Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not live blogging the WWC: US v. North Korea

OK. So I know the outcome of the US's game against North Kore in that I know who wins. I do not know the score. But I had to get work done while the game was airing live and while I would ESPN3ed it while at the coffee shop, ESPN3 was having technical difficulties. So here I sit watching the recorded version. But I made the mistake of going on Facebook during the game. And since I am friends with Dr. Pants, well...I got the gist of it.
No matter. There is plenty to say.
The Girlfriend keeps trying to fast forward through the commentary. But then realized that all the good blog fodder comes in the commentary. So she lets me rewind--and offers her own commentary as well.

So first things first. Holy crap Abby Wambach! Sorry. But I haircut. She is looking hot. And I had thought I was over my Abby Wambach deeps-sighs-of-longing crush. But it's back. Interesting this more butch look to Wambach. Kind of resembles Amy LePeilbet's hair. She hasn't seemed to have an issue with the semi-butch look post college. Guess we're going to have to get more of those young Germans to pose in Playboy to counter this.

And speaking of semi-butch. Or de-butched. What have they done to Brianna Scurry? Pink plunging neckline dress and straightened hair. She is doing some commentary for ESPN, but she was clearly brought on today to talk about the Hope Solo affair. There was a little human interest piece about Solo and of course the 2007 controversy when she spoke out after being pulled from the game against Brazil saying that she would have made those saves. She reiterated that it was directed at the poor decision of the coach and not Scurry. But it's clear that Scurry has not gotten over it, even though she is a general manager of Solo's WPS team, which kind of shows that it is about talent and not always about the nicey-nice stuff. But Scurry continues to say--as do others--that the best teams are the ones on which everyone is friends. Tony DiCiccio, who noted that he has made a lot of mistakes coaching women, said he agreed with the friend theory. One of the other commentators asked if this was just an expectation on women's teams. Um, yes it is.
Game time!
Hope Solo looks like an eggplant. But I guess her uniform should be just as bad as the rest of the team's outfits. I mean, whoever wrote that these home outfits have that naughty nurse look to them...quite right. Except not that naughty. Actually not naughty at all. Quite staid in fact.

So all the US players wear heart rate monitors Julie Foudy announced. Apparently their conditioning coach is monitoring them at all times. Interesting. There has to be something there about cyborgs and machines and surveillance. Working too hard? Not hard enough?

Play thus far in the first half has not been so good for the US. North Korea is getting a lot more shots on goal and getting away with a lot of fouls. The Girlfriend's theory is that people feel bad for the North Koreans because of their totalitarian government, famine-stricken homeland, and the fact that if they lose, they get sent to the rock quarries. Seriously.

Halftime. No score. Though I suppose zero to zero is a score. Let's put it this way: no one has scored.
Halftime comments.
Um, Brandi Chastain, are you reliving your 80s childhood? What's up with the hair? The side French braid ponytail--not a good look.

Second half. More aggressive play from the US.

And finally a goal by Lauren Cheney. Good things happen when you don't send the ball right to the keeper--5 times. But yay!

And now Buehler. Julie Foudy is very excited by the defensive back's goal. It was a good one.
Whoa--Megan Rapinoe's hair is very blond. No sneak attack by this striker--whose starting position was taken by Lauren Cheney.
Oh, too bad about her goal being recalled.
And it's over. The Girlfriend says she has to root for the US but is worried about the fate of the North Korean players--most of whom are teenagers.
Interesting that there has not been much talk about the treatment of North Korean athletes. I am surprised actually given past international outrage about South Africa and, more recently, China's involvement in Darfur. I don't know about FIFA. No word on homophobia and nothing on North Korea's treatment of its own citizens and athletes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The second tale: Gender identity in intercollegiate athletics

I have been somewhat lax in my posting recently, and I know I promised three tales of gender identity and discrimination a while back. My first tale was related to the Women's World Cup and the accusations against Equatorial Guinea based on--apparently--too much skill and "too much" masculinity in some of their players.
Second tale is one that was recounted to me. Thus, technically, it is hearsay. But I also do not think it is that unusual of a situation. Thus it could be completely hypothetical--which it isn't--and still a valuable thought exercise. So here it is. I changed details, just in case, though I don't believe many know about this specific situation.
An intercollegiate women's field hockey player has decided to use male pronouns and change his name to something more conducive to his identification as a non-woman. The player attends a DIII school in the west. He approaches his coach to ask that his new name be used on the roster, announced at games, and that people refer to him using male pronouns. He is not planning on undergoing any chemical transition.
The coach is a gay woman in the middle of her career. She is not explicitly out, though, about her sexuality. She has never told her players that she is gay, but she also does not try to pass as straight.
Coach reacts strongly and swiftly in her denial of the request. She says that it is inappropriate and she will by no means refer to the player as a he or by his new name. She says he is welcome to leave the team. The player has, for now, opted to stay on the team and conform to the coach's rules.
So here is my assessment of the situation. One, coach acted poorly and possibly illegally. Hers was a very reactionary response to a situation that deserved more discussion and thought than her simple dismissal. Two, I believe the coach's reaction has something to do with her own semi-closeted status that is, at least in part, a result of ongoing and pervasive homophobia in women's sports. Even as more and more female athletes come out while playing--or before they even get there--college sports, coaches remain in awkward positions because of pressure from heternormative athletic departments and the fear that being out will negatively affect recruiting and rapport with players. I feel badly for the position this coach is in. But I'm not sure how aware she is of her own bad situation. This seems to be something that many coaches just accept rather than working to remedy saying things like "my personal life doesn't have any effect on my professional life." First, this isn't really true. It's not true in any other professions. And two, it's arguably even less true in a profession like coaching where a coach is spending significant time with her players--on the road, in practice, games, even in so-called off-seasons.
So not only is she now (not) dealing with the issue of the lesbian stigma in sports, she is approached with a new issue: gender identity, which, as we know, is often conflated with sexual orientation. In other words, a player who wants to express a more masculine identity is surely going to set off (false) alarms about a lesbian presence on the team. And it may implicate her.
When Kye Allums came out, his coach did not have as much at stake because he is a straight man. Male coaches may be able to be more supportive of trans players because their own identity is not in question.
It's a problem that more female coaches are not explicitly out. And, in this case, it has a very palpable and harmful effect.
If I knew who this student was, I would advise him to contact the National Center for Lesbian Rights or Pat Griffin of the GLSEN Sports Project's "Changing the Game." But that places a burden on him to become a public figure and jeopardizes his position on the team. It's an unfortunate situation all around.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Homophobia and the WWC

The NYT's Jere Longman has a very good article today about homophobia in women's soccer in Africa. He focuses on Nigeria, which was one of the teams that accused Equatorial Guinea of using male players.
When I first read the headline, "In African Women's Soccer, Homophobia Remains an Obstacle," I thought to myself "we shouldn't be hierarchizing homophobia in women's soccer." And we shouldn't conclude that everything is exponentially worse in Africa.
After all, homophobia remains a problem internationally. As I recall, I posted something last week about members of the U-22 German women's team posing for Playboy in an attempt to counter the butch image of female footballers. That is also homophobia, folks.
But things are pretty bad in Africa--maybe not all of Africa--but definitely in Nigeria. When I read about Nigerian coach Eucharia Uche's actions and statements, I thought "wow, she's worse than Rene Portland."
Uche, like Portland, has made public statements about how she does not want lesbians on her team. But while Portland's tactics to discourage lesbians on Penn State's basketball team were kind of subversive, Uche is very out about her ways. She brings in Pentecostal ministers to talk about the evils of homosexuality. The team reads the Bible and they pray together. Former team members have been cut, because they were lesbians, despite their soccer skills. In other words, there is no subtlety here. And her players have fallen in line because they either believe what Uche is preaching or because they want a spot on the team and a soccer career. Nigeria's captain and goalkeeper, Precious Dede, won't talk about the issue and says that anything her coach says is fact.
I don't believe in making statements like "it's worse in Africa because you can be killed for being gay." Because someone can be killed for being gay almost anywhere in the world. The difference in Africa is that, in some countries, it is legal to kill someone for engaging in homosexual behavior. Still, the fear of being caught or found out is an unfortunate shared experience whether homosexual behavior is outlawed or not.
And on the issue of male players masquerading as women? Well the Confederation of African Football has dismissed the complaint filed by Nigeria. But Uche has said: “Until it is proved, no one can say a player is a man or a woman.”

Also a good point made by Longman's sources: FIFA is not doing anything to help this situation. They have done good work in recent years trying to combat racism in the sport, but it seems they won't touch sexual orientation discrimination. It is indeed a fraught issue given the religious objections to homosexuality found in countries like Nigeria. But that is no excuse. As we know, religion can be used to condone or support almost any behavior.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wimbledon is here!

Wimbledon starts today.

Kim Clijsters has pulled out with a foot (not related to the ankle) injury. Bummer.

But both Williams sisters are present this year. Serena played a warm-up tournament but lost in the second round. She did earn the 7th seed at Wimbledon this year based on her prior accomplishments there.

Here is ESPN's Top 5 storylines to watch on this year.

Thank goodness the local strawberries have just arrived in my neck of the woods. And that someone (not me) had the wherewithal to buy some heavy cream!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Violence: It's not just for Americans anymore

These pictures show the unbelievable amount of destruction and violence after Boston's Stanley Cup win over the Canucks.

My Oh, Christ moment of the day

Or "Things that make me go Ugh."

Members of the German women's U-20 team are appearing in Playboy to promote the Women's World Cup.
Also they want to show people that female footballers are not all "butch."
Five of the women ages 19-22 posed for the publication which approached them directly--not through the national team or their respective professional teams.

This is the last line of the HuffPo piece:

Whether or not there's any backlash over these photos remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure: they definitely helped spread the word on the Women's World Cup.

1) I doubt there will be "backlash." And 2) not sure this helps spread the word that the World Cup is happening. I mean are the people picking up Playboy and seeing these women and saying, "Oh, women play soccer? And they have this big tournament? Maybe I'll watch."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So many gender controversies...

...and so much dissertation left to write.

But when things happen in threes, well it's a sign I have to write about them.

So the three recent gender controversies are ones that I have heard about in the past two weeks. Some have been ongoing. Some are one-time events. The one I am writing about today is about the Women's World Cup and is somewhat ongoing. [The other two are more personal for me. I am going to present them with some of the details altered to protect the innocent. But they are both based on real-life events.]

So today is about the Equatorial Guinea women's national soccer team. People are accusing the captain--and others--of being a man. This is not a new accusation that has arisen in light of Equatorial Guinea's qualification to the WWC. Last year, the Nigerian soccer federation filed a complaint (after their national women's team lost to Equatorial Guinea) with the Confederation of African Football. They accused the winners of having two men on their team. And apparently these are not new accusations. Rumors have swirled around the team for years. The teams from Ghana and Cameroon also made some noise at the qualifying tournament last fall.

In the complaint, though, the Nigerians said that Equatorial Guinea's captain Genoveva Anonma and teammate Salimata Simpore seem to be men based on their leg strength and skill level.

Equatorial Guinea responded that the accusations are "totally unfounded" and "evidence of an inferiority complex." Remember this rebuttal. I'm going to adopt it in future posts.

Anonma, who plays professionally in Germany as well, has heard the accusations, refutes them, and said she has already been gender tested. And she's tired of dealing with this.
I can imagine. I'm tired of dealing of it and I'm a cisgendered, (mostly) gender conforming female.
When I finished the ESPN article linked above, I thought there was going to be something more. But there isn't actually anything pressing happening. All the article was about was the controversy the team has experienced. Nothing on whether the players named in the complaint were being tested or if any investigation is ongoing or forthcoming, or if there is a general buzz about this. Are we just dragging up a lingering issue for the purpose of stirring the pot or generating negative attention to this event in a perverse attempt at publicity? This is an underdog team. Usually the underdogs get great publicity. This could be a story about a tiny African country giving female athletes the support they need to make it to the biggest soccer stage in the world. But it's not...curious (or maybe not so curious).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tennessee merges athletic departments

The University of Tennessee announced last week that it will be merging its formerly separate men's and women's athletic departments.
Tennessee was one of the remaining DI institutions that had retained separate departments. Most schools combined departments years and years ago as a way to cut costs.
And most schools, in doing so, made the male athletic director the head of the merged department and the women's athletic director--who was almost always a woman--got demoted.
This was not always the case. When my own alma mater, University of New Hampshire, merged athletic departments in the 1990s, the female athletic director took over the whole department.
And now Joan Cronan, head of women's athletics at Tennessee, is taking over the merged department.

Well, temporarily.
She is the first female AD in the SEC. But Cronan doesn't want to the job permanently. She's just going to oversee the transition. Her title is interim director. She will later serve as an adviser within the department.
It's kind of disappointing that she doesn't even want to be considered for the position permanently and be the first permanent female AD in one of the most powerful athletic conferences. But she has been an AD for over 30 years and my guess is that she's on the verge of retirement. Still, clearly the university thought enough of her to give her the position on an interim basis; to assist in the search for a new AD; and to oversee and give advice on the transition.
Of course, I don't think I personally would be too psyched to see Cronan in the position permanently anyway.
One of her primary motivations in taking the position is maintaining the Lady Vols name and logo. While I appreciate her desire to ensure that women's athletics do not get lost in the transition, we all know how I feel about the "ladies."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Poetry Friday


Raymond Foss

A tapestry is being stitched
story by story,
step by step, thread by thread
Pictures of her life come alive
with threads of gold,
of silver, of royal purple,
of hope, of faith, of love
her story unfolding
in the fabric, the knitted
tapestry of her life

Thursday, June 09, 2011

I guess it depends on your definition of thriving

I like to see/read stories on women in the so-called non-traditional sports; as in non-traditional for women; not non-traditional as in Ultimate Frisbee (which is not an insult--I like non-traditional sports or sports done in non-traditional ways; check this out).
And so I do read the stories about women playing American football with interest. This one was not the best I have ever read. But it raised a few interesting points.
1. I think the title is a little misleading: Women Thriving in Traditionally All-Male American Football. Perhaps personally as some of those quoted in the story recount. But also noted in the article is that several of the dozen or so leagues have folded. Also of note but not mentioned in this particular piece is that a lot of these leagues are semi-professional and the level of funding is not so good. Players incur all kinds of costs from equipment to travel.
2. The ability of sport to change one's mental attitude was a good point raised during a discussion of one player who noted that sport was like her therapy. This is good news when we hear and see so many negative effects of sports--especially on young children and teens and girls. Even though I frequently experience sport (and other physical activity) as mentally transformative, I forget it can be the norm and not the exception. And I wonder how much this is related to the fact that football for women is not the norm. Maybe the same pressures do not exist as when women engage in traditional sports or when anyone engages in non-traditional sports.; or--again--sports played/experienced in non-traditional ways.
3. Yay for women owning sports teams! The owner of the Baltimore Nighthawks, Tanya Bryan, knew nothing about women's football when she bought the team four years ago. But she remained committed to the sport and providing opportunities for women in Baltimore; and the team is now breaking even. And she gets it:

Most of the time as women growing up we're told not to be aggressive, not to be assertive. It's nice to have an outlet where you can come somewhere and let all of that out. You can be loud, you can hit somebody. You can just let it all go. It's really healthy and the team camaraderie is fantastic."

So it does seem like some are thriving from participation (at different levels) of football. Hope the thriving grows!

Monday, June 06, 2011

What would OSU do?

I don't have too much to say over the conundrum in Buckeye Land. I do think OSU President Gee's comment about firing Tressel was telling. He said he hoped Tressel didn't dismiss him. This was disappointing from Gee given that he was responsible for eliminating Vanderbilt's athletic department (during his tenure as chancellor) and incorporating it into the Division of Student Life. This move drew both criticism and cheers--from then-NCAA president Myles Brand in fact.
Guess things must be different at OSU. Still it's disappointing that Gee, who reined things in at Vanderbilt, seems more comfortable letting things get out of hand at OSU.
Anyway, two anecdotes related to this situation.
One, this past winter/spring in a new gym (for me) I frequently saw a 20-something guy lifting large amounts of weights and often sporting OSU football gear--t-shirts, shorts--all worn (i.e. not crisp and new). He clearly knew what he was doing in terms of form and routine. He also had an OSU tattoo on his arm. A big tattoo on his big upper arm.
Assumption 1: he went there. And then I went on to assume that he had played football there. The second assumption was not as strong, admittedly. It was a jumping to conclusions kind of moment.
Well you know what happens when one makes assumptions...
I spoke with him briefly one evening (turns out he works at the gym too) and I asked him if he went to OSU. I was going to mention Tressel and the controversy (which was brewing even then) to show that I knew my collegiate football, but then was worried about offending him.
No--he did not go to OSU. He went to a local state school, but he was hoping to go OSU for his masters. But he's always been a fan and goes to the games. Though he doesn't seem to have a strong connection. Not an Ohio native. Not an alum.
Just a super fan from Massachusetts. Maybe the kind of fan who would buy a championship ring. Or maybe those t-shirts he was wearing weren't from the OSU online store...
In other words--fandom fueled this situation too. And it's impossible, at this point, to discern the chicken from the egg. It's a big, foggy cloud of desire and greed and ego and privilege and lack of privilege.
Anecdote 2: While what happened at OSU was pretty egregious--mostly in terms of all those blind eyes--it is certainly not isolated. When I was an undergrad at a school known for its hockey prowess (both men's and women's but I am speaking about the men's team here) there was some selling of gear too. Hockey sticks seemed to be the hot commodity. Players would sell them to students knowing they could get as many as they wanted for free from the athletic department. It's not a ring; they weren't receiving tattoos in return. But it's not really so different. Whether anyone knew about this--besides those of us who lived in the dorms with the players--I can't be sure. The scale of violations at OSU is certainly larger, which is why they got caught. But it this is not a situation limited to OSU or even Big Ten schools or even football.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Poetry Friday

It begins with a scene from the gym and talks about wine and poetry. Perfect poem!

Whack Report


A woman at the gym today said to her friend, Most people are whack.
Whack meaning crazy, displeasing, undesirable, stupid, of poor quality,
appalling, masturbatory, laid off, weird, or dead.
Most poets, as it turns out, are generally pretty whack
as in mentally ill. Anne Sexton, for example. Robert Lowell, also quite whack.
I myself am whack about sixty-seven percent of the time,
not counting nights and weekends, when it's more like eighty-two percent.
But let us focus on the beautiful wine glass, eighteen percent full
of sane, delightful, and intelligent fruit and acid. A whiff of rose petals.
Black cherry, pomegranate, cassis, devil's food cake. And limestone. Drink me
and taste my ooids, my hot buttered toast. For we must be ceaselessly whack
as in deranged said another whack poet who became a whack gun runner.
Guns are whack. Much of the world population experiences the whack factor
ninety-nine percent of the time, which can cause excessive thirst, diarrhea, death
and other side-effects. After a while, if you keep saying a word, it kind of loses
its meaning. Whack. Whack. Here come the weed whackers, beheading the grass