Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Iowa disconnect?

One of my favorite college administrators had a lot of interesting axioms, which those of us who worked with her believed were largely of her own creation. But now I realize, they were just old. Like nineteenth century old in the case of one of my (and I believe her) favorites: a tub on its own bottom. The exact phrase is "every tub on its own bottom" and is apparently used all the time at Harvard (of course). It means a decentralized economic system and is employed up by university administrators to describe the way each unit is in charge (for better or worse) of its own finances--its own success, and arguably its own demise. She used it in reference to the athletic department at my undergraduate DI school.
I have, being the good marxist feminist (kind of) that I am, taken a cultural interpretation of the phrase as well, and translated it to mean a unit of the university that is so financially different than others that it has its own, exclusive culture. And this is certainly true of athletics. For example, driving into Amherst, Massachusetts a few weeks ago I noticed that a lot of the athletic department offices were located in one of the town's strip malls. "Very tub-on-its-own-bottom" I thought to myself. Can't even be on campus.
Athletics at any DI school is ETOB (for a while Vanderbilt was an exception--though I am not sure if that is true anymore). And it is certainly true at the University of Iowa, which made big news today for an entirely (but not quite, as I will argue in a moment) different reason.
As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education "Iowa [is]the first public university—and only the second college in the United States—to ask applicants about their sexual orientation and gender identity.[...]Officials at Iowa believe the new questions will allow them to better serve gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students, as well as those who are questioning their sexual identity."
There was mention of data tracking, etc., etc. But the decision was also pitched as a way to make LGBTQ students more comfortable and to make other non-LGBTQ students more aware of their potential peers.
"We want students to feel we are receptive to and sensitive to their lifestyle and their description of themselves," said Michael Barron, the assistant provost for enrollment management.
Let me say first before I go into what I should have lead this post with, that I applaud Iowa for being so seemingly progressive in its desire to reduce the stigma around LGBTQ students, to make an open effort at inclusion and providing support, and for hopefully being an example for other institutions (it's the 21st century and kids are coming out when they're, well, kids so it seems higher ed may be a bit behind but...).
But in a very tub-on-its-own-bottom style, the Iowa athletic department which is indeed a part of the university, maintains a pink locker room for its visiting football teams. There is no mistaking that message. Iowa athletics is telling its visitors that they are pansies, fags, feminine, girls, weak, and simultaneously implying that Iowa, of course, is not.  The shiny pink locker room complete with pink urinals (brought in from Europe) and pink showers is no theory of psychological passivity in practice. It is a shaming technique. The football locker room is site which upholds a particular version of masculinity--one that does not allow for any femininity or queerness.
Again, I don't think people in student services and admissions or Iowa as an institution is bad (and yes, I'm biased). But I think there's a mixed message here. And I think it's because the athletic department at Iowa and almost everywhere else is too separate from the university community. This issue may seem minor in comparison to say, a massive child sexual abuse scandal, but I think it's a good reminder that if a university is expressing a commitment to a certain mission or espousing a principle or philosophy, that all the tubs have to be on board.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tennis Hall of Fame suspends abuser

After a hefty amount of silence about the investigation into the abuse claims against Hall of Famer Bob Hewitt, the tennis powers that be have indefinitely suspended Hewitt from the hall. That seems like the same thing as being kicked out, given that his "legacy has been stripped from the institution."
The 72-year old Australian is living in South Africa currently. He was also recently removed from the South African Sport and Arts Hall of Fame.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More hot messes

It's never great to be outed. It's probably worse to be outed because you have been arrested for aggravated assault against your ex-girlfriend.
That is the situation former WNBA and Tennessee Vols player Chamique Holdsclaw finds herself in this week. An arrest warrant was issued for Holdsclaw who turned herself in today. She allegedly fired a shot into the backseat of Jennifer Lacy's SUV which may or may not have had gasoline in it. Lacy is a current player for the Tulsa Shock.
Nike never said anything about whether letting girls play sports would decrease their risk of becoming abusers.
What else is going to happen this week?

You first, sports media

For the record, I don't hold female athletes up to any kind of gender-specific standard regarding role model suitability, general public presence, altruism, or good decision-making ability. In general, I don't understand why professional athletes are default role models. Because they are in the public eye? That seems to negate all the other reasons that might make them unsuitable: unhealthy focus on winning which leads to illegal behaviors; rigid schedules that mandate time away from family (for the family values folks); lack of real-life, everyday skills; a somewhat necessary solipsism required for success (especially in individual sports).
So my post yesterday was not at all about how disappointed I was in Hope Solo as a role model for all the children I don't have. I was mostly just sad for her. Sad for her positioning in this sociocultural moment in which a highly talented elite-level athlete is defending someone who seems to be a bad guy and then marrying him. Maybe they've both been screwed by societal structures and the sportocracy. Maybe that's what they have in common and what draws them to each other. I don't know.
But calling Hope Solo a "hot mess" and saying well "boys can be boys" so this girl can be a girl and should be treated like a boy doesn't quite work here. Let she who is without double standards cast the first criticism. But that person is not likely to come from sports media. So invoking an equal treatment rhetoric around Solo's foibles isn't quite fair when there is nowhere near equal treatment for women's sports and its stars in the sports media.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The empowerment potential of sport for women? N of 1

I'm pretty sure there was something I was supposed to blog about in the wake of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) annual meeting in New Orleans last night. But I can't remember what it is. So instead thanks to one of my NOLA roomies, Dr. Pants, I will blog about Hope Solo instead.
Dr. Pants is a big fan of Hope Solo; she even read her auto(ish)biography Solo: A Memoir of Hope. I personally am not a Solo fan and though I considered reading the memoir for scholarly purposes, I couldn't get past the title.
I might be interested in some version of a sequel, however, given the latest news about Solo that I received from Dr. Pants.
Hope Solo is married!
She also hosted a party of a small group of friends a few days ago which resulted in the arrest of her then-fiance Jerramy Stevens. There was some alcohol, there was fighting (apparently over where the happy couple was to live), there was pushing and shoving and maybe some hitting. There was blood on Solo's elbow and blood on the shirt of Stevens who was found hiding in the upstairs bedroom when police arrived on the scene.

Solo was not supportive of the arrest of her then-fiance. She pleaded with officers not to take Stevens and told her brother not to tell the police anything (he was original tattletale apparently--he called the police). This is a little like a high school party gone awry.
Except more serious. These party-goers are not being taken home for chastisement from parental units. Stevens was taken to jail in the wee hours of Monday morning and released after a hearing yesterday. (The blood on the elbow, blood on the shirt connection was not--unsurprisingly--enough evidence.) There will be a follow-up investigation by the Family Violence Unit.
But their plans to get married on Tuesday were not interrupted. According to various news sources--and Twitter, too!--they got married Tuesday night.
I'm not the best person to comment on a short courtship, but I'm going to suggest that two months seems like not quite enough time to get to know someone.
I mean could Solo even get through the list of Stevens's encounters with law enforcement in that time? The former UW star and Buccaneers tight end has a decade and a half history of arrests and investigations, which started when he was in high school. Highlights:
  • felony assault in high school (altered to misdemeanor=keep football scholarship to UW)
  • investigated for sexual assault (no charges)
  • reckless driving and leaving scene of the accident
  • DUI--more than once
  • possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia with intent to sell (this lead to his release from the Bucs)
I think there are mistakes one makes when one is young. Or mistakes when one is a little bit famous. Factors need to be considered. What drives one to commit crime? To be violent? To sell drugs? How complicit are the various discriminatory structures in our society: education, sport? I think forgiveness can be proffered. 
But history matters. And you can understand why someone does something illegal and the sociocultural forces at work, but still not marry that person.
Oh, Nike and your false promises. When we asked to play sports, you all agreed because it meant (among other things) that we were "more likely to leave a man who beats [us]." I guess in addition to the other problematic promises, more likely is not entirely likely.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Spelman College focusing on fitness, not athletics

Here's a bold move in this era of big-time sports: Spelman College is eliminating its intercollegiate athletics program at the end of the year. The all-female HBCU, lead by President Beverly Daniel Tatum, will take the $1 million annual budget for athletics and use to establish fitness programs to be available to the entire 2,000-women student body. Spelman will keep its PE requirement but will expand opportunities for activities  like yoga and aerobics. The emphasis, according to Tatum, will be placed on life-long health:
“We want them to live long and healthy lives so they can get the return on that investment they’ve made in higher education…. We really see this as a life-saving activity that we are engaging in.”
The emphasis on mind and body is refreshing especially in light of the population. Black women are at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and various cancers than their white peers--even when accounting for economic status and education.
It's an important and hopefully influential stand to take. What I did find surprising was the either/or position. Most colleges already offer fitness classes and facilities for students--even when they have intercollegiate athletic programs.  Good facilities are necessary to remain competitive with other schools and students expect them. But, of course, colleges justify the expenses by noting the need for healthy minds and bodies.
So why is Spelman only now refocusing its attention? As I mentioned, it always had PE but as Tatum noted, many PE activities (like archery) might be fun but they are not necessarily ones that students will continue afterwards due to both access and interest. So, again, the shift is good. And if taking away intercollegiate sports, which do not have a long history at the school (according to my friend's aunt who graduated in the early 50s sports--even team sports--were all in the context of PE when she was there), will facilitate the shift--then good! But it seems like the school didn't pay any mind to the fitness needs of its students outside of PE and intercollegiate sports. The last time the school gymnasium was redone was the 50s. Part of the new fitness initiative is raising money for a new gym!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Poetry Friday

This week on NPR I heard a review of the new book about Thomas Jefferson and the evidence the author presents about the pretty much unequivocal hypocrisy of the founding father. And not just the now well-known relationship with his slave, Sally Hemmings, but how he was encouraged by his peers to free his slaves, but wouldn't. So continuing on the social justice and the personal-is-political theme, a poem by Natasha Trethewey from her book, Thrall. The poem can be found here.


In the portrait of Jefferson that hangs
     at Monticello, he is rendered two-toned:
his forehead white with illumination—
a lit bulb—the rest of his face in shadow,
     darkened as if the artist meant to contrast
his bright knowledge, its dark subtext.
By 1805, when Jefferson sat for the portrait,
     he was already linked to an affair
with his slave. Against a backdrop, blue
and ethereal, a wash of paint that seems
     to hold him in relief, Jefferson gazes out
across the centuries, his lips fixed as if
he's just uttered some final word.
     The first time I saw the painting, I listened
as my father explained the contradictions:
how Jefferson hated slavery, though—out
     of necessity
, my father said—had to own
slaves; that his moral philosophy meant
he could not have fathered those children:
     would have been impossible, my father said.
For years we debated the distance between
word and deed. I'd follow my father from book
     to book, gathering citations, listen
as he named—like a field guide to Virginia—
each flower and tree and bird as if to prove
     a man's pursuit of knowledge is greater
than his shortcomings, the limits of his vision.
I did not know then the subtext
     of our story, that my father could imagine
Jefferson's words made flesh in my flesh—
the improvement of the blacks in body
     and mind, in the first instance of their mixture
with the whites
—or that my father could believe
he'd made me better. When I think of this now,
     I see how the past holds us captive,
its beautiful ruin etched on the mind's eye:
my young father, a rough outline of the old man
     he's become, needing to show me
the better measure of his heart, an equation
writ large at Monticello. That was years ago.
     Now, we take in how much has changed:
talk of Sally Hemings, someone asking,
How white was she?—parsing the fractions
     as if to name what made her worthy
of Jefferson's attentions: a near-white,
quadroon mistress, not a plain black slave.
     Imagine stepping back into the past,
our guide tells us then—and I can't resist
whispering to my father: This is where
     we split up. I'll head around to the back.

When he laughs, I know he's grateful
I've made a joke of it, this history
     that links us—white father, black daughter—
even as it renders us other to each other.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Summer lovin', had me a blast

Summer lovin', happened too fast.
Christine Brennan has declared the Summer of Women (in sports) over. And, today, she and I are on the same page.
Eternal pessimist that I am, I suspected--as it was happening--that the surge of interest in women's sports that was ignited primarily by the Olympics but also by the concurrent news and (mostly) praise of Title IX during its 40th anniversary year, would dissipate. It's a roller coaster ride. Luckily we only have to go down screeching down that big hill of disappointment once every 4 years (and down a smaller hill of disappointment after the winter Olympics end).
Brennan was brought back to her reality after hearing UConn women's basketball coach, Geno Auriemma, discuss his stance on lowering the rim in women's basketball to make it a more popular sport that people (i.e. men) want to watch. People who don't like women's sports are not going to watch them. And inferiorizing the sport only provides the haters more reason not to care.Why do people continue to laud this man?
Also at issue is the forthcoming hiring of a coach for US national women's soccer team. Will it be a man or a woman?? Brennan explains why it matters--and it does--even as people fall back on the hackneyed "we're just going to hire the best person for the job" because we don't want to think about how gender and race and class inequalities are perpetuated in sport.

Apologies for the Debbie Downer post. I'll put on my hope and cheer outfit later.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Poetry Friday

This poem by Alicia Ostriker is from the current issue of Massachusetts Review. It was posted at Poetry Daily recently. I've been doing a lot of talking in my classes about more complex understandings of race, so this fits in quite well.

They Speak of Race

Honey I am one gorgeous permanent wave
of dunebeige yellowgold coalblack European Asian
African force funneled through centuries
of ejaculating ancestors right here to me
said the impure old woman
Absolutely true science informs us
we hybrids are the ones that survive
the endless brutalities of storm and drought
and the rivalry of our peers
said the naturally selected magnificent red tulip
Any tribe keep doing the same
thing with the same folks
they gonna die out soon so procreate like me
with strangers go mix it up
mongrel is powerful said the dog

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lesbian discrimination in sport? or It's all about intersectionality

A few weeks ago, I neglected, among other things, to post about this amazing column by wrestling coach Hudson Taylor that was posted at HuffPo. Hudson, since he was a student-athlete, has been an ally of LGBT athletes and works to end homophobia in sport. Taylor demonstrates a very keen awareness of the way in which homophobia and sexism are intertwined. It is not a coincidence the sport has a history of sexism and homophobia. They reinforce each other. How different is it really when a male athlete is referred to as a "girl" or as a "fag"? Both are meant to question his masculinity and inspire a man-up moment.
What about the ways that the lesbian stigma in women's sports is connected to its inferior status?

So, good job Hudson Taylor.

And much awe and respect to Pat Griffin for her column this week posted at Opposing Views. The day I read it I was teaching in my class two articles: a piece called "Patriarchy" by sociologist Allan Johnson and Peggy McIntosh's "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" about white privilege. It would have been perfect to hand my students a copy of Dr. Griffin's article and ask them how it relates. (I might still.)
Griffin talks about how the discourse has shifted in homophobia in sport to discussions of male professional athletes. It is a somewhat one-dimensional conversation, in my opinion, centered around "when will be a male professional athlete in a team sport come out?" First of all the question is obviously American-centric. There are out footballers, rugby players, and other athletes in sports that American don't quite laud. Is it a legitimate question? Yes.
But, as Griffin points out, it seems to be the only question. This is exemplified in the media (I too heard the NPR piece on gays in sports and wondered when I was going to hear about Megan Rapinoe) and in the conferences that address these issues.
The invisibility of lesbians has long been a problem, a result of the intersection of sexism and homophobia. Advocates like Pat Griffin have long worked to make these issues visible. Inside the academy numerous feminist scholars have talked about the issues specific to gay women in the sport world. And now, both inside and outside the academy, the lesbian is disappearing again. Why? Is it just another manifestation of sexism? Perhaps. Maybe it's just the type of male privilege we talked about in my class. Men want to be allies but sometimes they just don't see or want to see their privilege and that it provides them a forum--literal and figurative--for bringing their issues to the forefront, often at the expense of women.
I want to throw another issue into this discussion of intersectional discrimination. Class or more money making potential might be a better descriptor in this situation. The discussion of male athletes coming out--male professional athletes who are in the major team sports in the US may have financial repercussions. One of the issues raised when the question of "who will come out first? and which league is most open and accepting?" is "how much will he lose?" Lost endorsements? Lack of new endorsers? The discussion becomes more heightened because there is so much more for a professional male athlete to lose financially. Both Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King discussed the financial hits they took when they came out/were outed. But this is written as somehow less serious. Money/class. Sexism. Homophobia. Lots of intersecting issues here.
I'm headed to a sport sociology conference next month. I will be interested in observing the discussions in that forum around gay athletes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

New women's sport?

I foresee a future dissertation on the topic of women's arm wrestling. I mean if it's good enough for NPR to cover, some grad student should be snapping it up.
I have to admit, the topic seems a bit unusual. The story, which aired on All Things Considered, notes the similarity to roller derby and wrestling (the theatrical aspects of it). But, based on the story's main source, it seems to tip more towards that than athletics.
I suspect the same issues will arise regarding self-sexification as a seeming requirement for participation; the empowerment potential of the performance; subcultural aspects; and how the sport will be presented to the general public. Already participants are referred to, at least by NPR (tsk tsk), as "lady arm wrestlers."

Monday, October 08, 2012

Vonn seeks a Sorenstam moment

I'm not the only one trying to get back on course (sorry for the lack of blogging). Professional skiers start their competitive season soon. And American skier Lindsey Vonn, the it girl (much to Julia Mancuso's dismay) of the last winter Olympics, is looking to compete against the men in the first race of the season.
It does not seem that people are opposed to the coed competition. Skiers--both male and female--are encouraging Vonn's attempt to test herself. The issue is that the men's competition is on the same course the women's race will be held at the following week; a race that Vonn wants to compete in as well. But she--or any other racer--is not allowed to race the course beforehand.
Various committees and powers-that-be are looking into the whole thing. I think if Vonn gets permission we will see a lot more men versus women talk.
Interesting and irksome is how the FIS World Cup is divided. Under the gender pull-down menu on the calendar page is "men" and "ladies."
More to come I would assume...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The cautious progress narrative?

I started reading this column with a little hesitation. The end of the Kournikova era? Really? Are not female athletes, including the columnist's celebrated Alex Morgan, still stripping down to promote their bodies, um, er, their sport, um...?
Yes, it's still happening. It's still problematic.
What's different, as the columnist points out, is that in the Kournikova era there seemed to be no space to which to have a discussion of women's sports. We were polarized. We had to talk about the sexualization of female athletes (or if you were outside of the critical discourse you discussed their hotness factor) and it made it difficult to talk about actual women's sports.
But why did the Kournikova era end? What was it about that historical moment that pushed this woman (then girl) to be the most googled, searched for, downloaded entity? What was the sexual tenor of the country (of the western world?) in those years?
Or was it just Kournikova? Did she just happen to meet all (or most) of the standards of beauty at that time? In other words, did the woman make history or did the historical moment make the woman?
I don't know. More research, if one should desire to take it on, would have to be done.
And is it over just because she is gone? Or are we just seeing a different manifestation of it?
In short, have we really made progress, as the columnist suggests?
He points to the successes of the summer: the USA swimmers, the USWNT, the USA gymnastics team. I have always been skeptical about gauging the progress of women's athletics in an Olympic year. The Olympics are, in every possible way, a set of special circumstances: media coverage, timeline, advertising, nationalism.
But as every female soccer player knows, the fervor and excitement of the Olympics dies out.
What will happen this time?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Poetry Friday

I have decided that Poetry Friday means poems can be posted on Fridays--not necessarily that they will. The blogging has been slow, but the dissertating has been progressing so...compromise.

Anyway, I was looking for a poem about the start of school. I found this one instead and it amused me; so here it is.

The Latest School
G. K. Chesterton
See the flying French depart
Like the bees of Bonaparte,
Swarming up with a most venomous vitality.
Over Baden and Bavaria,
And Brighton and Bulgaria,
Thus violating Belgian neutrality.

And the injured Prussian may
Not unreasonably say
"Why, it cannot be so small a nationality
Since Brixton and Batavia,
Bolivia and Belgravia,
Are bursting with the Belgian neutrality."

By pure Alliteration
You may trace this curious nation,
And respect this somewhat scattered Principality;
When you see a B in Both
You may take your Bible oath
You are violating Belgian neutrality.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

They did it their way

Making news internationally (as far as China!), one of the world's most famous golf clubs, Augusta National, has finally admitted two women as members. Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore, the VP of an investment company and major donor to the University of South Carolina (the business school is named after her).
The controversy over the lack of female members has been been consistently cyclical. Every year when the Masters is played there, the issue is reinvigorated with various levels of vigor. Last year was a renewed burst of criticism/activism due to the then-recent naming of Virgina Rometty as the new chairperson of IBM--a position that has always come with a membership at Augusta. But Rometty was not one of the two women--because Augusta does things on its own terms. As former chairperson of Augusta, Hootie Johnson, said during the years when the controversy was highest (i.e. Martha Burk was protesting nearby), Augusta would make changes in its own due time and not "at the point of a bayonet." And certainly not because a bunch of feminists were standing outside with signs.
Burk was interviewed about the news and called it a victory. I don't think I would categorize it as such. But at least now we can move on to some of the larger issues of discrimination in sport that affect more than a tiny fraction of the population.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

More on the size of female Olympians

This is a brief follow-up--or in-addition-to--to the post about the lack of larger sized apparel for this summer's female Olympians.
Apparently--and I had not been aware of this--several female athletes competing in London have been scrutinized and commented on because of their weight leading into the games. I think this is quite interesting in light of all the press about how equal these Olympics are; how the US team is comprised of more female athletes than male athletes; how every nation finally has a female competitor. US-based media call this the "Title IX Olympics"--somewhat problematically.
But, of course, things aren't equal--on either concrete numbers (still more events for men) or in treatment. At the opening of the games Christine Brennan of USA Today declared "Finally--It's all about the women."
Yep. It's still about how female they are (i.e., Caster Semenya and whomever else was secretly gender tested during these games or leading up to the games) and how fit-not-fat they are.
The weightlifters referenced in my previous post are an obvious target; but other women have been called out as well, including Australian swimmer Liesel Jones, British heptathlete Jessica Ennis, and the entire Brazilian soccer team. Particularly egregious was that Ennis was criticized by a member of British athletics official. She won gold by the way.
Last night, watching the women's 10M platform prelims, we heard about diver Viola's battle with an eating disorder that, in part, caused her long absence from the Olympics.
Great responses though from the various targeted athletes. American weightlifter Holly Mangold said: I'm not saying everyone is an athlete but I am saying an athlete can come in any size.
And British weightlifter Zoe Smith, who has been criticized via social media for looking too masculine, said "We don't lift weights in order to look hot."
Wait, a woman can do something that doesn't involve the ultimate goal of attracting a heterosexual male? What have the Olympics come to?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

"Too big" for women's clothes

This article features comments from US Olympic weightlifter Sarah Robles about how athletic gear is not made for larger women. One could argue that clothes in general are not made for larger women. But Robles point is that she, as a heavyweight lifter--an athlete, has to wear the clothes for men because Nike and whomever else is contributing to Team USA's uniform/gear does not make the women's clothes in her size. I know Nike makes "plus size" clothes for women. I just saw a tennis skirt in a 3X yesterday in a store. So they will make up to a certain size. But for the Olympics, one would think they could make whatever for the athletes so women like Robles, who don't want to wear "dude's clothes" as she calls them, don't have to. Because she's right--they don't fit the same.
Interestingly, there are limited options for women who either do not want to wear traditionally feminine clothes but on whom menswear is too big and not tailored correctly--or women who are larger and want clothes that are made for women--and are feminine.
Again, in the particular case of Robles--and her teammates--something easily could have been made to fit their bodies for this occasion.
We read things like ESPN the Magazine's body issue and the Dove real women campaign and allegedly value different-sized bodies, but it doesn't seem to translate to real-life things that would make some women's everyday issues a little less fraught.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Olympic beach volleyball

There was some concern over the cold weather in London and how it might prevent some women's beach volleyballers from wearing their bikinis. And it has.
Looks like Getty though has been getting in as many photos of bikinis while the sun is out.
This piece is a comment on the ways in which women's beach volleyball has been photographed and what such a frame might look like on other Olympic sports.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

And, you know, in the world

I had heard that Chick-Fil-A was not exactly pro-gay, but it didn't much matter to me since I hadn't eaten there since I was a teenager, have no franchise near me, and don't eat fast food anyway. In other words, I had no occasion nor desire to frequent them--an unintentional boycott.
I had not made the connection, however, between the company and its sponsorship of a college bowl game. Now that the president of the company has come out and explicitly stated his position as anti-gay marriage (because he worries that god's wrath will be brought down upon us for defying Jesus's will) what will the NCAA do?
Will Chick-Fil-A be prevented from sponsorship of NCAA events?
We shall see...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Yes, Virginia, there's still homophobia in women's sports

Anti-gay tweets are not that unusual. Anti-gay sentiments among athletes are not especially surprising either. Regarding the latter, though, most public anti-gay statements have been confined to the world of professional men's athletics. (Though more straight male professional athletes are voicing public support for potential gay teammates these days. See Ron Gronkowski--or rather read his statements. You can see him--all of him--in the latest iteration of ESPN Magazine's The Body Issue.)
But outward/overt homophobia in women's sports--especially at the collegiate level--is not as prevalent, which is why it is sometimes difficult to convince people that it still exists. It got a little easier recently when tweets from Florida Gulf Coast University student-athletes were picked up on. Three tweets from three different athletes within one month:

“Golden rule of softball: ‘No bow, lesbo,’” an FGCU softball player tweeted in March while thanking a teammate for the advice. “Needles to say, I will never be caught without a ribbon in my hair again.”

“To all the random girls I most likely will be dancing (with) #NoHomo,” an FGCU women’s basketball player tweeted, also in March, before clarifying in a tweet a day later. “But I don’t discriminate.”

In a tweet to a friend in April, an FGCU women’s basketball signee celebrated their friendship with a slur.
“Basketball (best friends) since the beginning,” the player tweeted. “I love you faggot.”
The response from FGCU has been 1) sufficiently vague and 2) not that surprising given the culture there. Regarding number two, FGCU--not too long ago--was at the center of several lawsuits and complaints from female coaches and administrators about gender equity. And despite the findings of an external investigation that stated there was no hostile climate at FGCU (done after the obligatory house-cleaning and back pedaling), it seems something is (still) in the air at FGCU.
Regarding number one--statements from administrators reveal that they themselves are not comfortable or don't know how to talk about these issues.
From the current director of athletics (installed after the lawsuit/settlement spree)
"I can’t speak across the board that there aren’t people that don’t have prejudices in any way in our society. But if people have them, they have to keep them to themselves and not allow them to affect their role how we operate as a student-athlete population. Or (as) staff member(s). We all fall under one umbrella.”
Keep your hate in, people--just tolerate. When you leave here, an educational institution at which you play sports, something that is touted as creating strong character and future leaders, you may spew your hate as you see fit. 

And from the softball coach:
“I understand the phrase [no bow, lesbo],” said FGCU softball coach Dave Deiros, who tells his players to be accountable for everything they say publicly, a point he said he reiterated after the recent homophobic tweet. “I’m not going to censor my players.”
As with any potential conflict, Deiros said the emphasis is always on what best serves the team.
“I’m not asking you not to be gay, and I’m not asking you to be gay. What I’m asking you is while we’re in the locker room, on the field, as a team, going to class, that’s the guiding principle. As soon as you leave and go out on your own, knock yourself out. Be your own person, represent the university well.”

Wait. What's the guiding principle? I'm confused. Have no sexuality?  Or don't talk about any sexuality you might be harboring. But don't worry--there's no censorship so say whatever you want in any kind of public forum. Being oneself is, for some people, being homophobic. How does Deiros reconcile this?

And from the basketball coach:
“Occasionally you’ll have a parent be concerned and want to know the composition of the team,” said FGCU women’s basketball coach Karl Smesko. “I think the parents that have brought it up were hoping that it wouldn’t be many. (I explain that) that’s just not something that we worry about.”

You should "worry" about it. And you should worry what these public statements you are making are saying to the rest of the country, including potential recruits who are gay or aren't uncomfortable with gay teammates. 

Coincidentally, as I was reading the article about FGCU, I had open on my computer an interview with Judith Butler (for a different project) in which she talks about speech acts. The interview is from 1999 and I found this passage particularly relevant to the issue at hand. (Please don't dimiss it because it is Judith Butler or me because I use Judith Butler.)
I think in the US we go around trying to target people who say racist things, and indeed there are good reasons to do that, targeting people who say homophobic things and holding them responsible for their speech. I think there are all kinds of reasons to stop a person when they speak such things and say, for example, 'look that's a racist act'. I think that's important. But I think that a politics that begins and ends with that policing is a mistake, because for me the question is how is that person, as it were, renewing and reinvigorating racist rituals of speech, and how do we think about those particular rituals and how do we exploit their ritual function in order to undermine it in a more thorough-going way, rather than just stopping it as it's spoken. What would it mean to restage it, take it, do something else with the ritual so that its revivablity as a speech act is really seriously called into question.

I don't know what that would look like right now. But I think it's a very interesting concept to explore and apply generally to hate speech and acts and in a sport-specific context.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Saudis are sending

The IOC would have looked quite foolish if, after all the negotiating, the Saudi Arabian government did not send any women to London this month.
I am soooooo curious as to how the negotiations went down over this issue. What threats were levied? Retorts offered? Etc. Etc.
But however it all happened, there will be two women on the Saudi Olympic team: a judo practitioner (judoist? what is the correct term?) and a runner (800 m).
This is old news by now, I know--that's all I have time for these days. Old news but seemingly good news.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hall of Fame investigates Hewitt

After a lot of feet dragging and failed attempts to keep the story quiet, the International Tennis Hall of Fame has said it will investigate the claims of sexual abuse made against inductee Bob Hewitt.
This news came out last week, just as the HoF was getting ready to host its annual pro tournament and induct the class of 2012.
Claims against Hewitt in South Africa are being looked into. The statute of limitations for alleged abuse that occurred in the United States have all passed. But concerned parties, including the women who allege they were victims of Hewitt's when he was a coach, asked the HoF over a year ago to address the situation.
After saying they would draft a policy to deal with future similar situations, rather than addressing the past, the HoF received a great deal of criticism. Now they have hired a Boston law firm to do a confidential investigation. But no one from the organization has commented--apparently all the HoF powers that be were at Wimbledon last week.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Saudi loophole?

So will Saudi Arabia be allowed (by the IOC) to get away with not sending any female athletes because they just can't find any?
The top choice, equestrian Dalma Rushdi Malhas, cannot attend.
Will the IOC allow Saudi officials to say "well, we tried."
I hope not. So do others.
This is a very strong editorial about why the IOC should ban the entire Saudi Olympic team if it does not contain any women.
The author rightly notes that wild cards are available--and surely the IOC will grant them given their stake in this situation--to athletes who do not meet Olympic qualifying standards.
But even if that was not the case--would it be ok for the Saudis to say--well, give us some more time? This has been an ongoing issue. It is not about time, it is about culture.

On a related note, FIFA has (finally) said it will allow players to wear the hijab.

Poetry Friday

I have been watching (in the background, on my computer mostly) a lot of tennis of late. Wimbledon ends this weekend ("oh, good" the Girlfriend says) and I thought it would be a good time for a tennis poem.
I wanted to publish all of Robert Pinksy's "Tennis" but I couldn't find it. (If anyone has it--send it my way). So I will just publish one of the sections of the poem.


Call questionable balls his way, not yours:
You lose the point but have your concentration,
The grail of self-respect. Wear white. Mind losing.
Walk, never run, between points: it will save
Your breath, and hy pnotize him, and be may think
That you are tired, until your terrible
Swift sword amazes him. By understanding
Your body, you will conquer your fatigue.
By understanding your desire to win
And all your other desirs, you will conquer
Discouragement. And you will conquer distraction
By understanding the world, and all its parts.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Pre-Olympic commericals

The Gatorade commercial with Abby Wambach makes me cringe. Even her voiceover "acting" is bad. Part of it is probably the script, too.
"She's lost a lot and water won't put it back." Who says that??
"Yes, she is easy to spot. She is also easy to break."

Thankfully Gatorade has redeemed itself with this commercial about keeping young girls in sports:
I liked the BP commercials featuring athletes who will (likely) be competing in London. Both able-bodied athletes and paralympians.
Alas, it is a commercial for BP. And I think about how an oil company is using those differently-abled bodies to sell its product and improve its image.
This one I believe is airing on Great Britain. I haven't seen it on US television. Couldn't find the one that is currently airing in the US, tough.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Who will the Saudis send?

The Saudi female athlete most observers thought would be heading to London next month after Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on female athletes in the Olympics--will not.
Equestrian Dalma Rushdi Malhas could not meet the Olympic qualifying standard after losing valuable training time when her horse sustained an injury.
A reader pointed me to this article about the situation.
There are, apparently, other unnamed female athletes under consideration.

We're still talking about this

Some people I have spoken with don't like Maria Sharapova because they think she's too pretty--and not much else (besides a good tennis player).
I think she's pretty smart and has a good sense of humor. I love the way she deals with the corps of media folk who ask her largely inane questions.
And Sharapova continued to handle herself well yesterday when asked to respond to Frenchman Gilles Simon's comments about how tennis should go back to the days when women got paid less than men at the Grand Slam tournaments. Simon thinks men's tennis is more entertaining; that the matches are more interesting. Of course he didn't offer any means of how to measure entertainment value. He didn't note that the rest of the year women earn less at their tournaments than the men do at theirs. And he was forced to acknowledge that his straight-set loss at Wimbledon was probably not that entertaining.
Simon was recently elected to the ATP Players' Council, which seems to be providing him the platform for the airing of these grievances. He reported that every other man in the draw feels the same way, they are just afraid to say anything. But here's the thing. Even if most of them believe equal pay is unfair--the top men (the ones who were asked to comment on the statements) aren't suffering because the women got a pay raise at Wimbledon in 2007. Do you think they are going to take the time to fight equal pay? Are they going to band together and hire a consultant to study the entertainment value of men's versus women's tennis? Activism on the men's tennis tour? I don't think so.
And Sharapova's response to all this:
''I'm sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his."
When hearing about Sharapova's response, Serena Williams laughed and wholeheartedly agreed. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Which context did you mean?

There is a tie for the third spot on the women's 100 meters (running) US Olympic team.
No solution yet on how to determine which runner, Allyson Felix or Jeneba Tarmoh, will get the spot.
Justin Gatlin, the men's 100 meter champion at the trials, suggested they two women wrestle in out--in either Jello or mud. I am sure they appreciated being given two options.
Gatlin got a lot of crap for the comment which many have--not surprisingly--deemed sexist. But he said it was taken out of context.
Oh--do you mean the context of patriarchy where you think all kinds of comments are permissible?
The thing about dominant ideologies is that they all have a little bit of wiggle room; there's a lot of pushing and pulling; and hegemony has been known to spring a leak.

Go Sania Mirza!

A lot of the recent chatter about women in the Olympics has been around 1) Saudi Arabia's ban on women's sports and 2) just how much testosterone a woman can have before she crosses the line into "man."
But even "normally" hormoned women not from Saudi Arabia are having issues as thy prepare for London.
Sania Mirza, who was chosen to by the Indian Tennis Federation to represent India, has been at the center of an odd argument about who shall play with whom. Apparently the men on the Indian team are arguing about who they want to partner with for doubles and for mixed doubles. And they are using Mirza to try to get their way. The father of one of the players wants Mirza to guarentee, in writing, that she will play with his son. Someone has said he will only play with someone else if Mirza plays with him in mixed doubles.
It all sounds 1) a little but middle school and 2) a lot bit patriarchal.
And Mirza calls them out on all this. It's an amazing open letter that chides all the players in this drama including the Indian federation and Indian culture more generally for their treatment of women.
My (half Indian) partner rolls her eyes when talking about Indian men. This is certainly an eye-rolling moment. Mirza has taken the high ground. I hope it serves her well in London.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There is no Ms. in England?

I have largely stopped posting about the (mis)gendered language in sports.
But language still continues to fascinate me. And I was particularly struck by the incongruity I heard at Wimbledon yesterday while watching Kim Clijsters's match.
Wimbledon refers to female players as either Miss or Mrs (last name) depending on their marital status. While the formality is quaint, the practice seems antiquated--especially in this situation:
Clijsters is married. She gets referred to as Mrs. But she never changed her name. So she is called Mrs. Clijsters at Wimbledon. It sounds so odd.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saudi Arabia relents

Saudi Arabia announced today that it will allow female athletes to compete in the Olympics under the Saudi flag (i.e. not invited by the IOC and under their "neutral" flag).
The press about the decision contains a lot of platitudes from Saudi representatives about the spirit of the games. No word on which women will be there; Saudi officials have said they will allow any woman who qualifies to attend. Unfortunately given the lack of support (to put it mildly) for female athletes in Saudi Arabia, not many women meet Olympic qualifying standards. The IOC is likely to make exceptions just to get Saudi women to London this year.
More of a sure thing is equestrian Dalma Rushdi Malhas who is a Saudi citizen who was born in the United States.
There were no given reasons for the change of heart by Saudi administrators. The IOC had been working with government officials since the spring and kept reporting "progress," but in April the Saudis announced they would not be sending female athletes to London.
I wonder if the IOC threatened to ban the entire Saudi team if this decision was not reconsidered...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Comments on sex verification

Truly excellent column in the NYT about the IOC's proposed changes to rules regarding the testosterone levels of female athletes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Poetry Friday: Fathers' Day edition

It's hard finding a poem to celebrate fathers' day. Sylvia Plath isn't quite appropriate for the occasion.
But this one is pretty good. The details may change, but the sentiment remains.
So Happy Fathers' Day to the dads out there and especially my own, who helped cultivate my love of sport (none of us know where the poetry thing came from) and keeps me stocked in sport gear.

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
He never made a fortune, or a noise
In the world where men are seeking after fame;
But he had a healthy brood of girls and boys
Who loved the very ground on which he trod.
They thought him just little short of God;
Oh you should have heard the way they said his name –

There seemed to be a loving little prayer
In their voices, even when they called him ‘Dad.’
Though the man was never heard of anywhere,
As a hero, yet somehow understood
He was doing well his part and making good;
And you knew it, by the way his children had
Of saying ‘Father.’

He gave them neither eminence nor wealth,
But he gave them blood untainted with a vice,
And opulence of undiluted health.
He was honest, and unpurchable and kind;
He was clean in heart, and body, and in mind.
So he made them heirs to riches without price –
This father.

He never preached or scolded; and the rod –
Well, he used it as a turning pole in play.
But he showed the tender sympathy of God.
To his children in their troubles, and their joys.
He was always chum and comrade with his boys,
And his daughters – oh, you ought to hear them say

Now I think of all achievements ‘tis the least
To perpetuate the species; it is done
By the insect and the serpent, and the beast.
But the man who keeps his body, and his thought,
Worth bestowing on an offspring love-begot,
Then the highest earthly glory he was won,
When in pride a grown-up daughter or a son
Says ‘That’s Father.’

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The disappearing act the IAAF is working on

Caster Semenya is on something.
Say that about almost any other track and field athlete (or cyclist-- even the now officially retired "I've- never tested positive" Lance Armstrong remains under scrutiny) and you think doping. An athlete seeking an unfair advantage.
But not Semenya--and not, according to secret and not-so-secret sources--are numerous other female athletes who apparently are meeting standards of performance, of hormone levels, of muscle mass not associated with the socially acceptable definition of female. Interventions have been made. Drugs administered. Surgeries completed. At least that's the impression given by this article.
We all know the controversy over Semenya's performance and appearance. When it was seemingly over, the horror over the whole experience--the invasion of privacy, the (largely undiscussed) racism and colonialism, the general ickiness of it all--was supposed to be a closed chapter. An additional stain, but one that the The IAAF and other administrators, coaches, and people-who-should-know-better, promised to handle things differently in the future.
And apparently, they are. Except now it's all hush-hush and arguably even more confusing and shaming than ever before.
And there a lot of rumors. For example, certain scientists are saying that almost entire teams of women have had undescended testes or excess testosterone. Such statements are purely inflammatory. Women who look and act too masculine must have testes hiding somewhere inside them, right? It's bad for any non-normative-appearing woman and for women who have intersex conditions.
Also part of the problem is that no one is talking about the exact conditions that are allegedly being encountered worldwide in the wake of the Semenya situation. But sources in the above-linked article make it seem like there is some kind of intersex epidemic sweeping the population of female athletes.
Part of the problem is that no one seems to be able to discuss any of the conditions. I understand that Semenya is not saying what kind of treatment she is receiving, but the lack of even viable hypotheticals is problematic. There are over a dozen intersex conditions and even more situations that have not been nearly as pathologized. For example, every 1 in 100 people are born with bodies that differ in some way from "standard" men or women.
But we don't like to talk about these things--in part because it throws into question the idea that a binary sex system is natural. And two, because we don't like to talk about genitals and their alleged connection to the sex/gender system.
The IAAF wants to make blanket rules about how much of this and how much of that athletes can have in order to be able to compete as women and then dictate what these athletes need to do to their bodies to morph them into compliance. The IAAF has not proven to be reliable or trustworthy on these issues.
Blanket rules will not work on situations that are far more complicated than most can comprehend. And again, there does not seem to be any kind of movement toward transparency here. What conditions? What are the supposed results? What kind of advantages are being deemed unfair? And why?
And we haven't even started with the question of what is natural.
Caster Semenya shouldn't have to be at the center of these questions. (The recent articles about how much prettier and more feminine she is these days are difficult enough to stomach.) I think the IAAF should have to answer for its proposed policies and rationales though.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Collegiate sand volleyball championships

OMG! I'm watching sand volleyball. Right now. Collegiate sand volleyball.
Pepperdine versus Long Beach State.  This is the first ever national championships in the sport. Not NCAA sponsored. I think, actually and somewhat perversely, Jack-in-the-Box is sponsoring these championships.
I was curious about uniforms when this sport was proposed. Pretty modest (compared to what we will see from most women's teams in London, where it's not going to be super warm, btw). Pepperdine has tank tops and what looks like running shorts. One of the Pepperdine assistant coaches is the coach of famed American duo Misty May and Kerry Walsh.
Long Beach is wearing tankinis. It looks like most of the other teams in the tournament are doing the tank top/shorts combo.
Pepperdine has already won the team title. Now they are looking to win the individual title.
I love having a girlfriend who has more sports channels than she even knows exist!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Forget pink shirts and caps... your fandom in your feet, females!
Fan gear that limits your activity level.
This is something to put in my female fandom file for that not-yet-written article.
Previous commentary on this issue has been about 1) pink apparel or 2) heteronormative marketing.
My last post on the heteronormative marketing of sports gear, trinkets, mementos brought a comment from Sean at sportsBabel about why I would want to be included in the grand capitalist scheme. True, true.
And when I saw this little piece of news about how the NBA will be making $250 stilettos, I was mighty glad to not be in the target audience.These things don't seem very practical. I mean, high tripping/slipping hazard when walking around the arena and up and down stairs to your seat. And you definitely don't want some drunk fan to spill beer on these!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Sam Stosur's "style"

Sadly, I just watched Sam Stosur lose in the semifinals of Roland Garros to Sara Errani. Errani played very well and I kind of like her style. I hadn't paid too much attention to her prior to this run at the French. But I liked her glasses and bandana look from the quarters the other day. She looked tough. Stosur always looks tough because the woman is ripped. But she is not a man.
In case you were wondering.
Dominika Cibulkova, Stosur's opponent from the quarters seemed to be wondering that after being defeated by Stosur fairly handily. I actually didn't hear the post-match comments or the comments on the post-match comments. Thankfully I have friends who keep me informed while I sit in the library endlessly coding data.
This is nothing new, of course. Just a different set of characters. Cibulkova who could not handle Stosur's heavy topspin serve and was put on the defensive by Stosur's amazing forehand, thought this meant that Stosur was man-like in her style.
One, it's just pouting. I can't possibly beat a man; no one would expect me to beat a man and this person was playing like a man--so there. It wasn't me. There was nothing I could possibly do.
It did indeed appear there was nothing Cibulkova could do. But it wasn't because suddenly Stosur transformed her game and made it more masculine. It was because Stosur's style is particularly effective against opponents who are short--like Cibulkova. Heavy kick serves mean shorter players are having to hit returns way out of their comfort zones. It is clear that Cibulkova has amazing core strength (something that used to be the domain of male athletes--just sayin') but not enough to overcome solid play by Stosur. And it's not as if Stosur is invincible. Others can beat her. Sara Errani for example. Does that make Errani a man? And I would imagine that Cibulkova has beat players herself who have beaten Stosur. What does that say about Cibulkova?
What she's really saying is "she's a dyke." And because Stosur does not compensate/apologize enough for not being uberfeminine, Cibulkova attacks her. Stosur isn't going to pose naked in a racquet ad. She isn't going to glam it up for lots of photo shoots.
Butterflies would never fly around a naked man.
It's pretty common knowledge that Stosur is gay. But she is not out the way Mauresmo was out. I think if she was, people like Cibulkova would not be able to get away with such comments. The mainstream media made no comments on this--at least not that I have seen. I can't imagine Chrissy Evert touching this with a ten-foot pole during her match commentary. They just let it go.
And Stosur lets it go too. Because it's not her identity or it's not her fight or she's not political.
I guess in tennis when the ball comes into your court--you hit it out of there, fast.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Terms, time, and Title IX

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Each anniversary engenders a good deal of media attention about the equity in education legislation, but this year, of course, the attention is greater. The Title IX Blog has been covering some of the anniversary coverage.
A trend that I have noticed is the focus on the everyday athlete. We are hearing testimonials and personal histories and reflections from women who are not elite athletes. ESPNW is collecting pictures and mini-stories from women of all ages and abilities that are entered into a collage/mosaic on their website.
This opinion piece on an NBC website fits this trend of hearing from the everyday women and the way Title IX affected their lives. Jelisa Castrodale also discusses what she sees among the girls of today and their relationships to sports, the access (often unquestioned) they have to sports, and the ways sport is incorporated into their everyday lives.
The title of the column is "Don't call us tomboys now" based on an encounter the author had with a pre-teen girl who didn't know what a tomboy was and that girls who played outside and liked sports were just girls--no special label needed.
It was a cute story, and certainly Castrodale didn't take the issue of the label tomboy where I am about to take it--but here I go anyway.
There is a documentary called Tomboy about the history of the term and the change in meanings; and the meanings it has for young girls and older women. I recommend it.
And I don't know if the term has gone away or how aware girls under 12 are of the term and if they use/accept/embrace/shun it. But if girls are saying "don't call me a tomboy--I'm a girl and I can do whatever the boys do"; and if society has moved to a point where girls who play outside and get dirty aren't seen as engaging in masculine activities--well great.
But there are a few incongruities here. If girls who are active and play sports don't want to be called boys, why do they allow themselves to be called men when they take the field? Defensemen. First baseman. History is a poor excuse--especially in this case. Are girls changing history by changing the definition of tomboy, but just going along with the hegemonic definitions of sport once they get into higher levels of sport?

Castrodale also raised an issue I have raised before and have some ambivalence over: the play like a girl slogans that allegedly foster empowerment. So do they? Or are they limiting? What should we stress? Differentiation? Sameness? What is equality today? I hope it's different from what it was 40 years ago, but I hope we retain the same passion and dedication toward achieving it that advocates of Title IX did at that time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Burn the skirts!

No--just kidding. Don't burn anything. Fire is dangerous.
But at least female badminton players can ditch their skirts if they would rather play in shorts (or pants I would assume).
The Badminton World Federation has nixed its plans to require female athletes to wear skirts in competitions. There was a sizable enough outcry to make it a rule not worth fighting for. But the federation--still concerned with the aesthetic appeal if its female athletes--is urging the women to look as good as possible for the cameras in London. The men, too, though apparently their appeal is not tied to skirts.
Still looking for more appealing and camera-friendly outfits, though, the BWT is working directly with apparel companies in an attempt to get them to offer players better outfits. So, technically, they could encourage these companies to offer mostly skirts and dresses to women while providing just a few shorts options. But they wouldn't do that, would they?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wishy, washy IOC ridiculousness

Has anyone written about the highly problematic tenure of IOC president Jacques Rogge? I want to fast forward to a few decades from now and read about his legacy. I can't imagine it will be favorable.
The inspiration for these frustrations? The IOC, as lead by Rogge, is still trying to work it out with Saudi Arabian officials to get some Saudi women to London in a few months to compete in the Olympics.
The only firm thing: Rogge said Saudi women will not be competing under the (neutral) IOC flag.
The IOC is getting pressure from human rights groups around the globe to sanction the Saudis if they do not allow women to compete in these games. But Rogge is not ready to talk sanctions.
Some of his comments on the situation:
It's not an easy situation.
We're working steadily with them to find a good solution.
There is a commitment. (to what and by whom?)
We are continuing to discuss with them...
Wait and see.
We do not want to enter into any hypothetical questions.

 Good grief. How much longer is this going to continue?

Poetry Friday

A little Shakespeare; a little (melancholy) spring sonnet.

From you have I been absent in the spring... (Sonnet 98)  

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
     Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
     As with your shadow I with these did play.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's nice when a national leader speaks out...

...against the sexualization of female athletes as epitomized by the Lingerie Football League.
It didn;t happen here in the US. But the Australian Minister of Sports had a few choice words for the Lingerie Football League which is trying to expand its brand down under. Those words included: degrading, cheap, and perv(erted).
I am sure if the US had a minister of sport, s/he would speak out against the LFL. And the Lingerie Basketball League. And the new inline Bikini Hockey League.
Maybe we need a Minister of Sport.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tennis Hall of Fame ducking the issue

In 1992 South African Bob Hewitt was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame. It's possible that I was even there that year to see it. (I'd have to ask my dad.)
What very few knew then was that years later women from all over the globe would come forward with charges of sexual abuse against Hewitt, who served as a tennis coach in the US and abroad after his playing career was over. Various entities are investigating the charges, (the statute of limitations has expired in the US for filing criminal charges) but the Hall of Fame is not one of them--despite earlier promises that they would.
Abuse perpetuated by coaches is not an uncommon as we might like to believe. There have been years and years of silence in a myriad of sport: swimming, gymnastics, figure skating, among others. But sport federations and associations are starting to own up to the past and taking actions in the present to try to prove they will not turn a blind eye to sexual abuse.
When the US Gymnastics Hall of Fame found out last year that one of its inductees was accused of sexual abuse, they took him out of the HoF.
But apparently not wanting to get their hands too dirty with messes that happened long ago, the tennis HoF has opted to make a policy. What the policy will be and whether it will be applied only to potential future inductees is unknown because Executive Director Mark Stenning isn't explaining the policy at all.
It's interesting how the tennis powers that be are handling this situation versus other sports governance bodies. News of bad behavior by athletes and coaches emerges all the time. Sometimes it is handled; sometimes it is handled well; sometimes it is swept under the carpet. Sometimes awards and honors and medals are rescinded.
The people in Newport are sweeping this one as furiously as they possibly can under those nicely manicured grass courts. Stan Smith, current president of the HoF, will not comment on the issue.
And what I hadn't really even thought of--until I read the above-linked Boston Globe article--was that this is not new for the tennis HoF. Andre Agassi admitted to lying about illegal drug use (the tennis community was somewhat complicit in this situation, though). Boris Becker was convicted of tax evasion. Vitus Gerulaitis was connected to a plan to sell cocaine. Bill Tilden was convicted of inappropriate sexual contact with minors.
And this year: Jennifer Capriati is the headline inductee. That picture of her after being arrested for shoplifting and in possession of marijuana is hard to forget.
This is not to say that all these people should automatically be expelled or not up for consideration, but rather that the HoF doesn't seem to be considering the situations at all. Merely talking about them will tarnish the image of the sport--is what the HoF seems to be thinking. But failure to do so will have a much more negative effect.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My existential crisis on a bike

The day was warm, the hills were long or steep--sometimes both. And as I sped down one such hill--a series actually of downhills--I thought "what's the point?" I had climbed and climbed and climbed all morning. And my reward was these downhills. But they didn't feel like a reward. What's the point of all the climbing, of all the hard work if I'm just going to go downhill at 30 miles an hour? Why bother going uphill at all? It's so easy to go downhill. The hours of work is negated in minutes. It is so easy to lose elevation after fighting so hard to go so high. The downhills--which I usually enjoy--felt like failure.
Maybe it was because the roads were bumpy and every time I hit a particularly egregious bump at 30 miles an hour, I was reminded that I really needed to pee. Maybe I was dehydrated. Maybe I was just having a bad day.
I did snap out of it by the end of the ride. Perhaps it was all the recorded reality I was able to examine post ride: how far, how fast, how high I went; how many calories burned. Or maybe it was just the Twizzlers at the finish.

Femininity and running

Several things have conspired to lead to this post--the most recent being that two minutes ago a woman ran by the cafe I am sitting at grading papers wearing a running skirt--just as I was thinking about running skirts and the reasons women give for wearing.
I was thinking about this because of this article about the growth of female distance runners. This piece focuses on Portland, Oregon. It was a smidge of history. I did learn that Joan Benoit Samuelson would walk when a car drove by her as she was running. The piece overall is an important reminder of how women's participation in distance running does not have a long and rich history.
It has a controversial history, however, as noted by the article sent to me by a friend. If you study sport and sport history, you likely know about the one time the IOC decided to let the women run a little bit longer and then they all collapsed from the exertion of running 800 meters and it was too much for people to bear and so they banned distance events for women until the 1980s.
This piece from Running Times notes the hype around the post-event (somewhat constructed) drama in Amsterdam in 1928. Men were shocked at the "spectacle" and fear--the same fear that had carried over from the 19th century about women being desexed, in fertile, and not so pretty anymore (premature aging was the fear in 1928)--reigned. The reporter from the New York Post wrote that he saw "11 wretched women, 5 of whom dropped out before the finish, while 5 collapsed after reaching the tape."
This was not the most accurate of reporting it turns out. There were only nine runners. All of them finished. Only one "collapsed" after the finish line. Not bad given that it was a hot day, the semifinal heats had been run only 24 hours prior and that the top three finishers came in under world record time.
So fast forward to today. Women run--some are still run off the road when they train, and still leered at sexually; apparel and accessories makers are all over the female market. And now we have running skirts.
So that same fear of defeminization clearly still exists. Except now the discourse has been constructed in such a way that women "choose" to feminize themselves. "It’s kind of fun to look feminine when you're running sometimes" said a female manager at a running store in Portland.
If wearing a skirt is really more comfortable when running (inner thigh chub causes a lot of tugging of shorts--I know!) then wear them. Wear them because it's practical. That's what training gear is supposed to be. But if it's the same as running shorts--why reinvent the wheel? Are you really going to go out, as the above cited manager suggests, after your run, to a place where you need to be wearing a running skirt? Are you going someplace where the spandex skirt will compensate for your sweaty and disheveled look in a way that running shorts will not?
A friend of mine wrote her dissertation about running skirts and the industry around women's running. I hope she turns it into a book! So many issues to explore.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


WPS announced that it is folding. Not a surprise. Something most of us have been bracing for.
Tough week. Lost Donna Summers (did my little tribute to her in spin class this morning) and the WPS.
This column lays out the sitch including the role that the former owner of MagicJack had in the league's demise. And it offers some hope to fans of women's soccer.
Don't forget--there are still two semi-professional teams. The Boston Breakers still exist, for example. And it includes premier players.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My weekly "oh my" moment brought to you by...

...the Bikini Hockey League.

One of the first things one teaches in a Sport Sociology course is how to define a sport and the various criteria that have been used at various times in various cultures.
It might be time to add to that conversation about definitions. This league obviously isn't meant to be sport. The tryouts aren't even tryouts. It's a casting call--with no requirement that a potential "player" mention anything about her hockey skills.
And the press release reveals that this is all about creating a reality show--not an actual hockey league.
Sex it up and dumb it down (for audiences) I guess is the motto of this production.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's not an Onion story

A story about the baseball team from Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows Academy forfeiting a state championship because there was a girl playing on the opposing team.
I thought it was a farce.
It is ridiculous--but it is true.
The academy, located in Arizona, is founded and adheres to the principles of the Society of Saint Pius X, a separatist branch of the Catholic Church. One of these tenets is the separate teaching of boys and girls--which extends to sports.
Perpetual Sorrows is a regular season opponent of Mesa Prep--the state winner, by default--but the players in questions, second baseperson Paige Sultzbach had voluntarily sat out of previous encounters. But she didn't think it was fair to forfeit her own rightful place as a player in a state championship. So Perpetual Sorrows opted not to compete.
It's their right to do so of course.  But I wonder what lessons their students are learning from this?

Opting out is not new. Stories about male wrestlers "choosing" not to wrestle female competitors abound. Some have invoke Christianity--i.e., it's not Christian for men to use force against women. I guess it is Christian-like then for women to use force against men? Or for men to use brute, disabling force against other men--like all those Christian-identified football players?
And other St. Pius X schools have either opted out or mandated that people play by their rules. St. Mary's Academy in Kansas successfully (kind of) prevented a female from referring their boys' basketball game. Well, once, at least. The secular high school sports governance body in the state did not seem to condone this. The same school also refused to let its football team play another school whose team had a female student-athlete.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

...and they were convincing

As I mentioned yesterday, the critiques of professional football have trickled down--and created new critiques of both college  and high school and even youth football.
In a public debate on college football, Buzz Bissinger reiterated his argument about the economic and educational costs of college football. On his side of the debate was writer Malcolm Gladwell who focused on the injuries incurred. On the other side of the debate, held on Tuesday night at NYU, were former NFL player and current broadcaster Tim Green and Fox Sports commentator Jason Whitlock.
Polls were taken before the debate, sponsored by Slate and Intelligence Squared, and then afterwards. Bissinger and Gladwell had a solid majority and seemed to have swayed the most people with their arguments. Green and Whitlock pointed out things like the lack of long-term studies on brain injuries, the camaraderie of the game, and that it teaches diversity, tolerance, and cooperation. (My guess is that gay men probably didn't have that universal experience of tolerance and respect for diversity.) They also promoted the connection to patriotism. Probably not the best argument to sway a Slate-reading, NYU-attending audience.
Anyway, the coverage of the debate is worth checking out. What comes of it is worthy of many, many more debates.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Glad someone said it

I was having deep discussions with my collaborator just yesterday about how to make changes in intercollegiate athletics that benefit both women and racial minorities. Football always seems like this monstrous blockade to potential solutions.
It's hard to simply say "nix football."
But someone has. The writer of Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger, has written a column for the Wall Street Journal saying that football serves no purpose in colleges and universities--causing more harm than good. He focuses mostly on the economic harms and the false promises football makes.
He doesn't even mention the physical harm to players, an issue that has become even more salient since Junior Seau's suicide last week.
Frank Deford does though in his weekly NPR piece. He notes that even as former NFL players pursue their class action suit against the league over safety issues, that the lower levels of the game should also be concerned. According to Deford, 5 million teens play youth or high school football and half of them have had concussions. A third of them have had multiples.
When do we, as a society, start engaging in a reasonable cost-benefit analysis regarding the role of football in our schools and as a favored mode of entertainment?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Poetry Friday

I'm hanging out at Yale today so I thought I would put up a poem by an alum. J.D. McClatchy earned his PhD here in the 70s. I like this poem--perhaps even more so because I don't relate to it all. Have no experience of being a middle aged man with a boggy prostrate. But I still it's a great piece of (good) nostalgia, longing, reluctance.


It's over, love.  Look at me pushing fifty now,
   Hair like grave-grass growing in both ears,
The piles and boggy prostate, the crooked penis,
   The sour taste of each day's first lie,

And that recurrent dream of years ago pulling
   A swaying bead-chain of moonlight,
Of slipping between the cool sheets of dark
   Along a body like my own, but blameless.

What good's my cut-glass conversation now, 
   Now I'm so effortlessly vulgar and sad?
You get from life what you can shake from it?
   For me, it's g and t's all day and CNN.  

Try the blond boychick lawyer, entry level
   At eighty grand, who pouts about the overtime, 
Keeps Evian and a beeper in his locker at the gym, 
   And hash in tinfoil under the office fern.  

There's your hound from heaven, with buccaneer 
   Curls and perfumed war-paint on his nipples.  
His answering machine always has room for one more 
   Slurred, embarrassed call from you-know-who.  

Some nights I've laughed so hard the tears 
   Won't stop.  Look at me now.  Why now?  
I long ago gave up pretending to believe 
   Anyone's memory will give as good as it gets.  

So why these stubborn tears?  And why do I dream 
   Almost every night of holding you again, 
Or at least of diving after you, my long-gone, 
   Through the bruised unbalanced waves?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Would they be sexy if they wore pink?

I know I'm a slacker blogger whenever Dr. Pants sends me a link to a blogworthy story/article/column.
This one is especially good because it's about female fandom, soccer, and sex objects--and people who say dumb things. 
This time is was an employee of Major League Soccer (MLS) who disparaged avid female soccer fans basically by calling them unsexy. A few issues about this statement:
First, as the author of this opinion piece on Bust Magazine's blog notes, women do not exist for the sole purpose of being sexy for men.
Second, can soccer in the US really afford to be disparaging fans? Haven't we heard over and over how unpopular soccer is in this country?
Third, a question: so what's this all about?
I haven't seen or heard of similar critiques of female fans in other sports. And there are some pretty avid fans out there of, for example, various NFL teams. Is it because these avid soccer fans are wearing team or country colors and not pink, deep V-neck, tight-fitting shirts?? The media I have read about female fans of men's professional sports has been positive--well in terms of being supported and even advocated for by league officials and administrators. A "new" fan base that we can make and sell products to? Great--bring em on! Though this guy does speak for MLS in that he said these things about unsexy avid fans on a podcast in his position as a representative of MLS--it does not necessarily mean he speaks for the entire organization. If and how MLS responds to this remains to be seen.
So, then, is this a territory thing? Are only men allowed to be avid fans, painting their faces, buying team gear? Are women as fans a threat somehow? The guy said that it would be a turnoff to guys if a woman got all geared up and listened to podcasts about soccer all the time. Why? Because that's a man's job? It's very curious to me. I thought one of the complaints that heterosexual men had was that their female partners did not understand their obsession with sports. These women seem to understand--and embrace--avid fandom. So why isn't the MLS embracing them?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Poetry Friday

After a little hiatus, Poetry Friday is back--just in time--or rather, half a month late--for National Poetry Month.

I like W.G. Sebald and stars so this one seemed appropriate.

The Sky at Night
A belated excursion to
the stone collection
of our feelings

Little left here
worth showing

Is there
from an anthropological perspective
a need for love

Or merely for
yearnings easy
to disappoint

Which stars
go down
as white dwarfs

What relation
does a heavy heart bear
to the art of comedy

Does the hunter
Orion have answers
to such questions

Or are they
too closely guarded
by the Dog Star

Thursday, April 26, 2012

OMG! There's a trans person in the locker room!

I only found about this story from a FB friend who posted a link to the petition on
And despite my searches for more info--I cannot find any. So I wonder if this is actually making news in Beverly--which, coincidentally, is my home town.
So a woman was told she cannot take her daughter into the children's locker room before swim lessons at the Beverly YMCA--where I once was a little guppy trying to work her way up to dolphinhood.
Why can this mother not take her daughter into the kids' locker room? Because the woman was born a man. And apparently she still has "male eyes" and her gender presentation is confusing to people.
First (though in no particular order), pretty condemning of men, no? All men are looking at little girls with leering eyes is the suggestion here. Of course, the message could (most likely?) be that a transwoman is more likely to be some kind of pervert.
Second, let's perhaps use this as a teachable moment, people of the Beverly YMCA. Biology does not equal gender, trans or male does not equal pedophile.
I have certain issues with the binary gender system--but the mother in question has "complied" with all the requirements for womanhood. Does she not look the part you expect her to play? Or do you not like the version of the gender game she is playing?
I frequently encounter people who confuse me--not in their presentation--in their mindsets. Can I take my white, cisgendered, middle class privilege and ban them from the spaces I occupy?

Here is the petition.
The director of the Beverly Y is Judith Cronin.
Here is her contact info:


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Women's Hockey Worlds

Two weekends ago I headed north to Burlington, Vermont for a quick, last-minute getaway that happened to coincide with the IIHF Women's Hockey World Championships. (Timing is everything!) Here is what I observed:
Nothing indicated as we drove into Burlington that this event was taking place. I did however learn about when the farmers' market was starting and an upcoming parade. So that was a bummer. The store on the pedestrian mall that sells UVM merchandise did have a window display of USA Hockey gear and a poster of Jenny Potter and Angela Ruggiero (who actually "retired" this year and so wasn't playing--oops!).
Also good--the day we arrived was the day of the US versus Canada first-round game. Tickets were sold out--good sign generally. Not so much for us. But thank goodness for iPhones and craigslist and some good bargaining skills. Tickets were scored a few hour before game time.
And the game was amazing--if you were an American fan. I actually was more interested in seeing a good game regardless of the winner since both teams would be advancing regardless of the outcome. But holy crap--the display of skill and fitness that the US team put on was amazing. Harvard's Katey Stone was coaching this team. And though they didn't win the whole thing, I think the way she got this team into incredible form should put her into contention for the job at the next Olympics.

That's a very large jersey!
So, yeah, the US lost to Canada to the finals in overtime. And of course there was plenty of press--not so much about the championships themselves (i.e. reporting on games, players, plays, coaching) but on the state of women's hockey. A somewhat contested state since the last Olympics when we saw quite lopsided scores and heard the higher ups in the IOC saying women's hockey had to get its act in gear (i.e. move quickly toward parity) if it wanted to stay in the games. I think they would encounter huge opposition if they just eliminated women's hockey. Not that the IOC seems to do a whole lot more than pay lip service to gender equity.
This article out of Canada discusses the difference between women's hockey in North American (well Canada and the US) and Europe because of 1) the growth of intercollegiate hockey in the US which benefits both the Americans and Canadians (a few Europeans) and 2) the resistance from the old boys' network in Europe where women's hockey has had some trouble being recognized as legitimate.

Also in the above link we learn, from a Canadian administrator (the GF turned to me turning the game and asked why so many old white guys were running women's sports; she's clearly been hanging with me too long) that at  the beginning of the women's championships (1990) they decided not to have checking because parents--especially mothers--didn't want to see girls being taken off the ice on stretchers.
Grrr....violence and pain is socially acceptable, encouraged even, for boys and men, though. I just assigned Don Sabo's article, "Pigskin, Patriarchy, and Pain" about the social rewards boys and men receive for engaging in violence and enduring pain in the context of sports--and the physical and emotional price they pay for it. I don't want to see checking in hockey--anywhere. But I think the difference in the rules reinforces the various hegemonies at work here: pain and violence is good for me; and the women's game is inferior because they are not as physical.

But observers and participants say progress is being made. Ruggiero noted that countries with historically strong men's teams, like Russia, need to do more, however, to grow their women's program.  But it was a goo sign when Switzerland won the bronze at this year's championships. It was the country's first medal in women's hockey.