Posts tagged Women in Sports
Posts tagged Women in Sports
In each of the institutions we explored, we found the following overaching themes to connect the way women’s sexuality is perceived in each environment.
Polarity of Women’s Roles
The role of a woman in each environment is often polarized between a masculinized role and a hypersexual one. For example, women in the military strive to appear extremely masculine and capable by acting tough and wearing no makeup. On the other hand, women are hypersexualized because they are the only females around. The all-male environment in pursuit of noble ideals like freedom and justice is less flexible to accepting women’s differences. Any sexual harassment is often ignored or swept under the rug; the men in this field are pursuing noble ideals and undermining their character is akin to undermining the strength of the state.
Women in sports also face the same dichotomy. When women are on the playing field or court, they are perceived as extremely competitive and cannot afford to make any emotional mistakes. The physicality of the sport is emphasized first and foremost. Conversely, women cannot be seen as a successful athlete without being portrayed as a sexual object - female athletes on magazine covers often have to bare their skin and boast their feminine appeal. Furthermore, successful female athletes are often caught in the trap of “super-mom.” Female athletes need to be able to do it all: be competitive in their sport, be sexy when they need to be, and be the compassionate mother raising her children.
Finally, women in the workplace are pulled to either end of the spectrum as well. The “sexy secretary” stereotype has permeated popular culture. A woman wearing a pencil skirt at work is hypersexualized and less respected for their intellect. However, female executives are masculinized in order to be successful. Movies and books often depict the female boss as severe, unyielding, hair pulled back in a tight bun, and wearing a pant suit to appear more like a man. Sexuality is erased at the executive level so women can appear more like men in their logic and rationality.
More Power and Influence
Another overarching theme that is seen in all three institutions is that males hold the most power and influence. For example women in the work place hold little power when it comes to making decisions or being taken seriously because they are seen to be more fragile and emotional. There is little trust in their decision making abilities because they experience too many emotions. This can be seen in the mere evidence that women hold less high level positions than men and also that women are compensated less than men in similar positions.
Women in the military are also faced with little influencing ability and power. Starting with the fact that women consist of only 14% of the military shows that they this field is still controlled and held by men. The power that men hold in this field can be portrayed through the many sexual assault and sexual harassment cases where the verdict consist of minimal punishments to the perpetrators, who are seen to be mostly men. These verdicts are decided by men who hold high power positions within the military. A well-known controversy that illustrates the distinct power differences within the military is that women are not allowed to serve on certian combat line because of they are emotional unstable and don’t have the “correct” body to fit these positions.
Similarly women in sports experience very little power and influence ability. This is especially true when it comes to women and the media. Men continue to be the one’s who hold high powered positions within the media, and make decisions on what is put forth to the public. Women are rarely seen on the front page of sports magazine or making top news, and when they do it is not about their accomplishments within their sport. Rather it is to objectify their bodies into sexual objects, and re-enforce the ideals of what it means to be feminine. Along with little to no coverage in the media, the power men hold within sports can be seen by the fact that men’s sports are much more popular and hold a greater amount of air-time than women sports.
In the world of sports, business, and the military, males dominate. These themes can be seen in connection with the body ideals of each of these institutions. Within the military, women cannot participate on the front lines even if they want to because they are seen as having an inferior body. Male soldiers have the ideal body type and are seen as having the mental capacity to handle the violence that occurs on the front lines of battle. They are stronger and not as emotional as women. Uniforms are another example of this ideal. Until recently, combat uniforms were made only for male soldier. Women are still trained in combat, and they may take part in combat in certain situations, but they do not have the same tailored equipment or uniform.
Likewise in the work force, women must wear a certain uniform to conform to an ideal body. Women wear pant suits that resemble those of men in order to assert their power. Powerful women often wear less makeup and must be very attuned to the neckline of their blouse. Furthermore, women are seen as having a weaker more emotional psyche while men have a stronger one more apt to making decisive decisions. They can separate themselves from emotion to make decisions for the good of the company. In order to obtain positions of power women in this setting must try to obtain the body of a man, and they can display this through what they wear and how they carry themselves.
These ideas also tie into the sports world. Women and men’s leagues are kept separate and this shows a clear separation of bodies. The popularity of male sports over that of women’s shows an ideal body image exists in the sports world. Men’s bodies have the stamina and strength for competition, while women’s bodies are seen as being weaker and having to be in a separate league. Body ideals of what a women should look like are also re-enforced through sports. Through uniforms and media attention, the ideal body of thin, big breasts, long luscious hair, and etc. are continually re-emphasized. And anything outside these feminine characteristics is consider “abnormal”.
Overall, we see that success is often related closely to the extent that women are masculinized in these environments. Women as hypersexualized objects do not command the same respect in these fields, but women that dress or act more like men are seen as victors. At the same time, success is defined in two worlds - women must be successful in their environment as well as at home for them to be validated in their public pursuits. Success is more strictly defined to include both the private and public sphere.
I wanted to explore the ways in which sexuality have played a part in sports, especially when it comes to women. These next few post deal directly with how women’s sexuality is portrayed and objectified through sports.
This comic depicts how society has once again found a way to objectify women and their bodies. In 1999 the Federation Internationale de Volleyball standardize the uniform for beach volleyball to be that of “shorts or a bathing suit”. Seemingly this regulation is vague, however shorts or a bathing suit, leaves women with relatively few options-that she will be a wearing a bathing suit and her body will objectified into a sexual object. The real question lies within the realm of why men don’t wear speedos, if a bathing suit is an option? One answer is that sex sells, and whether a man is in a speedo or shorts doesn’t change the sexual appearance for the onlookers. However if a women were to wear shorts and a tank top, that would have a completely different appeal than a bikini. Yes, there is some argument that the attire is worn because of its comfort, especially in the heat, but they are clearly not required because of their efficiency.
Beach volleyball is not the only sport in which through regulation of uniform, women’s bodies are objectified. The sport of figure skating “ice dance” calls for strict guidelines that differ for men and women. Women must wear a skirt and men must wear full length trousers, no tights allowed and no sleeveless tops.
The question is then why do these rules exist? In both cases the uniform that is required is not because of its comfort or efficiency but rather to view women’s bodies as sexual objects. These regulations are clearly in place to objectify women’s bodies to the standards of what society see’s them as- worthy of only one thing, sex. If society wasn’t trying to objectify women as sexual beings, men would be wearing speedos and leotards.
This isn’t a problem of today’s society but rather a misinterpreted view of women and their sexuality that has been concretely formed throughout history. For quite sometime, especially beginning in the 19th century women’s bodies have been viewed as weaker, less than men. Thus in return they are seen as objects that can be touched and used for sex. Creating uniform regulation such as these is just another way that society has been able to continue to objectify women’s bodies into sexual objects.
Success: “The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted. a. The gaining of fame or prosperity.”
The picture on the left is of Candace Parker a professional basketball player photographed being pregnant. Women are rarely making the front page cover of any sports magazine, but like Candace, when they finally do it’s not because they have accomplished something in their career but rather to re-enforce the definitions of a women, according to a patriarchal society.
After analyzing this photo I then decided I would google images of female athletes to see if this seemed to be a prevailing theme. And little to my surprise I found many similar pictures to that of Dara Torres, a female Olympic swimmer, holding her child. Our societies expectations for female athletes is not merely success and accomplishment of goals but rather the ability to be both good at sports and remain “feminine”. And a large part of being feminine for women has and still does mean being a mother.
Up until recently women were thought of as the only ones who were supposed to be at home, giving birth and taking care of the children. Tied into the next post, women’s breast were at one time largely associated with nourishment thus, women were seen as the primary nurturers of children. Although times have changed and women are starting to make their way into the work force, women’s sexuality is still strongly tied with children and being a good mother. Society has created a “supermom” model in which the “super” mother can balance both work and being a mother.
In the beginning of this post, I wrote the definition of success. No where does it state that success is related to one’s sexual identity: feminine or masculine. So why does women’s sexuality and identity continue to be tied into being a mother? Women should be seen as successful in the field of sports without their worth being tied back to their “femininity” of a being mother. It is a rare occurrence to find an image of male athlete with his children being a fatherly figure, in the media. Men can be successful regardless of their choice to be a father or not, which should be the case. This standard should be applied to anyone that plays a sport, not just one group of people.
Similar to previous posts, these images bring together how women are continually depicted as sexual objects of desire and how “feminine” characteristics such as breast, make up, luscious long hair, etc. override women’s ability to viewed as successful in sports. Women can be good in sports, but it is always accompanied by exploiting her body and “feminine” characteristics.
I mean think back and try to remember a time when you last saw a women on the front page of a sports magazine, where the topic of discussion wasn’t accompanied by a picture of her naked or objectifying her body particularly exploiting her breast. If it wasn’t seen in the picture, I am sure some where in the write up you are bound to find something along the lines of “Breathtaking, really with flawless skin, endless legs and a C cup”.
The point is that, let alone the fact that women rarely appear on the front page of a sports magazine and when they do it’s not because of their accomplishes but rather to objectify their bodies into sexual objects. This picture of Serena Williams affirms this thought. Does picturing her naked really have an effect on how she performs as an athlete. She can be successful regardless of whether she has the got the perfect body and breasts, but not in this society we live in.
The comic specifically deals with societies objectification of women’s breast. The breast have gone through historical changes from the erotic, domestic, political, and now commercialized breast. Commercialized breast has been formed because of capitalism and the need to convince producers to produce and consumers to buy. Using the breast as “sexual objects” gives consumers they idea that can touch the breast, in other words the idea that sex sells. It is very sad that our society has become comfortable/allows their bodies to be objectified only because it is how they will become successful.
Instead we should take the approach of the liberated breast and body. Our body shouldn’t be judge by anyone but ourselves and we shouldn’t let it become “things” external to us. We need to own our body and realize that we can be successful athletes regardless of connotations that our attached to one’s sexuality-feminine or masculine.