--in Florida. How nice, you must be thinking. Running in Florida. Not so much. It was cold. Seriously. People were dressed the way I would dress at home for a run.
Whatever, I was a little chilly during the run and freezing afterwards when I was waiting in an enormous line of other Turkey Trotters at the local Einstein Bagels.
Sometimes I forget Florida is the south. I don't know why--maybe because Disneyworld is here. (Which should actually corroborate things, but you know, childhood memories and all.) But it was hard to forget yesterday when 1) I had to listen to someone sing--live--the national anthem (of the US) as I hopped around trying to stay warm before the gun went off for the 5K. The national anthem before a 5K fun run? Strange. It reminded me of a post by Michael Butterworth at The Agon about the overt patriotism in baseball. I believe some of the sentiments are applicable even though Butterworth is talking about the God Bless America ritual. I swear I saw an editorial once that addressed the national anthem specifically. But I can't find it now.
The national anthem thing wasn't that surprising. I was a little shocked when, waiting at the finish line for others in my party, I saw a woman come across the line wearing a University of Florida sweatshirt complete with offensive logo (again not that surprising given my location). But as she crossed she did the Seminole chop! At a Turkey Trot fun run. Interesting manifestation of school pride.
Today I'm golfing. We'll how that works out.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From around the blogosphere

I started this post forever ago because I was looking for a quick post to dash off before I headed to Denver for a conference. But compiling information actually takes longer than one might think. And now I am on pseudo-vacation so I thought I would revisit it. Some of the information is old but I haven't heard much coverage of some of the stories so I don't feel too bad putting them out there now.

  • I have been a fan of Ashley Fiolek's since I first read about the motcross star last summer. I voted for her in the recent WSF Athlete of the Year Awards (she lost to Nastia Liukin, which I am still getting over). But even if WSF voters did not recognize Fiolek's accomplishments and contributions, others have. The editors at TransWorld Motcross magazine have. According to the story at Because I Played Sports, Fiolek will be the first woman to appear on the cover of the magazine. She also has a regular column in the publication called Silence in which she talks about her deafness.

  • Also another follow-up type story from Women's Sports Blog, Christine Daniels, a writer for the LA Times, has decided to detransition. Daniels announced in April of 2007, writing as Mike Penner, would be transitioning from a man to a woman. Penner wrote a column about his decision and his coming-out process, and as I noted seemed very excited about and supported in his transition. Penner has not revealed why he will be detransitioning but there is a very good column linked to in the WSB post that explain the realities of transitioning and detransitioning.
  • Diane at Women Who Serve has a great Top 10 list and commentary of the 2008 season on the WTA.
  • How the economic downturn (that's putting it mildly, right?) is affecting sports is a hot topic these days. (I may actually devote a longer post to it at some point.) The Title IX Blog has a couple of posts about how intercollegiate sports might (or are) deal with economics and Title IX.
  • Also in the area of year-end lists, Pat Griffin at It Takes a Team comments on OUT magazine's top 100 influential people in the GLBT community. The skinny: very few athletes and an underrepresentation of women and people of color. Pat's planning on writing to OUT and making some suggestions regarding some of these absences. You can too!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Co-ed rec sports

I think a lot about co-ed sports. Okay not a lot a lot--I do have a life. But I find them particularly interesting in all their various manifestations. I myself have played co-ed softball and mixed doubles. Quite different, of course, but definitely sharing some similarities. Because most co-ed sports share similarities and that is because they all adopt a similar paradigm: the need to make adjustments to accommodate the skills of women. And the implication, of course, is that those skills are inferior.
And that paradigm manifests itself in more ways than just the gendered batting order or the mandate that women serve to women on the deciding point of a game. Jennifer Doyle, a rec soccer player, talks about her experiences playing with men at her blog From a Left Wing (another new blog to add to the list!) and the thoughts such experiences have created in her.
Also, the UCLA student newspaper The Daily Bruin, has an article about co-rec sports on its campus. They are quite popular, according to sources. Unfortunately, the rule changes, again made in the name of accommodating women, result in statements like this:
"It’s less physical, but you can’t do much about that,” second-year prebusiness economics student Charles Liu said.
“Girls can really surprise you about how good they are at football. ... It’s still a lot of fun."
If Liu really wanted a physical game, why doesn't he just play men's flag football? It just could be, maybe, that there are men out there that enjoy this version of the game(s) as well. In other words, the accommodations, I would bet, aren't just for women. They provide an alternative for everyone.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Do you Zumba?

I never, never jump into the latest fitness trends. It took me years to get into both Step and indoor cycling.

But for some reason I tried Zumba a couple of weeks ago and have been twice now. Not sure how long Zumba has been around (wait--according to the website it came to the US in the early 2000s), but it just came to my gym. Zumba is--this my description--a dance aerobics class. The foundations of the movements are in Latin dance.

Here is what the Zumba website has to say about its product:

Zumba® fuses hypnotic latin rhythms and easy to follow moves to create a dynamic fitness program that will blow you away. Our goal is simple: We want you to want to work out, to love working out, to get hooked. Zumba® Fanatics achieve long term benefits while experiencing an absolute blast in one exhilarating hour of caloric-burning, body-energizing, awe-inspiring movements meant to engage and captivate for life!

(The rest of the description is here.)

I haven't decided exactly how I feel about it from a workout sense. It is indeed fun and the music is good. How intense the cardio is--for me--is still up in the air. [But I usually play tennis immediately after class so I'm not that worried about that for now. And yes, I am getting into the moves and not holding back.]

Not sure how true the "easy to follow moves" really are. But unlike Step and other aerobics classes, getting all the moves down and in the "right" order, etc. isn't all that important in Zumba, as far as I can tell. And my instructor certainly reinforces that idea. The other night someone asked a more technical question about how to switch feet and she said "well I go like this" and demonstrated "but you can do whatever you want to get there" and kind of did a little awkward shuffle thing. And she will say throughout the class "do whatever feels good" and offer different options for arms and other movements. But that may be an individual instructor thing. I certainly like my instructor for this reason and because, on day 1 she was extolling the virutes of Zumba and said something about how many calories you could burn in the hour but quickly added "not that that should matter to you."

Zumba has certainly created some chatter. There's a lot of chattering in class and there is a LOT of chatter in the locker room after class. And that's because people--99.5 percent women (there was one man in class the other night)--are a little self-conscious about how they move their bodies.
Because is undeniably erotic. Yep, I said it. It's sexual. It's based on Latin dance. Just because you put it in a suburban gym filled mostly with white, middle-class women does not mean the sexiness--well it actually does go away a little when you see some people doing it--more on that in a sec. The other night two women who were quite...well...stiff in class were "joking" about how they couldn't Zumba and how one was going to tell her husband she was doing erotic dance moves at the gym. These two women who are running and training buddies and in, by all accounts, great shape kept saying over and over "we don't Zumba." Really, over and over. Not sure why. They clearly felt some awkwardness over not being able to do this. Or rather not being able to execute the moves in a way that reflects a sort of flowing or natural movement. Because it's pretty easy to compensate for a lack of knowledge about the steps by just going with the flow. But so many women do not.
How out of touch with our bodies are we? My sister (who Zumbas at a different gym) and I both think that how well one Zumbas--in terms of getting into it and really moving, not knowing the steps--is likely a reflection on one's sexual life. Which is also sometimes a reflection of how in touch we are with our bodies.
Or maybe people just don't want to be sexual in the gym and so hold back. If so, why not? The gym's a pretty sexual place. Look around. Bodies, muscles, sweat, steaminess, skin, grunting, flexing, tensing. Maybe Zumba is just more overt in showing us what's already there. And maybe that's why some people just seem so awkward about it all.
The You Tube clip below is from a TODAY show segment from a little over a year ago. Poor Ann Curry always getting dragged into doing these things when she clearly does not want to.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Canada, hockey, and sexuality: What a movie!

I had heard about this movie that was going to be about a gay NHL player so long ago I practically forgot about it. Okay, I did forget about it--until last week when I got an email (see, sometimes being on listservs really does pay off!) saying that Breakfast with Scot was screening in my area on Saturday.
But it's no wonder I had forgotten about it. I blogged about the production, which had just started, two years ago. Here's some of what I said then: do we even know the film will do a good job in its treatment of homosexuality? Will it rely on stereotypes and poor parodies? Will it do enough and do well enough to actually engender changes in opinion?
I can be pretty harsh (shocker, I know) on media generally and movies in particular about their treatments of homosexuality. And so I was pleasantly surprised to leave the screening Saturday evening saying "yeah, that was a good movie." And then I wondered if I wasn't being too uncritical or in some kind of odd happy mood, or just really hungry and anxious about getting consensus for a dinner plan. So I stopped and thought about it a little more.
And, yes, it was a good movie. I didn't find it stereotypical. I thought it truly represented a range of gay people and dealt with issues of gender identification. I was not jarred by the change in attitude of the main character about his own sexuality or that of the child he winds up parenting. I have found other movies far more reductionist in their treatment of how a child just lights up one's life. I found the reluctance and ambivalence about parenting a non-relative, gender-bending child refreshing. And sure there was a happy ending with few loose endings but I didn't have expectations of anything else, so I was not disappointed.
There are sooooo many bad gay movies out there. I think many of us have come to expect mediocrity, that our standards have been lowered. But this was a good movie--by most standards. So if it comes to your neck of the woods--see it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Check it out in Boston

Donna Lopiano and historian Susan Ware are co-presenting a talk on Billie Jean King and second-wave feminism tomorrow night at Harvard, 6pm.
Sounds interesting.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Making their cases

Yesterday, seven sports made their cases to an IOC committee about why they should be included in the 2016 Olympics. Softball and baseball, of course, were two of the seven, making separate arguments to the program commission which is comprised of 16 IOC members.
Long day for the commission with each sport making a one-hour pitch.
Also pleading for inclusion: golf (we know how I feel about that); karate (still surprised it isn't in already); rugby (I'm in support--far more supportive of it than baseball certainly); roller sports (not really sure what this would look like and am doubtful they have garnered enough support to get it over the other high-profile sports); and squash (ambivalent).
In June the commission will issue its recommendations and the full 100-member IOC board will vote next year at a meeting in Coopenhagen.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Concussions in female hockey players

The hype (hysteria?) over women and their ACLs must be waning. Looks like the new focus* is on concussions. I've actually read a little about concussions in women's sports. The injury just doesn't receive nearly as much attention and "concern." This is likely because no one seems to be suggesting that there is something about a woman's physiology that predisposes her to concussions whereas that argument has been proffered to explain the higher rate of ACL injuries in women.
Oh, but wait. This article does seem to fluctuate between the rate as a trend versus an effect of physiology. Also, the data that suggest women are receiving concussions at a much higher rate are from an NCAA study of a relatively small sample. The NCAA's data do not reflect other research that has examined concussions rates in male and female hockey players. The article does mention other possibilities:
...reasons are varied, ranging from what sounds like sexist science – that women are more willing to consult medical staff than men – to weaker neck muscles to rigid, upright skating positions that compromise their balance. In a similar trend, the NCAA study also found female basketball and soccer players sustained concussion rates higher than those of their male counterparts, but less than those of female hockey players.
The article moves between challenging and reifying stereotypes about women in sports as it addresses issues such as how hard women play, level of aggression, muscle strength, skills and abilities, and ability to deal with injury/pain. I do sense though a bias toward female athletes as somehow innately inferior and certainly there are patronizing moments in it. My favorite was this:
Balmer is one of hockey's broken daughters, a growing group of players who are sustaining concussions in a virtual vacuum...
Nice prose, but a little hyperbolic and certainly condescending. "Broken daughters"? Nothing like invoking the image of a small, helpless girl child in need of protection from a father(-figure).

(h/t to Sean from Sportsbabel for sending the article my way.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

She doesn't have a penis! *

Yes, the title is a little crude. But frankly, I am so exasperated at women being called men I just don't know how else to draw attention to this issue.
Because Hope Solo, is a woman and thus cannot be your Sportsman of the Year. It's interesting that this column by George Dohmann is titled Hope Solo: Sportsman of the Year (the dissonance that creates...) but Dohmann himself refers to the award as Sportsperson. Glad that some of SI's writers are smarter than their copy editors.

*Just for the record, I do not believe that genitals make someone a man or a woman. And actually many governing bodies of sport these days are not relying on genital identification either. So while I admit the title is somewhat reductionist--I think it makes the point.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More tirade opportunities

My letter to the recreation director and the mayor of Michigan City were polite but strongly worded. My post to a student columnist's anti-Title IX piece in the U of Illinois's Daily Illini was a little more harsh. I'm not really surprised that a university at which so many people thought that their use of a Native American mascot was just fine would produce such a misinformed piece. But I'm feeling feisty and annoyed--a bad combination.
I have copied my post below. The first line is in a response to this post:
Finally someone has the courage to write an article on this subject. No doubt he will be criticized by the activists within a few hours.

He will be criticized by the activists because he fails miserably in his understanding of Title IX. (Also, it doesn't take much courage at all to be anti-woman in a patriarchal society and, in particular, a historically misogynist venue: sport.)The prongs measure only one of 13 different areas of compliance with Title IX. They address only the issue of participation opportunities. And, by the way, it was men who, in 1979, came up with the prong system, because it benefitted them at the time because a higher proportion of men attended colleges and universities. Neither the prongs nor Title IX generally mandates equal funding. It asks for equitable funding, opportunities, and access. The law was designed to accomodate the fact that different sports cost different amounts (uniforms, travel, equipment, etc.). Additionally, perhaps the biggest misconception lies in the "equal number of sports" argument. It is not the number of sports--it is the total number of opportunities. Rosters differ significantly among sports. Even between baseball and softball, two allegedly similar sports; softball keeps a much smaller roster because it does not require carrying such a large pitching staff. This leads to this activist's final point. If you want men's soccer and swimming/diving, hockey, etc.--cut football. The over 100 participation opportunities for men through football could easily field 4 men's teams. Also, the money you save from football's excesses could fund these teams--and then some. Because, with a few exceptions like Ohio State, football does not make money. Stop blaming Title IX--start looking at the facts.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Please register your concern

I so enjoy sending a strongly worded note of concern over some egregious act perpetuated by some knowing persons. Letters to the editor, letters to journalists, letters to television execs, letters to administrators--things of that sort. Haven't done it in a while. Thankfully Pat Griffin over at the It Takes a Team blog has provided me and others like me a new opportunity. She had previously reported on the suspension of two volunteer coaches of youth baseball in Michigan City, IN after they not only condoned the use of anti-gay slurs against a 12-year old boy, but participated in the harassment and proceeded to defend their actions and those of the other harassers. They were suspended from coaching for one year. A slap on the wrist if ever there was one.
Now, though, it's a slap in the face to the victim and his supporters: the recreation department has overturned the suspension of said coaches.
Please read more of the story at It Takes a Team where there are also links to the original stories. And then email or call the head of the recreation board and the mayor of Michigan City. Contact info is below and at Griffin's blog.

Jeremy Kienitz Recreation Director
voice: (219) 873-1524

Mayor Chuck Oberlie
Office of the Mayor 100 East Michigan Boulevard
Michigan City, Indiana 46360

Monday, November 10, 2008

Women, fandom, and consumerism

The title makes it seem like I am going to say something truly profound about these issues. But not really. 'Cause I've said a lot of it before. But it's Monday; I just got back from Denver, and I'm feeling blog-lazy. So I'll just repeat my basic rant that is always engendered by articles such as this one that report--always with a hint of surprise--that female fans of men's professional sports comprise a pretty significant portion of the consumer base for apparel and other fan gear/accessories.
Yes, sales of women's NFL jerseys are up and appear to be equal to those of men's and youth.
I get the different fit for women--though I'm not so sure some men wouldn't benefit from different fits either. Women are not the only ones with prominent breasts these days. Ideally I would like, at the very least, a gender-neutral sizing system. Why I am a men's small but a women's large kind of confounds me. Anyway, cut is one thing--color is another:
Also helping the sales of NFL sports apparel are the pink NFL jerseys that are also a relatively new phenomenon. Women who acknowledge their feminine side while watching the NFL's brutes knock each other around on Sundays are also buying the pink jerseys of their favorite NFL stars in part to show support for the fight against breast cancer. Many NFL teams tie in awareness events with pink NFL apparel including the most popular jerseys of players like Tony Romo and Brett Favre.
I do this great sound effect that is a cross between an extended sigh and grrrr...that comes from the back of my throat. That's what I am doing right now. Seriously, I am so over this pink crap. I think that manufacturers realized that the pink for women thing might not last and so became attached to breast cancer causes. But if all these teams and apparel companies really supported breast cancer awareness/research/etc. they would 1) probably not have enough social conscience not to have their products produced in sweat shops, 2) would not tie their donation amounts to sales of jerseys and 3) would market to men, too. All these male athletes and execs are allegedly concerned with breast cancer, yet none of them are sporting pink jerseys. Hmmm....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Dear Larry Scott, Please pick one side of your mouth

The work Billie Jean King is doing promoting the women's year-end championship in Qatar is the focus of this AP article. She discusses her desire to bring the sport to the Middle East and to bring sport to middle eastern women.
It also notes some of the challenges such as advertising the event in public in ways that do not offend the Muslim culture there. In other words--no picture of players in their skirts and tanks. But WTA head Larry Scott said he doesn't really want to look at any contradictions with the values of the WTA and such concessions. Probably because Scott isn't able to see contradictions generally so it could be a difficult task for him. I'm not even sure he knows what a contradiction is based on his comments:
"Our role is not to discuss concerns we have about society."
But then:
"We are here to build sport, and as a supporting organisation we believe we are a catalyst for change.... Sport is a reflection of society. This event could not have taken place ten years ago, so this is very significant. It will promote more understanding and tolerance and different ways of looking at things. Our athletes are playing a very significant role but we don't have a political and social agenda."

Yeah, I can't really figure it out either.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thoughts (not mine) on women and hockey

I have plenty of thoughts about women and hockey, and it's good to know that others feel similarly. Damien Cox at has a very good editorial about the continued gender discrimination perpetuated by the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Again this year there were no female nominees. Cox notes that this is despite the fact that both the International Hockey Federation HoF and the US HoF recently broke the gender barrier and enshrined female players. It has basically become a pissing contest Cox says with the HHoF seeing how long it can hold out, refusing to change its procedures and reveal how the process really works (beyond our basic understandings of typical old boys' networks).
He also takes to the task some of excuses proffered by HoF officials like "there isn't enough of a women's hockey history yet" (been around just as long as the men's game--just because looks different doesn't mean it isn't there) and that female players' accomplishments do not compare to those of male players.
Cox believes some day the HHoF will give in but right now they seem pretty wedded to their position (of privilege).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day post

Try as I have to remain stoic throughout this whole election thing, I keep getting sucked in.
So here it is, my election day post brought about by a comparison between Title IX and Proposition 8 by those opposed to the latter.
How did they possibility do that, you ask. Here's how:
...under California domestic partnership laws, same-sex couples already have all of the legal rights that heterosexual married couples do, just not the name "marriage." Unlike same-sex "marriage," women's suffrage did not change the definition of the word "vote." Title IX didn't change the definition of "sports." Same-sex "marriage," on the other hand, radically redefines the very term "marriage" -- what it means at its very core.
It's a lousy analogy, especially because 1) the definition of sport is always being debated and 2) because Title IX did have an effect on our understanding of sport--who gets to play and how and in what contexts. If did not change some of our fundamental understandings about sport--and gender--then it wouldn't be so threatening to so many. That is the connection between Prop 8 and Title IX: they both effect change many do not want to see because they want to keep certain institutions exclusive, in these cases marriage and sport respectively.
Okay, that's it. I have to go vote now.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Now they want to be separate

I've said this before but I'm saying it now again in light of this story out of Canada about the International Softball Federation, when you're a women's sport and you attach yourself to a men's sport in an attempt to garner attention and support, you will frequently find yourself screwed. The most obvious example of this at the moment is international softball which has found itself out of the Olympics along with baseball which was not, many see it, a coincidence. Softball didn't have enough of its own reputation, its own presence to withstand the scandals in baseball. This theory has been around since the voting to eliminate the sports took place, but not the ISF is taking more formal steps to separate from baseball asking all its national bodies to become independent from baseball if they have not done so already.
Now if we can only get the softball commentators to stop making so many baseball references!

Both baseball and softball are applying for reinstatement and a vote will take place in October of 2009.