Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Back Talk: Does Sex Really Sell Women's Sports (A: NO!)

Way back in December, I posted an article about Hollywood United's "sister" team, Hollywood United Girls Soccer. My read on them was pretty strong, and recently some members of the team have written in with their perspectives. The result has been a really interesting conversation about the use of "sexy" images of women to sell women's football (e.g. their promotional video) and women's sports. They have a lot more support than the great majority of teams playing at their level: But that support comes at what cost? Does the use of the sexual attractiveness of a team to gain publicity & sponsorship deals help the sport?

I hope to do a follow up story about how the women on that team have changed & evolved in relation to their image as a team. Meanwhile, Dave Zirin at The Edge of Sports has posted a spot-on critique of this practice, and brings to our attention the work of gender & sports academic Mary Kane - who has proven through research that the sexualization of women athletes does far more harm to women's sports than good - by profoundly alienating both women and men (who care about the women athletes in their lives) from sports culture. See this interview with her about her work on this topic. (I mention Kane in my rant about the Guardian article below.) Dave Zirin, Mary Kane: Left Wing sends you her best cross!


  1. That's a good piece by Dave Zirin. I wonder if the sexualization issues play out the same way in individual vs. team sports. It seems like team athletes have less of a history of doing the more sexualized photoshoots than individuals (HUGS excepted).

    OT: Do you use that PEP warm-up program in your training? I know a young woman who was an excellent player in HS here in Florida and she suffered the same multiple fracture injury as Cisse. She's now in community college and looking for ways to keep her legs healthy long term and that PEP program looks like it would be a great element to include in her training.

  2. Hi JoeJoeJOe,

    I've included a link to an interview with Kane, and to her faculty website. She sounds amazing. I'm thrilled about Edge of Sport - it's a great blog. Tom Dunmore of Pitch Invasion turned me on to it.

    Lest anyone get an overblown idea of what my life as a player looks like - I've only had real training this year, as part of the HWFC in London. After a warm up, we have done something that looks a lot like that PEP program. The worst, for me, was anything involving hopping.

    I've been running for years, and have increased my miles in the past four - my knee was making a lot of noise until about two months into the HWFC training. I think all that knee-strengthening really helped. Since we've gone into off-season - the crunchy knee is back.

    There should be more info about that program on its main website. I believe there is in fact a book on knee injury prevention.

    I hope she finds a good physiotherapist - someone who works with athletes like her. Best of luck!

  3. I,too, am frustrated about the attitudes towards women in sports. When I played soccer a few years back when in high school and college, I got a taste of how this can negatively effect women just trying to have fun with the game. When training in early fall in 80+ degree weather at the Rose Bowl, my team and I were understandably hot(no pun intended, really.)we were found running in our sports bras and shorts. Later that week we were asked by some school "official" not to dress so "provactively" because we were distracting the men's team. As if that was our goal in the midst of running 3+ miles on a hot day.

    This double-edged sword, I suppose,will eventually be the death of me. I try to be a healthy woman and enjoy exercising, yet I have to be weary of my wardrobe in efforts to become inconspicuous to the men arround me who may be distracted or aroused by my body. Absolute BS. Thus is the life of a woman, sadly.


Feedback? Let me know what you think. Just an FYI: all comments posted to this blog are recorded, whether I publish them or not. I do not publish generally hateful comments - whether they be directed at me or at players and teams or other readers. I appreciate reader feedback, especially from those whose contributions add nuance and complexity to the story.

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