FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Women Athletes, Not Eye Candy

Imagine the NBA being ordered to sex it up a bit by showing some upper thigh and ditching the long baggies now ubiquitous in basketball. Or perhaps Major League Baseball athletes should start playing shirts versus skins to get the straight gals and gay men to start paying more attention to what some of us believe is a pretty snoozy pastime.

That’s essentially what just happened in women’s badminton before a global chorus of women shouted sexism and stopped the latest madness in women’s sports.

Just in time for the promotional campaigns for the 2012 Olympics get in gear, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) decided to create a new dress code for women players “to ensure attractive presentation” by forcing them to wear skirts or dresses, no shorts or trousers allowed. Needless to say, no rule changes were proposed for men.

Hello??the Eisenhower era just called, they want their stultifying gender norms back.

After female players from around the world protested, including Muslim women who would have been forced to wear skirts over the leggings they wear for religious reasons, the BWF backed down. They hadn’t bothered to check with many female players ahead of time, only two are represented on their 25-person governing body.

Maria Sharapova, seeded ninth in women’s tennis, recently graced the front page of the New York Times’ “Fashion and Style” section for her own self-rebranding as a fashion icon. Injuries have at times waylaid her tennis career in recent years, but this conventionally beautiful tall blonde woman is far better known for her looks than her game.

The image of Sharapova’s derriere graces the wall of more than a few sports bars. That lone image of her ass, the only female athlete pictured amidst easily 100 photos and murals of male players, sent me into a rage one evening with the manager of the Hop Haus on the far north side of Chicago. He insisted his customers enjoy the decor, at which point I took an informal poll of the female diners who were about as enamored as I was. (It’s unclear whether I’m banned from there, boycotting or both.)

Let’s face it, treating women athletes like eye candy is nothing new. But its persistence nearly 40 years after Title IX’s passage is that much more chilling. Two generations of women have come of age since that act was passed, which altered many of our bodies and boosted our confidence and self-perception as women.

Yet professional sports and most media that cover them?with some exceptions?still treat fitness and competitiveness in women as reducible to the means by which some become toned and thus more physically appealing to a straight male gaze. The years of hard work and all of the fierce drive behind competitive athletes’ achievements are diminished, even nullified by this sexist treatment.

It’s enraging, really, to see female athletes who’ve busted their asses to compete at the top levels of their sport judged purely on their ability to appeal to some straight male desires.

As with all things American, a good dollop of racism is served up with this sexualizing of female athletes. Take a gander at Psychology Today’s ode to 19th-century eugenics, “Why are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women,” and you get some sense of how odious our culture continues to be. (I’m glad the magazine apologized, but WTF?!)

We’re unlikely to ever encounter a full spread in the Times’ “Style” section on Danielle Adams, for example, but anyone who watched her bring the Texas Aggies women’s basketball team to victory this spring can’t deny her power, speed and ball-handling abilities. Adams is the six-foot-one Black female dynamo whose athleticism far outshone anyone who played in the men’s NCAA finals this year.

Danielle hasn’t got the model-thin looks and demeanor for Vogue, but I’d pay to watch her play professional hoops any day. She’s off to a career that I hope will be magnificent, but it is unlikely to be lucrative as women players in one of the few sports where they can play professionally earn a mere $35,190 as rookies. The maximum annual salary for any female basketball player in the WNBA is $101,500?slightly more than the fine Kobe Bryant just paid for screaming “faggot” at a referee.

There’s much more to say about all of this and I hope to explore the persistence of this toxic sexism?on the courts and off?in coming months. Suffice it to say, I couldn’t be happier that at least now there is a budding new women’s movement hitting the streets with all the irreverence and ferocity that decades of getting slapped back has produced.

I fully support the SlutWalk protest in New York City this August 20. Perhaps I wouldn’t have chosen that name, but who cares? Focusing on what we call it seems to be placing the emphasis on the wrong syl-LA-ble. There’s a fightback on the rise and it’s about time!

Sherry Wolf is the author of Sexuality and Socialism. She blogs at Sherry Talks Back.

 

More articles by:

January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail