Thoughts on Bras, (Soccer) Balls, & Bikes

A few random things to think about over the weekend:

SICover_1999 world cup team1. As the 10th Anniversary of the 1999 Women’s World Cup in upon us, pay attention to how the media constructs this historic event. Will the focus be on a) the US win and competitive achievement, b) Brandi Chastain’s offing-the-soccer jersey to expose her Nike sports-bra (see the NCAA Double-A Zone), c) the “girls of summer” (i.e., the wholesome, attractive, All-American darlings that everyone fell in love with) many of whom are now mothers, d) how the historic event gave notice that people DO like to watch women’s sports (especially when it is promoted in the media and marketed) (see Christine Brennan’s USA Today column, e) how the team provided role models for young boys and girls, or f) spawned two women’s professional soccer leagues (see WPS) …..or perhaps some of all of the above? I’ll be curious to see what dominant messages arise.

women cycling2. The Tour de France is underway! Will Lance Armstrong really win it yet again? It got me thinking…why don’t women ride in the Tour de France? I did a little sleuthing and found no real answers but there IS a race called Le Grand Boucle (“the great loop”) which is been held off and on roughly over the last 15 years. The women’s race is shorter, has varied in the number of stages (the men’s race has 21), and the 2009 race will be just four days long “due to organizational difficulties” (according to Wikipedia..take it for what you will). If you know French, you can see the official website of Le Grand Boucle…je parlez un peu francais. It makes me think that the exclusion of women in the Tour de France is arbitrary, and the shorter “lesser than” women’s race, serves to perpetuate existing and historical gender hierarchies in sport that privilege male athletes.

6 Replies to “Thoughts on Bras, (Soccer) Balls, & Bikes”

  1. A freind of mine competed in the women’s version of the Tour de France a number of years ago. As we all know, the Europeans also struggle (maybe even more than US) to recognize women in sport. So it’s no surprise that following the women’s cycling tour is like searching for a needle in a haystack! Great example from this athlete/freind of mine…she won the silver medal in Athens in the women’s time trial. No one new it or heard of her, but Lance got some press for his bronze in the same event!

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  2. NLo,
    I was shocked on how little information existed on women’s cycling compared to the men. I thought I was missing something! Thanks for your comment.
    -nml

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  3. Nicole–
    There are women in the Tour de France! You can’t miss them. They flank (but stand one step below) the stage winner, the yellow jersey winner, the king of the mountains, etc. during the podium presentations after each stage. They are always in identical dresses carrying flowers and they kiss the winners!
    And thus we see that women are integral to the tour! If women were actually riders in the tour with the opportunity to stand on the podium who would do all the kissing and flower-presenting?

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  4. Belated comment on this post…but I was volunteering at the National Cycling Championships this past week and was struck by the differences in the event distances for males versus females. For example in the criterium races, the Under 23 women competed for 30km while the 17-18 boys competed for 45km. Similar differences in distances held in the other events. The question is WHY? Clearly this pattern is tied to the false belief that females are not physically strong enough to endure the same distances as males. After spending any amount of time with these elite female cyclist, there is no question that they are strong and fierce athletes. Of note, one of the Under 23 women was the one who pointed out the distance disparity to me as she scoffed at it…obviously, she wanted to compete for 45km.

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  5. Beth,
    These distance differences are completely arbitrary and antiquated. It makes no sense, not does the 3 set v. 5 set difference in pro tennis. Another way to ensure there is a “better” and “less than” version of the same sport, and a way to keep the “better” version, the male version. thanks for the post! -nml

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