Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is Storrs really on the map?

Can you find Storrs on a map? And, no, you can't just point to Connecticut and say "somewhere in there."
Sure people know Storrs because that's where the University of Connecticut is. But do people have an overwhelming desire to go there? Sure I live within a two-hour drive and sometimes I do go down to see a women's hockey game. But for women's basketball, I usually choose the games contested at the XL Center in Hartford--which is where the first round of the tournament should have been held. (I am sure there were legitimate scheduling conflicts/cost concerns, etc.) But when Geno Auriemma complains that the arena at UConn, Gampel Pavillion, was only at 60 percent capacity when UConn took on Purdue and called the fans spoiled, well, he must not live in Storrs.
If I lived closer, I would have gone. But there's nothing in Storrs. If I want to grab dinner before or after the game, it's kind of hard unless I am up for wings or take-out calzones (though they are quite tasty). It's a trip for me to Storrs, just as it is for many other fans. (I am still continually surprised that the coaches can get top recruits to go there.)
And honestly, after seeing that Purdue/UConn game, I was glad I opted to watch from the comfort of my couch where I didn't have to pay for gas and deal with overzealous Husky fans. (They scare me!)
And that's also part of the issue. Games are not always very compelling. This is not to say that women's basketball isn't interesting or that the skills demonstrated by the players are not impressive. But blowouts are boring unless you are a fan who only cares about your team winning. And I am not that fan. (I picked against Iowa in the first round, which shows you how (not very) strong my loyalty is to my degree-granting institutions.) There is excitement in closely contested, well-played games. This is not to take away from UConn's accomplishments, it's just to say that I don't feel the need to go watch them live. And clearly other people feel similarly.
I know Auriemma's threat of not bidding to be a host site is supposed to be some kind of punishment/power play (seriously, how many coaches in women's basketball can get away with insulting their fans in that way? I guess he treats his fans the way he treats his players). But I think it's probably a good idea for UConn to take a break from hosting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New film on Renee Richards

At this year's Tribeca Film Festival, a new documentary about the life of Dr. Renee Richards will make its debut. ESPN sponsors its own sport film festival within the festival and Renee is one of the 33 films in the line up.
The documentary explores "the story of RenĂ©e Richards, the first transgender tennis player to compete in the women’s US Open." I am pretty sure she is the only transgender athlete to compete in the women's US Open--or in any grand slam. This seems to counter prevailing notions that "things are getting better." And one might even argue that there has been a certain regression since Richards played in the 70s. Last year around this time the story of German tennis pro Sarah Gronert made news in the US. Gronert is intersex (she has wrongly been referred to as transgender). And despite surgery and much jumping of hoops for the WTA, Gronert is still facing a lot of criticism. Apparently her serve is (according to one opponent's coach) heavier than Venus Williams's. And since we all know how the femininity of black female athletes tends to be questioned/invalidated...people must be really afraid of the white-skinned, blond-haired European Gronert.
But back to the movie...which "is full of rare archival footage and interviews with close friends and family members -- as well as tennis legends Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe and Billie Jean King – and explores the surprising and affecting human story behind one of America’s first transgender people in the public eye." I would also argue that Richards was not the first high-profile trans person in America. She was just the first high-profile transwoman who played sports at an elite level.
It doesn't seem that Richards herself is interviewed for the film. But I would have been surprised if she had been. Though she often is the go-to person for a quote about trans athletes, she has never been comfortable with that role and remains ambivalent about trans rights as they pertain to sport. Still, I imagine the film will be interesting. The festival runs from April 20 through May 1.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Women's Frozen Four

This weekend is the NCAA DI Women's Frozen Four. The tournament is in Erie, PA this year and features two fairly new teams: Boston College (which isn't that new anymore but certainly not a team with any kind of storied history) and Boston University--which has surprisingly risen to the top of the women's game in Hockey East rather quickly. (It surprised me anyway. But BU has benefitted greatly from some kind of trouble at University of New Hampshire that is causing key players to leave the program. Forward Jenn Wakefield transferred to BU after a stint with the Canadian national team and is now BU's leading scorer.)
BC lost (but in a close game decided in the final minute of the third period) but BU is heading to the finals tomorrow to play perennial favorite Wisconsin.
It's unfortunate that this tournament takes place the same weekend the women's DI b-ball tourney starts. But here is a good article about the tournament and some of its loyal fans.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Poetry Friday


Wallace Stevens

This is how the wind shifts:
Like the thoughts of an old human,
Who still thinks eagerly
And despairingly.
The wind shifts like this:
Like a human without illusions,
Who still feels irrational things within her.
The wind shifts like this:
Like humans approaching proudly,
Like humans approaching angrily.
This is how the wind shifts:
Like a human, heavy and heavy,
Who does not care.

Gender Roles 101: The March Madness Edition

I don't have time for this shit, people. It's the last day of spring break and I have classes to prep and a dissertation to write and a yoga class in 45 minutes. And yet here I sit writing about more ridiculousness around March Madness--courtesy of The Huffington Post of all places*.
HuffPo actually reprinted it. The originator of the Girls' Guide to March Madness is Seven Daughters, a wine company marketing to women.
Obviously this "lesson" is not directed at me, since I am not a GIRL! Regardless, the not-so-handy chart, which clearly was not meant to be handy, is just another example of how women (aka girls) are clueless about sports. And that of course our choices are based on the relative cuteness of the 1) coach 2) point guard 3) mascot. (Well at least they seem to be familiar with the power structures in sport.) And there's a picture of a high heel on it as well for some reason. In case you weren't quite sure this was for women and not to be taken seriously.
Oh wait, the full title of the "guide" (yes, these are quite necessary quotations marks) is March Gladness: The Girls' Guide to March Madness. March Gladness? Is anyone else thinking feminine hygiene products here?
The whole thing is quite unfortunate.
I have never come across Seven Daughters wine, and now I know to stay away if I ever do. Gives new meaning to drinking the Kool-Aid.

* But brought to my attention by the now gainfully employed Dr. Pants. Thanks!

UPDATE: I apologize for the profanity. I am feeling much more calm now (yea for yoga) and realize that I, like everyone else, must do my part in pointing out some of the, um, lingering issues around women and sports. Thankfully I have help in this.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Even Christine Brennan is pissed

When Christine Brennan starts getting a little peeved about the state of women's sports...well then you know things are bad.
While I appreciate Brennan's presence in sports media, I often find her a little too happy-happy/cheery-cheery. And I know that she didn't ask to be the spokesperson for women in media, but since she is invited to speak all over the place about issues of women in sports media and women in sports, well, I sometimes expect a little more than her (neo?) liberal speeches.
But in her column this week, she's not really holding back. Well, probably a little bit.
She brings out her inner snarkiness when she talks about that "other" tournament going on right now--the women's tournament. How despite the fact that the quality is at an all-time high, even less attention is being paid to it.
She discusses the ubiquitous one-bracket-only pools most people and organizations--including her own USA Today--run.
Alas, I don't agree with her final conclusion that the women's tournament should be run at a different time than the men's tournament so women can have their own spotlight. I believe it carries more weight to say, "hey, there's a women's tourney going on right now, too--cover it, participate in it, etc."
The WNBA has its own separate season. Not so helpful.
Women's intercollegiate ice hockey runs its Frozen Four this weekend. Two (or three maybe) weekends before the men's tournament. I bet it won't even make the ESPN ticker (yes, the men's tournament does get that much).
I don't think going further in the separate but equal direction in sports is helping.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another Wednesday morning, another Deford moment

This one was not as bad as last week's. Actually, I agreed with Deford this week. We have that kind of chewing gum relationship, it seems. Stretches thin at times but never quite breaks.
This week's piece on Morning Edition was about cuts to athletic departments--focusing on non-college sports. Deford argues that cuts to sports are just as damaging as to other extracurriculars such as art and music, especially given the increasingly sedentary lives of many American children.
And then he says that the sport that makes the most sense to cut is football. (I love (sarcasm) that Frank Deford can get away with that suggestion while when I or other people who identify as feminists do so get raked over the coals in (im)personal attacks, but anyway...)
Why? Because it's expensive and its dangerous and only boys play it.
Though let's recall that there have been earlier attempts to eradicate football. When the game was in its infancy, certain moral types wanted the game to go away because of the violence/danger and the potential negative crowd behaviors (drinking, gambling). But a manly man stepped in to save it. Thanks, Teddy Roosevelt.
And I--and Deford--am pretty sure that lots of people would step in to save football should anyone (or ones) even come close to scaling the sport back. It "saves" itself every day by demanding (and receiving) funds and facilities and other amenities that no other sport--men's or women's--dare ask for.
And thus American masculinity remains safe and intact. Now if we could just get Tom Brady to stop wearing that damn headband and shaking his booty we could plug up that leaky hegemony.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The tournament hasn't even started yet...

...and ESPN has slapped me down two times already.
First, when I received my invitation to participate in a pool through ESPN's Tournament Challenge Website, I got two invites. (Because my pool organizer mandates that those participating in her pool do both the men's and women's brackets.)
First invite: (Host name) is Challenging You to Tournament Challenge on
Second invite: (Host name) is Challenging You to Women's Tournament Challenge on
Le sigh.
ESPN had being doing so (relatively) well. They changed the ticker to NCAAW and NCAAM.
And then it was suggested to me that I download the ESPN bracket app on my iPhone, which I did as I was watching the women's selection show tonight. But there is only one bracket there! And only news about the men's tournament! Is there a separate app for the women's tournament? I haven't found it.
Don't forget--it's women's history month. ESPN loves to roll out stats about how women-friendly the networks are.
And yet it seems like it takes such a concerted effort for them to merely be inclusive.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Poetry Friday


Emily Dickinson

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

Implications of White House Report on fitness and health

The White House released its Report on Women recently. (That seems like a rather casual title for a White House report. Perhaps it is called something different?)
Anyway, not surprisingly, some things change, and some things stay the same--and some things get worse.
A writer at Jezebel conveniently (for me) compiled some of the report's highlights.
Of interest to me is the not-so-surprising fact that women are less physically active than men. Also:

"Women and girls living below the poverty line are almost three times as likely to report experiencing depression as females living above the poverty line."

"Many women do not receive specific recommended preventative care, and one out of seven women age 18-64 has no usual source of health care. The share of women in that age range without health insurance has also increased."

Women and girls living below the poverty line also have less access to sport and physical activity than both women of higher economic classes as well as men and boys of a similar economic status. And we know that physical activity can often ameliorate depression. See the connection?
Also much preventative care--like for cardiac disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses that have a great impact on quality of life--involves physical activity. So if you don't have access to consistent health care and even if you do, you aren't getting advice on preventative care...well...there seems to be a reason--more social than biological (what people usually like to blame for illness) for the fact that the number one killer of women is cardiovascular disease.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who's afraid of ("feminine") Tom Brady?

Wow--I mean wow. This attention to Tom Brady's hair has reached shocking levels of outrage. And it's also reached those subtle (and not-so-subtle I would imagine in conversations among fans--and enemies) levels of homophobia. Because Tom Brady has been spotted wearing a headband, and a ponytail (and dancing badly*--which may or may not have anything to do with any of this).

I found out about the headband scandal when a Facebook friend posted the above picture on her wall. It has garnered some impassioned responses:


"he's so feminine now"

"he's trying to be prettier than his wife" (I've heard versions of that one before)

I care this much about Tom Brady. But I care a lot more now that his masculinity is being questioned because of the way he chooses to wear his hair.

Because here's the deal, people. The 80s are back. I don't like it either. Skinny jeans and plaid and leggings. I just try to avert my eyes until it all goes away.

But don't forget that the 80s were also the period of androgyny and gender bending. And that's back too. And I like that part! The first time I saw a La Roux video I applauded her androgynous Molly Ringwald look.

But people are not so quick to applaud Tom Brady's long hair. OK, sure sometimes it looks a little ratty. But when did we get back to the era where long hair is feminine? And why are all these female fans so invested in Brady maintaining some kind of uber-masculinity? Weren't straight women crying out for sensitive men not so long ago?

Being a gay woman, perhaps I don't have the same investment in Brady's masculinity. But I do worry about the message. That arguably the most famous of football players can't change his hair without being accused of becoming feminine is a problem. It's a problem for all of us--not just the little boys who think they might be gay (or know they are) or the straight guys who want to display something other than approved masculinity--but all of us. Women, too. We all end up maintaining gender norms in moments like these. These are norms that limit us all--some more than others; they reify a false gender binary; they exclude and do violence.

I keep hearing that "things are getting better;" that this next generation is more accepting, more liberal; that labels are so passe. But "things" can't be that much better when a superstar athlete is getting a lot of flack for long hair. And people seem more than willing to throw around labels like feminine in disparaging ways.

So if you thought hegemonic masculinity was coming crashing down around us...think again. Guess I'll just have to pin my hopes on the demise of the skinny jean.

* It's not even worth embedding. But note that the version I first saw of the video did not have the feminizing music that this version does.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Frank Deford grrrr-ness

Just to make sure I wasn't about to needlessly criticize Frank Deford after hearing his segment on Morning Edition an hour ago, I went to the website to look at the copy.
But I was right. Deford commits that most common and egregious of errors: referring to the game of college basketball when he really means men's collegiate basketball.
College basketball has been, he says, ho-hum this season, with no dominant team and not star player (except for "novelty" of the white BYU standout--is he being racist or chastising those who are? so hard to tell with Deford).
Um, well I think collegiate basketball has been pretty interesting this season. The dominant UConn has retained its dominance with other teams nipping at Connecticut's (Achilles) heels. Baylor, Stanford, who beat them early in the season, Notre Dame put up a good fight last night too. Maya Moore remains an outstanding player. Britney Griner of Baylor has had a great season as well. The Big 12 has been a hotbed of great match-ups this season.
So Frank Deford, please don't make generalizations. I can't wait to see how the excitement of this season comes to fruition this month!

And PS--March Madness is not the largest single elimination tournament in the world. The tennis grand slams start with 128. OK, it's not a team sport. But that's not what Deford said. He's managed to erase not just women's basketball but individual sports as well.
Guess it's time to write a letter to NPR. Not that they don't have enough problems today...

Friday, March 04, 2011

Poetry Friday

In anticipation...


Julie Hanson

You don't need to know its name
to know it is a weed; if it
has taken hold between two
paving bricks, if its thin root
or complex undermop is wedged
where the concrete riser joins the concrete step,
then assuredly it is.
It is redundant, stubborn work,
to which you squat or kneel or bend,
moving lowly in one manner
or another over the entire area
to be covered so that, naturally,
afterwards, you'll ache.

And yet, what better use
could you have put these to:
one yellow-handled tool
and two tightening circles of thought?
For those times when the heart, still
resonant and stunned,
is dominant,
this is the kind of work you want,
mindless work, where it is best to look
no more than one weed ahead,
and where the iron inability to set a course
drills the focus downwards
with single-mindedness and depth.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

It's March: Let the ghettoization begin!

I've probably mentioned one of my favorite quotations before. But I find this morning an appropriate time to say it again. So from one of my favorite radical feminist groups, the Guerrilla Girls, this question:

Why the cynical attitude on this only the third day of the month I, an avowed feminist (see Dr. LaVoi's recent post about what a feminist is), is supposed to revel in? Well I found this on this morning. Why is ESPN doing a piece on Title IX?, I wondered. It isn't the anniversary. There has not been any outstanding Title IX news of late.

It's in honor of women's history month, Suzy Kolber, who is hosting these videos (this was just the first of three), tells me as she sits next to a group of women ready to discuss all that Title IX has done--and of course mention the controversy it has engendered.

Last week I wrote briefly about the perceived excitement level in women's sports and its supposed connection to viewership. Well, this piece wasn't coverage of women's sports per se, but it certainly was boring.

I felt bad for a second there when I wondered if I really should be soooo cynical about ESPN's efforts here. If maybe I shouldn't be looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth.

And then I thought "eff that!" Because at this juncture, I expect more. I expect more than the obligatory happy-happy Title IX piece in March. I expect a more nuanced understanding of the history of women's sports; one that doesn't attribute the opportunity to play AAU basketball to Title IX. I want something that doesn't flash pictures of Billie Jean King thus implying that her success had something to do with Title IX. The common denominator between BJK and Title IX is feminism. I want programs that don't avoid the word all together. And when the pictures of Venus and Serena Williams are shown as a measure of women's success in sports, you should have a discussion of discrimination in women's sport generally (even if February is over!) and even how Title IX (though again it has nothing to do with professional tennis players) has not benefited Black women the way it has White women.

March is the month that comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I've got the lion part down. But we shouldn't stop roaring when the month is done.

Here's hoping parts two and three of the ESPN series go a little deeper, that part one was just a primer.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Watch your back!

This was awesome. I saw it on ESPN yesterday morning--but from a distance and without sound (at the gym) and then forgot to look up what was happening and why ESPN was showing home video of a women's basketball game.

And then I found out.
Here's the video of Danielle Clauson of Concordia University inbounding (with .7 seconds left) off her College of Idaho opponent's back, grabbing that ball for a layup and making the game-winning basket.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Nike's Native American Campaign

Nike sponsors various philanthropic activities largely aimed at empowering young people. They have (and still do I believe) offer grants to organizations providing sport opportunities for girls and young women.

But I did not know they have a similar effort aimed at young Native Americans and indigenous youth in the United States and Canada.
They (just) do (it).
I discovered the N7 campaign (named after the Native American philosophy of 7 generations--thinking about one's impact 7 generations into the future) when reading about the University of Nevada's basketball team.
Nevada partnered with N7 as part of the university's Native American Pride day last weekend when Nevada took on New Mexico State.
What's slightly problematic is the way Nike markets the N7 campaign. Because it's not just a campaign to raise awareness and fund opportunities for indigenous peoples, it's also to sell shoes. And not sell shoes in that good-publicity/charity-equals-more-product-sold kind of way. Nike Actually has an N7 line of products. Nevada wore the N7 sneakers and shirts (during warm-up).
The product line allegedly "embodies Nike's Considered Design ethos and takes cues from Native and Aboriginal culture.* The intent of the collection is to raise awareness for the N7 fund beyond just Native and Aboriginal communities."
I cannot make much of a pronouncement about the efficacy of this campaign, and I have learned that so few corporate charity endeavors are completely altruistic. So I hope it's doing more than just selling sneakers with a "native-inspired" design.