Category Archives: social media

Dispelling Myths About Women’s Sport: Post Women’s World Cup 2015

Even if Dave Zirin doesn’t want to keep defending women’s sport in the wake of the Women’s World Cup that smashed ratings (although I know he will!), we at the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport decided to write a piece that will help change the narrative and dispel false narratives about women’s sport.red card_iStock_000003976608XSmall

Read our exclusive on espnW titled Even in the Wake of a Record-Setting Women’s World Cup, Myths Still Surround Women’s Sports where we refute the four most common myths about women’s sport.

The statistics surrounding the 2015 Women’s World Cup (WWC) make it abundantly clear that people are interested in women’s sport.  In sum, the WWC final:

  • was seen by 25.4 million viewers on Fox—a record for any soccer game, men’s or women’s.
  • generated record numbers of viewers on the Fox Sports Go streaming app.
  • drew 2 million more viewers than Game 7 of the compelling 2014 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants in October which attracted 23.5 million on English-language television.
  • eclipsed the recent NBA Finals Game 6 featuring Golden State’s title-winning victory over Cleveland last month on ABC with 23.25 million viewers.
  • buried Chicago’s Stanley Cup-winning victory in Game 6 over Tampa Bay last month on NBC with 8 million viewers.

Despite these statistics, many myths about interest in women’s sport continue to prevail. Help prove that interest in women’s sport does exist and join the #HERESPROOF social media campaign! Click here to see the infographic we put together on 2015 WWC viewership.

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Access free educational materials for espnW Nine for IX films

I recently had the opportunity to work in collaboration with espnW to develop discussion guides for the Emmy-nominated Nine for IX film series.

Nine for IX premiered June 18, 2013, as part of ESPN’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Inspired by the 40th anniversary of Title IX, ESPN Films and espnW produced nine documentary films about women in sports, told through the lens of female filmmakers. Nine for IX Films are a collection of remarkable stories that offer teachable moments and powerful lessons in the history of sports. .

The Nine for IX Knowledge Center is a free resource available to institutions, organizations, administrators, professors, coaches, and students who want to lead thoughtful and engaging discussions around key themes in the films. The Knowledge Center provides discussion guides for each film, film posters, and a sign-up form to receive the Nine for IX DVD set, all free of charge. The Knowledge Center is a tool that goes beyond the entertainment value of the films and leverages the rich educational content of the embedded lessons and messages within the films.

The discussion guides generate thought-provoking discussion topics around key themes and issues present in the films such as gender equality, intersectionality, identity politics, sport and politics, social class, racism, and sexism, along with issues related to sport psychology, sports media coverage, sports marketing, and sports as a vehicle for developing role models. Each unique guide contains Key Concepts, Discussion Questions, Additional Readings and Additional Activities.

I wrote a specific guide for coaches for The 99ers, a film about the 1999 Women’s World Cup Championship team, that coaches can use as a team building activity and to discuss what it takes to develop performance excellence and a positive team culture.
To access the free materials, including obtaining a free DVD box set of the Nine for IX film series, discussion guides, and posters visit the espnW Nine for IX Knowledge Center.

Basketball & Brackets Matter: The Case for a Perfect Women’s Bracket Challenge

The 2014 March Madness NCAA D-I basketball brackets for the men and women are now set. Teams are anxiously awaiting play. I love March Madness, but I am awaiting something different….word from Warren Buffett. I have tweeted Mr. Buffett (@WarrenBuffett) and Quicken (@quickenloans) to inquire if they were going to also offer a “perfect women’s bracket” contest, as they are offering a $$BILLION dollars$$ for a perfect men’s bracket. No reply.bb moneyball

It isn’t that I want two chances of winning a BILLION dollars (No one is going to win, the odds are 1 in 9 quintillion), it is the message being communicated by offering only a men’s bracket and who benefits from this “perfect bracket” challenge that is the problem.

Women’s sport and female athletes are continuously striving against minimal media coverage to be taken seriously and lauded for their athleticism (to go more in depth on this topic, watch a new documentary on “Media Coverage and Female Athletes”). By offering only a perfect men’s bracket challenge, Buffett & Co. are reinforcing the idea that men’s sport and male athletes are more talented, important, valued, and worthy.

Offering a perfect women’s bracket could of been a win-win and is a missed opportunity:

1. Quicken could have potentially garnered more new home loan clients (which is their goal!), and Buffett could of possibly made more profit (no one is sure exactly what his deal is with Quicken, but it isn’t $0!).

2. It would communicate in equal ways that women’s sport is and female athletes are worthy, valued, exciting and deserving.

3.It might have also inadvertently or directly increased interest in women’s basketball—especially in a demographic that is typically deemed “uninterested” (18-35 year old males).

Why does interest matter? “Lack of interest” by males, who are coveted by sport marketers and sport editors, is used as proof and proxy that “everyone” is uninterested in women’s sport–a statement that is completely false (not all young men are uninterested in women’s sport, and outside that demographic women’s sport fans abound!). Lack of interest is often used as a reason for not promoting or covering women’s sport. Many people are very interested in women’s sport, and particularly women’s college basketball as evidenced by increasing attendance, steady ESPN viewership, and expansion of women’s game coverage. Creating hype around the women’s bracket by offering $1B is a perfect way to bring in new fans, generate interest, and communicate the value inherent in women’s sport, some of which would likely be sustained because “they” (i.e., new fans) would watch, monitor brackets, and see that women’s teams are also exciting and talented!

People love March Madness and love to fill out brackets. College basketball and brackets matter. Placing more value (literally) on the men’s bracket, communicates what and who is valued and worthy, as well as who and what is not.

Help “Prove” Interest in Women’s Sport!

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[disclaimer] I’m writing this blog as my role as Associate Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota …and because the topic of media portrayals of female athletes and the lack of media coverage for women’s sport is a special interest and line of research of mine.

One myth I often hear is: “no one is interested in women’s sport.” I know that is not true, I can see firsthand that a lot of people are interested! So I started taking pictures of “interest” when I attended women’s sporting events like the Minnesota Lynx or Gopher Women’s Hockey and Volleyball.

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To help create a true narrative about women’s sport, we at the Tucker Center are launching the #HERESPROOF Project. The purpose is to collect worldwide evidence of interest in women’s sport that will help dispel this untrue and damaging myth. Join us and use #HERESPROOF on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any of your favorite social media!

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This project is in advance of our documentary premiere, Media Coverage and Female Athletes—a collaborative project with tpt MN that airs December 1, 2013 at 7:00 pm CST.

3 Simple Ways to Support Women’s Sport

With many exciting developments recently in women’s sport such as the start of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), an extended and expanded WNBA & ESPN TV deal, the WNBA draft airing for the first time in prime time, an announcement from espnW about the Nine for IX series about women’s sport to run this summer, and exciting Women’s Final Four during March Madness, it feels as if there is a perceptible shift that women’s sport is being taken, marketed, and promoted seriously. I am optimistic, but action is still needed.

Trifecta Winner Icon - 300dpiIf you want sustainable women’s sport, and even better yet, GROWTH…there are 3 simple things you can do. These aren’t new ideas, but they are worth saying again.

1. WATCH. When women’s sport is on the TV, tune in. If you aren’t going to be home and have a DVR or DVD (not sure those exist anymore!) tape it! Don’t forget to watch the Nine for IX series!

2. BUY TICKETS. If you have a college or professional team in your area, buy season tickets. Last week Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve spoke at a TeamWomenMN event I was attending and she had a great idea. She said she is supporting the NWSL by finding the nearest team to Minneapolis (we don’t have NWSL team here…yet) and is buying a season ticket. Even through she probably won’t get to many games, she will donate her ticket to an undeserved girl, so she can attend. If you can’t go to all the games, buy a full package and split it with someone or share your tickets with friends, colleagues, neighbors or family. To read a great piece on espnW about how the NWSL will succeed by Julie Foudy, click here.

3. CLICK & SHARE. Set your Google Alerts or sign up for an RSS feed, to scan stories about women’s sport, your favorite team or athletes, or sports journalist. Once you get your list, make sure to click on the stories! Clicks = interest = increased ability to attract sponsorships = good for women’s sport. Click, read, and then share a good story via Twitter or Facebook.

If you watch, buy and click…or complete the trifecta, women’s sport will more likely be a winner.

Sport Scandals, Sexy Babes & Social Responsibility

As I posted previously, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a host of stimulating conferences and conversations in the past eight weeks related to girls and women in sport. I’m still musing about many things, but here are three I’m ready to share.

1. As a wrote about in my last blog post, the current model of “sport” (i.e., meaning the male model of win at all costs, big business, professionalization) is broken. If you believe this statement to be true and you also believe in a “growing sense of crisis in college sports“, then who is responsible for changing the current model or changing the course of big time, revenue pursuant, entertainment style college sport? Why hasn’t the The Knight Commission, whose mission is to advocate for a “reform agenda that emphasizes academic values in an arena where commercialization of college sports often overshadowed the underlying goals of higher education” and The Drake Group whose mission is to “is to help faculty and staff defend academic integrity in the face of the burgeoning college sport industry” been more vocal or got more traction lately in the wake of some major scandals?

Relatedly, given the historically abysmal patterns of media coverage for female athletes, who is responsible for creating socially responsible images of college female athletes? (Colleagues Sally Ross at Memphis and Vikki Krane at Bowling Green are thinking & writing about this concept). Shouldn’t athletic departments be held to a higher standard of marketing female athletes? Why does a “sex sells” narrative and images still persist (see image) in college athletics where the purpose is about education, not highlighting the physical appearance or making female athletic bodies into “sexy babe” objects? Doesn’t a university have an obligation and responsibility to ensure the health, well-being, integrity and respect of female athletes, just as it also has an obligation and responsibility to put the well-being of children ahead of potential scandal and shaming high profile men’s programs and their coaches?

2. Head Coach for the WNBA Championship Minnesota Lynx, Cheryl Reeve, stated in her keynote at the Alliance of Women’s Coaches workshop held at Macalester College, that sometimes a team gains, by subtracting players in what she calls “addition by subtraction”. I think this is what college athletics needs…take football and men’s basketball out of D-I and II college athletics altogether and a great deal can be gained. However, despite recent dialogue by NCAA President Mark Emmert that radical reform is needed, yet some argue real reform for  football and men’s basketball is not possible. Think of many of the issues currently facing college athletics administrators and university presidents would go away, be diminished, or never occur if football and men’s basketball were removed from institutions of higher education. The Arms Race, rule violations, academic fraud, eligibility problems, booster and recruitment violations, pay for play, the $2K stipend, discussions of athlete unions and revenue sharing with athletes, athlete exploitation, and cover-ups of egregious coach and player behavior might be reduced. Those sports could be affiliated with a school, but athletes would not be required to attend class, but given the opportunity to earn their degree for free once the player retired from sports or desired to focus on academics. To hear colleague and Professor Allen Sack discuss these issues in depth, click here. I’m not sure college sport can or ever will be truly reformed…

Given that much of my work focuses on the youth level, where I feel I might be able to make a real difference somehow, I have come to believe the problems in college sport are related to problems at the youth sport level.

3. The current youth sport model emulates Big Time College Sport and Pro Sport…specialization, year round training, pay to play, transferring based on playing time and winning, athletes as commodities to help a franchise win, children training away from their families at elite sport academies, kids viewed as “return on investments”, development and experience are downplayed as winning and performance are center stage, team loyalty and playing with friends are sacrificed to play on elite travel teams focused on securing college scholarships, a great deal of money is spent on ensuring the right equipment and experiences, highly specialized training (e.g., strength and conditioning, agility, sport psychology) to increase the likelihood of optimal performance, and the growing number of chronic and acute injuries due to overuse and over training. The youth sport model is never going to change unless college sport is reformed. If athletics were taken out of institutions of higher education and full ride scholarships were not the “end all, be all” goal of athletes and their parents, youth sport would look a LOT different. Youth sport might just start to resemble something better…where athlete development, fun, enjoyment, positive relationships, learning, skill development, and being active and competing are fun in and of itself, rather than being a means to an end. Imagine it.

While reform in college sports may be unlikely, don’t we have a social responsibility to help ensure youth sport retains some semblance of being athlete-centered?

Opposing Views of Media Portrayals of Female Athletes

With the 2011 issue of ESPN The Body Issue magazine coming to shelves Friday, and images being released online today, I thought it a good time to summarize common ways media portrayals of females athletes are framed and discussed. Today I got to hear colleague, Kent Kaiser, Ph.D., discuss his work around media framing of Title IX in print journalism. (to read his recently published article on this topic, Gender Dynamics in Producing News on Equality in Sports: A Dual Longitudinal Study of Title IX Reporting by Journalist Gender click here).

He used conflict framing as his theoretical framework to look at this issue, and coupled with my recent trip to the espnW Summit to sit an a panel to discuss if sex sell women’s sport, and colleague Mary Jo Kane’s column this summer in The Nation magazine on this topic… it got me thinking. Kaiser identified some themes in his work, that I modified, that might be a good way to promote discussion about media portrayals of female athletes. I’ll elaborate on each below.

Advocacy Frames are those that advocate that sexy, hyper-feminine, or in some cases semi-nude or nude images of females athletes are good for women’s sport and female athletes. Opposition Frames are those arguments which see such images as trivializing, problematic and doing nothing to promote respect and sustainability of women’s sport, or any particular individual female athlete.

ADVOCACY FRAMES

  • Equality-both male and female athletes are seen semi-nude or nude (i.e., the ESPN The Body Issue), so it isn’t that ONLY female athletes are portrayed this way.
  • Personal Opportunity-inclusion and portrayal of sexy, beautiful female athletic bodies provides opportunity for exposure (literally and figuratively!), sponsorship, and branding.
  • Autonomy-female athletes have a choice whether or not to pose in magazines or be photographed. No one makes them pose in those ways, they want to.
  • Market-sex sells! and people want to see sexy images of female athletes, it is what the market wants…no one is interested in seeing real female athletes that aren’t attractive, sexy or feminine.
  • Zero-Sum-there is only a limited amount of coverage for all sports, so the more women’s sport is covered or female athletes are featured, men’s sport suffers.

OPPOSITION FRAMES & COUNTER ARGUMENTS

  • Equality-yes of course male athletes are portrayed nude and semi-nude (i.e, ESPN The Body Issue), however female athletes only get 2-4% of all sport media coverage and when they do, it is most often in ways that minimize athletic competence and highlight sexy, feminine characteristics. Also, men’s sport and male athletes already enjoy respect and credibility so when male athletes are portrayed nude it means something very different culturally.
  • Personal Opportunity-Yes, posing semi/nude provides short term exposure, but no data exist that demonstrates such images lead to additional sponsorships, contract extensions, increased pay, or respect and credibility for female athletes. In nearly every professional context, when women take off their clothes it does not lead to respect and perceived credibility and competence. Additionally no data exist that demonstrates such images increase TV ratings, fan attendance, or season ticket sales….therefore opportunity for the greater good and league sustainability might actually be undermined when individual female athletes are portrayed this way.
  • Autonomy-Yes, no one is holding a gun to any female athlete’s head and they do choose to participate. Female athletes are smart…they see the women getting the most exposure and media coverage are the ones who conform to the sexy, feminine mold and they want to capitalize on their physical assets as well. However, if this way of being portrayed is the dominant model in the absence of a virtual black out of coverage that features athletic COMPETENCE, of course female athletes will choose to be included, rather than excluded. Choices are made within the context of sport, which is male-centered and male identified.
  • Market-Yes, of course sex sells! and sex sells magazines, but no data exist that demonstrates sex sells women’s sport. In fact emerging data suggest otherwise…that images of athletic competence is what sells women’s sport and help to generate respect and credibility. In addition, for years and years leagues and organizations have been selling sex, but at the same they lament the low interest in and attendance of women’ sport. Maybe it is time to try a new way to market female athletes….put athletic competence first and see what happens!
  • Zero-Sum-Female athletes are so rarely portrayed in sport media. Roughly 40% of all high school and college athletes are female, yet they are rarely portrayed in sport media. What would it look like if female athletes received close to 40% of all sport media coverage? How would that affect interest in, and respect of women’s sport? Interest in men’s sport will likely not wane or lose its cultural primacy, so why not try it?

That is enough for now…I’m off to watch some highly competent female athletes take the court in the WNBA Finals! Go LYNX!!! And I’m betting the arena will be full of fans who have come to see amazing basketball, and I will not see ONE image of a semi/nude female athlete.

The Minnesota Lynx: A Case About Media Coverage for Female Athletes

I live in Minneapolis and am a fan, advocate and scholar about gender issues in sport, particularly girls and women in sport. In the last two months, while I haven’t blogged much I have been keeping in eye on happenings around women in sport. Media coverage, or should I say the lack thereof, has been on my mind a great deal.

An anomaly was the 2011 Women’s World Cup aired and covered by ESPN = Fantastic coverage of dramatic competition, athleticism and serious athletes. Unfortunately what we see far too often is the trivialization, erasure and sexualization of female athletes…which I’ve written about a lot.  This last point is why I haven’t blogged much lately. I’m just plain depressed and discouraged that over and over again these patterns emerge, despite record numbers of females participating in sport in the post Title IX era. How many times can I write the same thing over and over without anything changing…and in fact, in most cases, is getting worse?

6 Ways Media Present Female Athletes

I’ll say it again…media coverage by major networks of female athletes has DECREASED in the last 10 years and is now down to a dismal 1.6%. (What would the Twins’ attendance or interest in the team look like if we only read 1.6% of the time about the team in the sports media or if we didn’t hear and read non-stop coverage of the team—even in the off season?)

Dave Zirin pointed out that GQ left out an entire gender when naming their 25 coolest athletes.

If you want to read a great critique and column titled “Sex Sells Sex, Not Women’s Sports” in the special sports issue of The Nation magazine written by my colleague Dr. Mary Jo Kane, Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, and get up to speed about why these trends persists and why it is problematic, I’d encourage you to read it.

You can also see an exceptional slide show of the six categories of representation of female athletes commonly witnessed in the sport media from athleticism to soft core porn if you click here. Kane argues the majority of sport media and marketers are complicit and unquestioning that sex sells women’ sport and “believe that reaffirming traditional notions of femininity and heterosexuality is a critical sales strategy.”

Ironically, in our own backyard the WNBA Minnesota Lynx are providing an interesting case study for sport media scholars. Currently the Lynx have the best record in the WNBA and have secured a playoff bid. The Lynx have a great deal of athletic talent: Whalen, Wiggens, Bruson, Augustus, and Moore are some of the players lighting up the scoreboard this season. Meanwhile…the MN Twins are struggling, the NBA is facing a lockout and the Timberwolves were horrible last season, the NFL is limping back to full speed after their lockout and the Vikings will struggle, and the NHL and MN Wild have their own issues.

Case in point: Today I got a call from a local media outlet to discuss why the Lynx are getting very little coverage despite a winning season. I was ready. I got a call 10mns later, the story was canceled– “Something better had come up”. How can people get interested in the Lynx if they don’t hear about them and the team isn’t covered?

I know for a fact that the Lynx are selling more tickets this year, over 1,000 more a game, than last year. Fans are filling the seats. People ARE interested and DO care about women’s sport. The Lynx are talented and exciting to watch. Hey sport media….PAY ATTENTION AND GIVE THE LYNX THE COVERAGE THEY DESERVE! Sport media journalists argue they will cover women’s sport when interest is there. Here is a clue: NOW IS THE TIME.

Here is a novel chicken-egg idea: The more media coverage you give the Lynx, the more people will attend and the more interest is generated.

The ironic thing is, people are interested DESPITE poor media coverage of the Lynx.

Even more ironic, people are interested in the Lynx because they are GREAT ATHLETES and are fun to watch not because the Lynx players are being marketed and portrayed in sexy and hyper-feminine ways.

Fans of women’s basketball and women’s sport want to see and read about athleticism and see quality play. They are getting that and Moore with the Minnesota Lynx.

added 9/1/11: Watch me talk to WCCO’s Jason DeRusha on the “Good Question” discuss the lack of coverage of the MN Lynx.

LFL Steals Name of the REAL Minnesota Valkyries, A Women’s Rugby Team

I did not need another reason to dislike the Lingerie Football League (LFL).. I got the announcement today, that tryouts for the new Minneapolis expansion team of the LFL will held Saturday, April 9. It wasn’t that tryouts will actually occur and a team will form, but that the LFL held a contest for fans to submit and then vote for a name for the Minneapolis team.

Evidently “Valkyrie” was submitted most frequently, received a “record 31,451 votes” and was subsequently chosen as the new name. The LFL already has a logo for the NEW Minnesota Valkyrie (notice in their tryout bulletin they stress “NEW”).

Why does this have me upset?

Minnesota ALREADY HAS a Valkyrie team of female athletes!! The Minnesota Valkyries Rugby Club has a long standing tradition of excellence as one of the elite organizations within USA Rugby, and has been around for as long as I can remember. The REAL Minnesota Valkyries have a mission statement and core values that include integrity, unity, respect, development and strength! The mission statement reads “The Minnesota Valkyries Rugby Club is an organization of former and present rugby players dedicated to the development of rugby, our team, and our community. We strive to maintain our position as one of the elite organizations within USA Rugby by creating a positive and enduring impact in all that we do. We bring honor to the sport of rugby by upholding our traditions, competing with pride, and understanding that every time we step onto the pitch we play for the legacy and future of The Minnesota Valkyries Rugby Club.

The First and Authentic Minnesota Valkyries

The LFL MISSION STATEMENT “The Lingerie Football League has become the Ultimate Fan-Driven Live Sports Phenomenon – Blending Action, Impact and Beauty.” No core values exist that I could find. Enough Said.

Can the LFL just hijack a team name? I don’t think so, if not legally, certainly by principle.

If you are reading this and are outraged, then please do something, anything….blog, call, tweet support (@valksrugby), tweet outrage (@MyLFL), “Like” the rugby team on Facebook, and pass the word.

If this is allowed, it is another way that real female athletes can be marginalized, co-opted and erased. What I find interesting is that I am guessing that the individuals who sumibtted and voted for the Valkyrie name are mostly 18-35 year old me who have NO CLUE that Minnesota has a tradition of high performance women’s rugby, let alone know what the team names are (yes, there is more than one women’s rugby team in MN)

Support the Valkyries Rubgy Club and help them make the LFL change their name.

p.s.-please don’t comment and tell me the names are different because the rugby team has an “s” on the end, and the LFL team name does not.

p.s.s.-I’d like to invite the Valkyries (the REAL athletes) to attend the LFL tryouts and help educate those in charge