2 Important Firsts in Sport for Marginalized Groups

12 11 2010

1. Afghanistan is poised to get their first national women’s team. The sport will be cricket and the Afghanistan Cricket Board feels cricket will allow the women to play a sport but remain consistent with Islamic tradition and values. To read more about the team click here.

2. This weekend a historic basketball game will be played here at the University of Minnesota’s Best Buy Classic. Kye Allums will be the first transgender athlete to play a NCAA D-I basketball game. He is a Minnesota native and I think it quite fitting he play this historic game in his home state. In light of the new report released a few weeks ago on transgender athletes, perhaps Allums courageous will help forward dialogue and policy. To read the original article on OutSports.com that broke the story click here.

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Gone to Cali

4 11 2010

I’m currently in San Diego for the North American Society of Sport Sociology (NASSS) conference. Will try to blog when time allows.





Hazing Has No Place in Sports

28 10 2010

Every week I hear stories from across the country about hazing in sport contexts. The recent attention nationally around bullying, including a stand from the White House, illustrates the seriousness of these issues and that social change is necessary. Here in Minnesota a hazing incident involving a MN high school football team garnered a lot of media attention. Unfortunately, stories of hazing in high school and college sports is not uncommon. I teach a hazing unit  in my Psychology of Coaching class, so I’ve been thinking about this issue for some time.

I feel it is important to educate current and future coaches, parents and athletes that hazing has no place in sports (or any context!). Here are some of the reasons why hazing should not be tolerated, punished swiftly and severely, and not minimized as harmless “teasing.”  To hear me talk about hazing, you can watch an interview I did with Fox 9 News.

There are some great resources available about hazing including HazingPrevention.org and StopHazing.org

  • Hazing is a serious issue in which psychological or physical harm is intentionally inflicted in order to gain membership to a group, and in that way it is different than teasing. The guidelines for what constitutes hazing can be found here.
  • Many myths of hazing include: it is harmless, the victim agreed or consented to do it so it isn’t that big of a deal, it is tradition, it teaches respect and discipline, or it is just kids having fun…but these are just that, myths. Hazing is an act of power and control over others. One of the myths is that hazing is just “boys being boys.” If physical and psychological harm is attributed to “boys being boys” than this societal belief needs to be challenged and changed. What does this message teach young men and boys? Unfortunately this type language is used repeatedly to normalize or minimize the bad behavior of those who haze.
  • Hazing is typically used as a means to achieve team membership, improve performance, teach respect or discipline, reflect a sign of tradition, and/or to facilitate team bonding, but in reality hazing events are embarrassing, degrading, can be physically and/or psychologically harmful, can cause resentment and hostility, and undermine trust, positive relationships, and team cohesion.
  • It is quite common despite educational efforts to thwart the occurrence of hazing. Exact numbers are not known due to the fact most hazing goes unreported as the victims are under a veil of secrecy, don’t want to call out their peers, and face the potential of more hazing, retaliation, or losing friends. Statistics vary but between 50-80% of all students report being hazed.
  • Most kids, and many adults, think hazing is normal and just accept it uncritically, but there are some questions that can be asked to help discern if it is indeed hazing.
    • Am I asked to keep it a secret?
    • Would I want my parents, teachers, principle or coach to know?
    • Would I want this in the newspapers or on TV?
    • Is there risk of injury or is it safe?
  • Hazing is common enough to cause concern. Experts on hazing argue proactive, consistent, and explicit educational effort to coaches, parents, and athletes is the best preventative measure along with firm policies and strong consequences. Many coaches turn a blind eye and view it as harmless team fun, when in fact it is a serious issue.

There are far better and more positive ways to build team cohesion, mutual respect and create positive relationships among athletes than hazing rituals.





New Report on Transgender Athletes

13 10 2010

A new report on transgender athletes titled “On the Team: Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student Athletes” is the first ever to thoroughly address the complete integration of transgender student athletes within high school and collegiate athletic programs. The report is also the first to provide comprehensive model policies and a framework for athletic leaders to ensure equal access to school athletics for transgender students.

This groundbreaking report is sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and It Takes A Team!, an Initiative of the Women’s Sports Foundation, is urging high school and college athletic associations across the country to adopt standard policies to provide transgender student athletes fair and equal opportunity to participate on athletic teams.

The report provides:
·        Model policies—created by leading athletic, legal, and medical experts—for including transgender students in both high school and college athletics that ensure the safety, privacy, and dignity of all student athletes.
·        Specific best practice recommendations for athletic administrators, coaches, student athletes, parents, and the media.
·         A thorough analysis of issues related to providing equal opportunities for transgender student athletes.
·         An in-depth list of local and national resources to help address transgender issues in athletics.
·         Definitions of key terms, as well as information about the legal rights of transgender people in the United States.

The report is authored by Pat Griffin, former director of It Takes A Team!, and Helen Carroll, NCLR Sports Project Director.  Content of this blog was taken from the NCLR press release for the report.

11/16/2010: Article by Dave Zirin, Acceptance of GW transgender basketball player a good life lesson






Telling sport cartoon

28 09 2010

Cartoon in MN Daily student newspaper 9/27/2010





Observations from a summer of golf

24 09 2010

So I’ve been golfing again this summer, which I’ve enjoyed. I even have a handicap now like a real golfer. It isn’t very good, despite my image of myself as a scratch golfer. Hey, as someone trained in sport psychology I’m imagining my future goal!

I have a few observations from my summer of golf. I would love to hear from others if your experiences have been similar.

1. This past weekend I went “up north” (to non-Minnesotans, that means north of the Twin Cities to Lake Country) with a friend to test two premier courses, The Classic and Deacon’s Lodge. It was a beautiful weekend so the courses were busy. We golfed both courses and saw a TOTAL of ONE other female on the course besides the two of us the entire weekend. ONE.

2. The results of my mini-research study conducted over the summer lead me to conclude that if a female is playing with a male golfer, he CANNOT resist giving the female golfer tips and advice. CAN-NOT. Even if the female is a better golfer than he.

3. If there is a twosome or more of women playing golf together, the assumption is that we play SLOW. Conversely, if a twosome or more of women are behind a group of men, the men will NOT hurry one bit. They will spend minutes looking for a lost ball that will never be found, and have no regard for the group of women behind them. I have  a sneaky suspicion some hustle would arise if the group behind them waiting were comprised of males.

I found a YouTube video of a male golfer who talks about his observations of Sexism on the Golf Course, and his suggestions on how to change the climate of golf that often isn’t very friendly to women.





A response to fans of the NYT “Women Who Hit Hard” piece

8 09 2010

In a past post I critiqued the NYT Magazine “Women Who Hit Hard” piece on female professional tennis players, and argued the expose was “soft core porn that had nothing to do with tennis”. While it is a strong statement, I stand by it, even when others disagree with me including Laura Pappano of Fairgamenews.com and a blogger on After Ellen. As always I welcome dialogue about this topic, and present here a critical perspective.

Some more specific reasons based on sport media scholarship to back up my claim are below which further expand why I think this piece is particularly problematic.

Image of Kim Clijsters in NYT Magazine p 30-31, August 29, 2010

1. In sport media, scholars have used the term “ambivalence” (Duncan & Hasbrook, 1988) to describe how female athletes are routinely marginalized in the media. Ambivalence is manifest when two statements, or a picture and the text, are contradictory and conflicting. One seems positive and flattering, and the other has subtle or overt negative, sexualizing or belittling tones.  The NYT piece is classic ambivalence. The article is quite positive and includes discussion of the depth of the women’s field, the increased global audience and prize money, and how much stronger and more fit female players are today. However, the accompanying slide show and particularly the video are what make the packaged piece ambivalent.

Sam Stosur

The 2 biggest pictures, both two-page  color spreads (dare I say centerfolds?), are the most sexualizing. First, the picture of Kim Clijsters (included here) in gold dust has nothing to do with tennis. You can’t tell she is even a tennis player from looking at the picture. Second, the picture of Sam Stosur (also included here) has her playing in a nude tube top, a piece of equipment she would NEVER play a match in.

In fact last night watching the US Open, Clijsters played Stosur in the fourth round in a great match.  So last night when I was watching the match, I thought to myself “Who is Stosur? I’ve never heard of her or seen her.” So I looked her up and found out she is an accomplished Aussie player. Is wasn’t until I sat down to write this blog and looked at the pics again that I put 2 and 2 together…the woman featured in this picture and the woman I watched last night were the same person! My point is, if we want to increase recognition of female athletes, this is NOT the way to do it. Emerging research indicates that sex does not sell women’s sport (I’ve written about this numerous times in the blog but to read one click here, or click on the “sexualization” blog tag)

The videos are also ambivalent. Yes they feature strong female athletes hitting the ball, which many think is really cool, but the slow motion, ballerina music, and the elongated shot time on the buttocks, crotch, and chest areas make it contradictory and sexualizing. Not to mention the make-up, hair down, and wearing of uniforms that most of the WTA players would dare not play.

2. Sport media scholars, study patterns of portrayals of female athletes, namely if the athlete is in uniform, on the court, and in action. The slides and videos do portray all three…kind of (I’ll expand on this point below).

3. Females athletes get so little coverage from sport and regular media, that when they are covered and it is in sexualized ways, it undermines their athletic achievements. In fact, in a recent report “Gender in Televised Sports” by two well-known sport media scholars, Professors Michael Messner and Cheryl Cooky, based on the data they illustrate that network sport coverage of female athletes is at an all time low–only 1.6% which was a decline from 6.3% in 2004!

Therefore, based on the data we rarely see females athletes, and when we do it often resembles soft core porn (or “muscle porn” as one person on the After Ellen blog dubbed it). Even though we disagree on this one, I agree with Laura Pappano’s statement below when she argues in her blog “ We have to find a way to consider athletic female bodies without automatically finding that because they are fit they are sex objects.”  Unfortunately because we see athletic female bodies in primarily sexualized ways, it will be hard to tease out bodies, fitness levels, and athleticism without objectifying those same bodies. The  NYT Magazine pieces only perpetuate the problem by again linking the female athleticism to sexualized bodies. What we have to get away from is the thinking pattern that female athletes and women’s sport is only interesting and marketable when their bodies are highlighted and sold. Highlight their athletic bodies in a natural setting–on the court (the real court, not a blacked out studio setting), in action (hitting real tennis balls not rolled in glitter), and in uniform (a real uniform in which certain body parts would not fly out or be exposed upon moving or hitting a real tennis ball).

To illustrate my point, imagine a similar NYT expose on ATP male professional players such as Nadal, Murray, Roddick, and Federer with their shirts off, chests oiled with gold glitter stuck to their muscles, glammed up, hair spiked, wearing super tight and short tennis shorts, lips slightly parted, hitting balls rolled in chalk or glitter to the same music. Wouldn’t that seem weird?

I invite further dialogue and counter arguments to this blog. What do you think?