A Pattern Has Emerged

8 10 2009

I’m not a big fan of ESPN The Magazine, as I’ve written about their cover photos and coverage of women’s sport in a previous blog….or should I say LACK of coverage that focuses on athleticism, rather than being feminine and sexy.

Serena ESPN mag_Oct 2009

Their latest series of 6 covers for the October 19, 2009  “The Body Issue” has Serena Williams posing naked (thanks for the head’s up EH). It seems to me a recent pattern has emerged.

Here is the pattern:

1) A Black female athlete performs well and dominates opponents,

2) During the course of competition she acts outside prescribed gender norms (i.e., looks like a man, yells and argues with a referee),

3) Subsequently she is grilled and sanctioned by the public and the media,

4) Therefore she has to recover by performing versions of the female athlete apologetic by literally apologizing like S. Williams, and/or highlighting heterosexy femininity on the cover of  magazines. I’m talking about first, Caster Semenya and now Serena Williams (see picture here).

Underlying sport media portrayals of highly talented Black female athletes are racism and sexism. I suppose my blog title should really read…A Pattern Has REemerged.

NOTE: If you want to see the making of The Body Issue and gain insight to the ‘issue’ (and see a whole lot naked) click here.

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4 responses

11 10 2009
Lorraine Williams

Love your site…Found it on a Sunday afternoon search.Keep up the great work..Didn’t know about the cover of ESPN nether will my 10 year old girl athlete.

TrackMom.Com

12 10 2009
nmlavoi

Lorraine,
Thanks for your interest in the blog! I hope you’ll visit often. -nml

12 10 2009
ken

I completely agree with your assessment of the pattern of apologetic behavior. And I don’t disagree that Serena’s cover–which deemphasizes her athletic build–does contribute to that. But I am almost certain that this shoot was done well before the US Open. And it’s not surprising. Serena engages frequently in such apologetic behavior even when she has not done something as publicly egregious as her US Open outburtst. She is one of the many women on the tour that has bought into the sex sells model of women’s tennis.
I would be interested to know when the cover decision was made, though. Whether she was also going to be one of the covers or whether that decision was made, and by whom and for what reasons, after the US Open.

12 10 2009
nmlavoi

Good points Ken! Tracing these covers back to the decision makers and their thought processes is always an interesting task. -nml

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