Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A most excellent postscript... the post below about the induction of Foudy and Hamm into the National Soccer Hall of fame is that WOMEN'S PROFESSIONAL SOCCER IS BACK!!
Or it will be back in spring 2008--a start date chosen to hold the interest of fans after the 2007 FIFA World Cup in China. Six investors have signed on to 5 markets with the 6th locale to be determined. (Please let it be Boston. Please let it be Boston. And please let Abby Wambach be on the closest possible team to me.)
I was so sad when the WUSA collapsed. And now I am so happy! I hope this new venture really takes off.

First all-female class

Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm will be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame this summer in the player category. This is the first time the inductees in the player category are both women. Hamm's vote in was almost unanimous.

I think it's appropriate that two of the most outstanding players in the history of women's soccer will be inducted together.

Monday, February 26, 2007

More misinformation on Title IX

In an article in the Lexington Herald-Leader (out of Kentucky), reprinted from a Florida paper, the author discusses the truth behind college scholarships. It is for all the parents sinking thousands of dollars into the children's sports in an effort to get them a "full ride" to let them know that that's not how college athletics work. Most scholarships are only partial ones. Most teams are allotted a certain number of scholarships and the coach divides them among players with not everyone getting an equal piece--or any piece at all.
In some sports this does not happen--like football and men's and women's basketball--where full scholarships are awarded.
But in other sports there are more limits, with, says the author, fewer limits on women's sports because of Title IX.
In actuality, women in collegiate sports receive less scholarship dollars than male athletes. It may look like women's soccer has more scholarships than it's "equivalent" men's soccer team, but it is not a comparison of like with like but with total dollars. And because so many total scholarship dollars go to men's football, other men's sports like soccer and baseball and track, etc. appear to be getting less than women's sports. In actuality, everyone is getting less than football.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Roller Derby

I went to my first roller derby last night. It was an all-women event, which I know stating it was all women may seem redundant, but the home team last night actually has men's and women's roller derby because they believe you should be able to participate "no matter what kind of plumbing you have."
I did not know what to expect really having only acquired snippets of information (mostly in the form of images) of roller derby over the years.
The main differences I found (between my hodgepodge collection of memories and the reality) was that this was flat track roller derby, it was not as fast, and there was not as much contact as I expected.
This was disappointing. The group is kind of new so part of the lack of action and speed may be skill level and not reflect all roller derby. Most of the time they looked a little shaky and though I know there was strategy involved it seemed more like luck than skill when a team scored a point.
What I did learn was that, yes, there is scoring and there is strategy. And the scoring and strategy was taken seriously--it was not just a front for having women on roller skates in short skirts and shorts.
This, along with the variety of body types that are welcomed in roller derby, was encouraging. The variety of people who show up to watch roller derby also reflects the wide appeal of the sport.
Unfortunately the execution of the event, from the lousy PA system to the poor set-up of the gymnasium that limited the action one was able to see, and the not exactly high skill level of the participants made for a frustrating evening.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wimbledon finally catches up

What a week! Illinois retires their Indian mascot and Wimbledon has finally agreed to award equal prize money to women players. Now every grand slam has equal prize money for the winners. (The French Open still maintains a disparity in prize money up until the finals, though with the Wimbledon decision many believe the French Open will have to follow suit soon.)
As happy as I am to hear the news, I am a little disappointed that it appears the decision was not really due to any feminist activism. This is in part because there has been little feminist activism around the issue. Venus Williams wrote a good editorial about it last year before the tournament began and every year the media gets a quote or two from a female player who says something along the lines of "yeah, it's not fair; we should be paid the same as the men." No one takes it any further or even discusses the possibility of taking it any further.
Gone are the days of Billie Jean King organized boycotts.
It appears that Wimbledon finally caved because the British Olympic Committee was worried about the embarrassment of having Wimbledon be the tennis venue for the 2012 Olympics and still be perpetuating gender inequality.
But the All-England Club chairman is describing it a natural progression that began with BJK in the late 1960s. But very few seem to be buying that given that a vote taken on this issue last year was no where near approving equal prize money.
In the end, even though the pressure was not from the collective power of the women's tour members, I am glad the right decision was made.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

One of these is not like the others

I do not watch The Apprentice but I have been curious about what has been going on this season because this is the season that includes an Olympic athlete chosen by the viewers during last year's Turino Olympics. Hockey player Angela Ruggiero won.

As much as I love hockey and admire Ruggiero, it's still not enough to get me to watch. I only caught the very end of the first episode. And then I watched some clips of Ruggiero online.

Curious, I checked back in to the website yesterday to see if she was still in the game. She is. I also found her profile that includes a bio, pics (including this one), and video. Underneath the pictures is a message board. This in itself is an issue because it implicitly encourages people to comment on the photos rather than just their performance.

Anyway, from the first day they all lined up to meet The Donald it was clear that Ruggiero was not like the other women. Sure, she's blond with a bright smile. But she is not a size 4 and her upper arms cannot be snapped in half like twigs. The woman has muscles. She is the best defensive player in women's hockey. Her 5'10" muscular frame is an asset in her sport.

Unfortunately because she does not fit normative beauty ideals, commenters on the message board have taken the opportunity to question her credentials, her sexuality, and disparage her body.

No one was commenting on her size when she was using it (and her skating and stick skills) to take Harvard to the Frozen Four or the US to three Olympic medals.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Finally, Farewell

The University of Illinois has finally agreed to comply with NCAA orders to get rid of mascot, Chief Illiniwek. The university can keep the nicknames Illini and Fighting Illini (similar to the decision regarding William and Mary).
I was fairly excited by the news, so when my tennis teammate, an Illinois alum, started to say "this weekend University of Illinois decided--" and I finished "get rid of their mascot!" The glee in my voice though did not match that of her own who said something about "80-year old tradition" and "not really offensive." I forget that even though I now live in a very liberal part of the country, "liberal" philosophy only goes so far. Especially when we are talking about "tradition" after all. So I trotted out, hopefully in a non-pedantic way, why Native American mascots are offensive, how what UI presented as their tradition was not really respectful of Native American tradition, how the "dance" and the mascot itself did not really foster any kind of understanding of the culture of Native Americans in Illinois, and finally how even if a school itself does not mean to be offensive (though the ignorance defense does not fly with me) rival schools use the mascot in offensive ways by portraying lynchings and rape (as seen in the above picture).

She said something about how it was like black face and she never thought of it that way so I think she got it.

Others, not so much.
NPR ran a segment on the decision and interviewed one of the former portrayers of Chief Illiniwek who is the spokesperson for the Council of Chiefs--a group of former chief portrayers. Unfortunately Michele Norris did not ask any kind of probing questions like "what made you qualified to portray the chief? are you familiar with Illini traditions? are you a Native American studies scholar?" [UI does have an American Indian Studies program and it issued its own brief statement supporting the decision but noting that it does not change the campus climate that allowed the mascot to exist for so long.]

And although Norris, and her interviewee, both noted that there are two sides to the issue, this interview really focused on the supporters who are disappointed the tradition is being taken away by the NCAA (who threatens sanctions against schools they find are using a mascot in a demeaning or offensive way).

Some articles (of which there are hundreds) are reporting there may be a vigil held for the mascot who performed for the last time at the basketball game this weekend.

How about holding a vigil for the all real Native Americans that have been murdered at the hands of white men? It would be a good lesson for the majority of college students who know nothing more about Native Americans than some old myths about savages and scalpings, and some new ones about money-hungry casino owners or alcoholic welfare system abusers.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Let them jump!

The arguments against women participating in ski jumping are antiquated and include something about all that pressure on their bones from landing. Hello? Gymnastics? Figure skating?
But the women ski jumpers have not backed down and recently filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in an attempt to force the International Olympic Committee to add women's ski jumping to the program in Vancouver in 2010. Because the Olympics are funded, in part, by Canadian federal monies, the jumpers contend that excluding the sport amounts to gender discrimination which is illegal, of course, in Canada.
It is an interesting strategy but it reads like what it truly is: a last-ditch effort. The CHRC seemingly has little actual power; it is only a "quasi-judicial body" and though it might voice a strong objection to the exclusion or pass the complaint on to some other federal body, it is difficult to imagine the IOC backing down--especially given that they have already said women would compete in ski jumping in 2014--when it feels there will be stronger competition.
Hard to see how women's hockey made it in under that rationale. Until Torino every Olympic and World Championship gold medal game had been a contest between Canada and the United States (which are also the countries which have produced the top women ski jumpers to date).
Ski jumping seems to be suffering a little from its relative obscurity. Indeed it is a gender issue and very much counter to an Olympic ideal of fairness, but it is harder to get people to rally around something they only see every four years.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how CHRC responds to the complaint.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Black Widow?

Last month I took issue with TENNIS magazine's issue on "American" tennis. This month, in the Jan/Feb issue it got worse. Jon Levey decided to take issue with Martina Hingis's romantic life. Levey apparently sees a pattern: after someone gets together with Hingis, he (or she--they talk about Kournikova's doubles partnership with Hingis) gets injured with a consequent career downturn.

The piece is called "The Black Widow" and begins like this:

There's nothing wrong with a young lady going out and being social. And Martina Hingis has developed a healthy reputation for enjoying her time with the gents, particularly those with athletic prowess. [emphasis mine]

Translation: Martina Hingis is a slut and she is hurting the careers of young, innocent men (and one blond Russian who has not appeared to suffer all that much). The black widow--one of the few well-known examples of a powerful female in nature--trope is trotted out so frequently that we know this is all about monitoring Hingis's sex life. Levey's attempt at euphemism is quite transparent--insultingly so.

I have not always been a fan of Hingis's attitude and behavior but talking about her sex life in the pages of TENNIS is inappropriate and juvenile. And, in this month's issue (March) there is a brief mention of her recent engagement to ATP player Radek Stepanek which references the black widow piece and says something to the effect of "don't say we didn't warn you, Radek."

Is publisher Chris Evert even paying attention to what is being put in her magazine? Evert is allegedly a huge Hingis fan. She was her mentor when Hingis first arrived on the tour. Hard to believe she would let this piece of crap into the pages of TENNIS.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Weird Nike Love

I really need to unsubscribe from Nike's email list.
I got a notice today called "Nike Love" that invited me to watch three short films about love and sports--specifically youth sports. It seemed to be a "support youth sports programs" kind of message.
The first was animated and featured a desolate boy of color (tattered clothes, unkempt hair)seemingly from some non-US place. He is kicking along a can in the street, very bored. He comes across a lantern which he rubs and of course pops up the genie offering three wishes which can include anything like a car or money. But the boy wishes for a basketball which the genie gives him. The boy runs off to play with his basketball forgoing his other two wishes much to the genie's puzzlement.
The boy's race and apparent class status are unavoidable markers in this "film." It plays into the belief that the only way boys of color can get out of poverty is through sport and that it is a noble way--evidenced by the fact that the boy could have changed his present situation by just wishing for money.
The second piece is a little more innocuous. The third is bizarre. It features a pig having nightmares about being roasted on a spit or turned into bacon. The nightmare becomes a good dream when he is turned into a football and goes sailing through the goalposts. This one also makes one think footballs are made out of actual pigs. They are not--they are made of either rubber or cowhide.
One of the more obvious drawbacks in the film series is the absence of any girls who are interested in sports. Nike has done plenty of campaigns aimed at girls and women, but they just can't seem to grasp the concept of incorporating women into all their campaigns rather than keeping them completely segregated.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Sexy Athlete Debate--Again

It seems interesting that in the wake of the NY Times article about female college athletes and their weight that I have found several articles about athletes who pose for various publications and endorsers as a way to make up in money what they cannot earn--because they are women--by simply being good athletes. None of the articles mention the NYT piece or Courtney Paris--who became the focus of its attention. But it is hard not to see the connection. A fair amount of discussion arose from the article which discussed that ways in which female athletes--specifically basketball players--are defying stereotypes by being successful larger athletes at over 6' and over 200 pounds.
The stereotypes they are breaking though of what a fit athlete really is. And I wonder how radical a notion it is considering there have been large male athletes around since--well forever. Some sports require larger bodies. But that has always been recognized in men's sports.
What the article does not acknowledge, but these other articles about the sexualization of female athletes do, is that the larger female athlete does not conform to appropriate femininity and that may not hurt her basketball game but it hurts her endorsement potential.
This one is the good one about the lack of media coverage of female athletes (only 8% of total sports coverage). It acknowledges that many female athletes use their sex appeal to gain recognition but, through Donna Lopiano's comments, does not necessarily approve of this as a viable tactic for increasing the popularity of women's sports overall.
This article--or editorial--is the bad one. It's basically one of those hackneyed "men will be men and we like looking at sexy women" diatribes. Why do we give female athletes crap over posing when we don't do the same for Hollywood stars? And then of course the author thinks he has the ultimate evidence that the double standard is ok because he has a female athlete--volleyballer Rachel Wacholder--saying that it's an American issue because in Europe nudity is everywhere and it's just accepted.
Jeez, I wish someone had told me the patriarchy had been overthrown in Europe. There's a little bit of context missing here.
Oh the final nail in the the prude's coffin, according to article: women think Tom Brady is sexy.
What the author fails to note is that even if he was not sexy to women (and the author does not mention that a whole lot of men find Brady sexy too) his athletic ability would not be called into question, he would still be well-paid for his work, and he would still be widely recognized.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Here's some progress

Listening to the radio in the morning can be a dangerous thing. Bad news and offensive commercials can easily put me in a foul mood. Not a good way to start the day.

Usually I listen to NPR but my (somewhat) local affiliate is running a rather obnoxious fund drive so I had on my local alternative radio station which I find a good compromise between public radio and commercial radio.

And the commercial I heard this warm almost made me tear up a little. It talks about a man who is a baseball fan and former player and general lover of the game and now his daughter is memorizing stats, and learning history. But she wants more. She wants to know the best stance for hitting it out of the park and other techniques. Well, the ad says--sign her up for the new local Cal Ripken League. The league is open to boys and girls ages 8-12.

I know, of course, that they let girls play baseball and have since Little League got sued in the 1970s. But girls have always been the exception in youth baseball--especially with the rise of strong youth softball programs. [Even though the games are not the same!!!]

But to hear an ad that targets girls who play baseball or want to play baseball; to present this as normative and not exceptional--well it was just great. I may have to show my support in some way this spring.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

National Girls and Women in Sport Day

OK it was yesterday. I knew it was coming but I have been seeing articles about NGWSD for over a week now so I hadn't really pinned down the date. This year's theme: Throw Like a Girl--Lead Like a Champion. I am still wary about the "reclaiming" of the "throw like a girl." I at least hope there was some discussion about its meaning when the theme was being decided upon.
Here are some links to articles about how people are celebrating and why we still need a special day:

There are many more stories about colleges and local entities running clinics or having speakers. All in all it seems like awareness of girls' and women's sports was up--for a day anyway. But drawing on something the Guerrilla Girls said about Black History and Women's History Month--what happens the rest of the year?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Intersecting Entitlement

I found out about this incident recently (though it occurred January 20) in which approximately 15 Guilford College football players attacked three Palestinian students, two from Guilford and one who attends NC State, assaulting them physically and calling them names such as sand n***** and other racist names.
Note the irony that Guilford College is a Quaker college--the are called, in fact, The Quakers. And the school, located in Greensboro, NC has "a national reputation for its emphasis on social justice and nonviolence."
But only 3 of the 15 students have been charged and they are all out on bail and ATTENDING CLASSES. School administrators are calling the incident an altercation, with no mention of what it really was: a hate crime.
A letter from representatives of two groups, Greensboro Justice Fund and Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, would like concerned peoples to contact college administrators and encourage them to take the following actions:
Kent Chabotar, President:, 336-316-2146
Aaron Fetrow, Dean of Campus Life:, 336-316-2133
Ask them to use this opportunity to manifest Guilford's well-deserved historical reputation for peace-making and social justice:
1. This must be cast internally and publicly as an investigation of a hate crime. Though all human interactions are complicated, this one very clearly had ethnically-motivated perpetrators acting on victims.
2. The victims must be supported and protected from further abuse, both physical and emotional. Good medical care, counselling, advocacy, and a public apology must be provided to them. We suggest their parents should be flown in if possible to give them support and they should have advocates of their choice at all meetings with officials.
3. The perpetrators must face consequences from the institution if there is to be any effective deterrence of such a crime on campus.
4. A full investigation should be made not only of the incident itself, but of the institutional culture and attitudes that promoted it. These things don't happen in a social vacuum. Scapegoats are socially chosen and their abuse supported by those with power.
5. There must be, even as the investigation proceeds, an institutional process of educating all on campus about respect vs. hate, especially in these times of nation-wide anti-Arab bigotry.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Another Atalanta supporter

Just when you think you're the only person complaining about things like the lack of funding, Title IX backlash, and disparate media coverage of women's sports, you find a kindred spirit--at least regarding media coverage. A UNC fan, Tom Jensen, wrote into his local paper, The News and Observer, complaining that the paper thought an AP wire story constituted proper coverage of one of the biggest games in women's college basketball this year, UNC versus Maryland in a rematch of last year's NCAA Championship Game. Mr. Jensen wrote a concise but articulate letter that included this: "It's hard to even pretend you care about women's sports when one of the biggest women's sports events of the year in North Carolina doesn't even merit sending a reporter."
Well said.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The limit isn't in the disability

I think there is a general awareness that individuals with physical disabilities play sports. The Paralympics happen in the same venues as the Olympics every four years directly following the Games. A few years ago Murderball about wheelchair rugby was a popular documentary. Though, admittedly, most of us who are able-bodied think very rarely about sport and disability. And because we see it so rarely it seems like an anomaly. And it is not a far stretch to think about access to sport, if one is differently abled, as a privilege, rather than a right.
A story such as this one about the availability of varsity sports at the collegiate level for student-athletes with physical disabilities highlights the Othering of disability and sport.
Only 11 universities offer varsity sports for disabled athletes. And most of those have to raise money to keep their programs going.
Can you imagine the increase in access to sport if persons with disabilities had something similar to Title IX? The legal battles that have been fought already over access to sport for the differently-abled are immense. (The Paralympics has had many legal encounters with the International Olympic Committee over copyright and access and made only minimal advances with the help of legislation.)
But because oftentimes disabled sports are seen as solely meant to "lift the spirits" of the disabled, or as occasional events, the possibility that some disabled athletes want to participate in sport at a high level of competition is frequently overlooked (or ignored). The idea that the able-bodied might want to seriously compete in their chosen sport is rarely questioned today.
More competitive opportunities, and more opportunities generally, for disabled athletes are needed. Not because the able-bodied (who are largely in control of sport) should be more magnanimous but because access to sport should not be a privilege of ability.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Knight Commission proceedings

If anyone is interested in hearing what went on at the annual meeting of the Knight Commission last week, which I wrote about briefly here, you can get the podcasts. The podcasts let you listen to the whole thing (all the panels) or just pick and choose among all the panels. I have only listened to about half of the gender equity panel but Dr. Christine Grant's testimony is first and it is very good.
The links are as follows:
from the Knight COmmission website:

or from iTunes:

Surprise! Girls' sports don't suck

This editorial by a sports journalist in Virginia whose job basically mandates he cover women's high school sports has an odd tone. He confesses to being raised in an era when women's sports were so second class he never even bothered to pay much attention.
But surprise!--he has been excited to see the progress in women's sports since his school days. He credits Title IX--though spreads some misinformation about how a school achieves compliance. (He has the three prongs but implies that all three need to be met for compliance.)
But overall he portrays women's sports as so bad before that there is the implication of "nowhere to go but up."
He also measures progress using hegemonic sport as a model. For example, girls' sports must be better because girls are now practicing their sport year-round. He also recognizes the high level of coaching in both girls' and boys' athletics. But he fails to note that after the passage of Title IX the number of women's coaches dramatically--over 50 percent in some sports. Because of the belief that women were not as qualified and the increase in salaries that made coaching women's sports more lucrative and this respectable. Also, it's much easier to be a good coach when you have what you need like equipment, facilities, assistant coaches, etc.
I like seeing, in print, praise for girls' and women's sports, but not when it comes in the form of "it was once so bad but now it's more enjoyable--like men's sports."