Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quinnipiac adds rugby

A friend and colleague sent me the link the You Tube video (below) promoting women's rugby at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. QU added women's rugby in an attempt to come into Title IX compliance, after it was told, by a federal judge, that it could not--at this time--count competitive cheerleading as a sport. It also added women's golf and kept--per the judge's order--women's volleyball. You may recall that QU tried to cut its women's volleyball team, but because it was not providing equitable opportunities to women, it elevated competitive cheer to varsity status to compensate for the cut. But it was also revealed that there had been some roster doctoring going on.
So, as said friend noted, it was kind of interesting that the promo video stressed--repeatedly--opportunity. Seems to be a word they only recently learned. And you know how it goes. You learn a new word and you just want to use it over and over again.
I also found it kind of amusing that the video uses the de facto gay anthem as its background music. I would guess that that was not intentional but, hey, it could be effective. Today's recruits are probably more astute than the PR people in QU's athletics department.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Harassment follow up and the Patriots versus the Jets

The Monday morning quarterbacking was all about the Patriots' second half demise yesterday. Nothing about the battle of the locker room bullies. (That I saw. If there was any kind of comment--please send me the link!!) Apparently I was the only one who saw the intrigue in having one team whose harassment of a female reporter made national news twenty years ago take on another team whose harassment of a female reporter made national news just last week.
I guess karma really isn't a bitch.
Anyway, that's not really what I want to be talking about.
I wanted to go back to the Erin Andrews/Ines Sainz comparisons made in the aftermath of Sainz's statements that she had been subject to inappropriate comments in the Jets locker room. The discourse was about whether Sainz was more self-sexualizing than Andrews. And I come down on the "it so doesn't matter"side of the debate. Why? Because our culture is doing a fantabulous job sexualizing these women all on its own.
Here was my highly refined sociological experiment: I googled each of them.
The results on the basic Google search include a series of thumbnail photos that one can click on for the larger version and original location.
The thumbnail photos are eerily similar. Both include shots of the respective reporters posed on bikinis. Both have shots in which the women's chests are clearly supposed to be the eye-catcher. And both searches contain respective ass shots: no heads; just backsides and both are from when these women were on the sidelines DOING THEIR JOBS. Most of the photos--outside of the bikini poses--were taken when Sainz and Andrews were working. So what if Erin Andrews is wearing a sweater that doesn't reveal as much skin as some of Sainz's tops?--the photos are focused in on the same body part. The intent is the same.
So let's stop with the whole "who's more pure" discussion and start looking at the purity level of the photographers, media outlets, and viewers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another story I didn't want to talk about

Not sure why I am so averse to discussing the more hyped stories. I guess I like discovering the little ones and sharing them.
But some are just unavoidable and it seems the harassment of a female reporter by some Jets players last weekend is going to be one of those stories. In this case, I think I resent that we are still having these conversations; that people think things are fine and dandy because "progress" has been made and then shock and outrage occurs when such an incident is revealed. I, myself, was called out a few months ago for noting that female sports reporters are still subject to harassment. I could do the I-told-you-so dance, but I have no desire to dance over such a situation.
In case you have no idea what I am talking about, sports reporter Ines Sainz has said that she was subjected to offensive comments in the Jets locker room while covering the team's practice last Saturday. The response from the Jets and NFL was swift, investigating and apologizing for the conduct of the Jets. [I'm just going to let it go that the Jets owner is Woody Johnson.]
But wow has this story exploded far beyond the actual alleged incidents. The two paths taken: women in the locker room and how Sainz presents herself.
First, more than one NFL player has come out and said that women should not be in their locker rooms. Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears said in an interview that female reporters should not be in locker rooms--apparently despite the fact that they have the legal right to be there and the NFL reiterated that it grants equal access to male and female journalists. OK, kind of a retro attitude that we should take issue with--but not nearly as bad as statements by Clinton Portis of that team in Washington whose name I refuse to write. Portis thinks that these women just want to get into the locker rooms so they can scan the 53 packages to see what might "spark [their] interest."
Why do men think their packages are all that attractive anyway? Power of the phallus and all that stuff but aesthetically speaking...I mean we all have different aesthetics, but if I'm looking at an elite professional athlete it's not the genitalia I find most attractive.
There have been other stories in this vein.
The second angle this story has taken is the "she was asking for it" response. Again, a discourse with which we are quite familiar. Pictures abound showing Sainz in various tight-fitting clothes. There have been the comparisons with Erin Andrews--also a victim of harassment. Anderson has been painted as pure and innocent and Sainz as--well, not. Commentators claim that Sainz's outfit was not appropriate, that she knew what she was going to get wearing clothes like that, that she has a history of using her sex appeal.
So society tells women to be sexy and attractive; billion dollar industries thrive on making women feel they could/should be sexier, but if you do anything more than stand your sexy self still you're accused of being manipulative. I am sure it doesn't hurt that Sainz fits the heteronormative standards of female attractiveness. Andrews does too--most women on television do. They are playing the game. I wish the game rules were different. I haven't stopped trying to change them in my own little ways--but you can only put so much blame on people trying to succeed by living up to standards they did not create who are subsequently punished for adhering too well.
And when someone like Jenn Sterger comes out and criticizes Ines Sainz for essentially crying wolf, I start to think apocalyptic thoughts.
So the missing angle in this story is race. Not surprising. One of the differences between Andrews and Sainz is that Andrews is Caucasian and Sainz is a Latina. The age-old virgin/whore dichotomy is affected by the race of the respective women. The sexy Latina must be asking for it. The white woman who dresses conservatively according to commentators did nothing but be pretty. I don't expect a whole lot of discourse to emerge on this aspect of the story. But it should not be ignored.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The cheerleaders are fighting!

Yes, I went for the cheap titillation with the not-so-accurate headline. But I am so very amused at the way this whole cheerleading; sport or not? thing has gone down since the ruling earlier in the summer in the Quinnipiac case. Every week since the ruling (that said only that the Quinnipiac competitive cheer team could not be counted as a sport for the purpose of Title IX) I have seen many, many stories, editorials, rants and tears about whether cheerleading is or is not a sport.
Thankfully this week there are new headlines, like this one from the NYT: Group to Create Sport of Stunt. It's just a blurb about how USA Cheer is working in collaboration with 15 college cheer programs to create the sport of stunt. This announcement, the blurb notes, comes just a week after USA Gymnastics announced it was partnering with the 6 current varsity intercollegiate cheer teams to create team acrobatics and tumbling. Oh, but there has to be more to this than the blurb is letting on, I said to myself.
Indeed. According to the more extensive AP article, USA Gymnastics is working with the organization that was created right around the time that Quinnipiac created intercollegiate competitive cheer--coincidence I am told. The National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association, whose governing board includes the QU athletic director according to his own testimony in the trial, joined forces with USA Gymnastics to create sanctioned events (following USA Gymnastics rules and regs) in an attempt to get the NCAA to recognize them as an emerging sport which would, they hope, allow schools to count it toward Title IX participation requirements.
And now NCATA is pissed that USA Cheer which, through its many subsidiaries and/or parent organizations/corporations, has its hand in everything cheerleading in this country has decided to create stunt. USA Cheer is working with competitive cheer club teams--not teams that have varsity status at their institution.
Looks like the format of the competitions will be similar. There will be a championship in both sports. (I assume there are two sports being created here since they have different names and all!)
But if I was part of the USA Cheer efforts*--like if I was a competitive cheerleader at one of the 15 schools involved--I would be ticked by this statement from NCATA president Renee Baumgartner (also Senior Women's Administrator at University of Oregon):
"Those club cheerleading teams are cheerleaders, and our young athletes are athletes, gymnasts, and there is a big difference between the two. There is a right way to do this and a wrong way. Perhaps some of these institutions are being misled."
Oh, snap--did she just call cheerleaders, just cheerleaders!
Let the schisming begin!
I'll be sitting on the sidelines for this one--commentating--not cheering.

* And if you heard any of the QU trial testimony--as I was lucky enough to--by cheerleading expert Jeff Webb, who sits on USA Cheer's board of directors, you would know that USA Cheer was indeed going to be making many efforts to get into this move to varsity cheerleading. There was no way they were going to sit back and let the NCATA move in on its (very profitable) territory.
Part of my amusement stems from NCATA's outrage that a for-profit association--or an association that is affiliated with a for-profit entity, Varsity Brands, is trying to get in on this cheerleading as sport action. Give me a break. Chik-fil-A just sponsored a kick-off game--kick-off game, not even a bowl game--between LSU and UNC. Capital One has created a trophy for the best performing DI school during one academic year. Corporate money is all over collegiate sport so ditch the holier-than-thou attitude. Cheerleading, or stunt, or tumbling and acrobatics will not be immune.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

In case you missed it...

...like I did. The Women's World Baseball Cup was held last month in Venezuela. The tournament gained attention (again not mine--I missed this whole thing; though I did read that there was very little media coverage; regular Sports Center watchers might be able to report whether the WWBC got any air time in the US) because of a shooting that occurred in the first few days of the tournament, held every other year. A South Koren player was hit by a stray bullet* in the leg. She was treated and is fine, though the team pulled out of the tournament.
Japan seemed to dominate most of its competition throughout the tourney and came away with the gold. They beat Australia in the gold medal game. The US team won the bronze medal game against home team Venezuela. Two Americans were named tournament all-stars.

*What exactly makes a bullet stray anyway? It's an odd phrasing, no? As if bullets just are randomly flying around like trash that people toss out their car windows. Completely erases the fact that there was a shooter.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Biology, motherhood, and female athletes

Note the staid title. It's because "you're f*&^ing kidding me" kept running through my head after reading this NYT piece and I couldn't get past that most basic but not very telling sentiment long enough to come up with a witty/snarky title.
So Gigi Fernandez, former professional tennis player, decided rather late (relatively) in life to have children. And becoming pregnant was quite difficult for her. Not surprising because fertility rates in women do decline as we age. Fernandez and her partner, former pro golfer Jane Geddes, made the decision when Fernandez, who was to be the bearer, in her 40s. After many rounds of in vitro fertilization that did not take, Fernandez had the eggs of a personal friend inseminated and implanted in her.* And now she and Jane have twins.
Before I get to the problematic aspects of this story, I just want to say "good for them!" It sounds like they went through a lot during this long process.
But the messages Fernandez are sending are worrisome. First, she talks about waiting too long to have kids and regretting being so focused on tennis when she was younger that she was not thinking about parenthood. This is one in a series of articles by the NYT about female athletes and the decisions they make about becoming parents and raising children. The series seems to be called (based on the heading on my internet window) "Female Athletes Risk Deferring Dream of Parenthood too Long."
Such a slippery slope, no? Don't play sports too long (or too hard as is suggested in the article) because you won't be able to bear children later on. But let's note that Fernandez retired at the age of 33 and met her partner that same year. But she didn't make her decision to have kids until about 10 years later. That had nothing to do with tennis.
The whole choose to have kids or choose your career (sports or otherwise) ultimatum is really, well, lousy for lack of a more articulate explanation.
And it ignores the possibility of not bearing children at all but adopting or fostering. The children Fernandez bore are not biologically related to her or her partner. Biology does not create a family, of course. But why go through what both women relate was a hellish process of hormones and mood swings (plus subject a good friend to the same in order to harvest her eggs for implantation) when you could adopt? Why are adopted children less desirable than the ones that come from your own womb? What is up with this hierarchy that seems to exist in the realm of how one becomes a parent?

* Let's also note the great expense of fertility treatments, likely made possible, in this case, by the professional athletic careers of the two women.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

More on roller derby

In that sometimes coincidental way that things converge in one's life, yesterday morning on NPR there was a story on roller derby. Learned a little more history like that it was originally a sport created for men. And then during the depression the man credited with creating the sport thought it would draw more people if he used women and they were wearing sexy outfits. Ta-da!The sport died out a bit, had a resurgence in the 70s, waned again and now is back!