** By “in baseball” it is meant “for professional women’s sports”
Editor’s (My) Note: This is pretty damn long. It was written during weekend peyote & coyote binge. Also, it is severely un-edited/proofread
My Sunday routine at this time of year is rather simple. I wake up around 11, make myself an omelet that I would categorize a just bit shy of “an effrontery to God,” and then put on a pair of basketball shorts. This sweet and gentle foreplay provides me a base for the sweet love making that will occur between the television and me for the next few hours. From here on in, the day consists of watching football from the noon time pregame until I pass out around 6 p.m. because of an illness I have, which doctors have diagnosed as “eating too much chili.” After an hour or so, I recover from being drunk on chili, just in time for the Sunday night game. Throughout the entire duration of this Sunday sacrament at the altar of blasphemous gluttony, nothing without the stamp of the NFL makes an appearance on the screen. The only possible exception to this is what ESPN immediately airs after its pregame show, which invariably is women’s bowling. Just as invariable is my forgetfulness in regards to football scheduling, and forgetting that ESPN doesn’t show a football game right after the pregame show. And so, a mad scramble ensues as the TV says things like “Split,” “Gutter,” “Turkey,” and “Liz Johnson.” While those things put together may constitute a tragically funny Thanksgiving Day disaster worthy of being portrayed on Frasier, when heard in context though, those words are as boring as female bowling. After a few minutes of utter confusion, I usually find a moment of clarity, and am able to rock myself back and forth, until I get enough momentum to get up from my nest of cushions and blankets, and waddle up to the television to change the channel.
A real pioneer in the sport of Mopping, Ruth Hafner perfected the one-handed mop twist that is still prevalent in competetive Mopping.
After beating Bobby Riggs, Billie Jean King finally showed that in tennis AND in life, women and badgers were equal
It would seem unfair to write this, and state how sexist attitudes and gender differences don’t contribute to the failures of women’s sports, without addressing social influences that would show how perhaps sexism does play a role in women’s sports. As much progress as women have had in advancing their prominence in the arena of sports, athletics is still identified as a masculine construct. As Messner points out in his interviews with athletes, sports are ingrained into a young male at such a young age, that most don’t remember when they were first introduced to sports. Sports and the characteristics that go with being an athlete such as physical and emotional strength, toughness, durability, violence, endurance, are characteristics that are traditionally viewed as masculine. It is almost a rite of passage for a young boy to play little league sports; trying your best to not disappoint your dad until the 4th Inning, because by that time, he’s no longer sober or conscious. And so, for boys, rejecting sports are usually interpreted as a rejection of masculinity. For the parents of a male child, the rejection sports could be taken as a foreshadowing that the boy will participate in musical theater all through out high school, make fake girlfriends to placate their suspicious friends, and develop an unhealthy obsession with whoever plays Batman lately. This of course isn’t true. A lack of interest in sports does not mean one does not have the normative masculine values, and even if a boy didn’t have the normative masculine values, it shouldn’t be frowned upon (Although I think developing fixations on British actors in hard plastic costumes isn’t the best for a person. I mean, I know he was handsome in 3:10 to Yuma, but he’s not that great).
"Struck out four times? Say buddy, do you wanna go visit that "magic farm" we took your dog to after it got too sick to live with us..."
It works the same way with girls, only in the opposite. A girls’ participation is sports goes against the normative roles put forth by society. It is embracing traditional definitions of masculinity, and denying what has been historically accepted. Even though now girls are more apt to participate in sports, at the end of the day, liking sports is still a quality that is attributed to males. When a girl takes interest in sports, especially in the professional realm, it is still, to an extent, going against the grain of what is expected. As Henley & Freeman point out in their work The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior, the appropriation of behavior and values that go against expected gender roles is bound to be met with resistance. Perhaps this provides an insight on the acceptance of women’s professional sports in society, and why I can’t stand to watch softball or the NCAA Women’s bracket. By participating in professional athletics, women are challenging the old, accepted paradigm; by refusing to accept women’s professional sports as readily as men’s sports, one could interpret it as society as a whole reacting to this shift, as a way to maintain the old ways of understanding sports and gender.
Concepts of beauty also must be considered when discussing women in sports. While I stand firmly with the idea that pro women’s tennis is more popular because it is more competitive and an overall product than women’s basketball or professional softball, one can not omit from the argument basic aesthetics. Women’s tennis has produced such popular stars such as Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Chris Evert, Anna Kournikova, and others not just based on their skills, but also based on the fact that their looks were marketed to a male audience. These women were able to be both marketed to women as heroes and to men as both athletes and sexual objects. It seems that society is more than willing to accept women in sports if they are talented, but also if they are visually pleasing as they do it. This seems to be a pervasive idea not just in tennis but in all female sports. The female athletes that seem to receive the most attention and popularity are usually the ones that are both good at what they do and look good while doing it. It’s no surprise that the most enduring image of women in sports is probably Brandi Chastain scoring the game winning goals in the World Cup, celebrating without her jersey on. The image shows the dichotomy that society seems willing to accept: talent in a masculine field is accepted, but it is embraced when it’s juxtaposed with feminine beauty. Jenny Finch, Amanda Beard and Danica Patrick all benefit from this dichotomy. While they are all very skilled, the fact that they fit the traditional mold of beauty helps them take their career to a level that many of their peers can not. This superficiality can be seen in men’s sports also, but not the same extent. People like Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant (not as much within the last four years though), Derek Jeter and others have definitely been marketed to both men and women in the same way attractive female athletes have been. These are highly skilled individuals who also unfairly happen to be dashing men who look terrific in a tailor made Italian suit. But in the male arena of sports, one could garner attention and sign endorsement deals based on skills and not looks. This speaks to the ability for male athletes to be marketed for the sole purpose of their talent, devoid of any sexual connotations. You could pick any of the various commercials with Peyton Manning and see that his commercials are based on him being attractive, and there are no overt sexual messages in the commercials. But when takes an advertisement with a female athlete, sex is as much a part of the advertising campaign as sports. This social binary in aesthetics points out that in order for female athletes to get any sort of publicity or any sort of a following within our culture, they must be attractive and willing to capitalize on her sexuality.
"Hi, I'm Tom Brady. I'm so damned talented and handsome that I make Christian Bale look like Carlos Mencia."
Are you still reading this entry? Christ, you are a trooper. It’s long, isn’t it? I was going write more, but honestly, I’m tired of writing, especially about this topic. Here’s a synopsis of the last few paragraphs I was going to write: I was going to make the argument that women were a protected class, society won’t allow them to get hurt or too physical, football is the most popular sport but has the least female participation, lack of participation is because football is more violent that an American business man with a school aged Burmese prostitute, show that the most popular female athletes participated in non-contact sports, show how this fits society’s views on feminitity which explains why these sports are more readily accepted. So instead of writing what could be another page, I whittled it down to that.
Societal influences on what is normal, and the fact that certain women’s sports are simply not as good as men’s probably explains why women’s sports aren’t popular. And if it doesn’t, then I just wasted everyone’s time. But I’m sure reading this was still like twelve times better than watching women’s bowling. I mean, those broads can’t bowl for shit!
1. Messner, M. Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities.
2. Henley, N. & Freeman, J. The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior
Nike Assembles All-Star Cast Calling for Equality in Women's Sports
4. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/wnba/316263_wnba18.html?source=rss Other Voices: Women don't watch WNBA, either