Monday, July 11, 2011

Brief WWC comments

Finally got to watch the Brazil v. US match this morning. I knew the general outcome because the second I got back across the border (from Canada) and had my data plan back, I checked Facebook. I also got the hint that it was a dramatic game, though I refused to check for a score or details.
Even knowing the outcome, it was a pretty enthralling game. So here are my thoughts (in case you were wondering):
1. When you watch a recorded soccer match and fast forward through some of it in the interest of time and getting on with your work day, the ball looks like a ping-pong ball, which just makes you appreciate the distance it travels and the abilities of the players to control it.
2. Abby Wambach: still super cute and now with some goals under her cleats. (Because those uniforms don't have belts--thankfully. Though I'm not sure it would make them any worse.)
3. And speaking of Wambach...the Girlfriend noted this morning "that those short-haired girls are making things really interesting." It's true. Wambach finally scores this tournament and of course gets the tying goal in the last seconds of over-overtime. And it is served in so beautifully (seriously--watch the replay over and over again and be awed) by Megan Rapinoe who is sporting a bleached blond short style. And then there is Amy LePeilbet who made things interesting in that not-so-good way in the game against Sweden. But she redeemed herself against Brazil.
So we asked ourselves: in the context of international women's soccer, is a US player who sports a short haircut (in the present day) tacitly revealing her homosexuality? And before I get charged with being a crazy stereotyping self-hating dyke let me acknowledge that, of course, I don't believe that 1) all lesbians have short hair or 2) that all women with short hair are lesbians or have lesbian tendencies and that 3) there are a range of femininities across the range of sexualities.
OK, but I am talking very specifically about US women's soccer in the early 21st century. None of those three women are explicitly out though there is a lot of chatter amongst those in the know and apparently on Twitter by some of the players themselves. Natasha Kai (with her longer hair) is the only out player (who was not chosen for this national team) and coach Pia Sundhage has also previously come out in an interview. So is the short hair the sign? In a still-homophobic and apologetic athletic culture, does the short hair tell us what we may or may not already know? Their short styles are cute and I would argue cooler and, in those ways, reflect in no way on their sexuality. But if you have ever seen any soccer trophies with the cheap gold figures on the top...those figures have ponytails. The former fan group for women's professional soccer in the US was called the Ponytail Posse. The logos for women's soccer contain ponytailed silhouettes. In other words, short hair is not the women's soccer norm. Sure, they could be non-normative straight women. But even (especially?) straight female athletes feel the pressure to conform to feminine ideals through appearance or behavior (i.e. talking about male partners and boyfriends).
I obviously don't have an answer, just these ramblings musings.
4. Drawing on the apologetic and the construction of hegemonic gender in sports...there are a lot of men on the field at the WWC. I find this constant reference to being "a man down" and playing with "only ten men" particularly interesting/problematic in a tournament where some people have actually been accused of being men.
5. There actually are no men on the field this WWC because all the refs are women too this time. I knew, I knew, I knew this was going to turn bad. I knew that any bad calls, and especially a series of bad calls, would create a backlash. I saw it happen when one of the Women's Hockey World Championships used only female refs and bad calls engendered the quality over equality cries. Just like now. I haven't watch the MWC so I can't compare the quality of referring as it pertains to gender. But I have seen plenty of male umpires and linespeople in tennis mess up some pretty big calls--in both the men's and women's game.
Yes, there were so many bad calls in the US/Brazil game and elsewhere. But I think it's dangerous to say that it's because women just can't handle the pressure of these international games. Is it any different from a minor league ump who gets moved up to the big leagues? If this is a lack of training, then so be it. Hold FIFA responsible for trying to compensate for past discrimination with a too-easy, too-soon remedy.

And finally, a PS. Why are there so many commercials for men's Rogaine airing during the coverage? Does this mean that, defying all previous research and amateur chatter about men's lack of interest in women's sports, that men are watching the WWC this time around? Or are they appealing to straight women to buy the balding men in their lives the product?


Diane said...

Though I cringed throughout the discussion of "men down," etc., it was when Wambach herself said "ten men" that I wanted to throw something at the television. Just like with the "women's two-man bobsled," I feel sadness and disappointment more than anything.

I noted the hair loss product advertising, too. Was it the men's product they were specifically advertising (I didn't watch at all times), or the general one? Because a lot of women have hair loss issues.

ken said...

Yes, it was Wambach who sent me over the edge as well in the post-game interview.
Yes, the product was specifically Rogaine for Men. Because I know they do advertise to women as well. Curious.