Fight the Spread of Bikini Leagues!

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!?

What other suggestions to you have so that we can all take responsibility in our own ways to fight Bikini Leagues.

Augusta National: When “Tradition” = Justified Discrimination

I’ve been following the story of IBM CEO Virginia Rometty and the Augusta National green jacket/membership controversy.

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”).”

Burk makes two great points.

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.


In terms of gender equality, It is clear that IBM, Augusta National have missed a key opportunity and left the putt short.

Even more ironic is the headline of a Washington Times story titledThe 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?

Women’s Basketball Coaches By the Numbers

With March Madness and basketball on the minds of many, I thought I’d provide a “by the numbers” analysis of coaches of women’s basketball. In previous blogs I have outlined, in part, the many barriers female coaches face in entering and staying in coaching at all levels (to read click here and here). Two writers for espnW, Fagan and Cyphers, published an in depth story on this topic titled The Glass Wall: Women continue to shatter stereotypes as athletes. So how come they can’t catch a break as coaches?” that is worth a read.

The 20111 WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve in an article by Fox Sport North, discussed her desire to see more female head coaches in the league. When the WNBA formed in 1997, seven of the eight head coaches were women. Today, the league boasts two all-female staffs, in Indiana and Los Angeles, and six of the 12 head coaches (50%) are women. Of the 33 total coaches, 21 are women, and there are no all-male staffs. The writer of this article makes an interesting point–successful female coaches in the WNBA have primarily been mentored by NBA experienced male coaches. Now female coaches like Reeve can provide visible role models and mentor other females who desire to coach at the professional level.

At the collegiate level some interesting patterns also arise. According to Acosta & Carpenter’s 2012 Women in Intercollegiate Sport Report, basketball is the sport most commonly offered on college campuses and 6 of 10 (60%) of women’s basketball teams are coached by females. This is interesting because only 42.9% of female college athletes in all sports are coached by a female. At the most elite level, the percentage of female head basketball coaches is even higher.

In the Women’s NCAA I basketball tournament, in the Elite 6 of 8 (75%) teams were coached by a female head coach. In the Final Four 3 of 4 (75%) teams were coached by a female head coach. In the championship game both teams (100%) will be coached by a female head coach-Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame, and Kim Mulkey of Baylor.

Is this proof that females are ultimately more successful coaching females when given the opportunity? Is this a sign of the times that the percentage of female head coaches in women’s sport is on the rise? Or is it just a unusual year that makes it seem like the glass ceiling/wall is cracking when it really hasn’t?

Regardless of how you may answer these questions, having McGraw and Mulkey coaching against each other in the NCAA Championship game provides visible role models for young girls and women who aspire to coach, communicates that females can be successful at the highest levels of women’s sport, and helps change gender stereotypes that females are not as competent as their male counterparts.

NOTE: Read a NYT article about pay disparity between head coaches of men’s and women’s basketball. It statesFor Division I basketball, the median salary for coaches of a men’s team in 2010 was $329,300, nearly twice that of coaches for women’s teams, who had a median of $171,600. Over the past four years, the median pay of men’s head coaches increased by 40 percent compared with 28 percent for women’s coaches.” To read full story click here.

Title IX Inspiration & Invitation

Happy National Girls & Women in Sport Day!

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.

In the Sudan, the Islamic Fiqh Council in Sudan issued a fatwa (religious order) saying that it is forbidden for the country to create a women’s soccer team, deeming it an immoral act.

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.