I’m re-posting a poster on Economic Inequality & Female Coaches in honor of Equal Pay Day 2013. #EqualPayDay
March Madness 2013 is now in full swing. As we approach our brackets, be aware of how women’s basketball and female athletes are covered and discussed in the media, compared to men’s basketball and male athletes. If you haven’t read Kate Fagan’s piece on espnW titled “What Brittney Griner says about us?”…you should. Fagan outlines why some people negatively react to Griner and why it matters. After I read her piece, I thought it may be worth sharing here an OpEd I wrote that was published in the Boston Herald in 2006, a few days before the Women’s Final Four began in Beantown.
After you read the OpEd, I’d like to know if you think the argument has changed? If you insert ‘Griner’ for “Parker’ would it still ring true? I contend it has, and in fact the negative comments and critique of Griner has been far more egregious than what Candace Parker endured. This is precisely what Fagan discusses…and it is important to bring attention to the fact female athletes still face discrimination, marginalization and other barriers than preclude them from being seen as equally athletic to their male counterparts.
To dunk or not to dunk in women’s collegiate basketball? (originally published in the Boston Herald, April 1, 2006)
Candace Parker is changing girls’ and women’s basketball. In 2004 Parker won the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest over the best boys in the country. Last week, 6’4” Parker made history by completing two dunks in a first-round NCAA Tournament game. While many applaud past and current dunks as advancing the sport and female athletic potential, others are quick to criticize Parker’s dunks as the demise of the women’s game citing various reasons such as; (1) The dunk is seen as undermining the quality of the men’s game. Thus, dunks are an unworthy pursuit for women; (2) Focusing on the dunk takes away from the array of women’s basketball skills (dribbling, passing, shooting); (3) No one wants to see women dunking, that is — acting like men.
What is missing from the conversation is how women’s dunks, and the commentary around them, simultaneously positively promote, change, and oppress women’s basketball.
A double standard exists for dunking women. On one hand, if a woman dunks, she may be criticized for showboating, and for trying to be “like a man.” Similarly, her dunk is dismissed and compared to men’s dunks as “not a real dunk,” “less than,” or lacking proper elevation above the rim. On the other hand, the lack of female dunking in games is often used as a reason why some people lack interest in the women’s game and as evidence the women’s game is a “lesser” version of basketball. Dunking women are damned if they dunk, and dunked if they do.
The frequency and magnitude of the media’s coverage in recognizing Parker’s achievement can create change in and of itself. The public rarely gets to see or hear about women’s exhibition of skills that are considered male — especially in a sport that is as highly valued and close to the cultural center of male sport — such as basketball. Underlying the hype around Parker’s dunks, however, is an unspoken fear. The dunk has long provided irrefutable, natural (i.e. biological) evidence of male sport superiority. Dunking females threaten male sport superiority by challenging the separation of “men’s sports” and “women’s sports.” Dunking females provide evidence of a continuum of sports performance, where many women routinely outperform many men (e.g., many 6’4” male basketball players have never dunked in a game) and possess strength, ability and speed in equal and greater capacities than men. The dunk confirms female athleticism and potential when equal access, opportunity, and quality training and coaching are provided for girls.
Dunking is a worthy pursuit for girls and women. Dunking is not a proven gateway of demise for basketball. Even if one believes it has contributed to a decrease in the quality of the men’s game, a similar fate in the women’s game is not a given. Dunking adds to the skill array of women’s basketball. People do want to see women dunk. Dribbling skillfully through defenders does not make ESPN SportsCenter’s “Top Plays of the Week.” Unquestionably, women’s dunks provide increased exposure and coverage of women’s basketball. The dunk is constantly promoted by the media as the dynamic standard of performance and skill, which communicates its societal importance and value in basketball. Why should the standard be different for women? Because discouraging women from the pursuit of dunking under the paternal guise of what is best for the women’s game, will keep women’s basketball subordinate to men’s basketball.
The dunk at its worst can be used as a means to maintain women’s sports as “less than,” thereby reinforcing notions of a gender binary of “women’s sports” and “men’s sports,” while also perpetuating traditional stereotypes of femininity and masculinity. The dunk at its best can be a change mechanism for people’s perceptions about, and interest in, women’s basketball, and girls’ and women’s sport in general. To that end, girls and women go forth– be strong, fast and powerful and dunk, dunk, dunk!
See my post for the Women in Coaching blog on female coaches experiences with (mostly male) referees.
I wrote about three significant trends pertaining to females and the Olympics for Minnesota Public Radio. Namely I wrote 2012 has marked the 40th anniversary of title IX in the US, female Olympians outnumbers their male counterparts for the USOC, and women in predominately religiously conservative Muslim nations were allowed to compete for the first time in summer Olympic history. I also wrote about the lack of women in positions of power for the US Team (also see previous blog).
After I wrote that piece I’ve been thinking about other broken barriers, and in some cases have proven just how far girls and women in sport have yet to go. Other key occurrences include:
1. African American women winning gold in sports traditionally dominated by Whites–Serena Williams (tennis, becoming only the 2nd female to obtain the Golden Slam), Gabby Douglas (all-around gymnastics). However, both athletes competed in sports and trained in systems that are not under the jurisdiction of Title IX (i.e., private, non-school based). This is a key point because while Title IX as dramatically improved participation rates for females, girls and women of color have not benefited from this law to the same degree as their White peers.
2. On Friday, August 9, 2012, Shannon Eastin became the first female to referee an NFL game. This is key for many reasons–its provides proof females can be in other visible roles in football than cheering on the sidelines, it provides a role model for girls and young women to aspire to a career in refereeing at the highest level, and it provides evidence that women are capable of referring a sport that most don’t play (no one ever raises an eyebrow when men ump or coach softball!). Unfortunately due to enduring sexism and gender stereotypes about women in positions of power she will endure criticism that is not leveled at her male colleagues, and backlash in the blogosphere. However, her appearance is not without controversy due to the NFL ref picket line.
3. While US women have won 58% of the medals for Team USA (as of 8/10/12), female athletes in most all sports have been criticized and subject of derogatory remarks for not being feminine or attractive enough. There are a number a articles on this topic which details that “faces not feats” are predominately highlighted in Olympic coverage. I was encouraged by the fact some female athletes fought back and resisted those who tried to marginalize their amazing feats.
- What’s the right way to be a female Olympic athlete? (a parody which includes “do” be feminine, and “don’t” be fat or ugly)
- Beach Volleyball Photos Focus On Women’s Body Parts — Not Their Athletic Skills
- What’s Wrong with Media Coverage of Women Olympians?
The reason why this matters is that just as many current Olympians (e.g., Alex Morgan, Gabby Douglas, Missy Franklin) talked about how their aspirations for gold began as they watched 12, 8 or 4 years ago, today’s girls are doing the same. Girls need to see active, athletic female role models rather than be subject to commentary about how female athletes should look and conform to society’s notions of femininity and beauty. Athletes are beautiful…in all shapes, sizes, sport types, ages (equestrian Karen O’Connor is the oldest Olympian competing for the US at age 54; swimmer Katie Ledecky is the youngest at 15).
For some female athletes they self-promote by relying on looks, and for those who have them…can we blame them?. According to Jere Longman, a NYT writer, “Lolo Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign.” As Jones took 4th place in the 100m hurdles by a tenth of a second, I wondered if all the attention and hype distracted Jones’ attention and energy from optimal performance. What is even MORE interesting is that Longman’s critical column of Jones garnered considerable criticisms of its own (here, here, here, here).
…primarily from blogs that are rarely interested in covering women’s sport!
So is the lesson from “low blows on LoLo” that one should not be mean spirited and critical of the Olympic “It Girl”? (I’m reminded of my blog where I criticized the SI cover portrayal of 2010 Winter Olympic It Girl Lindsey Vonn). That female athletes should be left alone to market and promote themselves as they see fit? That it is OK if girls and young women internalize consistent messages of “it is more important what you look like than what you can do athletically” that can, according the to American Psychological Association, lead to a host mental and physical disorders?
If remaining gender barriers are to be broken, how female athletes are portrayed, portray themselves, and critiqued by the media must be examined and changed.
Athleticism and talent of ALL female athletes, not just the ones who meet society’s standards of femininity and attractiveness, (of all the hours of NBC coverage I did not see any of female weightlifters or boxers) should be sufficient for coverage.
And when they perform well and give it all they had in the tank, we should celebrate– not compare them to men, call them “manly” or other gendered slurs, subject them to sex testing, or wonder if performance enhancing drugs are involved (e.g., Ye Shiwen, Caster Semenya).
Marking the 40 year anniversary of Title IX, a landmark piece of civil rights federal legislation, many organizations are holding conferences, raising awareness and educating the public on the importance, history and current issues pertaining to this important law. I’ve included some key Title IX resources below.
The espnW team, a site that connects female fans to the sports they love and follow, has created an entire microsite full a great content about Title IX that is well worth checking out, including a recent story by Peter Keating (@PKStatsBlog) titled “The silent enemy of men’s sports” which outlines Title IX is not responsible for the cutting men’s non-revenue sports–the real reason is men’s football. If you look at the statistics, the data is compelling and provides evidence which refutes the myth that Title IX “cuts men’s sports.” A law doesn’t cut sports, people do, and most of the decisions to cut sports have been made by male athletic directors.
Colleague, lawyer, and Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation Nancy Hogshead-Makar (@Hogshead3au) suggests people look at the data provided by Knight Commision’s “College Sports 101.” For those still not convinced, and wanting to argue that “football pays for all other sports” I would click here for a telling graph on profits and revenues of big time athletics programs. In 2011 of the 120 Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools only 22 were profitable and the other 98 had a median loss of $11.3 million. That is certainly enough money to fund a men’s “non-revenue” sport! In fact Nancy often educates others that “in FBS schools football and men’s basketball eat up 78% of the men’s athletics budget”–meaning all other men’s sports get to split the other 22%.
For those in the great state of MN, the June issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press is dedicated to Title IX including a short column I wrote about the status of women’s sports 40 years after Title IX, and an interview with colleague and Tucker Center Director Mary Jo Kane on pervasive “myths and stereotypes about Title IX.”. One of the myths she debunks that is mentioned above pertains to “Title IX is blamed for hurting men’s sports.” For those outside MN the entire issue is available online!
In November 2011, The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, the first center of its kind, held a one day conference with gender scholars from across the globe, on important issues facing females in sport contexts including lack of females in positions of power, disproportionate coverage of female athletes in the sport media, and issues of in/exclusion. You can watch videos of the keynotes, see pictures, download posters on the Tucker Center website. In April 2012 the Tucker Center held their spring Distinguished Lecture series featuring a trio of Title IX champions and pioneers Judy Sweet, Deborah Brake and native Minnesotan Peg Brenden (who is also featured in the June issue of MN Women’s Press!). You can watch video the lecture here.
In May 2012 the newly formed Sport Health Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center for Women and Girls at the University of Michigan held a 2-day “Title IX at 40″ conference to celebrate and discuss key issues facing females in health, sport and physical activity. You can see videos of keynotes and conference highlights here. (note: SHARP is a partnership between the Women’s Sports Foundation and U-M’s School of Kinesiology and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.)
If you are a female fan of sport, a fan of women’s sport, or care that female athletes and women’s sports are portrayed as legitimate and athleticism is the primary focus, I need you to be a Sports Minister!
There is a proliferation of “Bikini Leagues.” Starting with the expansion of the Lingerie Football League (which I’ve critiqued numerous times) into Canada, the LFL is trying to expand globally to Australia where it is being met with resistance from the Australian Sports Minister Kate Lundy who stated “As Minister for Sport, I can’t abide a spectacle that degrades women and threatens to undermine the progress of women in sport in Australia. It offends me that the promoters are hiding behind the guise of LFL being a ‘sport’. Lingerie Football objectifies and exploits women by trading on their sexuality to make money pure and simple.I am particularly concerned that young women watching the LFL will form the unfortunate view they can only ever hope to be taken seriously or even noticed in sport if they get their kit off.”
This is precisely why the US needs a Sports Minister!! We don’t, therefore we ALL need to take responsibility to fight Bikini Leagues and the spread of activities branded as sport, that clearly are not.
I am very troubled by LFL expansion efforts as well as the commencement of a Lingerie Basketball League and a Bikini Hockey League.…especially when Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS)–a REAL league, suspended play for 2012. Clearly there is a market for the sexualization of females, but if women refuse to play in these “leagues” there will be no leagues and no product to sell. Women who play or are considering to play in Bikini Leagues (many of whom are legitimate athletes) need to take some individual and collective responsibility.
JUST SAY NO.
DO NOT PLAY.
Do not let yourself be objectified for entertainment under the guise of sport.
Are these leagues going to increase respect for and interest in women’s professional sport? Are these leagues going to garner you respect and legitimacy as an athlete or a person? Are Bikini Leagues good for the individual, women’s sport in general, or society? What messages do Bikini Leagues send young girls about their bodies and self worth? What messages to Bikini Leagues send young boys and males about objectifying and consuming the female body, and respecting females as legitimate athletes?
What can you do to fight Bikini Leagues!?
- Forward this blog to someone, re-post, or share on Facebook, Twitter or other social media
- Be your own Sport Minister
- Do not attend or watch Bikini Leagues, and dissuade others from doing so
- Educate others that Bikini Leagues are not sport leagues
- Do not buy products or support sponsors of Bikini Leagues
- Watch and support legitimate women’s sport leagues on TV or attend local pro, college or amateur games…like the Independent Women’s Football League, the Women’s Football Alliance, WNBA or tune into ESPN coverage of the NCAA Softball World Series.
- Read about (CLICK ON) and share stories from writers and organizations that promote legitimate female athletes and women’s leagues (your clicks matter!). Here are some places to go to promote female athletes
What other suggestions to you have so that we can all take responsibility in our own ways to fight Bikini Leagues.
In short, IBM is a long time sponsor of The Masters golf tournament, held at Augusta National Golf Club which bans women from membership. Traditionally, the CEO of IBM dons the champion “green jacket” and is given a club membership. Not this year. Instead of changing their rules to allow Rometty a green jacket and membership, the men in power at Augusta chose to continue their “tradition” of discrimination. In addition, IBM remained silent.
Dr. Martha Burk wrote a great column in Women’s e-News titled “To IBM: Women Saw That” about why this matters. She writes, “Much of the argument centered on whether the club had the “right to remain private” (translate “engage in discrimination at will”).”
1. This is not about golf, it is about power relationships.
2. IBM’s silence endorses the gender discrimination against their female CEO
Ironically as I write this blog I’m listening to Alice Eagly, PhD (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University) co-author of Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders on NPR and President Obama is holding the White House Forum on Women in the Economy.
Even more ironic is the headline of a Washington Times story titled “The Masters 2012: IBM’s Virginia Rometty overshadows Tiger Woods” as if to suggest it is incredulous that a female could and IS taking the spot light away from a male.
Given the Saudi’s just announced they would send ZERO females to the summer London 2012 Olympics, which is a rule violation of the IOC, we shall see if the IOC & Jacques Rogge (himself not a picture of advocating for gender equality) bans Saudi Arabia from the games. Any bets?
This year is the 40th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, landmark federal legislation which dramatically increased sport participation opportunities for females in educational contexts. We have many reasons to celebrate this day, and part of that celebration is learning from the pioneering women who have been instrumental in fighting for implementation and preservation of this important law. I want to share with you some of their wisdom.
- Dr. Mary Jo Kane, Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota often states, “In one generation we’ve gone from girls hoping there WAS a team, to girls hoping they’d MAKE the team.”
- Merrily Dean Baker, former Athletic Director at the University of Minnesota & Michigan State who also sat on the original committee that helped write guidelines for Title IX in 1972, told us this morning at a NGWSD celebration breakfast about her first foray into marketing women’s sport in the late ’70′s (there was no marketing and promotion of women’s sport at that time). She went to a marketing firm and got them to a campaign pro-Bono, and the theme of their campaign was “Not All Jocks Wear Them.” For obvious reasons, Baker told them that wasn’t quite the right tone.
Kane & Baker’s words highlight the progress that has been made, but gender equality in sports is still not a reality. Drs. Vivian Acosta and Jean Carpenter just released their 35 year update of the Women in Intercollegiate Sport report, in which they detailed that although 100 more female coaches of womenʼs teams are employed than in 2010, the total % of women coaching female athletes barely increased as is currently at 42.9% (in 2010 is was 42.6%).
Female boxers are fighting The International Amateur Boxing Association officials who are discussing whether women fighters should be urged to wear skirts in the ring at the 2012 Games. Many high level organizations around the globe rallied to write a position statement denouncing this rule. It reads:
This position is in line with our organizations’ overall mission of empowering women and advancing sport with the aim of catalyzing a sustainable sporting culture that enables and values the full involvement of women in every aspect of sport. We maintain that uniform guidelines for women athletes should not detract from respect for their dignity and professionalism, nor should they hinder athletic performance. Limiting women’s competition attire to skirts for the sake of accentuating gender or sexuality would detract focus from the athletic abilities and skills of these individuals and mark a step backwards for the sport of boxing and the sport movement as a whole. Women should be actively involved in decisions concerning changes in uniform rules, and these changes should take into consideration issues of gender equality and inclusiveness.
Today we should join together to celebrate advancements, but remain committed to fighting for social justice and gender equality for girls and women in sport around the globe. The winds of change prevail, but the direction it blows is largely up to us.
Gloria Steinem in a recent lecture for the Clayman Institute of Gender Research at Stanford invited everyone in the audience to do something outrageous for the cause of social justice. My invitation and challenge to you is to do ONE THING in the next calendar year that creates change for girls and women in sport contexts. Steinem closed her lecture by stating: “We must not hold our fingers to the wind. We must be the wind”
To read all the blogs in the 2012 National Women’s Law Center #NGWSD blog carnival, click HERE.
Based on my previous blog about hockey injuries, checking, and unequal media coverage of two Minnesota hockey players who were recently severely injured, I was asked to write a commentary for Minnesota Public Radio (@MPR)
You can read the commentary on the MPR website, “Tale of two hockey players offers a sharp look at gender equity in sports”
This blog is about the irony of what is deemed appropriate workplace attire for women in the context of sport.
I have written quite a bit about the Lingerie Football League and my disdain for the league and their claims it promotes women’s sport (to read all my posts on the LFL, click here). Evidently I am not alone in feeling the LFL marginalizes female athletes, and women who play real professional football. Two players from the KC Tribe team, Katie and Liz Sowers, put together an entertaining and informative video expressing how many women in the Women’s Football Alliance feel about the LFL. This video is worth watching and sharing! One of their main points is that female athletes seem to only get recognized when they take off, or have very little clothing on (i.e., when they are portrayed is sexy ways…another topic I have written extensively about). If you want to see the most recent example of this, click here to see a calendar made by a Vancouver women’s hockey team.
Relatedly, on the other end of the spectrum….this week the MLB came out with a dress code for media personnel. If you read the new code, it won’t take you long to surmise this code is targeted towards females. For example it reads: Visible undergarments, sheer clothing, one-shouldered and strapless shirts or clothing exposing bare midriffs will be banned. Skirts, dresses or shorts cut more than three or four inches above the knee will be deemed to be in violation. I’m not in many MLB press boxes but I’m guessing there aren’t many, if any men, who are in this attire, so the rule must be aimed at females.
Phyllis Merhige, an MLB senior vice president stated, “There’s no one who expects reporters to wear a suit and tie (My commentary: i.e. suit and tie are typically associated with a white-collar, White male dress code). But with the advent of different media, there are now individuals who are not part of a bigger organization that may have a dress code.“ If you read this statement critically, the “norm” in press boxes refers to traditionally trained, older male sport journalists, and “different” means anyone is who falls outside that norm (i.e., women, and Millennial bloggers both male and female).
Data supports that females are the minority in press boxes and this fact is problematic as I wrote in a previous blog: “According to a 2008 report commissioned by the AP Sport Editors, females comprise less than 10% all sport reporters. Given that female sport journalists are statistical tokens (< 15% of a population) they are under constant scrutiny, have to perform above and beyond their male peers to be deemed competent, and are subjected to overt and covert forms of discrimination.”
The dress code policy for MLB reminds me of the Jets-Sainz incident of 2010 where Ines Sainz was harassed in the Jets locker room, and criticized for not dressing professionally. Despite what one is wearing, attire does not give permission for males to harass or act boorishly. Speaking of boorish, if you doubted that harassment, discrimination and sexism are not part of the reality for female sport journalists, look no further than sports columnist Rick Bacon’s recent DeadSpin post.
In his blog, he wrote: “that the rules are really there to take on the princess female reporters, like ESPN’s Erin Andrews and Suzy Kolber, ladies so caked in makeup that Papa Bacon would have slapped me twice had I brought them home. Notably, the rules mention ripped jeans and midriff-revealing shirts, things you won’t find in my closet or my nieces. And good for Major League Baseball. These gals might be lookers, but they distract the whole team’s attention. It’s awkward enough having them in the clubhouse to begin with. Some of us came here to ask questions, not to flirt. We came here to do the reporter’s job. When reporters talk about “inches,” we’re not talking about the hem of a skirt or the height of a heel. We’re talking professional copy…It’s good that the locker-room peekaboo act will have to cover up. Fans deserve better coverage too..”
Bacon certainly lives up to the origin represented by the animal associated with his last name. Bacon’s generalized, gendered, dichotomous assertions do not make for a collegial work environment. The MLB is trying to head off or prevent workplace harassment, but educating everyone on professional behavior might be a bigger step forward in changing the culture.
In summary, ironically what is considered an appropriate and desired work place “professional” uniform in the LFL, is now ruled an inappropriate uniform for professional sport media spaces.