Sorry if I’ve been blogging less lately, there are to many things going on to take the time to blog! That said, I wanted to share with you some information you might find interesting.
1. A key Title IX ruling was recently passed down that has implications for girls and women in sport. In essence the judge ruled that cheerleading can not count towards compliance with Title IX.
2. Look for more changes regarding the way in which the NCAA calculates and oversees their Academic Progress Rates (APR). New data analysis reveals that current standards may be weaker than originally intended.
3. On the youth sport news front, The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre commissioned and released a new report on PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM VIOLENCE IN SPORT: A review with a focus on industrialized countries. The report focuses on the fact that “it has become evident that sport is not always a safe space for children, and that the same types of violence and abuse sometimes found in families and communities can also occur in sport and play programmes. Child athletes are rarely consulted about their sporting experiences, and awareness of and education on child protection issues among sport teachers, coaches and other stakeholders is too often lacking. Overall, appropriate structures and policies need to be developed for preventing, reporting and responding appropriately to violence in children’s sport” (p.vii)
4. I have two related bits I’ve recently been involved with regarding big sport brands wanting to create social change. What they also have in common is both initiatives have women in charge. You can imagine I’m a bit skeptical on both, but I’m currently cautiously optimistic on both fronts.
The first is the new ESPN initiative to capture more female consumers–it is called espnW. (the “W” stands for Women). Its launch has gotten a little media buzz. I will keep you posted as I’ve been in communication with the folks at ESPN who are spearheading this new initiative. They are lead by a very sharp woman and her small staff and I believe the resources ESPN has dedicated demonstrates a desire to get this right (unlike Sports Illustrated for Women, which was a miserable failure). So far the process seems on target as they are asking key stakeholders to join the conversation and provide insight. Added NOTE (7/28/10): Read the MinnPost article titled “Media critic and women’s sports advocate Mary Jo Kane is about to step into the belly of the ESPN beast”
The second initiative is a project of the Nike Social Innovation team, also lead by two sharp women. Nike wants to use current sport science research to help leverage their resources and brand to promote and sustain physical activity in the US and UK. I was asked to be part of a multidisciplinary think tank facilitated by ShiftN (a really cool company) earlier in the month where we examined a research-based systems model of the correlates, barriers and potential outcomes of physical activity.
I am excited and honored to be a part of both these initiatives, however I am both happy and concerned that women are at the helm of these new, risky initiatives. I’ve written in an earlier post about the research on the glass cliff and I wonder if this is what is operating in the background in these instances where two big brands are taking risks.
While the glass ceiling is metaphor commonly used to describe the often subtle and unseen social-structural gendered barriers that prevent women from reaching the highest echelons of corporate leadership.
The glass cliff is a similar metaphor used to describe the phenomenon of women’s appointments to precarious leadership positions. The glass cliff illuminates the stress experienced by women who have made it through the glass ceiling (i.e., Head Coaches, CEOs, Presidents of WNBA teams) and find themselves in a more vulnerable and precarious position than their male counterparts. Women on the glass cliff often fight an uphill battle for success, without the support, information and resources needed to effectively execute the job.
Researchers have recently uncovered that when organizations are in crisis and have a high risk for failure, women are more often appointed to positions of leadership. Two explanations are offered: 1) women are perceived as particularly well-suited to manage the crisis, or 2) women are appointed to glass cliff positions because those who appoint them want to protect men (or expose women).
I hope I’m wrong, because the women I’ve met and talked to in charge of these initiatives are movers and shakers I want to see succeed in their visions.
In my last blog, I surmised that when the bracket for the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament was released, it would not be labeled as “The Men’s” NCAA Tournament Bracket 2010, unlike the women’s bracket. Sure enough…I was right. To see “the bracket” click here.
It’s time for March Madness! I love this time of year! I just watched the ESPN selection and the ESPN-U follow up show for the women. Here is the bracket in case you want to download it. I have some cheers and jeers.
I was excited the online ESPN bracket didn’t have the qualifying “Women’s” in front of NCAA Tournament Bracket 2010.
ESPN did a great feature on Baylor’s Brittney Griner, that focused primarily on her SKILLS, numerous ways she can dunk, and how her ability and talent are setting a new standards of excellence for women’s basketball.
I loved the fact there were four very qualified women–Doris Burke, Rebecca Lobo, Kara Lawson, and Carolyn Peck--hosting the shows, along with Trey Wingo.
The .pdf version of the ESPN bracket however, was labeled as the “Women’s”. I will bet my 2010-11 pay cut that when the men’s bracket is complete, there will be no “Men’s” label on any bracket. Why? Because the men’s bracket is the real bracket, and the women’s bracket must be defined and qualified as the lesser bracket by labeling it the “women’s”. This is a common pattern of marginalizing women’s sports documented over time by sport media scholars. Another example is the NBA and WNBA.
The presence of the female sport commentators was undermined both at the very beginning and end of the ESPN-U show by the following comments:
a. At the opening of the follow-up show on ESPN U, after Trey Wingo (seated in the middle, with 2 women on each side) introduced each of his four co-hosts, Carolyn Peck made a comment that the ensemble was like Charlie’s Angels. To that end Wingo asked if that made him “Charlie”, and the banter went on for another 20 seconds with the women confirming that his wan indeed Charlie and they were the Angels.
b. At the end of the follow-up show on ESPN U, as Trey Wingo was signing off and repeated all the names of his female co-hosts, his very last comment was “Look at Doris’ shoes, she went shopping!” and then the camera cut out.
Why is this problematic? Because both comments undermine the credibility of highly qualified and experienced female sport media journalists by focusing on highly feminine roles and symbols of femininity. Given these four women are clear statistical minorities in their field, they are under a constant barrage of scrutiny their male colleagues do not have to endure. They also have to look feminine enough so they do not feed the flame of enduring homophobia in women’s basketball.
Amidst the Olympic fanfare, last week ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser made comments about the attire of colleague Hannah Storm, ESPN SportsCenter co-anchor, on his Washington radio show.
Kornheiser, opined that Storm was wearing a “horrifying, horrifying outfit” and a “very, very tight shirt,” adding that she “looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body.” ESPN confirmed that Kornheiser has been suspended for two weeks from his duties on Pardon the Interruption.
What do you think about this? Comment here and vote in this poll.
Today I had Rick Abbott as a guest speaker in my Sport in a Diverse Society class (can I say guest speakers on the eve of Thanksgiving are the best!). Abbott is the VP of Global Security and Facilities Operations for ESPN where he oversees 4,000 ESPN events worldwide, and most importantly he is a graduate of the University of Minnesota. As someone who usually is critiquing ESPN for one reason or another, I found Abbott fascinating and I learned a great deal. I’ll give you my Top 5 “plays of the day” (i.e., take homes).
1. Every summer ESPN hires 120 interns. Only 5 are offered jobs!The ESPN Campus in Bristol, CT houses 3,500 employees.
2. ESPN pays $1.1 billion to the NFL to be able to use any footage of the NFL they want in their broadcasts.
3. Poker gets a higher viewership (.5) than the WNBA (.3).
4. More women watch the NFL and Men’s College Basketball than the WNBA. Abbott wasn’t sure many males watch the WNBA, which is what research audience reception tells us.
5. ESPN will launch an “ESPN W” to try and capture the high school girls market. I can’t wait to see what this looks like! It will come out of the ESPN Rise brand.
He also had three great pieces of advice for the students. First, don’t gossip it is a career killer. Second, you never know who you’ll meet that will lead to a job…you are always interviewing for a job. Third, sometimes you have to take risks, go backwards, and make hard choices in your career to get where you want to be…don’t play it safe.
I’m watching the pre-race coverage of the Preakness horse race right now on NBC. I’ve been following the media coverage of this race all week. Drama and debate rage on “should fillies race with stallions” due to the recent success of filly Rachel Alexandra. What strikes me, is that nearly the same arguments arise when female athletes compete or encroach upon male sport…wait…I’m sorry horses are athletes (just look at ESPN’s Top 100 athletes of the century…where there are almost as many horses as female athletes).
Some, including RA’s former owner Harold McCormick, stated that “fillies should race with fillies, and stallions with stallions”. RA’s new owner Jess Jackson said today on NBC that “Champions should race with champions….the best should race against each other…and it isn’t a matter of female or male, she is a good horse.” Sport sociologists have pointed out that separating male and female athletes is arbitrary and serves to reinforce a gender binary that perpetuates male superiority, because if females are not allowed to compete with males, females can never beat males.
RA is bigger and weighs more than Mine That Bird who won the Kentucky Derby, but everyone is talking about how she is “at more risk for injury” (which is another reason why it is argued females should not compete with males, they are fragile and more susceptible for injury). But no commentators are saying that Mine That Bird should not race because he is smaller and weighs less.
Her new trainer just said that “she is a classy filly” and they have just been trying to keep her happy. Classy and happy? Would we say that about a male horse? (maybe we do, I don’t know horse racing well).
One commentator just said RA is a “man running against boys….she’s a freak!” and a former jockey commentator called her “a super filly” (when female athletes are really good and start beating males, they are often called “men” or labeled lesbian. Females are in essence regendered or classified as super-normal, to explain why they excel in sports). Only a “super” filly can beat a male horse! Well let’s see what happens!……
UPDATE: RACHEL ALEXANDRA WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE FIRST FILLY TO WIN THE PREAKNESS SINCE 1924 and the first horse to win it from the #13 position! Perhaps she IS a super filly. Her jockey Calvin Borel just said, “She is the best horse he’s ever ridden”. (he didn’t say best female horse…best horse). We can only hope the post-race coverage is less sexist and echos that of Borel…she is a great horse. Period.