On Champagne, Cigars, Celebrating, and Chicks (i.e., female athletes)

27 02 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Canadian women’s hockey team post gold medal controversial celebrations in the last 24 hrs.

My initial reaction was “What?, this is not good for women’s sports“. I have some new thoughts after taking a step back.

1. I realize my reaction was very US-centric and most Canadians feel this is not newsworthy (as Michelle posted in my previous blog) or a big deal. Is my reaction, and of those who share this viewpoint a result that Canada won the game and put a dent in American chauvinism?


2. This issue has definitely brought to light the double standards for behavior that exist for men and women, and athletes are no exception. On one hand I thought, “Why not? Celebrate, you won the gold medal!…the men do it all the time!” But on the other hand, is following the men’s lead or reproducing male celebratory traditions a good thing?  I keep thinking back to the 1999 World Cup when Brandi Chastain whipped off her shirt to expose her Nike sports bra after the USA secured the win in penalty kicks. Chastain’s behavior was both roundly criticized (that isn’t appropriate for women to do! She is sexualizing herself!) and applauded (finally we get to see a strong, athletic female body!). In an attempt to justify the post-bra incident, Chastain and others stated “the guys do this all the time”. Why is it that women have to justify their (inappropriate) celebratory actions following amazing athletic achievements with the disclaimer “the men do it!”?  This complicates the issue because it at once normalizes the behavior (see the men do it, so we can too) but makes it seem unladylike precisely because the men do it.

3. Many people I talked and listened to stated, “I’d have the same reaction if the men’s team did the same thing”. I’m not sure this is entirely true. What this statement does is erase the gendered component inherent in this event. Sports are not gender neutral or gender blind activities, so the reaction is inextricably linked to the fact the athletes were female and we have expectations for how men and women are supposed to behave.

4. I think one of the issues at play here is we just don’t get to SEE strong, powerful, female athletes celebrating in such a public way because women’s sports are so rarely covered in sport media. This type of celebration might be commonplace, but we don’t see it. When the Yankees win the World Series or the Lakers win the NBA Championships we see their celebrations–in fact an extra half hour is usually devoted to covering the celebrations both on the field and in the locker room.

I might have more thoughts about this, but for now…what do you think?

update 2/28/10: a Canadian colleague passed this article from The Winnipeg Free Press, that has an interesting and new point…happy athletes…oh my!





Thoughts on Bras, (Soccer) Balls, & Bikes

10 07 2009

A few random things to think about over the weekend:

SICover_1999 world cup team1. As the 10th Anniversary of the 1999 Women’s World Cup in upon us, pay attention to how the media constructs this historic event. Will the focus be on a) the US win and competitive achievement, b) Brandi Chastain’s offing-the-soccer jersey to expose her Nike sports-bra (see the NCAA Double-A Zone), c) the “girls of summer” (i.e., the wholesome, attractive, All-American darlings that everyone fell in love with) many of whom are now mothers, d) how the historic event gave notice that people DO like to watch women’s sports (especially when it is promoted in the media and marketed) (see Christine Brennan’s USA Today column, e) how the team provided role models for young boys and girls, or f) spawned two women’s professional soccer leagues (see WPS) …..or perhaps some of all of the above? I’ll be curious to see what dominant messages arise.

women cycling2. The Tour de France is underway! Will Lance Armstrong really win it yet again? It got me thinking…why don’t women ride in the Tour de France? I did a little sleuthing and found no real answers but there IS a race called Le Grand Boucle (“the great loop”) which is been held off and on roughly over the last 15 years. The women’s race is shorter, has varied in the number of stages (the men’s race has 21), and the 2009 race will be just four days long “due to organizational difficulties” (according to Wikipedia..take it for what you will). If you know French, you can see the official website of Le Grand Boucle…je parlez un peu francais. It makes me think that the exclusion of women in the Tour de France is arbitrary, and the shorter “lesser than” women’s race, serves to perpetuate existing and historical gender hierarchies in sport that privilege male athletes.