Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Is pink the new black?

Or maybe it's the new red--depends on what the usual color of boxing gloves is.
I feel as if I have devoted a lot of blog space to the pinkification of women's sports and so I am not seeking out the pink stories, but when things come my way--in 3s--it's hard to ignore.
So the latest is something called Pink Gloves Boxing. And it was featured on NPR's Morning Edition today. NPR! Guess it's time to write a letter.
Pink Gloves Boxing is a fitness enterprise started by two former football players who started to train women in boxing. They have developed a whole package that they now sell to gyms. And the package includes not just information on training routines but the gear which includes: dog tags, t-shirts, and pink gloves--of course.
The thing is, this program doesn't sound to me like it's any different than programs that already exist in gyms. My gym has a boxing class and many gyms have cardio boxing/kickboxing. After all, as the story states "There's no contact, no ring and no real competition."
But don't forget--there are pink gloves--and dog tags. Actually you don't get to start with pink gloves--you have to earn them. Interesting paradox, eh? You have to earn your symbol of femininity by participating in an historically masculine activity.
So this story arrived this morning a day after reading this post over at Fair Game News about troubling trends in women's sporting participation. And it includes the pinkification of apparel and gear.
And it comes a week after an email from my father about a British campaign started by two sisters--both mothers--called Pinkstinks, which objects to the utter pinkification of young girls. The women have been called commies, loonies, and--of course--lesbians for their efforts.
Says co-founder of Pinkstinks, Emma Moore: "We've tapped into something very deep and powerful," says Emma. "Some people plainly feel attacked."
Good thing women can now earn pink boxing gloves so they can fight back...oh wait...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hold the presses: no lawsuit

So it turns out the rumors around Caster Semenya are still based on things that very loosely resemble facts. Semenya has no intention of suing either the ASA or IAAF. She has retained a lawyer--the same firm that represented Oscar Pistorius in battle against the IAAF to run in able-bodied events with is cheetah legs. But the lawyers are there to help with what whatever issues arise from the continued inquisition over Semenya's gender.
I am kind of disappointed.

A few newsy thing

On December 22 the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear the case of female ski jumpers trying to get into the 2010 Olympics. This was the last ditch effort of the group which has pursued legal means and made appeals to the IOC, including a letter to President Jacques Rogge--who refused to grant the group's request for a meeting.

I was pleased to see that South African runner Caster Semenya has not faded away after speculations about her gender and intense invasions of privacy. Instead she is fighting back--with a lawsuit against IAAF and Athletic South Africa (ASA) for leaking information about the gender testing. The bungling of her case has also resulted in the president and board of the ASA to step down. It appears that testing began before Semenya went to Berlin for the World Championships and that ASA president Leonard Cheune decided to send her anyway because results were not yet in. But, as we know, questions were raised and information that should have stayed private was not. Again, Semenya was allowed to keep her gold and prize money, she continues to train, but there is no word on what her future in competitive track and field holds.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Well that's just asinine!"

Indeed it is, Mother. Indeed it is.
That was my mother's response after Christmas dinner to the news (as told by me) that two horses made the AP's list of the top female athletes of 2009.
Plenty has been written about this already and even feminists have taken note. (The italics refer to the sometimes contrived strained relationship between feminism and sport.) The feminists over at Feministing had something to say about it. And so did a lot of other people.
I don't feel the need to add anything else substantial. I don't have some kind of new angle on this story.
The highly problematic comparisons between female athletes and horses and the ones between Serena Williams and the horses are obvious and dismaying.
We could talk about how the people who created the list, the sports editors at AP affiliated newspapers, are predominantly men and predominantly white and middle class. But that's not a big insight either. And it's disappointing any way you look at it. If they were serious that horses count as athletes (and I don't really buy into the argument that a horse once appeared on an athletes of the century list) or if they did it to draw some attention. Because it's a pretty vicious kind of attention all around. I think it does indeed make the AP editors look like asses. I think it makes them look quite afraid of women and the power women can access through sport. I think it reflects the paucity of coverage of women's sports. I think it makes them look like they are very bad at their jobs. Probably because they are.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

By the way...

...I'm not the only one who has noticed that all this end of the decade stuff is a little premature. Check out Peter Bodo's (of Tennis magazine) column about the best of the almost decade. I usually dislike Bodo but I actually did not take offense at anything in this column--and it's not just because he agrees with me about how to count.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

If we waited a year... name the athlete of the decade until it was the actual end of the decade, this might not have happened.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


To Kacey Bellamy the only UNHer to make the US National Women's Hockey Team. (She's also a western MA native so yea!)
I have to admit I was a little peeved that, after Ben Smith retired after Turino and suggested having a female head coach, USA Hockey went with Marc Johnson of Wisconsin. But after reading this column, I was somewhat appeased.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Money is isn't everything but...

• I n basketball, the $5.85 million per year average NBA salary (in 2008-2009) is 59 times
higher than the $99,500 salary of WNBA athletes.
• I n golf, the annual prize money for women in the LPGA rose by 234 percent between 2006
and 2008 to $62 million, while the PGA annual prize money for men rose by 310 percent to
$214.4 million.
• I n tennis, even though five of the top 10 highest-paid players are women, the top-paid
male tennis player, Roger Federer, earns $9 million more than the top-paid woman, Maria
• I n all sports, the 50 highest-earning athletes in the U.S. (salary, winnings, endorsements,
appearances and bonuses) in 2008 were exclusively men.

These are stats from The White House Project Report on equity in various fields including sport.
The report also notes the lack of leadership and pay equity at various levels of sport, in the US and internationally.

In college coaching and leadership, there is a wide salary differential, linked to the gender of the
coach and of the team. Women in college coaching earn between 40 and 70 cents for every dollar
their male counterparts earn, figures reminiscent of the wage gap of the 1950s. With Division One teams, that difference can add up to over $500,000. The average salary of a Division One women’s team head coach was $659,000 in the 2005-06 season, compared with $1,202,400 for the men’s team coach. In Division One basketball for the same year, the men’s team head coach averaged $409,600, more than double the average salary of the women’s basketball coach.
In the professional leagues, the gender gap can be even more dramatic. The commissioner of the
Professional Golfers Association (PGA), Tim Finchem, brings home a salary of $4.8 million, twice
the earnings of the leading female Ladies Professional Golfers Association (LPGA) tour leader.

Things are not so good for women of color either:

A National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) study from the 2003-2004 season showed that, among the largest universities, 14.8 percent of female athletes were of color, yet only half of that percentage of female head coaches were black,339 and a mere 3 percent of coaches overall were women.
A more recent study of black women athletes and head coaches in the NCAA in the 2007-2008
season shows that, while 47 percent of female Division I athletes who play basketball are African-American, only 11 percent of the female head coaches are African-American.

In the 2008 WNBA season, there was one female African-American head coach. Of Sports
Illustrated’s most recent “101 Most Influential Minorities in Sport,” only 11 women of color are listed: nine are African-American and two are Asian.

I could spend all morning cutting and pasting from this report. But I think you should just go check it out yourself. As I said it addresses other fields such as the entertainment industry, religion, politics, and academia.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Good tidings for women's professional sports?

Maybe, according to this article out of an Atlanta paper, a city which will host three women's professional teams in 2010 (soccer, softball, and basketball). Chicago has just as many. [Not sure if they are counting football at all, though. I know there are at least two leagues for women's football but I do not know if they qualify as professional or how that designation is made.]
Anyway, some are hopeful that it's a good time (recession notwithstanding) for professional women's sports. That perhaps people are getting a little sick of male professional athletes behaving badly. That fans don't always like to see their favorite athletes getting arrested (guess we better not look too hard at Diana Taurasi then!) and that female athletes are generally seen as more accessible and more willing to do promotion and hang out with kids, etc.
While I would love 2010 to be a great year for women's professional sports that have no historically been so successful, or even those that are rebuilding (like golf), I have certain problems with some images of these athletes as all goody-goody and and smiley and nurturing to our nation's youth. Not that I am advocating for the Diana Taurasi image, but do female athletes have to do all these things to grow their sport?
I suppose it is better than taking off their clothes which grows some things but not their sports' popularity.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Academic fraud at FSU?

Seems to be all about the Seminoles this week. Except this time it's not the actual Seminoles, its the student-athletes at Florida State who call themselves Seminoles.
The academic cheating issues at FSU have been covered. The school was investigated for a fairly widespread cheating scandal involving an online course.
But ESPN's Outside the Lines has brought to light an interesting component of academic support in FSU athletics: the prevalence of student-athletes diagnosed as learning disabled (LD). It's a very thorough report that talks to specialists, a former member of the academic support team there (she was fired for allegedly providing too much help), and LD specialists--including the one FSU uses to diagnose their athletes. He is an outsider but gets paid $800 per test he gives to FSU students. He was very candid about the process but the article noted that his testing method is controversial. The model he uses produces an LD diagnosis at almost twice the rate of the other two accepted models. And around 80 percent of the tests he gives to FSU student athletes come back with an LD diagnosis.
Some students come in already diagnosed or already labelled as at-risk students, but some get diagnosed upon entrance. A diagnosis allows for certain accommodations and even waivers to NCAA rules about academic progress.
What it seems is that there are a lot of LD student-athletes at FSU. A third of the football team and 75 percent of the basketball team has an LD diagnosis. At Arizona State the rate is about 10 percent for both football and basketball. The rate of LD in the general population is between 5 and 10 percent.
I think those numbers should give the NCAA pause. No data exist to show the percentage of LD student-athletes across NCAA schools. But it might be time to start tracking diagnoses and implementing regulations about how academic support programs within athletics (FSU has one that costs $1.5 million) are run.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Extolling the Seminoles

So after I wrote this post I realized that I was kind of writing about pool. And I don't know if I think of pool as a sport. I didn't have a tag for it--not that that means that much. I kind of mentioned football so I am going with that. I just needed a jumping off point to get to my social commentary/soapbox and have decided that I don't really want to get into a debate about the "what makes a sport" criteria this morning.

Not the collegiate football team in Florida, but the actual nation of American Indians.
I was watching ever so briefly yesterday evening a Women's Professional Billiards Event (and, by the way, I turned it on when my onscreen guide said "Pool" was on ESPN and I was surprised--pleasantly--to see that it was women's pool; usually the unmodified on ESPN means it's a men's event. But then of course that gets me thinking about why billiards is segregated by gender in the first place...) Anyway, the event was happening in Florida at the Seminole Hard Rock Cafe and Casino. It's not that it was held at a casino that is owned by an American Indian nation--I am not naive. But it was curious that there was an advertisement that almost looked/felt like a PSA about the Seminoles. And it was a strange advertisement in that it featured Seminoles doing things that we stereotypically associate with Native American cultures like pow-wows and other cultural celebrations. But they also talked about accomplishments and showed a lot of nice-looking high-rise casinos and hotels. And then there was a line about how the Seminoles are an "unconquered people." Curious. Because Chief Osceola, one of the most recognized Seminoles (largely because of the invocation of his person by Florida State who uses them as their mascot) was captured as he lead a small (100ish) band of resisters to US forces trying to remove the Seminoles from their land during the Second Seminole War. He was actually captured under false pretenses by US government forces when he was told they wanted to meet with him to discuss a resolution to the conflict. He was transferred to a jail in South Carolina where he died of malaria three months later. And I am sure if you ask the Seminoles who live in Oklahoma, where they were forced to relocate, how unconquered they have been historically, they might have a different response.
But it seems the Seminoles in Florida--or at least the people who speak for the Seminole nation in Florida--the ones who granted Florida State permission to use one of their chiefs as a mascot at their football games and on their seat cushions, are into the self-promotion via casinos and pool. There was a Seminole Pro Tour this past year which was a series of 10-ball events throughout the southeastern United States. This WPBA event that was actually held in mid-November, was the culmination of said tour.
I don't know all the issues around Native American casinos, but I know they are controversial within Native American communities, and I certainly see why. I do not expect Native communities to have some kind of coherence that no other identity-based community has, so I understand the discord. But this advertisement and the whole billiards and casino thing and then the advertisement for Seminoles, I guess--or Seminole culture, set off a string of thought that I cannot quite grasp at this time. But I think the situation raises interesting questions on what is native culture, who gets to decide and the issues of tradition, historical discrimination, and economic prosperity--especially its tie to social capital.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Remember that?

So I am not, let it be stated for the record, going to discuss any of these best of the decade stories. It is a principled stand based on the fact that it's not the end of the decade. Not until next year. 'Cause you can't start counting at zero.
That said I read one of those very pieces (I said I wouldn't blog about it, not that I wouldn't read them) that included some of the best or most interesting or ironic sport quotes of the years 2000-2009. Some indeed interesting, some not so much.
But I was reminded of that incident with John Rocker in 2000 (which, as we know was not the start of the current decade or even century; I am being too nitpicky about this?) where he said to Sports Illustrated that he would never play baseball in New York because he didn't want to ride the subway with, among others, the queer with AIDS. That got Rocker a lot of press and a two-week suspension at the start of the season and a $500 fine.
So I was thinking about this in light of the recent fines and reprimands handed down to Serena Williams. I have not commented on them and I feel like this perhaps might be a glaring absence. Maybe because I had heard the figure of $1 million and a several months of suspension tossed around. But I did not think the $82,000 was that bad. She makes a lot of money. And she threatened someone and used profanity. Absolutely the coverage of the event was racist and sexist. And it's likely that this hyper visibility contributed to the fines that were levied. So in that way, it is true that her punishment was indeed tinged with racism and sexism.
Rocker's punishment--if we can call it that--was practically a reward. $500 is nothing. And two weeks off for a pitcher; give me a break. Baseball, unlike tennis (minus that whole overlooking of Andre Agassi's meth habit) is a little more strict. Fines levied against players are almost always in the thousands of the dollars. And it is still seen as nothing.
So what's my point here? I actually don't know. Something about how standards are always going to vary based on the sport, and the athlete--including the athlete's gender, sexuality, race, age, education level, and religion. If I come up with something more profound, I will re-post. Until then I am going to try to enjoy the transition into the last year of the decade.

Friday, December 11, 2009

More eyebrow-raising IOC decisions

It's so lovely to find someone who agrees with you--especially on a cold, windy Friday morning as you feel a cold (but hopefully not the flu) coming on.
The IOC has been making some changes to the summer games program, allegedly in the name of gender equity, that has a few puzzled.
LA Times writer and blogger Philip Hersh is one of those and I agree with him--for the most part. The addition of mixed doubles to the roster seems a little silly. While I enjoy mixed doubles and seek it out when I am lucky enough to get to a tournament that actually has it (mostly the Grand Slams), it's another thing to include it in the Olympics where tennis should not be in the first place. Track cycling, with a much smaller international presence, has seen its events reduced--well the men's events anyway. The IOC, upon recommendations from the International Cycling Union (so it's difficult to know where exactly to lay blame), has dropped several events for men and added more for women. Seems good in the aggregate but apparently (and I know this much about track cycling so I am going with what I have read) the events dropped, especially the men's individual pursuit, are some of the best in the sport. Like I said, I know very little about track cycling so I cannot make a convincing argument about which events should stay or go. I do appreciate that an attempt at equity was made, however, but regret that chances for furthering the appeal of the sport have been compromised in the process.
You know who did make a convincing argument, though? Tiger Woods on why golf should be allowed in the Olympics. Hehe. We all know how I felt about golf in the Olympics and banking on Tiger being part of the games in 2016; and how the IOC was just kind of drooling all over themselves when he was part of the pitch. And this is why I have been singing the schadenfreude song for a few days now.
Hersh makes points about which sports should be in the games that I have made before. He believes, though, that basketball (because it helped grow the game internationally) and ice hockey (because it's still important to some countries) deserve their place even though they do not meet the criteria of the Olympics being the ultimate (or near ultimate) prize/honor within the sport. I think both sports should be in there--not necessarily for the reasons he provides. But I think they should be played by non-professionals. And I realize we're going to need to revisit the notion of what makes one a professional in order to enact any such change.
Anyway, check out Hersh's post on these latest decisions and the IOC's wacky decision-making processes. It's a good read.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ireland misses the point about FSU's "dress code"

Hard to believe that once upon a time, the National Organization for Women was considered radical. That a lot of the popular sentiment that said the American women's movement of the late 60s and 70s as man-hating and radical came from the very visible actions of NOW.
But today, and even back then to a certain extent, it's just a lot of the same liberal status quo junk; the "you go, girl" empowerment rhetoric that has not a lot of substance behind it.
So my disappointment upon reading Patricia Ireland's (former NOW president) opinion piece on Florida State University women's basketball team's new snazzy website was palpable but not surprising. A few weeks ago, there was some chatter on teh internets about said website with people weighing in on the potential homophobia and certainly heteronormativity that underlies this website which features players dressed in evening wear. Blogger and sports writer Jayda Evans wrote about the FSU site as well as the overall promotion of women's basketball.
Pat Griffin responded to Evans's piece and offered some insights and history on media guides and the sexification of female athletes. The issue also promoted some talk over at Women Talk Sports.
And most people understood the slipperiness of this slope and the nuances of this issue even if not everyone agreed with everyone else.
Patricia Ireland doesn't seem to understand any of it:
There is nothing wrong with being glamorous -- but everything wrong with placing women in a box where they're expected to conform with someone else's expectations. Women fought long and hard for Title IX so we could put on a uniform and compete on the court -- without having to sacrifice being women.
“We didn't fight against dresses, but did fight against the fallacy that said if you wore a dress, you couldn't be a competitor. To now suggest the opposite -- that if you play sports you shouldn't wear a dress -- is the same kind of backward thinking that in the past attempted to block women from full equality.

No one suggested the "opposite"--that you couldn't play sports and wear dresses. People did however, note how sometimes people athletes are compelled to do so to prove their femininity in order to be able to put on that other uniform. And Ireland assumes that not being able to wear dresses is a sacrifice; something that denies our allegedly inherent womanness, I guess.
There is a longstanding belief that feminism and sport--even women's sport--has a problematic relationship. Reading Ireland's piece, I can see how this belief is perpetuated. It does not appear that she has a great deal of knowledge about the current state of women's sports other than the fact that Title IX has increased opportunities. Just as I exhort athletes to become familiar with feminist principles, I now exhort feminists* to become aware of some of the issues around and within women's sports.

*Realizing, of course, that some athletes do identify as feminists and some feminists are women's sports advocates and knowledgeable about related issues.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Taking aim at the alma mater

See, I knew I would be back to critiquing someone this week. And how appropriate that is the anonymous columnist from my alma mater's student newspaper. (In my day, when I wrote for The New Hampshire, they didn't allow anonymous columnists.)
Anyway, anonymous Joe (he admits to being male), has a holiday wish list for the University of new Hampshire that includes a few sport-related things.
First he wishes for a new football stadium because the current one is "small" and "ugly." I never thought it was that bad. He said that because the team has done so well recently they deserve a less-embarrassing facility. Perhaps. But it clearly has not affected recruiting. After all if you can make it to the second round of the post-season, you must be getting quality players who come in spite of the allegedly crummy stadium. And, of course, it costs a lot of money to build a new stadium. Anonymous Joe said that a new stadium, though, would bring in more revenue. But alas, it would still not be enough revenue to cover both the costs of said new stadium and the costs of the program. UNH is not one of the dozen or schools fortunate to have a football program that actually turns a profit. And football stadia, unlike say hockey arenas, usually sit unused 42 weeks of the year (in terms of revenue-generating activities anyway).
Anonymous Joe would also like UNH baseball back. Seriously, UNHers, it's time to build a bridge and get over it. I was there when baseball was cut--along with lacrosse--and since that time even more athletic programs have been cut, including crew. It's New Hampshire. And baseball may still retain its moniker as the great American pastime, as Anon Joe notes, but we all know that's just some lingering romantic notion. We live in a capitalist country where football is king. In other words, baseball is not coming back to campus.
Also, curious that Joe thinks UNH "adopted" Title IX in 1997 (when baseball was cut), as if Title IX was optional or that they hadn't been subject to it since, oh like the 1970s. When I was there, UNH claimed compliance under prong two. Don't know where they are at at this point.
Anon Joe does do a nice shout out to the women's hockey team and encourages the student body to engage in more random acts of fandom at some of those other sports that are not football and men's hockey. Good job, Joe.
And as someone who not resides in UMass territory, I really appreciated his sign off: Stay classy, not UMassy. Sorry UMass peeps. Old rivalries die hard.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Good for you!: Readers speak back

Since I am usually such a Complainin' Jane when it comes to problematic things lay people say about women's sports, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to actually laud someone. (Don't worry; I'm not going soft. I am sure I will be back with something cynical to say tomorrow--or the next day. I have a busy week ahead of me.)
The men's versus women's sports issue is making headline news again thanks for NBA commissioner David Stern's prediction that women could be playing in the league in 10 years. And then there was, of course, the "no ways" from people like Lebron James and Anthony Parker--brother of Candace who thinks that while his sister is just swell, she is not NBA material.
Anyway, it seems the Modesto (CA) Bee took up the issue of the lack of popularity in women's sports and did some of that blame-gaming stuff where they attribute the lack of interest on the part of women as the reason for the alleged demise of women's sports.
But in bold, concise and convincing fashion, a reader noted the lack of sports available for viewing:
Television is saturated with men's sports, not women's. Look at how much time is devoted to women's sports on local stations during prime-time news. Most women's sports events are not even covered, and when they are they are not given equal coverage.
I follow golf, but it is difficult to show support for women's golf when four men's tournaments are aired but no women's tournaments, unless it is at 3 a.m. Don't put all the blame on women's sports sliding into oblivion because women aren't watching when clearly and sadly the sports world is still male dominated in television and in local newspapers. Give us a break. We would watch and support women's sports given the chance.

Good work!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Bystander responsibility

I was part of an interesting dinner party conversation the other night about the responsibility of being a gym goer, a gym owner, or a gym employee. The talk was about one's responsibility when seeing someone who is doing something dangerous. Though we mentioned things like bad form and lifting too much weight or general overexertion, what the conversation really turned to was eating disorders. As a gym employee (kind of--I teach a couple of classes so I am more of a contracted employee) I was asked what our gym's (many of us go to the same establishment) policy was regarding confronting people with eating disorders. I doubt there is one. I know of other gyms that will discontinue a membership when they feel someone is engaging in disordered behavior. But that doesn't seem very productive either. Some other establishment will be eager to take that person's membership fees--probably my gym.
We didn't come to any kind of conclusion. I spoke rather abstractly about trying to create an environment--in my own classes anyway--that is about personal progress and actively eschews some of the dominant fitness discourses (working off that ice cream, mashed potatoes, brownie; working for tighter abs, toned thighs, etc.). Anyway, I left with a little more to think about.
But last night, I became quite disturbed by my bystander status and the previous evening's conversation really took on a new meaning.
Because last night I played tennis, actually at my gym's sister gym the next town over, next to a father hitting with his daughter. And it was disturbing. I know all about crazy sport parents, I watched that Bravo show several years ago. And I know about crazy tennis fathers--Mr. Dokic and Mr. Pierce to name just two.
But this guy was, I have no doubt, abusive. He was constantly berating his 9-year old (I am guessing her age--definitely younger than middle school). I heard one positive statement during the entire hour. But mostly it was negative statements that had a shaming tone to them; and that most definitely had a controlling tone. He told her to pick up a ball nearby to start a new rally. And then he yelled at her for not picking up the one he felt was closest to her. He questioned her committment if she wasn't jumping on her toes when he had a ball in his hand to start a rally. He packed up his racquet once and walked off the court about a half hour in leaving her to pick up the balls because he did not feel she was committed enough or paying enough attention or something. It doesn't matter, actually, because it was such a control move. he packed up again at the end of the hour leaving her to pack up the balls and racquets. Have I mentioned that this girl is 9? That she doesn't even play competitively (she told my doubles partner); oh and that the dad, who constantly corrected her form, was not that good of a player himself. She'll be better than him sooner rather than later. Perhaps this is part of the reason for his atrocious behavior. He may be pushing her away from the sport before she reaches that point.
And this happens every week according to my teammates. And apparently they have witnessed similar situations with other parents.
I was so angry and so sad. And so frustrated. What could I possibly do? Calling him out in front of his daughter would likely create a scene that would not be at all productive. No one I was playing with knew his name. We only know the daughter's first name.
I am thinking about reporting his behavior to the club manager. And I am thinking of contacting my friend who used to work for child services and asking about what is considered abuse.
But I am really at a loss. I think too often people stay out of situations like this because they feel it is none of their business. But I see this girl already steeling herself against his behavior and his words. We all realize, at some point, that our parents are human and not perfect; but 9 years old seems too young to see that your father is an ass.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I'm crying too

Amelie Mauresmo announced her retirement today, shedding tears in the process.

I think we need to do some mutual comforting.

Was sad I didn't get to see her play in the 2009 French Open when I was there but glad I had the opportunity to see her in both New Haven and New York.

The new Olympic spirit?

So remember when everyone was all "boo hiss China"? They were about to host the Olympics and a lot of Americans got their retro commie high horses to talk about--well mostly how great the West and free speech and capitalism are. And granted there were a lot of problems worthy of critique like Darfur and the displacement of people and killing of animals and arrests of dissidents, etc. But those critiques, as I recall, were pretty free-flowing. Sure a lot of athletes took their problematic Switzerland stand but there was discourse at all levels really.
So here we are, two years later and everything is all rosy for Vancouver in a couple of months, right? Yeah, not so much. Apparently the whole "the West is a bastion of freedom and democracy" is crap when it comes to hosting the Olympic Games.
Amy Goodman, author and journalist and current host of Democracy Now was detained at the US/Canadian border when she went to Vancouver to give a talk about US health care and the wars in Asia. The Canadian officials did not seem to believe she had not planned to talk about/criticize the Olympics. They let her in but demanded she leave the country within 48 hours of her arrival. This article has a link to some audio and video of her talk--in which she does talk about her detention at the border. She has also written a column about her detention and what she did find out about what Canadian and Olympic officials are putting their energies toward: security against local dissenters. Not those faraway amorphous Eastern terrorists--but those who have a problem with the way the Olympics are being staged and who and what is disappearing in the process. So when Goodman crossed the border she, by her own admittance, knew next to nothing about the Olympics, now she knows and has given more voice toward the problems surrounding them. Can you say "irony" (without being stopped by the border patrol)?
Also, check out the podcast from the CBC's December 1 show that talks about how artists and performers are signing contracts that include a clause that they will not criticize the games.
O(h), Canada indeed.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thinking about becoming a party crasher

OK so I probably wouldn't get quite the amount of attention as those other party crashers that continue to make headlines (I don't know which is worse all the hoopla over the party crashers or the previous hoopla over the fact that curry was served at the White House!). But I just found out the entire US Women's National Ice Hockey Team from the 1998 Nagano Olympics are being inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame tonight--in Boston! The whole team. (Well Cammi Granato isn't coming because she is about to have a baby--but she's already in as an individual; inducted last year.) But this includes some of the veterans that are still training for the upcoming Olympics. And heck, I don't have any plans. If only I could find out where it is happening...
Anyway, the group is being honored for their contribution to women's ice hockey, for being pioneers in the sport, etc.
Also, the late Frank Zamboni is being inducted, which is kinda cool.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

LA Times sportswriter Mike Penner dies

It is with great sadness that I read about the death of LA Times sports writer Mike Penner who dies Friday at the age of 52. It is suspected Penner took his own life.
Penner had been a sport writer since the 80s, covering multiple sports and events, but gained national notoriety when he came out as transsexual in the spring of 2007. He changed his name to Christine Daniels and continued to cover sports for the Times as well as keep a blog about his transition. The very public transition was quite brave. But some time in late 2008 Penner went back to writing as Mike and rumors abounded that he was experiencing transition regret, though he never confirmed.
If it was indeed a suicide, it would seem that Penner never found a comfortable place along the gender spectrum and perhaps that is because too often it seems there is no continuum, but rather a binary. And thus the pressure to pick one or another and conform is huge, especially for those who have not had the privilege of being comfortably cisgendered all their lives.
It is not a time to preach about the evils of hegemonic gender and the gender binary, I realize. Mike Penner/Christine Daniels made a huge sacrifice by going public during transition. I hope that is what people remember.

Out and proud in the world of men's hockey

An ESPN columnist has a profile on Brendan Burke, a college student who stopped playing hockey in high school because he was gay and worried about people finding out his secret. His father, Brian (apologies, Patrick is Brendan's brother) Burke, is a bigwig NHL guy and former player himself. The column tells Brandon's history in the sport, his current position as a team manager at Miami Ohio, and his coming out to all the people in his life. Brandon would like a career in the NHL and plans on going to law school.

Good message overall but it was a little on the long side and unless one is Italo Calvino, one should not use the second person the way the columnist did. (In other words, he tried a little too hard.)

And PS all the "no one cared, everyone was really supportive" lines are tiresome, ring a little false, and are problematic in that they erase a lot of the subtle homophobia that continues in athletics. I mean I am glad he isn't being targeted, but this does not mean hockey is homphobia-free or even ready for a pro or semi-pro out player. I don't even think there is an out male DI player. If Burke is able to make inroads in NHL management like his father has, he would have a great opportunity to at least influence the climate--and that's always a good thing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bring on the Olympics!: Luge

It's the day after American Thanksgiving and you know what that means...
Time to talk luge. (What? Did you think I was really going to go the mall on Black Friday?)
When I was in Canada a few weeks ago commercials for the Olympics were everywhere. Not so much here, but we should be getting excited at this point, especially if you are into luge.
Because according to this piece, American women's luge could be an up-and-coming spoiler for all those veteran European teams like Germany where school children allegedly have easy access to the country's luge tracks.
But to all my friends in their 30s who still harbor luge dreams, forget it. It's a youngsters' sport, at least here in the US. Apparently the average age of the US National Team is 21. Which makes sense; you have to have a certain teenage immortality attitude to shoot down a sloped ice track on your back, on a sled with sharp blades using only your feet to steer. More power to them! Hope they make a showing in Vancouver.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yes, Alexandra Stevenson is still playing

...and yes it appears that her mother still has her on one of those leashes that we usually see (problematically) on toddlers in the mall.

A link posted by Diane at Women Who Serve, tells us about the strange mother-daughter relationship (more implied) and that ever-so-lovely sport parent behavior by Samantha Stevenson. Never a fan of Ms. Stevenson myself for her "eeks my daughter is going to be accosted by lesbians in the locker room" statements in the late 90s when it looked like Alexandra was going to be something something, it seems she hasn't really changed--it's just that her daughter's profile has thus Samantha Stevenson doesn't quite have the same platform. [She was right about racism on the tour, but she discredited herself by coupling that with her homophobia thus burying any possible real discussion of subtle and overt acts of racism in the WTA.]

It seems that even as Alexandra, ranked in the 200s now, perseveres at small tournaments, her mother perseveres in her various level of...what shall we call it? Gamespersonship? Gamesmothership? (No, that sounds like something from a sci-fi flick.) Gamesparentship? Come up with your own appropriate noun--if it's good, post it in the comments.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mother of judo succumbs to cancer

Not too long ago I wrote briefly about Rusty Kanokogi who was dubbed the "mother of judo" for her lifelong dedication to promoting the sport in the United States including getting girls and women involved. It was largely due to her efforts that women's judo made it to the Olympics. Rusty made news then when the YMCA awarded her a gold medal for her participation in a the state championship match she took part in in 1959. When the officials found out she was a girl, they took her medal away. The YMCA rectified that mistake this year.
Kanokogi was battling leukemia at that time, a disease she had been fighting for three years. She died of the disease this week.
She will be inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame this April.
Her accomplishments are many and some can be found in the above-linked article. She sounds like one of the unsung heroines of women's sports, the martial arts, and sport in general.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Well that was a new experience

I have had many moments of frustration playing USTA league tennis over the years, from head case partners who enjoy hitting opponents as an intimidation technique to snippy opponents who don't remember the score and so you have to go all the way back and replay the third set to dealing with stacked line-ups.
But today was a refreshing change--and not just because I won and not just because I won by one point! Though that did feel nice. But my doubles partner and I played against a very nice team. Not overly sweet nice where they try to talk to you all the time--'cause that's annoying too. But fair. They never questioned any call and there were some close ones. (We were playing fair too, though; but that's not the way it always happens.)
It was a really close match and no one lost it or got snippy or slammed a racket (not even me!). And we ended up having to play a tie break to decide the third and final set (we had ten minutes left). At 5-5 in the breaker (first to 7 by 2 wins it) they hit a ball long--just. They didn't question the call; they walked up to the net and said "well the clock says 2 and you're up by a point so you win." I had been walking back to the baseline getting ready to try not to choke and serve the match out. They could have easily made me serve it out. But they didn't.
No whispering or lamenting of kvetching afterwards.
I know this seems kind of like a silly post, but this kind of behavior is--in my experience--the exception more than the rule. And since I spend a lot of time on this blog complaining I thought it would nice to say something good about good sporting behavior.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Semenya back in the news; the debate continues

Thankfully it appears that South African runner Caster Semenya is not mired in depression or confusion over the recent questioning and testing of her gender and sex and biology.
Last weekend The Guardian ran a lengthy essay on what Semenya is up to these days: training. And included many photos of the athlete with her teammates and coaches. There was controversy over whether Semenya's conversations with the writer were on-the-record and if she knew that her talks with him would be included in the article. I have only glanced at the article myself so I cannot comment on its accuracy or fairness or sensitivity in covering all the attendant issues.
This week the IAAF ruled that Semenya could keep her medal and her prize money, but discussions are stil underway about whether she will be allowed to compete in the future. The IAAF has allegedly said they will not reveal the results of all the tests they conducted. (Not an especially reassuring statement given how information has been leaked throughout this investigation.)
As this news broke, Jill Geer, who does PR for USA Track and Field (that must be a stressful job!) wrote a blog post on USTAF's website about Caster Semenya. It was interesting. I was a little disturbed by the warning at the top of the post that read: Readers are advised that the following blog deals with issues of gender determination and sexual characteristics.
Not all that surprising that those in track and field and many outside of sport as well have such difficulty even comprehending these issues; they can't even talk about these things--even in a clinical way--without getting squeamish. Say it with me people: GEN-IT-AL-IA. See, that wasn't so hard. It's not as if some child was going to come across this blog post and get turned on by discussions of what kind of gentilia a South African runner has. And if it inspires questions by said child--good! And if you are the parent of said child and cannot answer these questions--email me!
But I digress, back to Geer's post. She displays a great deal of empathy for all involved, which is good. And she laments the way the whole situation was handled--also good. She clearly has an understanding of how gender norms are problematic. I was not too pleased that, right after she explained how she understood the limits of gender norms, she condemned Semenya's post-race bicep flex.
Geer cites my good friend Erin Buzuvis's paper delivered a couple of weeks ago at a conference on sport and law in Baltimore--but Geer doesn't agree with most of her points even as she lauds Buzuvis's attempt to present a "rational" argument about fairness in competition. Having read said paper myself and being one of those gender studies people Geer mentions briefly, I think that attempts at rationality are largely futile given that rationality itself is constructed through dominant ideas of gender, sex, power, science, etc. But I understand that people in governance and policy-making and law like to have rules.
And in the end my hope is that the situation with Semenya will alter not just the rules but our thinking on gender and sex.

h/t to NS for sending me Geer's blog

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The ponytail epiphany

I hesitated to write this post because I did not want to be part of the continuing media coverage of the BYU/UNM soccer game in which rough play all around and particularly that of defender Elizabeth Lambert has gotten a lot of negative and other suspect attention.
But this article, not a big one in the grand scheme of media coverage, set me off and lead to the above mentioned ponytail epiphany. It's not what was in it, as it was not adding anything particularly new; it was the title: "On the Lambert scandal."
Scandal? It's a scandal now? Christian politicians living in communal environments in DC and sleeping with mistresses on the side engender scandals. Hiding information about alleged threats of terrorism from elected officials and the general public is a scandal.
A collegiate soccer player engaged in on-field acts of violent behavior is not a scandal.
So once again I was forced to ask myself, "What the heck is up with this story?" Seriously, when I was sitting in a Canadian bar two weeks ago and saw the infamous montage, I thought it would make a good post and get a little bit of press and thus engage a healthy discussion of gender and sport. Oh, the naivete.
But I have decided, just 'cause I can, that this was all about the ponytail. Lambert gave a good interview to NYT writer Jere Longman the other day and basically said that a lot of the stuff she got caught doing, was stuff that was happening throughout the game. She takes full responsibility for the actions, but notes that it all looks a little bit worse strung together like it was.
But it was the ponytail pull that really set things off. It clearly evoked girl-on-girl fighting that either titillated or terrified. This is my explanation as to why this story has gotten more play to that other women's sport moment of bad behavior this fall: Serena Williams at the US Open. And let's not forget to interrogate the racial aspects of this. Lambert is being read as white though she herself has never identified her race. White girls are supposed to play nice. The racism engendered by Williams's behavior in September was obviously problematic. But I wonder how much the stereotypes of black women as animalistic, uppity, angry contributed the quick demise (comparatively) of the story--while unfortunately reifying stereotypes of black womanhood that many already held. The expectations of white womanhood have gone unexamined in the case of Elizabeth Lambert but they are certainly there to be interrogated.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What have you done for women's basketball lately?

NCAA basketball has begun. Now admittedly basketball is a sport that I have never truly embraced. It is probably the American sport I know least about. But I follow the women's collegiate game out of a sense of loyalty to female athletes. And, of course, I find it interesting from a sociological and cultural studies perspective.
So here it is the first week of play and I am trying to jump in and be supportive right from the start this year. (This also serves a more solipsistic end: I know a little more when I fill out my bracket in March!) So last night, knowing the Tennessee/Texas Tech game was on, I kindly asked the bartender to put it on the big screen tv. And other people at the bar appeared to be watching. I was ready to have to fend of complaining whiners, but I didn't have to. Of course they may have changed the channel when I left at halftime but I did what I could.
And this morning on my very early drive to the gym I caught the score of the UConn game on my local NPR affiliate. The men's game.
Umm...didn't the women play last night as well? Well indeed they did. They crushed Texas I found after some internet searching.
So I am spending a little time this morning jotting off a letter to my station to say that if they truly believe we live in UConn country (which I find debatable but...) they should give all the UConn scores.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not everyone is moving on

The IOC has stated that, in the wake of the Canadian appeal's court decision to uphold the lower court decision, it is pleased that it can now move on and focus on the forthcoming games.
Yes, it must be nice when a legal entity says it cannot hold you responsible for discrimination. The IOC sure knows how to spin things. I was a little surprised by this statement from the organization:
"As the lower court noted, the IOC has continued to demonstrate by its actions its support for women athletes and their participation in the Olympic Games."
Hmmm....I didn't read the lower court decision, but the message I got out of it from all the coverage was not that the IOC was a great supporter of women's sports, but that it was a great discriminator and the judge regretted that it was beyond her power to hold them accountable.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Final blow for female ski jumpers

The appeal, filed by a group of female ski jumpers attempting to get their sport into the Vancouver Games, was dismissed after two days of hearings in a Canadian court of appeals this week. The court agreed with the lower court ruling that it was the IOC that was at fault and the IOC can not be held to Canadian law. [I am not a legal scholar, and certainly not a Canadian legal scholar, but this decision would seem to set a bad precedent. They do have precedent in Canada right? I mean who knows what kind of outside entity can come in and shirk Canadian law.]

The lawsuit, according to VANOC, which seems a little resentful for being involved in this at all, cost the organization "six figures." First, if they were so resentful, they should have put more pressure on the IOC to do the right thing, to take responsibility, etc. But it seems the IOC gets to be immune to all these things. They must believe that because they are in Switzerland, they are neutral.
Second, how much exactly is six figures? Is this Canadian slang? Six figures could be $100,000 or $999,999. There's a big difference. Not that it matters. I don't have a lot of sympathy for VANOC anyway.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lambert wrap-up

I have to say that I, despite my deeply entrenched cynicism, am surprised at just how viral this whole Elizabeth Lambert thing went. It's everywhere I turn. I feel--and this is just a feeling not backed up at all by evidence--that this situation has gotten more attention than Serena Williams's outburst at the Open. I could be wrong. I haven't sat down to chart the You Tube hits or count the articles, editorials, or blog posts but there just seems to be something about this story that makes it keep going and going and going.
I don't think I have anything else to say about it myself but here's some of what others have been saying:
  • From Christine Brennan, a column on how coaching factors into this situation. Coaching--or lack thereof--has been listed as one of the incredulities in this case. Brennan got the interview with Kit Vela, the UNM head coach who was questioned for her decision to keep Lambert on the field despite her actions. But Vela hadn't seen any of it, she told Brennan, until she saw the highlight reel that everyone else in American saw the night after the game. The arguably most egregious act--the ponytail pull--happened in the "run of play" Vela said and she missed. As did the referees we should note who certainly would have pointed it out. Vela insists that if she had seen it, Lambert would have been benched. Actually it seems both Vela and Lambert wished the ponytail pull had been noticed (it was well behind the play apparently) by refs who would have likely red-carded Lambert. I bet they do wish it! Probably would have at least tempered some of this fervent reaction.
  • NYT sportswriter Jere Longman published a column Wednesday on the incident and got a lot of really smart and important people to talk about it ;) Julie Foudy, Mary Jo Kane, Pat Griffin, and others commented on issues of gender, violence, physicality/contact, comparisons to men's sports, etc.
  • This columnist (reprinted in USA Today) provides a somewhat offensive level of sarcasm in his take on the whole thing. He actually incorporates the story of the high school soccer game in Rhode Island last weekend in which fighting on the field and in the stands commenced after a mid-field collision between two players. He also notes that "it's a proud day for Title IX." I am not pleased with all this invocation of Title IX in these discussions. I can think of a number of more appropriate organizations, moments, etc. to levy some blame on.
  • Steve Krakauer at the blog Mediaite takes MSNBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman (and her sports psychologist guest) to task for their sexist interpretation and comments on the situation. I found a problem with the sport psych guy calling this a "natural outgrowth" of the growth of women's sports. [italics mine] Snyderman also invoked Title IX as she suggested we needed to train girls to be just shy of the level of aggression men exhibit.
  • And of course you should check out the Women Talk Sports network. Many of the contributing blogs have something to say about this!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ski jumpers still fighting

In my ongoing effort to offer some support for the women (and men) who continue to fight for women's ski jumping in the Vancouver Olympics (less than 100 days away now) I direct you to this article from the Christian Science Monitor. It is quite thorough and lays out all the issues to date and going forward.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tennis players with jitters?

So I am forgoing a third post in three days about the Lambert-goes-viral situation to recount a recent moment of irk I had when reading Tennis magazine. It's been a while since I complained about Tennis so I was due.
Said complaint comes from the US Open round-up which highlighted the top 5 stories of the 2009 tournament. And no, this post is not going to be about Serena Williams--directly anyway.
Number 4 on the list is titled "The men can serve. The women? Not so much." Immediate grrr moment but I read on to discover that the theory behind this fact is that the women have more power due to improvements in equipment (like the men) and so they can achieve unprecedented pace (also like the men) but for some reason cannot generate the same amount of spin. No attempt at an explanation for this alleged fact. Also the new power racquets help the returner--again an effect experienced by both men and women. But apparently this switch makes has a greater psychological effect on the women because it "only makes the women more jittery when the time comes to serve out a match." Hmm...more jittery? How do we interpret that statement. I don't think any interpretation is gender neutral. More jittery than men? More jittery than they were previously which implies women are always the more jittery players.
Any way you read it, it's problematic. It paints women as head cases and while we have seen a lot of meltdowns, they are certainly not all coming from women.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lambert, Part II

I was going to add a postscript to "10 lesbians walk into a bar" (I have to say I am just dying to see how that phrase affects my hits) based on the recent Graham Hays (of ESPN online) column about Elizabeth Lambert's actions last weekend.
But I thought it was a good enough piece to stand alone as a post. (And possibly because I am feeling a little lazy this morning.) Hays is right on when he writes:
This is how it so often goes for women's sports....Roll tape, ignore the context and let the criticism and mocking commence.
And he is soooo right--unfortunately--that this conference playoff game will get far more attention from the likes of ESPN and other sports networks than the actual NCAA championship game.
And he is right that the outrage reflects the belief that women's sports remain an inferior and less physical version of men's sports. [Please don't take away my feminist blogger's license for all this agreeing with a mainstream source.]
But what was really interesting about this column was the comments of former Alabama player Emily Pitek who said she liked what she saw. Pitek actually incurred an ACL injury when she took (what she felt was) a late hit against UNM. Nevertheless she said: "I'm not going to lie; I loved it....Because, yeah, she was crazy and, probably, I just like physical play. Maybe it does lack official skill, but I think girls in female soccer … they need to hit each other. You need to really show that you're not some dainty little prisspot and just go hammer somebody." why, why would some female athletes worry about being dainty little prisspots? Geez, maybe because our culture sees them as such. Maybe because we have now nearly officially confirmed that women's sports only make the highlight reel when athletes behave badly. Behave out of character for what we expect of said prisspots. Behave not like women.
And all this really stymies our ability to look at the incidents themselves and reflect on what it means for sport and violence in our culture. (Not that I believe we can ever truly and effectively disaggregate issues of gender and race and class and sexuality--or that we should.) But whenever something like this happens we spend a lot of time having to critique the critics and the coverage while adding the proverbial asterik that reads "yes, we know this was wrong and bad and all that..."
So, yeah, all that.

Monday, November 09, 2009

10 lesbians walk into a bar...

...and naturally frivolity ensues. (You thought I was going to make a joke, right? Nope; just getting your attention.)
And then when we see the sports network covering women's soccer on the plasma televisions scattered around the bar, our heads snap up eagerly. Because we like women's soccer and we like it when sports shows cover it.
And then we see the coverage is of University of New Mexico player Elizabeth Lambert and the egregious fouls she committed in a recent game against BYU. And we sigh because this is, after all, a group of critical, feminist sport scholars at a conference on sport and sociology. But because we have been thinking and critiquing for days, and because the segment ends quickly, we go back to our fun and games.
Alas here I am back in the real world and these are things I think about.
Said conference was in Canada, but I imagine American media covered this story as well complete with the repeated shots of Lambert's actions in which she 1) elbowed a player in the back in retaliation for a shove she received, 2) pulled an opponent to the ground by her ponytail (makes one think about cutting her hair!), 3) exchanged midair blows with the same elbower, and 4) tripped a BYU player.
Lambert has been suspended indefinitely for her actions for which she said she is deeply apologetic and regretful.
Interestingly, Lambert received only one yellow card during the game.
So what's going on here?
Well many of the comments on the above-linked article talk about the women's game and sportsmanship. Someone wrote that it was the worst display of sportsmanship she/he had ever seen in the women's game. Well why are we talking about only the women's game? And does this mean we have different standards for men and women?
Her aggressive tactics were discussed and of course there is that ever-so problematic relationship between gender and aggression and what counts as permissible. And soccer experts and fans have all said that even in women's soccer there is a lot of physical contact. And if one thinks that female soccer players don't play dirty, think again. Yes, Lambert's actions were particularly egregious and seemingly out of proportion to the jabs and shoves she herself was receiving. But I am not liking how this whole incident is being framed.
For example there was this video of the events titled "Cat fighting gets ugly during BYU vs. New Mexico women's soccer match." I just hate the term cat fighting--especially when it is applied to women's sports.
I also remain irked by the term sportsmanship. Maybe Lambert did not behave in a sportsmanlike manner because she is not a man! OK probably not but I find it intriguing that the behavior she displayed and this sportsmanship discourse are being invoked in a gendered context without any kind of problematizing of the standards we hold female athletes to versus male athletes.
And finally, I wonder if Lambert was a victim of technology in this situation. It seems the referees did a lousy job keeping some of these behaviors from both BYU and UNM players at bay. But maybe they really missed the ponytail pull or other things. (She got the yellow card from the trip late in the game.) I don't know who pulled these clips first, but when they got out (i.e. on You Tube and sports shows), she got in trouble. (Again, not that she should not have.) She had the unfortunate (and somewhat ironic given the dearth of television coverage of women's sports) experience of playing in a televised game that put her actions under the various lenses of surveillance in the 21st century. And now she will pay the price. Though given that UNM lost the match which ended their season (it was playoff) one wonders what an indefinite suspension actually entails.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Subverting Title IX by remedying discrimination against women?

I so appreciate the growing number of voices in the blogosphere talking about sport and gender. It means that when I just cannot muster enough snark to address the latest issue, there are others who will.

So I have indeed read about the latest investigation by the US Civil Rights Commission into discrimination against female applicants to liberal arts colleges which are trying to prevent an even larger skewing of the proportion of female and male undergraduates. That some colleges are trying to increase their male students is not news. It has been known for a little while now. The Civil Rights Commission is investigating. But as some of my colleagues have pointed out, one of the strategies for male recruitment entails adding sports teams for men. But adding men's teams would likely result in adding women's teams in order to retain or achieve Title IX compliance. So now we have to talk about--as if we ever really stop!--whether Title IX should be altered. All in order to get more men into liberal arts colleges.

Inside Higher Ed has some more details on the investigation and the Title IX issues involved. It quotes both blogger Fat Louie from Women's Sports Blog and Erin Buzuvis from the Title IX Blog. So yea for blogs getting some press.

In her own post on the issue, Buzuvis points out all the problems with this plan of adding sports as a recruitment tool including the fact that it assumes that all men are interested in playing sports and/or that they are inherently more interested than women.

And here is the post from Women's Sports Blog to whom I am grateful for mustering the appropriate amount of cyncism this week so I don't have to.

Friday, October 30, 2009

New commish for LPGA

[Apologies for the lack of consistent posting of late. I have serious blogger's block brought on by a myriad of other things I need to be doing. I expect to be back into the swing of things in a little over a week.]

So remember how, a while back, Carolyn Bivens was ousted from her position as LPGA commissioner? And remember how there was significant speculation about who her replacement would be?
Yeah, they didn't choose any of those people. The LPGA announced this week that Michael Whan will be the new commissioner. And he will be all about "grow[ing] the global brand."
No word on what that will entail or the methods he will use to do so.
I have to say--and this has nothing to do with Whan specifically--that I am a little wary of how the LPGA plans to increase its popularity. The nearly uncontested view that it is ok for the women in the tour to sell their sport using their (hetero)sexuality is a little worrisome. The article in the recent ESPN Body Issue, accompanied by three tour players draped naked across a golf cart, that really found no problem with these players using [hetero]sexuality to their [alleged] advantage was irksome.
I don't know enough about Whan or his ideas for selling the LPGA as a global brand to make any predictions about what will see in the coming year. But I look forward to commenting on it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The president's sporty White House

President Obama got some flack last year for only doing a men's bracket during the NCAA tournament. (Ok mostly it was just me giving him a hard time.)
This time he is getting grief for an all-male congressional basketball game. I heard about this but didn't pay much attention to it. The man already disappointed me with the bracket thing and the talking out of two sides of his mouth as he extolled the presence of female athletes on ESPN. So am I surprised that the game was all guys? Nope. 'Cause I am pretty sure that there were not that many women jumping to get into that game. Even if they are basketball players, it's pretty much a no-win situation for them. What if they are better than all the other congresspeople? What if they are worse? What if they tear an ACL during the game? It's all very fraught.
But I thought this NYT article about the boys' club in the White House, much of which revolves around sports, was pretty interesting.
The White House allegedly has a 50/50 split in terms of male and female employees and some of those women are annoyed by all the sports stuff, but one of them admitted to not really liking sports and acknowledged that this could be alienating. In fighting for access to golf courses and equity in things like tee times, many women have claimed that such inequitable practices place them at a disadvantage in the business world. Many women have taken up golf solely for the business contacts and advantages. But it looks like women in the White House are not about to embrace sports just because the president likes them. They certainly should not have to, but it does seem that the president's best buds are the guys he plays sports with. And there is some concern that although there are certainly women in positions of power in his administration, it is the guys that he pays most attention to--on and off the basketball court.
And speaking of golf, the NYT reports that he has played over 20 times since being in office. There is no record of him ever playing with a woman, though he was scheduled to play with domestic policy advisor Melody Barnes not too long ago. That's a lot of pressure for Barnes. No wonder the women in the White House have stayed away from Obama's sport outings.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Movie recommendation: Go see Whip It!

Sorry for the absence these past two weeks. Little bit of travel and some pending deadlines have made me a little scattered.
But the weekend is nearly here and if you are looking for something indoorsy to do (temps here dropped 30 degrees in one day--*sigh*--with rain the forecast) go see Whip It!
I went a few weekends ago and really enjoyed it. Pretty light, puts you in a good mood, which I was quite in need of, and it's about roller derby. Like I said, not too deep but very woman-centered. Touches lightly on issues of class and age. Though it does not really interrogate the aggression required of and afforded to female skaters, it's obviously a big part of the movie. Acting was so-so. (I really hope Ellen Page can get out of her Juno-esque stereotype some day--yes, yes, I know there was Smart People.)
I have heard next-to-nothing about the movie since it was released, but prior to the wide release there were a lot of articles about women's roller derby. Here are some of the few I saw:
An AP story that talks primarily about midwestern teams. It brings up the "feminine" side of roller derby with the make-up (it's titled "Rouge and Tumble"--who uses rouge these days?), etc. I am becoming more and more interested in roller derby as a site of alleged empowerment, gender queering, etc. And the make-up thing is really interesting. Is it a feminine apologetic? Is it part of a costume? Is it women in female drag?
This one gives a little history of the sport and explains how today's version is different from the more spectacle-like version in the 70s (i.e. no more staged fights).

Not being a skater, I don't really know how well the movie conforms to the reality of today's skaters. But I do know the sport is looking to raise its profile, so hopefully the movie will contribute to that effort.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Human rights and the Olympics

If you have not gotten over Chicago's early-round loss on the Olympic site voting, well, in the words of Nike (who will certainly be a presence in Brazil) just do it. I, personally, was glad the US did not get another games so early on. And that South America (as in the whole continent!) has never had a hosting opportunity seemed wrong.
I have to admit, though, that I was a little concerned about potential human rights issues, primarily the ousting of poor people from their homes to make way for various Olympic venues. But it's not as if every country has and has had in the past it's issues with human rights. This is why Human Rights Watch has asked the IOC to find a way to monitor the potential abuses of host nations. These issues arose, of course, in Beijing. They are anticipated on Sochi and, well, as I said--no country is acting angelic these days. (Perhaps ever, but that's a discussion for another time.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The cheerleading debate continues

I am a little bit tired of talking about cheerleading but I have acquired a critical mass of stories (i.e. three) about cheerleading so it seemed to indicate that a blog post was in order.
USA Today ran a point/counterpoint editorial on the merits of cheerleading. Or rather whether cheerleading is a sport. Karen Durkin of the Women's Sports Foundation said no--it's an activity and furthermore, it is being used irresponsibly to get schools out of complying with Title IX. She does not rule out the possibility that competitive cheer could be a sport, but that it frequently is not truly treated as a sport despite a school's designation of it as such.
On the other side was a Presswire reporter stating his thoughts about why cheerleading and dance should be recognized as a sport and count towards Title IX compliance and also receive the benefits of other sports. His version of the story centers around the fact that cheerleading is athletic, that they have tryouts and practice a lot. He derides some feminists, including Nancy Hogshead-Makar, for coming out against cheerleading as a sport. (Note also the Hogshead-Makar is not against cheerleading as a sport but rather the ways schools have called it a sport without actually treating it as such.) Actually he thinks we're trashing it. And cheers the feminists who have "come around" on the issue. Because counting cheerleading, he says, helps men and women. Men won't get their teams cut, he says, because a school can't find female athletes. (Now where did we put those women??) And cheerleaders will get recognition. First of all, cheerleading is not going to save men's sports--just like it doesn't save a team from losing when cheerleaders do back flips to entice the crowds. And of course it hurts women like the University of Maryland women's ice hockey players who were not elevated to varsity status when cheerleading was deemed an intercollegiate sport.
The writer also makes the mistake of comparing number of teams between the genders. Yes, the average number of men's teams per institution is smaller because there is one team in particular that carries a very large (unnecessarily so) roster. And Title IX does not measure equity in participation by number of teams--but by number of opportunities (i.e., roster spots).
A little fact I learned from this "debate." The NAIA as already designated cheerleading an emerging sport.
And deciding to just avoid this whole debate was University of Connecticut who, this year, abolished cheerleading in favor of spirit squads. Wait, I thought that's what cheerleaders were? Yep, going back to the roots of the activity, UConn is bringing together groups of students who are fans of the game and the team and are interested in sharing their enthusiasm and inspiring it in others.
But a Hartford Courant writer is none too happy about this saying that UConn is sending cheerleaders back to the days of ponytails and pom poms. So, I guess she means, well, yesterday. Oh no wait, it's Saturday which means it's college game day everywhere across the country so I guess she means today.
She states that cheerleading started moving away from the sidelines in the 80s as the activity got more rigorous and incorporated gymnastics moves. Except it never moved away completely from the sidelines because it's cheerleading and what do you cheer for when you are not on the sidelines? It's a tree in the woods situation. If you are leading a cheer for your school, and you are delivering that cheer at a venue (i.e. a cheerleading competition) at which there are no teams from your school competing in an athletic contest--who is being lead by and benefiting from that cheer?

Monday, October 12, 2009

ESPN The Body Issue: What I have seen and heard

OK so I have tried several times this past weekend to buy the Body Issue so I can take a (good, more on that in a sec) look at it myself. But I cannot find it. Has my progressive town refused to carry it? More likely that I just haven't been to a big enough bookstore yet. Hopefully in the next few days during one of my layovers I can find it at an airport newsstand.

I have seen it though. My gym subscribes to the magazine and the issue was in the magazine rack Friday. I quickly scooped it up and took it into the stretching area with me. Alas, I don't wear my glasses in the gym and saw while I could see the pictures just fine, I could not read much of the text without getting a little dizzy. The text, I think, is important for understanding context. Or at least for understanding what ESPN thinks the context is.

Here's what I think so far:

I think that Fat Louie at Women's Sport Blog is brilliantly concise in her assessment of the six covers.
Also check out One Sport Voice for Nicole's assessment of Serena on the cover and she has a link to an ESPN clip about the making of the issue--very interesting.

I think the presence of a disabled woman on one of the covers and inside the magazine is good. I think a disabled man would have been good too though. I would have been interested to see how ESPN framed the intersections of masculinity and femininity and disability.

I don't think there was that much body diversity in it. The one somewhat non-normative, in terms of body size, woman is an African-American shot putter. She is wearing a black bra top and black boy short type things. In other words--she has more clothes on than most of the other female athletes/models. So a larger woman may be in the magazine but the presence of clothing (even if it was her "choice"--and I don't know if it was) suggests that her body just is not worthy of being seen naked or that someone thinks that no one wants to see that naked body.

People do apparently want to see Lolo Jones's naked body. This editorial out of Des Moines (Jones is an Iowa native) looks at the particulars of her participation and the concept of the magazine generally. Basically, the author concludes that Jones took a risk posing naked. But what I took issue with was his statement that people who find the photos erotic are perverse and "twisted" because the photos were not meant to be erotic. Um, yes they were. Some of them are beautiful; some of these athletes have beautiful bodies and bodies are erotic. I don't understand why people are so scared of the erotic. I found them erotic. That does not mean that I found them entirely problem-free. They are not. But that erotic and artistic is some kind of distinct binary is wrong. Art has always had erotic elements. (You should see the postcard on my fridge--a reproduction of Gustave Courbet's "L'origine du monde.")

The erotic element of the magazine actually got it pulled off the magazine rack at the gym. When I could not find it Saturday morning I figured someone had swiped it. Then Sunday morning the guys behind the desk (one gay, one straight) were looking at it and said another guy had taken it away because it was not appropriate for the gym. (This same guy also takes away Essence because he does not think the gym should cater to one specific population.)

Anyway it was back on the rack this morning, I saw.

Those are my somewhat disorganized thoughts thus far. There may be more--if I can ever get my own copy!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The IAAF must be really smart...

...'cause they are going to figure out what sex is in ONE YEAR!
Yep, since the Castor Semenya "situation" (which they handled poorly though I haven't heard any kind of admittance of regret--unfortunately), I guess the governing body of track and field has decided they need some better criteria for determining sex. So a committee has been formed and they are charged with determining the parameters of sex. Did I mention they are going to do it in one year?
Someone give these people a book by Thomas Laqueur, please. (But not Solitary Sex--I don't think they will need that one for this particular project.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hello, Pot? This is the Kettle...'re black.
The pot in the title is Jacques Rogge who, along with other IOC members, are engaging in "quiet diplomacy" with three countries who the IOC does not feel is doing a suitable job supporting Olympic female athletes. Part of the quiet is the refusal to name the countries in question but it is not that difficult to figure out given that the IOC names the barriers as religious, cultural, and political. Two apparently are working with the IOC but the third, most likely Saudi Arabia which has never sent a female athlete to the Olympics, is refusing to engage. This country will face Olympic sanctions if there is no progress in the near future.
Anyway the hypocrisy I see, of course, is Rogge standing up for gender equity for some women, and then denying other women the opportunity to participate a la female ski jumpers. Makes it seem like he is reifying the whole backwards Muslim stereotype that is so prevalent in the western world. He is definitely supporting the hypocritical, patriarchal male stereotype.
And speaking of the ski jumpers: their appeal is coming in November. Unfortunately for the American jumpers, money is tight and some jumpers will be limiting their competitive travel this season because the US Ski Federation dropped their funding of the team. But their plight is getting more exposure with a new documentary narrated by soccer player Brandi Chastain.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The current climate for LBGT athletes

I attended a panel the other night of LGBT student-athletes and other athletic department personnel.

Here's what I came away with: things are not good but people think they are getting better.

And I guess they are if you look at from a certain point of view. And before I go any further let me say that my point of view is not one of current intercollegiate athlete. But the fact that people can come out without getting beat up these days is not really progress in my opinion. (Also note that people do indeed still get beat up for being gay.)
The two female student-athletes on the panel (there were no out male athletes--a point well-noted and discussed and certainly indicative of the climate in athletics) talked about how their coming out was, basically, no big deal in terms of acceptance by their athletic peers. This was not especially surprising to me. But, after listening to them talk more, I realized it also was not completely true. Both of them talked about altering their behavior--especially in the locker room--so as not to make others uncomfortable. They took showers separately from other team mates, avoided eye contact in that space so no one would get "the wrong idea."
I always find it kind of strange that gay people talk about making concessions to heteros so they don't feel uncomfortable in a space that is so much more dangerous for gay athletes than for straight ones. That's not really acceptance if the people who say they are fine with it think you are going to jump them or convert them just by the mere presence of flesh.
I was also appalled when someone in the audience, also a student-athlete, recounted the story of a straight ally stood up to a team member who was spouting pretty hateful anti-homophobic comments. Not because of the story or the presence of homophobia but by this:
Said ally "ripped [homophobic team mate] a new one" according to the story teller. And many people in the room laughed at this comment.
I couldn't believe it. The "new one", of course, is an asshole. And the way a new asshole gets ripped is through forceful acts of sodomy. I don't find that funny in any context, let alone a panel about LGBT athletes.
I was also disappointed that people kept using the term "lifestyle choices" as some kind of euphemism for being gay. A lifestyle choice is paper or plastic, country or city--not gay or straight.
Here's the progress: that such a program can be put on at a DI school and people show up to be on the panel (unless they are a gay male athlete) and to listen to the panelists.
But there are too many things that no one seems able to talk about. It's as if it's enough that gay athletes are (sometimes) not openly ostracized or physically accosted but that asking for freedom of movement around a locker room or people who understand that saying the word gay around gay people is not offensive is too much and maybe not even worth fighting for.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Pink stuff

I got through one day of October--one day!--before feeling compelled to blog about all this pink stuff. (But haven't actually had time until today which means I had to stew through all this NFL goes pink and Tom Brady's pink cleats, etc, etc.)
I have done the whole pink complaint thing before and thought I would just let it go this October. But, as we know, breast cancer awareness is a year-round campaign ('cause there might be an unaware person out there who is transformed by that pink spatula at Target) so sport teams--especially collegiate teams with trot out pink laces, shirts, arm bands, etc. during their respective seasons. And I have done that post before (perhaps more than once). And I have talked about the issues with breast cancer charities before.
I was worried about being pro-breast cancer or anti-woman or something, but I read an article in the Boston Globe Magazine Sunday (here's a television segment that goes along with the article) about pink backlash from people with or recovering from the disease. A lot of them are just so over pink. But as one person notes "It's hard to challenge [the pink ribbon/awareness campaigns] without looking like a big meanie or a leftish wacko fringe."
So this post is about how loaded pink is. Last month Nicole at One Sport Voice wrote about pink hockey gloves as punishment. Punishment for boys. Female hockey players sometimes seek out these same gloves.
Laura Pappano wrote about the NFL campaign and other incidents of pinkness in sport.
Men wearing pink for breast cancer is ok. Otherwise it's a little suspect. And in sports it is especially suspect. A few years ago Radek Stepanek got a lot of ridicule for a pink shirt he wore (it also had a cutout in the back). His opponent Leyton Hewitt said after he beat Stepanek that there was no way he was going to lose to a guy wearing pink.
And this year at the French Open, Rafael Nadal wore a pink shirt that apparently caused an uproar. I read about the all the controversy the shirt engendered in the latest Tennis magazine. [I didn't hear about it when I was there during the first week of the tournament. That probably says a lot about "reality" and media.]
Some critics even said that the pink could have contributed to his (first) early exit from the tournament. Yes, it must have been the pink shirt and not the bad knees or anything like that. Nadal, to his credit, shrugged it off and said pink was a popular color in Spain.
Which raises another interesting point: things are completely different in Europe. And not just the fact that pink for men is ok. The Globe article notes that all this marketing of breast cancer--or of any disease ("cause marketing" it is called) is non-existent in Europe. I suspect it has something to do with socialized medicine. After all some of the biggest supporters of breast cancer awareness campaigns are the pharmaceutical companies.
I am sure there will be plenty to come this month--and it will come in pink. Be aware of what you are buying, where the proceeds go, how much goes where, and think about writing a check to a charity that you yourself have investigated and believe in rather than collecting yogurt lids. And think about what it means that pink has come to represent a disease that affects (for the most part) women and the metonymic relationship between women and their breasts.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Award for the person most participating in her own oppression this week...

...goes to Barnard College senior Lisa Lewis for her lovely anti-Title IX diatribe.
I was going to let this editorial slide because I have a few ethical qualms about calling out college students (who are not actually taking my classes anyway and even then I try to be didactic and tactful about it as it is a place of learning). But Lewis used the term femi-nazis and thus all bets are off.
The problem started when I thought Lewis and I were on the same page. Since the passing of NCAA president Myles Brand, I have been more than a little concerned about who his replacement will be. So is Lewis. But for very different reasons.
Lewis believes the next leader of the NCAA needs to be in touch with the world we live in-- a world in which women now exceed men in college admissions and so she comes to this conclusion:
Legislation of the 20th century, like Title IX, needs to be reevaluated in the light of the world we live in.
I don't what they are teaching young women at Barnard these days, but the reevaluating of Title IX she wants is its abolishment basically because of its allegedly unfair quota system which has resulted in her friend not being allowed to walk on (or attempt to walk on) to the men's basketball team at Columbia. And the world we live in certainly is not one of gender equity in sport or any other realm for that matter.
She states that Columbia is not in compliance with prong one though she believes the NCAA has mandated proportionality as the only compliance option for participation. But the NCAA has not said it will only support proportionality. It found fault with and came out publicly against the Bush administration's "correction" to prong three that would simply allow schools to email interest surveys to the entire student body and count a non-response as a mark of satisfaction with the current state of athletic affairs.
Lewis writes that she thought an institution like Columbia would be immune to the whole silly concern over numbers of men and women playing sports. I had thought that Barnard women would be immune to conservative, Bush-era, anti-Title IX rhetoric. Guess we all assumed too much.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The week in gay

I saw a very cute, very French movie last night, The Closet. If you want to know the plot, you can google it, I am sure. The point is that one homophobic guy serves as his company's rugby coach. But he is on notice not to engage in anymore gay slurs because of newly out colleague. He gets the no-no when he calls his team sissies, then complains that sissy is not a gay slur--it's just rugby talk. I am not going to beat to this to death--like I said, it was a cute, light movie--but I find that a lot of the problem with homophobia in sport is the language that is perpetuated by coaches and players alike--and that is never called out. I am not saying anything new, of course. But there are other ways to say it and other perspectives and some of those are available this week!
SUNY Binghamton kicks off its own gay pride week today and I think its notable that It Takes a Team director Pat Griffin is giving the keynote address.
Tomorrow night (Tuesday) Griffin is moderating a panel of gay intercollegiate athletes at UMass. Also at UMass is an ongoing exhibit (Fearless) of photographs of young gay athletes done by Jeff Sheng. (And my friend Morgan is in it! She's the rugby player.)
And on Thursday in the UMass student union is a screening of Training Rules, the documentary about the reign of former Penn State b-ball coach Rene Portland.
I realize this is all a little western Massachusetts-centric but if you know of other events happening this week, send them my way and I would love to post them!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Are my interests prurient?

I have to say that the more I read about ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue the more I am looking forward to its release next week. And I am not the only one.
I think many are intrigued by whether and how this naked stars/serious message thing is going to work. Sure, many will be pick it up to see just how naked Serena Williams is going to be, or because they have pregnancy fetishes and want to see Jessica Mendoza's 8-month pregnant body.
But I want to know if it's really going to work--the serious with naked that is. Not that nudes cannot be serious--I have spent enough time in famous museums with my hand on my chin pondering sculptures and portraits of the naked form. But can we take it seriously in the context of ESPN The Magazine? After all this project is not a new one. Annie Leibovitz has photographed naked and nearly naked athletes as well--with far less media coverage I am pretty sure.
And as I mentioned previously, the co-ed aspect of the project does not make me any less queasy. But I was really pleased to read that there will be male and female hockey players included. (And especially curious which ones they got!) But then subsequently queasy.
But the serious message got a big blow when it was revealed that Tiger Woods turned down the magazine's invitation for him to shed his clothes (but use some strategically placed golf equipment as others apparently did for their respective sports). I mean the most serious athlete out there was not going to buy nude as serious. The editors have vowed to get him for next year's issue. I'll believe it when I see it (unless I choose not to see it).