3 Letters Make A Big Difference for WNBA’s Taurasi

9 10 2009

Does anyone else find it ironic that WNBA player  Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury went from DUI in July to 2009 WNBA MVP in  September and WNBA Champion in October? Perhaps more interesting is that the DUI was rarely  mentioned at all in the last few weeks of the WNBA playoffs. What are your thoughts on this? I’m mixed. I’d love to hear what you’re thinking.





FINALLY! A Worthy Comparison

9 10 2009

wnbaOn the eve of the final WNBA playoff game, I just watched a fantastic video made by a WNBA Intern, that I saw due to a Tweet by Minnesota Lynx player Candice Wiggins (@candicwiggins). In the video, clips featuring similar plays from the NBA and WNBA are shown back-to-back or simultaneously.  What this sets up is that WNBA players are as athletic as, and do exactly the same exciting plays as their NBA counterparts. Female athletes are depicted in action, on the court, in uniform doing what they do best (in contrast to passive, off the court, and NOT in *cough* uniform Serena Williams). Brilliant! Usually when female athletes are compared to male athletes, the male version of the game is constructed as “better than”, more exciting, or the real version. Not in this video!

Advice to the WNBA: HIRE THIS INTERN. Whomever you are Intern, NICE WORK! This is exactly the kind of marketing and fresh thinking the WNBA needs to sustain the league.

Update: I’ve been advised that credit may be due to more than one intern. In that case, hire them all!





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.





Brains & Beauty: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

28 09 2009

dallas_cowboys_diamondBlog reader S.C. sent me a story about the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (DCC’s). Evidently the DCC’s have to take and pass a 100-question test in order be on the squad. Questions include “everything from the governor of Texas to a country that borders Iraq.” Rick Reilly, the author of the story for ESPN.com, poses a great critical question: If the Cowboys football players had to take the same quiz to make the team, how many would pass? To see some of the questions, which have nothing to do with football, see Reilly’s piece. After reading the GQ story on brain trauma of NFL players, it might be less likely that players would fare well on the exam.

Kelli Finglass, the DCC Leader says, “We want our cheerleaders to be knowledgeable and well-spoken in interviews…If they’re not, it’s a deal breaker.” To follow Reilly’s line: Is a non-literate or ill-spoken football player a “deal breaker” for the Cowboys? Who is more likely to be in the media spotlight and give interviews on national television (or any television for that matter!), cheerleaders or football players?

The bigger question may be, why are the DCC’s held to a different standard than the players? Share your thoughts with me.





Weekend Gender Observations

21 09 2009

Notre Dame Football3This past weekend I traveled back to Notre Dame (ND) for the Michigan State football game. I go back every other year to catch a game and see former colleagues. While I was there I observed a few things I had to share related to how females are marginalized and gender is (re)produced in subtle and not to subtle ways. Here are the Top 5:

1. On Friday morning I played golf at the beautiful links style ND Warren Golf Course. When I worked at ND I would decide to golf after work and show up at the course and be assigned a tee time with a group that had room for one more. Mostly I played with all men. As we stood on the tee box, I would invariable get “advice” from one or more of the men on how to play, how to hit a drive etc….They would tee off first, and then we’d go up to the “Ladies Tees” where I would hit. When I play frequnetly I can hit a 200 yard drive which often surpasses some of the mens’ drives. After that I didn’t get any more advice. I wondered, do men give other men advice on the first tee? Why do men feel compelled to give females paternalistic advice on how to play golf when they have no idea how skilled she may or may not be?

2. One of the traditions of ND football is the Friday night pep rally. While at the pep rally, a distinguished alum and former NFL player was challenging the crowd to cheer loudly for the Irish. He said he was told to keep it “PC”. He told the crowd they should stand the whole game to show support. He then told the players to be tough and not let Michigan State control the game in “their house.” He said if the players wanted to be weak and soft he told them, “You should go to school across the street” (meaning attend the all-women’s sister school St. Mary’s College). To my surprise, a few people in the crowd booed him.

3. While wandering around campus I came across the 2008-09 ND men’s & women’s basketball schedule posters (see picture). 2008-09 nd posters Given the research on portrayals of female athletes we have conducted in the Tucker Center, I noticed immediately that ALL the male athletes were in uniform, in action, and on the court. Some of the female athletes were in uniform, in action, and on the court but the dominant image was the “team shot.” These two posters convey very different messages about athletic competence.

4. On my way home I was checking Facebook and email on my phone when I saw a Facebook post that read: “Eagirls v. New Orleans“…meaning the Eagles were playing the New Orleans Saints. This person felt the Eagles were not playing well, which meant they were playing like girls.

5. Last but not least and related to #1 above…I wandered into an airport book store to find a new book to read on the way home. I came across a book written by man titled, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. I was curious so I picked it up. I’d encourage you to take a look at the table of contents, depending on your perspective you’ll find it infuriating, entertaining or informative.

I think these example speak for themselves. Comments?





See & Hear Game Footage of the LFL Now!

15 09 2009

lfl_logo“Serious” game footage of “beautiful football” from the Lingerie Football League replete with (sexist) commentary of male sportscasters now available! (Scroll down about half a page to the video section and click on “Week 1: Chicago v. Miami Highlights”)





Has (Women’s) Tennis Gone to the Dogs?

30 08 2009

The U.S. Open Tennis Tournament starts tomorrow. After reading “Pets Are the Portable Part of a Tennis Player’s Entourage” in the August 30, 2009 New York Times online, I winced internally. Even before reading the story, I thought to myself, “I bet this story is all about dogs owned by female professional tennis players.” I read the story waiting and hoping that just one male player with a furry canine tournament companion would be mentioned. Nada. So it left me with many questions.Tennis, Anyone_

Owning a dog is an equal opportunity activity, so why does it appear that only women players have dogs as part of their entourage? The NYT article offers some explanations that are predictable such as companionship, relieves boredom, dogs don’t care if you win or lose their tails always wag, and dogs calm nerves and ease stress to name a few. But the doggie gender gap in pro tennis seems odd to me.

Are male tennis players dog haters? Are the women pros more lonely on tour than the men, therefore travel with dogs to ease the solitary life of tennis travel? Neither of these explanations seem likely or realistic. Do male players in reality travel with dogs but this is not a “media worthy” story? What does it say if a male travels with a dog verses a female player? A dog is an appropriate companion for women but not males? If females have a doggie buddy does it make them appear more feminine? Therefore if a male player had a little Poodle or Yorkie, it might not be perceived as manly–would his competitive nature be called into question? But male players could have a Pitbull or German Shepard or even a Yellow Lab, but I get that traveling with a small dog is much easier and cost effective. Facetiousness aside, why are the dogs of female pro tennis players newsworthy on the eve of a Grand Slam? Is there no other news in women’s tennis? Does coverage of dogs marginalize female players’ athleticism? Does it make them appear less serious and more frivolous…likening them to celebutante Paris Hilton? Does it somehow further construct a brand of femininity that is marketable? What do you think?

Besides news that (women’s) tennis has gone to the dogs, be sure to keep your critical eye on how the media covers two players who have something in common–their parents! Kim Clijsters returns after a two year maternity leave and Roger Federer is a new father of twins. Which player will we hear more “parent talk” about and more discussion of how parenthood affects one’s tennis performance? Any guesses?

note: picture from Free Dog Wallpapers.