Monday, June 28, 2010

Why it's time to get beyond patriarchy

This post is inspired by the 38th anniversary of Title IX which occurred last week. Actually it's "inspired" by this column by a sportswriter, blogger, and basketball fan. Wendy Parker believes it's time to get beyond Title IX. Me, too. But not in the way she means. She means it's time to move beyond enforcement. Because she doesn't like the proportionality prong. And all those men have suffered at the hands of us "dogmatic" activists with our "life-and-death rituals." Who knew we were all satanists, too? I thought I was the only one!
Clearly Ms. Parker's editorial triggered the snarky button (not that it takes much).
Seriously, though. the day we get to move beyond Title IX is the day after we've gotten beyond patriarchy.
So in the vein of Ms.* Parker's piece I bring you some reasons about why it might be a good idea to move beyond patriarchy--in a sporting context. I could of course go on and on about patriarchy and things like wars, oil spills, environmental degradation, domestic and sexual violence. But there are plenty of other blogs out there for that.

It might be nice to get beyond patriarchy so incidents around the targeting and abuse of women by professional male athletes no longer occurred on a regular basis.
It might be nice to get beyond patriarchy so that female student-athletes at colleges and universities were not accosted by their male counterparts in their dorm rooms while said male athletes are allowed to remain in campus housing.
It might nice to get beyond patriarchy so that these same female student-athletes had access to really nice locker rooms or you know even just basic medical care and the same amount of per diem when they travel.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that fans of women's sports don't have to go searching for scores from women's events the day after. That they were just there on the ESPN ticker.
It would also be nice if we were able to see some of these events on actual television.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that when feminist scholars of sport and culture mention that perhaps a certain photo of a female athlete might be a little suggestive and not too helpful to the overall cause of promoting women's sports that said scholar is not verbally abused in a public forum and made to seem irrational. Same is true of female scholars who critique certain violent or homophobic aspects of sport as a whole.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so the gay and queer athletes do not live in fear, do not have to stay in the closet, or have to take that apologetic, neo-liberal stance on their sexuality when they do dare to come out.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that everyone, no matter one's race, class, religion, gender, sexuality, age or ability, has access to sport.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that the women in my gym feel safe taking an aerobics class and not worried about being accosted by a middle-aged white guy who threatens them because the music is "too loud."
And it might be nice if gym owners recognized that sexism does not stop at the doors to the gym.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that no more female sportswriters are attacked/abused while trying to do their jobs.
It might be nice to move beyond patriarchy so that we don't have female sportswriters who say they love women's sports but won't protect them.

* Ms.--brought to you by the feminist movement!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yow takes over athletics at NC State

This is my snarky Sunday post that comes after a week of hearing the debate (in person and in the media) whether cheerleading should be counted as a sport. I won't enter into the debate here. You can check out the Title IX Blog for some coverage of the Quinnipiac University trial that has thrust this issue into arguably the brightest spotlight it has ever felt.
Debbie Yow, the newly appointed AD at North Carolina State, is largely responsible for introducing this debate into intercollegiate athletics and engendering the consternation over gender equity and Title IX. Competitive cheer was added to the list of varsity sports at Maryland while she was the AD there. UMD was the first school to do so. Maryland needed to add opportunities for women. It had several options including women's ice hockey (hence some of my bitterness), but the athletic department went with cheerleading which had previously been an athletic activity involving both sideline cheerleading and some competitive element.
I am getting dangerously close to entering into the debate in a way I said I would not. So I will just note that the people at QU, who are trying to create a governing body for competitive cheer (one of the requirements for an activity to be considered a sport) must be psyched that the woman who created the first competitive cheer program in the country has moved to a new school. Now they may be able to count on another school to enter their little club (of less than ten schools).
I also want to note that some will celebrate, and have celebrated when she was at Maryland, Yow's position as an AD at a big-time athletics school--because she is a woman. That her position illustrates either progress (or re-progress if you look back just a little bit in history) or commitment to gender equity by some schools, or some sort of utopian gender blind society that we are in or near. [Or some combination of all of those.] Just because she is a woman, doesn't mean she is going to do any better or worse than others in a similar position. I too bemoan the lack of female administrators in athletics, but add "women and stir" is never really an effective strategy in any arena.* Sure, I haven't been entirely pleased with the way some men run athletic departments, but Yow too has played the game (rules created and enforced by men) to get where she is at. Maybe she always bought into the game, maybe she wanted to change the rules, maybe she just wanted to make enough space for herself on the playing field (I am getting carried away with this metaphor!). The thing is, I don't know if we can really say that she has helped (my version of help obviously) the situation for female student-athletes, athletics as a whole, or even female administrators and coaches. I don't know the full history of her tenure at UMD. I have heard things here and there, however. And since this isn't a trial, I admit hearsay into evidence.

* A point I will make again shortly when I post about a female sports reporter and her belief that we just move beyond Title IX.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What they don't want you to see

We heard about Chinese government officials cleaning things up in Beijing by jailing dissidents, displacing peoples, and killing dogs all in preparation from the 2008 Summer Games a couple of years ago.
But the clean-up act isn't anything new. Some of it has already happened in South Africa for the currently underway men's World Cup. And now it seems like officials in India are starting their own clean-up of Delhi in preparation for the Commonwealth Games. It is the first time India has played host to the games which feature the nations of the former British Empire. The games are held every four years and are the third largest sporting event in the world. In other words--a big deal.
And as often happens when I prestigious sporting event comes to town, low-income peoples are made invisible through displacement, as is happening in East Delhi, where residents are being moved out (forcefully and without recourse) to make way for athlete housing. Also, bicycle rickshaw drivers are being harassed and their vehicles damaged. The government is trying to unveil motorized rickshaws in time for the Games, which would put many of these workers out of business.
You can take action by going to this website and signing a petition. There is other information there as well regarding further action and some of what has been happening.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Snarky book review!

And not mine! I'm not getting a whole lot of time these days to blog, let alone read stupid books about how women can fake or learn enough about sports to impress men.
Thankfully the Bostonist does!
Here is a post right up my snarky alley about the book, She's Got Game: The Woman's Guide to Loving Sports (Or Just How to Fake It). I heard about it previously, but just kind of blew it off. From what the Bostonist says, you should too. Unless you are doing research about fandom and gender stereotypes, in which case I suggest making sure you are properly buzzed before reading, or that you are getting a lot of grant money (yeah, right!) to take on such pain and suffering.
The Bostonist also makes the excellent point that interest in sports often stems from experience in them. And if you don't have it--you may not ever be a fan. And that's ok. But don't fake it for a man!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Remembering the women

I have not watched one second of the men's World Cup. And yet it seems to be the only thing I can blog about these days. (I do have a post coming about working out in skirts--so stay tuned for something non-soccer. Not that there's anything wrong with soccer. I'm just not much into men's soccer.)
But some people are still talking about women who play soccer.
First, Diane Elayne Dees, the creator of Women Who Serve, a blog about tennis, wrote this poem in remembrance of South African star Eudy Simelane, who was gang-raped and murdered because she was a butch-appearing lesbian. Diane's poem, In Memoriam, is at The New Verse News and was posted on June 12.
[Dr. Pat Griffin has also written about Simelane and the issue of corrective rape in South Africa.]

Salon has also taken the men's World Cup happenings to talk about the women's World Cup. Ryan Brown reminds us, in the wake of the most-watched (in the US) soccer game in 15 years last weekend between the US and England, that it was actually the 1999 final between the American and Chinese women that drew an astounding 19 million viewers (that is apparently a conservative estimate).
Brown talks about watching that World Cup as a ten-year old:

Here’s what I saw: a female soccer player starring opposite Michael Jordan in a Gatorade commercial, a women's sports team that drew 90,000 fans to a single game, screaming teenage boys in Mia Hamm jerseys. It was the golden age -- albeit brief -- of women's soccer, when it was a real possibility that female athletes could draw more fans, more admiration, more awe than men playing the same game.

And you know what? My preteen mind bought it, hook, line and sinker. At the very age where I was beginning to wonder if maybe the boys who told me I wasn't as fast or as strong or as brave were right, the world called back a resounding no. Here, it seemed to say, check this out: a team of world-champion female athletes who have no idea why anyone would ever think that way.

In retrospect, I don't think it's any coincidence that soccer was the vehicle for all of this. Soccer is perhaps the world's most visible and egalitarian stage, where 11 players can become symbolic of a nation, and their presence can pose questions and demand discussion of the way that nation defines itself. It's a place where a colonized country can defeat its colonizer, where an immigrant can prove her value to her country, and where a group of dazzlingly talented athletes can flip on its head the notion that women's sports are just a novelty sideshow.

It's an especially important reminder in the wake of the demise of two WPS teams.

Monday, June 14, 2010

PS on soccer balls

So according to Adidas, the men's World Cup balls are being manufactured in southern China. There is a minimum wage guarantee of 103 pounds with many workers earning more than that--sometimes double. And as I reported (and as you can see in the video from the other day) the ball is not stitched. It is "thermally bonded."

But...and you knew there was a but...these conditions are the ones for the actual balls being used right now in South Africa. They are tournament balls. There are, of course, replicas being made for resale. Those are being made in Pakistan, where 70 percent of the world's hand-stitched soccer balls are put together--by workers who make no more than 2 pounds a day. It takes over two hours to stitch one soccer ball.
This is what an Adidas spokesperson had to say:

“These people have a hard life because they live in rural Pakistan, but they themselves don’t think that they are living in poverty. We pay far more than agricultural work for example. It is an informal economy, a cottage industry, but we are doing all we can in that economy to support these workers.”

According to one worker The Guardian spoke with, they know they are living in poverty. It's so condescending for this guy to suggest that Adidas is doing rural Pakistanis a favor. (He also points out earlier that they like making these balls for Adidas--they are proud to do so.)
And by the way, Pakistan does have a minimum wage law. These workers may earn minimum wage if they indeed get paid the daily 1.85 pounds Adidas says it pays them. They also have to work 6 days a week to earn it. And the minimum wage is only half the estimated living wage in the country.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Other World Cup stuff

As in other than scores or some kind of analysis of yesterday's England-USA match-up, which I have to admit, I did not watch. I harbor some resentment about the lack of excitement the Women's World Cup garners so I don't get too excited about the Men's World Cup.
Anyway, there has always been some controversy over the manufacturing of soccer balls because of pretty blatant exploitation of citizens--including children--of third world nations who stitch the soccer balls. There are campaigns that continue to bring attention to these issues and urge consumers to pressure FIFA and other soccer organizations to use balls produced under with fair labor and under conditions that do not constitute human rights violations.
With the start of the 2010 Men's World Cup such campaigns have been heightened. But the (somewhat infamous) World Cup ball is not being stitched. The manufacturing process is somewhat different.
This You Tube video show the manufacturing process.

It is an interesting video because it doesn't actually tell us much. There is no narration, no talking by the people in the video (you do hear some mumbling). There is a lot of whirring and manufacturing sounds. And it's all very clean. It's kind of like one of those Mr. Rogers videos where you got to see how things were made. (The crayon one was my personal favorite.)
And you never see the faces of the workers, which I find curious and disturbing. This is not a self-made ball. It's not just machines putting this thing together. Humans are involved too and given the history of companies like Adidas, chances are these balls are not being made in the United States. Nothing wrong with that per se, but given the history of abuse of workers in other, less economically developed countries, we should wonder about how "clean" this process really is and how fair it is to the people who are making these balls.
Just something to keep in mind amidst all the World Cup mania.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I like scoring! And I'm not ashamed to admit it!

I wasn't as invested in the Women's College World Series this year. I turned it on when I was around. I went to one regional game. But I left the bar where I was watching game 1 of the championships on Monday night because I cared more about eating leftover pizza than seeing who won. Last night I watched intermittently and had it on before I went to bed. I was pretty sure UCLA had it wrapped up when I turned it off in the bottom of the fifth. And I only went to bed because spin class on Wednesday comes early at 6:15 and since I am the instructor I kind of need to be "on."
But it was an exciting game. There was a two-run homer in the first. There were pitching changes all over the place. There were bases loaded. One grand slam. Not too very long ago, in the days of Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman, scores were low and games were all about pitching duels. Commentators talked about potentially tired arms, conditioning of pitchers' legs, and techniques batters were using to read the ball earlier.
This year they were talking about composite bats, hitting records, longer fields and higher fences--and something about a pendulum swinging too far the other way. 'Cause it's all about too much hitting these days, it seems. So much so that even the briefest of articles about UCLA winning it all included this:
The matchup of college softball's two most successful programs produced a World Series-record seven home runs. Ten of the 29 previous World Series didn't have that many home runs during the entire event.

Those two lines comprise 1/3 of the article. (We could also note the paltry coverage but that's not my objective this time.)
And those ten world series with less than seven home runs were probably pretty boring.
I hate to buy into the belief that high scores equal good games. They certainly don't always. And I certainly appreciate teams like Arizona who play really good small ball. And if you can score that way--that's exciting too. But I like scoring. And yes, last night's game was pretty high-scoring. But there were plenty of other games that were not. Last night's game was just as much about strategy as it was power hitting. And it was exciting.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Study on television coverage reveals that very little is revealed

This is old news (well a week; so ancient in blogosphere terms). But last week the Center for Feminist Research at University of Southern California released a report written by USC professor Dr. Michael Messner (Messner blogged about the study at the Huffington Post) and Purdue professor Dr. Cheryl Cooky that was all about the the coverage of women's sports in the television media. The study on televised media has been going on for twenty years now. The report is just the latest incarnation.
If you sense a tone of resignation in this post, well you're not imagining things.
I don't think many of us (even some in the media) are surprised. But the report and the longitudinal study remain crucial and an example of how and why academics do work that remove some of those bricks from the ivory tower. Those of us who study sport and culture are not surprised. Maybe most of the readers won't be either. But they will be reminded. When someone asks why we still need feminism, why we do not live in a gender neutral society; when someone asks for evidence--it will be there. (There are a myriad of others reasons why this research is important, I'm just not going into them right now.)
Here are some of the lowlights from the report:
  • during March Madness coverage of men's basketball is ten times greater than women's basketball
  • televised coverage is at its lowest level since the study began in 1989
  • in 1999 9 percent of sports coverage was devoted to women. Nine percent is only a good number when we note that the 2009 percentage was 1.6
  • frequently coverage of women's sports is motivated by a controversy, a la New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert
  • 1.4 percent of Sports Center's coverage is given to women's sports
  • Sports Center always--as is ALWAYS--leads with men's sports
  • ticker time for women's sports (something I have been known to complain about) during Sports Center is 2.7 percent; a drop from 2004 when women received 8.5 percent of ticker time

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

It's a man's racing world

I saw a few articles this past weekend about female auto racers. Note that I didn't really read them because I am not all that into auto racing. But the headlines were similar in that they noted the increased presence of women at Indy: there were four this year!
This was interesting in light of two things:
1. Christine Brennan's column on the women in Indy versus the lack of women in NASCAR. There were no women racing Sunday for NASCAR. Danica Patrick who finished 6th in Indy is racing some second tier NASCAR events. But apparently the lack of women can be attributed to how heavy the cars are!

Said Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway:

"(NASCAR) may not lend itself toward women, who are, by nature, smaller people," he said. "The cars are bigger, heavier and require more physical demands. The races are longer. There are 38 races to a season, and it gets to be a tremendous physical grind. I'm not slamming women. I'm simply saying there is a big difference in a 3,400-pound stock car vs. a (1,600-pound) Indy car."
Brennan goes on to talk about the cultural influences as well, especially from NASCAR's strong Southern presence.
2. And speaking of cultural influences...I unfortunately had to watch too many Blur commercials this weekend because ESPN is airing them during the coverage of the French Open. Blur is a racing game that I don't really understand but I know it has a social networking component and that you can race against others (not in the room--or not just in the room anyway). So it has the flashy, dark realistic graphics and presents itself in contrast to the cartoony Nintendo-like racing games and the commercial ends with the tagline "race like a big boy."
Yeah, that pretty much tells you who racing is for--even simulated racing!