The last week was a particularly terrible week in terms of egregious coach behavior coming into public light. I am not going to weigh in on the Penn State/Paterno/Sandusky/He Said-He Said/Student Riots Sex Abuse scandal. Others have written on this topic. My favorite pieces (here and here) of the many out there on this topic are by Dave Zirin, who writes for The Nation. He summarizes The Big Problematic Picture of “the billion-dollar logic of big-time college football”.
What may have been lost in the media frenzy over the aforementioned was the egregious behavior of another football coach. A Wyoming high school football coach resigned after he made his players fill out a “Hurt Feelings Survey” (see picture). What would possess a coach of boys to conceive, construct and deliver such a survey is baffling to many. However, it isn’t all that mysterious when placed in the big picture context of how football is the epitome of a masculinity breeding ground and apprenticeship for teaching boys how to be men.
This survey teaches boys exactly what is expected of (real) men: don’t be weak, don’t have feelings, don’t show weakness, don’t tattle on other boys and men (i.e., perpetuate the culture of silence if you are harmed or abused, or see harm being done to others…sound familiar?), don’t be anything but a masculine heterosexual, and don’t turn to others for support or seek comfort when you are hurt (especially from a female like your mother who will surely feminize you even more!…tough it out by yourself and be a rugged individual). This survey teaches boys that being a real man is in opposition to: boyhood and childish behaviors, girls and women and all things feminine, nurturing forms of masculinity (like those needed by fathers and real partners), and gay men.
While the coach who constructed this survey was dumb enough to actually put this all on paper, don’t for a second think other coaches don’t “teach” these lessons to boys every day, in every sport, in every state. Until “lessons” like these are eradicated in youth and interscholastic sports through awareness, coach education and public outcry, the problems like those we have all hard about this week will unfortunately persist.
1. You have to hand it to Japan. They won the game and many hearts along the way. I’d like to think this a universal sentiment, but unfortunately it is not. To see backlash, racism and jingoism from fans pertaining to the WWC Final click here.
2. I find it interesting that the “success” of the WWC has been attributed to Title IX. Wendy Parker provides an alternative viewpoint here.
3. SI.com columnist Ann Killion writes “In the past, women’s teams were expected to do more than just play. They had to build a movement, change their culture, make history. This team is liberated from that.” She lists some things the current US players do not need to do…but what are the responsibilities of female athletes? What should they be?
4. Dave Zirin @EdgeofSports and The Nation writes highlights the “raunch culture” of women’s sports in his piece. “raunch culture” is when women athletes buy into the idea that it’s somehow empowering to display their naked bodies for men’s magazines.” Some members of the women’s French national soccer team decided to provide resistance to raunch culture and the idea that sex sells women’s sport by providing a caption: “Is this how we should show up before you come to our games?” (to see the accompanying picture click here)
5. Despite some of the negative outcomes of the WWC2011, I’m happy to report that much of the coverage and commentary seemed to allude to the fact that women’s soccer is fun to watch because the women are GOOD ATHLETES.
The WWC2011 picture above was created in Wordle.
6. Based on the data, the Women’s World Cup Soccer Final set a new Twitter record for tweets per second, at 7,196….more than killing Bin Laden, the Royal Wedding, the SuperBowl or NBA finals!
Recently I did an “Ask the Sport Sociologist” segment with Dave Zirin on his Edge of Sports radio show. Dave and I talked about espnW and Brett Favre. To listen to the segment, click here.
Following South African Caster Semenya’s 800m win at the Track & Field (IAAF) World Championships, a storm of opinions and commentary erupted over her subsequent sex testing/gender verification.
Some of the best I’ve seen is The Nation piece written by Dave Zirin and Sherry Wolf, an MSNBC video exposing the “Twisted, Sexist, Racist, & Heteronormative” Track & Field History, and two blogs by After Atlanta (here and here).
One sport sociology colleague on Facebook asked pertaining to most of the existing media coverage…”Are we in the 1950’s?” As Zirin and Wolf write, this issue is a “minefield of sexism and homophobia”….but thankfully the critical perspective has emerged.
I’ve been wanting to write a blog about this topic for awhile and a recent interview given by my colleague and the Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport Professor Mary Jo Kane on the Edge of Sports Radio with Dave Zirin provided me with a perfect opportunity!
In the interview with Zirin she discusses research, conducted with Heather Maxwell (Ph.D.), in which their findings refute the idea that sex sells women’s sports. Kane also discusses how the notion of “sex sells” is related to depictions of motherhood and female athletes—like the magazine covers of Sheryl Swoopes and Candace Parker pictured here, homophobia and Pat Griffin’s idea of The Glass Closet, and her thoughts on the Women’s Final Four sport media coverage. (Note: Motherhood and elite female athletes is a popular blog topic lately..see Maria Hardin’s blog and the Pretty Tough blog)
I also think Kane’s interview helps us think through why some female athletes feel it is important to “have it all” (i.e., be sexy, feminine, AND athletic)…which I’ve touched upon in a previous blog about social media.
The interview is less than 5 minutes and well worth your while to hear one of the leading experts on sport media, Title IX, gender, and women’s sports talk critically and share cutting edge research. In the end, as Zirin says, “Sex sells sex“. Sex does NOT sell women’s sports.