Tag Archives: FIFA

Sexy Tennis Ads, Roller Derby as a Legitimate Sport, and the World Cup, AKA What’s New in the World of Women’s Professional Sports (Part 3)

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



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Grunting at Wimbledon and Homophobia in African Women’s Soccer, AKA What’s New in the World of Women’s Professional Sports (Part 2)

This is part two in an ongoing series about women’s sports. See part one here

This month marks the 39th anniversary of Title IX, which was designed to help provide equal opportunity to both men and women in school and in sports. There have definitely been abuses of this regulation, but overall it has done a great deal of good for women. In honor of this, Sheila C. Johnson, who serves as Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and also either owns or co-owns the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA) and the Mystics (WNBA), recently issued a challenge for women to take a more active role in supporting female sports. See, it’s not just men who seem to prefer men’s sports; women seem to prefer men’s sports too. Obviously there remains structural and cultural barriers that have prevented women’s sports from obtaining the same prestige and popularity as men’s sports, but if we want other people to appreciate women’s sports, we must also appreciate it ourselves. Yes, it’s unfair that women’s sports are taken very seriously, but we’ve got to have each others backs:

In honor of Title IX, take your family to a women’s sporting event. Celebrate the strength and competitive spirit of the women on the court or field. Pay attention to the way those female teammates trust, collaborate, and communicate with each other, and bring that kind of leadership and mutual support back into the workplace as well.

If our society is to fully champion women, women have to champion one another.

In other news, a recent New York Times article documents the problem of homophobia on the Nigerian national women’s soccer team. The team’s coach, Eucharia Uche, has continually expressed her belief that “lesbianism” is sinful and morally corrupt, and has brought in spiritual and religious leaders to help curb rates of homosexuality within the team. The coach’s attitude reminds us that homosexuality is extremely taboo all over Africa. The author notes,

On a continent where homosexual behavior is widely considered immoral, lesbians are sometimes ostracized and subjected to beatings. In countries like South Africa andZimbabwe, some women are raped in a so-called corrective treatment for homosexual behavior.

In one high-profile case in South Africa, a top female soccer player and lesbian activist, Eudy Simelane, 31, was murdered in 2008. Although one of her attackers testified that robbery was the motive in the stabbing death, Simelane’s death became the focus of a campaign to draw attention to violence against gays and lesbians.

A team in South Africa has taken on the dangerous challenge of combating homophobia by creating the Chosen Few — an “openly lesbian team of black players in Johannesburg.” The team for many serves as a surrogate family and a safe place for women to live their true characters.

But in sports all over the world, including America, homosexuality is still very taboo:

The treatment of lesbians in sport is not a matter restricted to women in Africa. Some women on previous United States national soccer teams have been reluctant to live openly gay lifestyles for fear of repercussions. And despite all the advances of gender equity in sport, lesbianism remains a sensitive matter in recruiting in college basketball.

This article also reminds us that the professional sports world has long been a hot bed for traditional masculinity and homophobia against gay men. The San Francisco Giants (GO GIANTS! 2010 World Champs!) were recently the first professional sports team to release a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign, which urges and an end to bullying against LGBTQ youth. The Chicago Cubs have also joined in with a video of their own, and I’ve heard that other sports teams are working on getting involved as well. I praise these teams for taking part in the project, and we can only hope that we are reaching a turning point in American sports where homophobia will not be tolerated.

And in the world of professional tennis, the continuous debate over “grunting” continues. The UK Telegraph interviewed All England Lawn and Tennis Club’s chief executive, Ian Ritchie, who declared that loud grunts from the female players are negatively affecting the game.

He blamed younger players, whom he said suffered from an “education problem” about the issue…On the first day of the SW19 championships, Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, a player often criticised for her wails, edged towards record noise levels as she made her debut on Court No 2…Mr Ritchie, a former television and news agency executive, admitted that officials would “prefer to see less grunting…We are one tournament in a global circuit. But we have made our views clear and we would like to see less of it.”

I’m not really a tennis watcher, mostly because I can’t stand the snobbery and elitism amongst the spectators at matches. While I absolutely appreciate the tremendous athletic ability of the players, I tend to like contact sports more. That said, these girls are working their tails off playing a demanding sport, throwing every bit of energy into each hit. Of course they’re grunting. Yeah, it’s kind of distracting, but I hardly think the spectators drinking their tea and sitting on cushions have a right to complain.

Finally, yesterday, June 21st, marked the 15 year anniversary of the establishment of the Women’s national Basketball Association. Awesome!

Finally finally, I will be once again entering the world of women’s sports (I played competitive soccer for years) tonight when I begin training for roller derby with the Santa Cruz Roller Girls! I hope to update you on my adventures — and of course provide a sociological context for women’s roller derby — in the coming weeks!


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Skimpy Badminton Uniforms and Disqualified Soccer Teams, AKA What’s New in the World of Women’s Professional Sports

If you didn’t hear, officials for the sport of badminton recently tried to instill a new policy that would force female athletes to wear short dresses or skirts. Shorts and pants would not be allowed, unless a skirt or dress was worn over these garments. Yeah, because athletes don’t sweat enough already? The Badminton World Federation stated:

In order to ensure attractive presentation of Badminton at tournaments organised or sanctioned by the BWF, all clothing worn by players shall be acceptable Badminton sports clothing. In level 1 – 3 tournaments women must wear skirts or dresses. It is not acceptable to tape over nor to pin on advertising, nor in any other way to modify such clothing to comply with advertising or other regulations.

Check out their implementation guide for the would-be new uniform regulation.

Apparently, the new regulation is to “create a more ‘attractive presentation'” and officials also noted that the new dress code “would make female players appear more feminine and appealing to fans and corporate sponsors” (Source: New York Times).

The inherent sexism in this new regulation is so apparent that it’s shocking that no one thought professional female athletes might object to it. The Badminton World Federation is basically saying that the only way to get viewership up for female badminton is to make their uniforms sexy and feminine. The deputy president of the organization says, “We’re not trying to use sex to promote the sport…We just want [the players] to look feminine and have a nice presentation so women will be more popular,” yet officials are surprised to be fighting against allegations of sexism. Hmmm….women would be more popular if they dressed a certain way? Dude, that is the like the definition of sexist. Come on.

Good news: the new rule has been shelved. For now at least. But if that rule in fact ever gets implemented, I’m starting a petition for a new rule that would force male badminton players to wear this:

See, sexy girls like it. Maybe this new uniform will increase viewership for male badminton games as well.

UPDATE [6/16/11]: Thought I should include a link to a post from Sociological Images from a couple of days ago for further reading!: Femininity and the Proposed Badminton Dress Code.

In other news, women’s soccer in Iran has just taken a hit, as FIFA has disqualified them from competing to enter the 2012 Olympics due to their wearing of headscarves, which apparently violates uniform regulations. The team was set to play Jordan in an Olympic qualifying game, but the Iranian team was dismissed and the Jordanian team awarded with the victory. According to an article in the Washington Post, “In the Islamic Republic of Iran all women are obliged to cover their hair, neck, arms and legs according to the state’s interpretation of Shiite Islamic tenets. Female athletes who compete internationally have to obey the country’s dress code.” An official for FIFA noted that the organization was planning to ban religious expression and attire on the field during the 2012 Olympics, and in addition the headscarves were a safety hazard because they covered the women’s necks.

Let’s see what the FIFA rulebook states:

Players must not reveal undergarments showing slogans or advertising. The basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements. A player removing his jersey or shirt to reveal slogans or advertising will be sanctioned by the competition organiser. The team of a player whose basic compulsory equipment has political, religious or personal slogans or statements will be sanctioned by the competition organiser or by FIFA.

However, it is my understanding that FIFA has made exceptions for the hijab because women in certain countries are required to wear them. It seems to me that they should have let the women play this particular qualifying game and then guide them on how to cover their heads without violating the FIFA code in the Olympics.

It’s a fairly complicated issue, and I can see the arguments on both sides. On one hand, if Christian, Jewish, and Hindu players can’t display signs of their religions on the field, than neither should Muslim players. On the other, hijabs are part of the daily uniform for many Muslim women — it’s not like a piece of jewelry.

On June 9th, NPR’s All Things Considered aired a piece on the controversy. Here’s part of the transcript between Michelle Norris and James Dorsey, who is the author of the blog “The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer”:

NORRIS: FIFA says that the Iranian delegation had been informed thoroughly that they wouldn’t be allowed to wear the headscarves that covered their neck, in part, for safety reasons. Iran has taken a very strong and interesting stance on this. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week called FIFA “dictators who just wear the gown of democracy.” That’s a direct quote.

Was Iran trying to send a message or make a point or push the envelope with these uniforms?

Mr. DORSEY: It’s certainly true that Iran, last Friday, tried to push the envelope. And it’s certainly also true that although this is in and of itself a political issue, Ahmadinejad has gone out of his way to politicize it.

I guess what mostly irks me is that Muslim men aren’t required by culture or law to cover themselves and therefore don’t face any hinderances in qualifying for the Olympics. The women, however, can not participate because their culture and/or religion and/or law dictates the way they appear in public. It’s fine that some women wear the hijab voluntarily, but not all women cover up by choice. And now with the new FIFA law it’s contributing to the suppression of women’s equality in sports.

What do you think?


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