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Sex, Sexuality and Women’s Sports

Sex, Sexuality and Women's Sports

I’ve been obsessively watching the great coverage on ESPN of the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament. Yes, folks women do play soccer just like the men and they are quite good. While the US seems to have regressed in its women’s soccer passion since the 99ers (like Mia Hamm) retired and nobody seems to have filled that female soccer celebrity void, the world is catching up. The soccer (football to the rest of the world) is better, more competitive, and the women are amazing athletes able to run, tackle and kick butt for 90 minutes.

With the World Cup going onm with the WNBA playing, with Wimbledon just finishing, and the US Open coming, women athletes are in the media spotlight which is unusual since We don’t typically see a lot of women’s sports on TV. According to this Time Magazine piece, women’s sports takes up just 1.6% of the airtime and 8% of the all the sports media. Pathetic. But because of the confluence of these events we get to have our cultural freak out about how women athletes look.

Women athletes have to be women and athletes. They have to in many respects look like “good girls” and “good women” in order to make people feel comfortable about their athletic prowess. Of course, all the girls want to wear cute dresses when they crush a tennis ball because they get mixed messages, be strong, but not too strong, and make sure you look good all the while you are kicking butt. Male athletes do not have to deal with this at all.

It’s not just that women have to look good, they also have to look straight. Bottom line, it’s continues to be about homophobia. And while women’s sports should be a place fighting this issue, it’s a place that tacitly promotes it whether they do it on purpose or not.

Sports is a huge way for girls to see themselves powerfully and what do they see? They see this new ad campaign “Strong is Beautiful” from women’s tennis. And they see the several German women’s players (though none on the World Cup team) posing for Playboy to show they are “normal and lovely.” And they see three women from the French soccer team posing nude for the German newspaper Bild trying to get more people interested in their tournament.

Next year Title IX will celebrate its 40 anniversary. We are onto a third generation of girls playing sports, yet as girls learn how to be strong through sports they still get the message that it still matters how you look in order for them to even potentially be a successful female athlete.

Game, Sex and Match: The Perils of Female Sports Advertising (Time)

France women’s trio pose naked (video soccer)
The soccer strip-down (ESPNw)

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