This is part three in an ongoing series about women’s sports. See part one here, and part two here.
Sexy ladies have always been a selling point for female sports. As much as female athletes are strong, dedicated, talented, and competitive, advertisements continue to portray these professionals as sexy women first and athletes second. Yesterday, Now Magazine published an article in response to a recent ad for the Rogers Cup, which some are denouncing as sexist:
“An ad for the tournament being held at York University’s Rexall Centre next month reads ‘Come for the ladies, stay for the legends’ and pictures tennis stars Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, as well as retired men’s greats Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. A similar ad is also posted online…
‘It’s demeaning towards women. It suggests women are just the initial attraction, they don’t actually matter,’ said Heather Jarvis of Slut Walk. ‘It says the real athletes, the real legends, are the men.’”
Here’s an image of the advertisement.
An outside advertisement agency is responsible for the ad, not the Rogers Cup, but it’s still another example of how women’s sexuality is constantly touted in advertisements as more important than their athleticism.
Another recent article, debates the sexual nuances of the World Tennis Association’s new Strong Is Beautiful advertising campaign. Writes author William Lee Adams:
“Some call them racy, while others call them inspiring…Hoping to raise the profile of the women’s game, the WTA filmed 38 of its players — from Serena Williams to Li Na to Petra Kvitova — slugging away at balls that release glitter and colored powder upon impact. With their bulging thighs and taut arms, the women display their athleticism in a way that is meant to cut through the layers of chiffon and lace and suggest that beauty stems from strength. ‘The images are very much about power and grit and artistic beauty as opposed to physical beauty,’ says Andrew Walker, chief marketing officer for the tour. ‘We’re very focused on who our players are: the world’s best female athletes.’
That may be true. But according to a number of sports-media researchers, the campaign — like so many others in female sports — undermines its players’ achievements by sexualizing them, inadvertently or otherwise. And that just adds insult to injury. A recent study found that major television networks in the U.S. devote just 1.6% of airtime to women’s sports — down from 6.3% in 2004 — and across TV and print media, female athletics makes up, at most, 8% of overall sports coverage. When female athletes are featured in ads, it tends to be in ways that hyperfeminize them rather than highlight their athletic competence. ‘Yes, these women are beautiful, but we see lots of cleavage and legs, and it’s set to music that is reminiscent of soft-core porn,’ says Nicole LaVoi, associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports at the University of Minnesota. ‘That might be interesting and titillating, but it isn’t going to make me turn on Wimbledon.’”
I have yet to see all of the advertisements, so I can’t fully comment on the sexualization of female athletes in this campaign yet.
And while this is not about a professional sport, I came across this blog from Jerry Seltzer, who wrote about his reactions to a SportsIllustrated.com’s Face in the Crowd edition featuring a derby girl. Listed among football, volleyball, field hockey, and cross country players was Portia Hensley (aka Frida Beater), recognized for her instrumental role as a jammer for the Rocky Mountain Roller girls. In 2010 Hensley “scored the winning points on a power jam with 16 seconds left to help defeat defending champion Oly Rollers in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association national championship by one point, 147-146.” Seltzer points out that unlike other blurbs about roller derby, this shout out makes no mention of costumes, makeup, bad attitudes, or sexy chicks in booty shorts. Straight up, this woman is included for her athletic accomplishments like all the other athletes included on the site. Jerry writes:
“..in last week’s Sports Illustrated, Faces in the Crowd, there was a matter-of-fact four-line paragraph next to the photo of Portia Hensley…No mention of bizarre behavior, tattoos, costumes, etc; just that an athlete scored the winning points for her team in a championship contest. No Roller Derby (wink wink) or any denigrating descriptions. No, these women are skating Roller Derby and we know what that means…The legitimacy of the game is not questioned, as it should not be.”
It’s awesome to see derby girls get recognized for their athletic prowess, rather than just as tattooed girls who want to wail on each other. As I learn to skate and watch the Santa Cruz Derby Girls scrimmage up close, it is clear that these girls are powerhouses of energy and strength; forces to be reckoned with for sure.
And finally, if you didn’t catch the Brazil vs. USA FIFA World Cup game today you missed out on one of the most torturous, frustrating, and exciting soccer games in recent history. With seconds remaining in extra time, USA’s Abby Wambach scored a goal to tie the game at 2-2 and forced the teams into a penalty kick shootout. USA goalie Hope Solo kicked major ass by blocking one of Brazil’s shots, securing USA a spot in the semifinals later this week! It was an extremely intense game, with several TERRIBLE calls by the referee, who failed to call one of Brazil’s goals offsides, and issued several red and yellow cards to USA players (undeserved in my opinion). The most ridiculous part was when, with minutes left in the game, a Brazilian player seemingly faked an injury. As the medical team was transporting her off the field via stretcher, she threw off the straps, jumped off the stretcher, and flew back onto the field. It was one of the most bogus and blatantly ridiculous fake injuries I’ve ever seen, and because several minutes were added back onto the clock to make up for her fake-injury time suck, USA was able to score the game tying point!! AWESOME.
Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press