Thursday, December 20, 2007

HUGS: on sexism & Hollywood United's 'sister' team

I put "sister" in scare quotes, because I can hardly imagine anyone with a lot of respect and love for their sister coming up with an idea like Hollywood United Girls Soccer - HUGS.

When I heard that Hollywood United - a team of Hollywood musicians, actors, and retired soccer players - many of the latter with international caps - had a sister team, I thought "cool!"

I of course pictured Joan Jett mixing it up on the field with the likes of Brandy Chastain and Julie Foudy. Alas, that is not what HUFC has in mind.

Again, this story begins one year ago on a Sunday afternoon. It involves a drive first into posh enclaves in the South Bay area, and then over to Crossroads in Santa Monica, which is a posh enclave in and of itself. The trip was my first foray into the HUFC universe - not to see them play, but to see members of the team play in an annual tournament in which ex-pats from England, Scotland, and Ireland play a team of Americans. It was a wholesome family affair sponsored by the British and Dominion Club of Orange Country. Those games were brutal - big guys going at it. Some were fun to watch, but it was mostly an inelegant game - as it would be, since the teams don't normally play together.

The highlight of tournament for me was meeting some of the women who play in the Orange County Women's Soccer League. As I walked over to talk to them, I felt myself being sized up. Not: "Is she younger than me?" "Is she prettier than me?" But a far more intimidating assessment of my fitness level. (I was also struck by their outfits - high waisted jeans, and expensive but very simple white shirts, understated gold jewelry. Official OC lady-jock kit?)

Anyway, we talked footie for a while - turns out they were heading into a 30 year anniversary for the league, which was been founded in 1976 - surely it must be one of the older leagues in the country, and I'm dying to learn more about the early days of its formation.

I was impressed, and a little scared of the fireplug manicured lady bulldogs from the OC. And I wasn't even watching them play - I'm sure they are very fierce (picture furrowed brows and ponytails whipping around like cat-o-nine tails). Soon the men's game ended, and I hopped into my trusty Honda to drive over to Crossroads, a private school in Santa Monica with a first rate 3rd generation artificial turf field. HUGS was playing in a co-ed tournament there, with some guys from HUFC.

The HUGS girls were really pretty - young, tan, wearing lip gloss and eye liner. They seemed really nice. One had even brought cupcakes. They wore specially designed outfits - not soccer kits, really - short shorts, tight shirts - all the better to serve their assets, which were in abundance.

They were about as fierce as a bunch of kittens rolling around in the grass. I shouldn't paint them all with the same brush, as one or two had some fire on the field, but in general, they were embarrassing. I'd say my own skill level was higher - and that isn't saying much at all.

Ian Carrington, the HUFC manager who told me about this game, was apologetic. But I'm not sure understood what he ought to be apologetic for.

Women athletes have to fight tooth and nail for any visibility (do you have to give birth, as did Paula Radcliffe, months before a marathon you win, in order for winning to NYC marathon to be newsworthy?). HUFC contributes to the problem when it recycles the worst aspects of the sexism that structures the culture of international football - in which women players are treated like a titillating side show. For points of reference - somewhat random: see Alex Bellos's discussion of Brazil's team beauty queens & pageants in his book Futebol, or, more simply, that nation's genuine shock that it should forward the most exciting women's side in the game; check out Bellos's profile of Marta - or, more interesting, see the story of Ronaldo's first wife, Milene Domingues. Sexism in traditional football cultures (e.g. England, Spain) is bad enough. It's bad enough that adult women who love the game can tell stories about being turned away from the game by the absence of opportunity, by outright discrimination. Or simply that girls in even the most developed countries don't get to dream about making a living playing their favorite sport - no matter how gifted they might be. Using the cause of women's football to cruise cocktail waitresses working in the crush of Hollywood & Highland is just plain sad.

I find the HUGS poorly written "mission statement", which asserts that this team of soccer babes will "bring soccer to the forefront of sports in the United States", unbearably ludicrous - insulting, in fact - unfolding in a parallel universe of men who could care less about the 2009 start up of an actual pro league, who think "Mia who?," who have no stake in the big questions facing the US women's national side. Perhaps the HUGS mission is meant to be funny? Which makes it all the more upsetting - girls playing soccer: How cute! How amusing! Their myspace page is even worse (e.g., the above image).

At least Arsenal and Tottenham have the sense to lend their names to real teams (although they don't have the decency to pay the players - a topic for another post).

That afternoon I found myself struggling to keep my feelings in, and struck by the fact that the culture of that swath of the amateur scene is defined by a deeply panicked version of masculinity - a strange weekend attempt to marshal whatever scraps of white male privilege are left in LA, and by the function of this team: with nary a woman on it whose skill level might give these guys something to think about - they are a fluffy bit of stage dressing, meant to shore up their sponsor's fantasy that they might still have balls.

Heaven forbid HUFC support the cause of women's athletics by sponsoring a team of women who might actually be able to give them game!

There's a story brewing in this: LA Galaxy president Alexi Lalas plays for HUFC - and Galaxy owners AEG will also own the LA based women's professional team for the new league - It's hard for a real fan of women's football to support any organization that spawns something as awful as HUGS. I would love to see Lalas withdraw from HUFC as a show of support for his real sisters, the ones in the game.


  1. Well, I think that it is somewhat the women's fault that this is happening. I mean that those 'kittens' who were 'playing footy' that afternoon are the main reason that hardly anybody takes ladies' leagues seriously.

    Sure, some pervert desinged those outfits to make those gifted girls stand out, but the kittens wore them. They said it was ok. In their opinion, they can lose the extra 25 calories they gained in eating a pretzle by running like headless chicken in a game which they pretend is football and then they can gossip about God knows what once the game is over. As far as they are concerned, Jennifer, who is sitting on the sidelines and actually cares about football should become like them if she wants to kick the ball.

    As a spectator, when you see a ladies' game like the one you watched, you do not want to go to another like it. These games take all crdibility away from girls' football and give birth to the stereotypes which I am sure you are all too aware of. And that is where the rejection of women from the soprt comes from.

    And so, the other girls, who do not bring cupcackes to a football match, have to suffer because they do not have the facilities or opportunities to become professionals. They do not have these faciliteis because nobody takes them seriously. Really, it is kind of sad.

    PS. American Football also sunk to this low when they hosted the 'lingerie superbowl' as part of the pre game show to the superbowl two years ago. You can guess what kind of people were dressed in lingerie and how well dressed they were. It looks like what you mention in your arctile also expands to other sports.

  2. Thanks for your comment Andrei! I was going easy on those gals - trying my best to be generous - but yes, they are as much a part of that problem as the Hollywood United guys who put the team together.

  3. When I first saw the HUGS, I too had the same reaction you had in regard to them essentially mocking the game. Being a female who has played this game for the better part of 20 years, I'm no stranger to being sized up and understated as soon as I lace up my boots. I've had to try twice as hard and sweat twice as much just to get recognition as a "real" player simply because I'm female. I was actually offended the first time I caught the concept of the HUGS.

    Then I talked to one of the captains at a HUFC benefit game. She explained to me their actual goal to create awareness and that HUGS spawned from a love of the game by women who weren't very good at it but had a passion for the game and a desire to learn. The were looking to revamp their image and have an "A" team and a "B" team that would allow for the less experienced players to train and learn and the more experienced players to go out and help give the HUGS a credible name in the soccer community. In the beginning they tried going the route of the tight shirts, lip gloss, and perfect hair. After getting their asses handed to them on the pitch time and time again, they realized that they would actually need to learn skills and do some smart recruiting.

    I agree with the basis of their "mission statement", though initially I did not agree with the execution of it. I think as time goes on, you may be a little more likely to warm to the HUGS as they begin to give opportunities to some of the women who love to play this sport but may not have been fortunate enough to learn these skills in school the way some of us have. If the HUGS looks can gain interest from people who might not take a second glance at the sport, and if they have the smarts to stock up a team with solid players and raise awareness in the US about this amazing sport, I say kudos.

  4. Hi Snow. Thanks for reading my blog & taking the time to respond.
    I know - I saw them play and they seem like nice gals. I hesitated to write this entry, but Hollywood United is the face of grassroots LA football in the UK - the only articles I've ever seen here in London about amateur footie in LA are about HU & LA Vale. My issue isn't with the girls on the team exactly (though I honestly can't relate participating in that sort of thing).

    My issue is with Hollywood United, and their whole vibe. They set out to create this women's team without any effort, as far as I can tell, to make it a "real" team. That alone is gross.

    Fact of the matter is, women are so into playing, and have so much less opportunity than men to do so, you can't make a team and have it just be a showpiece. Nobody like to lose, and I saw a couple gals on the pitch who seemed really competitive & fit.

    I just think that this sort of thing - the whole centerfold as a means of promoting women's sports - is total bullshit.

    Posters of girls in skimpy football kits is a big part of professional football culture worldwide (including LA - see cerveza ads on Sunset blvd of girls in Galaxy & Chivas short shorts and cropped tops) No place I know that fosters that sort of portrait of playboy bunnies in kits (UK, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Italy....) actually supports women athletes - but at least none of those places present this fantasy as something they do on behalf of women footballers.

    So, it's not a new idea, but in most countries, guys are honest enough to own up to this as a sexual fantasy (sadly, all too often accompanied by a culture that prohibits women from actually playing).

    I actually don't have a problem with the fantasy itself - I mean, it isn't like I don't look at Arsenal's line up and think, "hmmm...." And I had a picture of Thierry Henry on my fridge for three years - partly because he's a great player, and partly because I think he's totally hot.

    I just think Hollywood United should be more open about what they are doing - or at least figure it out. You can't build a serious women's football team around cup size and hair cuts. The leagues are just too competitive. The HUGS know this, and I think HU knows this - but I don't have the impression that HU has the basic feminist consciousness one needs to actually coach and support women athletes.

    As a former punk rocker (who has clearly never let go of the politics that comes with that past - someone one can't say about the musical fossils associated with HU) I'd rather see Hollywood United drawing from its own roots in rock and roll, and putting bad ass aging lady rockers on the field who can stir up some serious football (I played with a woman like this on Sole Sisters, in a 7 aside thing in Glendale - a lot of the women on that team actually had links to Hollywood United, but don't play for HUGS - gee, wonder why?).

    Anyway, if there's a community of women in LA who need help and support for playing, it's the young women living not in Santa Monica, but in Ramparts - their brothers, husbands, and friends get to play in tons of community leagues, but where are the opportunities for them - for especially young adult women who aren't able to go to colleges with athletic programs that allow them to play past age 16?

    HUGS, though, would be the very last representatives of women's football that I'd send there to tackle this problem.

  5. Hello,
    I stumbled upon this blog and laughed. HUGS has come a long way, and I think the team deserves to be represented in a positive light...a voice from an actual member of the HUGS.
    I am the co-captain of the HUGS and have been on the team for almost a year now. I joined when I moved to Los Angeles from the Santa Cruz area, and it was the best thing that has happened. Having a group of women who welcome you with open arms and support you in a city like Los Angeles is priceless...especially when working in the entertainment industry. The camaraderie is like no other and I can truly say that all of the women on the team are great friends and we all respect each-other...we're like sisters. Currently, we are playing in the Santa Monica Women's league and are undefeated, and several of us are also playing the Santa Monica Co-Ed league with others on the HUFC team, and also undefeated (last season we won the league!).
    Here are just a few things I would like all of you to be aware of, and hopefully you will have a new found respect for the HUGS:
    1. HUFC did not create the team. Beate Antares, the captain of the team, created it.
    2. HUGS is a team of women who have a love for the sport, and go beyond just playing the sport for fun. There have been 3 charity matches, in which all proceeds were donated to the charities. Currently we are setting up a charity event to raise money to help a group of Shaolin Monks stay in the country who dream of living here to teach and open their own schools.
    3. We have signed with a manager in the UK who was an Arsenal player...she absolutely loves the team!
    4. All of the women on the team have college degrees or are currently still in college.
    5. We don't run around playing in short shorts. Adidas has sponsored the team with kits, and we have been approached by other companies for sponsorship.
    6. Since when did wearing lip gloss hurt anyone?
    7. One of our teammates will be trying out for a team in the UK. She's an awesome player, and she also plays with the HUFC team in the Santa Monica league and can run circles around the opponents.
    8. Running a team is a lot of work and on top of that, we have careers that are time consuming and demanding. The only money involved is the money we have to take out of our own pockets to pay for the leagues and games. All of the women play for free and love setting aside time to play as a way to stay physically fit and to have time to unwind and release any stress from their worlds on the soccer field.
    9. Why can't beginners have an opportunity to play just for fun? Everyone gets to play. This is club soccer, not a national team. We are a team of all levels, and don't discriminate against anyone who would like to join.
    10. One of the girls from the Glendale team plays with the HUGS. She loves the fact that we are doing something positive.
    11. Cup size and hair cuts...hmmm...we're a range of A-D. There's no size requirement to be a part of the team. Hair cuts...we don't give a damn what anybody does with their hair. As long as it's pulled back for the games, it's all good. Women who play and are beautiful shouldn't be an issue. Please don't jump to conclusions by the way one looks... ignorance is unfortunate.
    12. Bottom line, this team isn't trying to change the way people look at soccer. It's about coming together and having fun and helping others...and if we can influence other women to love and appreciate the sport of soccer either on or off the field, then so be it.
    13. Instead of criticizing, and if you are so passionate about soccer and concerned about the image of women playing soccer, wouldn't it be more beneficial to be proactive and join forces with a group like the HUGS instead of bashing and slandering according to biased and superficial opinions? Evidently, some bloggers don't do their homework...let this be a lesson learned.
    14. If you asked what each woman on the team has to say about their experience of being a part of the team I guarantee you would have a new found respect for the HUGS...and you might just want to join as well.
    15. We graciously thank the HUFC team for helping to coach the women, making us better players, and supporting us as their sister team. It took HUFC 9 years to accomplish what they have so far, therefore they know the diligence and patience it takes to build a strong team, and only wish us the same success.

    Stay tuned...the HUGS are still alive!

  6. Dear Precious Jennifer,

    Unfortunately it appears you have gotten some of your facts wrong. Since it is quite evident that you have neither done your homework on the team or have spent any time interviewing the key players, I will graciously fill you in on some of the missing information. To start out with, I actually started the team two years ago after having my heart broken by an emotional abusive guy who spent several years belittling me. Once I found the courage to exit that unproductive part of my life, I was seeking out female camaraderie. After watching one of the HUFC games and seeing how the men interacted with each other, I set out to create that with a team of women. I knew if I had been part of a team, I probably wouldn't of been in that devastating relationship in the first place. I started the team to keep other women from experiencing what I had gone through. I'm not writing this to gain your pity, but to point out that from darkness this group became my light. I truly wished you had gotten to know some of the women and found that I wasn't the only one who had been seeking a support group.
    So, I asked the manager of HUFC if we could start a women's team and slowly build it up to their standards.
    Although the HUFC had their doubts, they lent us their hand. Some of the HUFC players dedicated their free time to coach women of all levels, without strings attached.... ( in case your assuming more ).
    So H.U.G.S started out with a small group of women who just wanted to play and be part of a team again. We never set out to be anything more than a fun group of women who spend some time on and off the field with one another. But we have evolved to creating a second team for advanced players.
    Therefore on team for the beginners who are looking at soccer as a recreational bonus in their lives, and the A team which would consist of advanced players who don't have the opportunities to play after their college careers. It has taken two years to fill up those spots....and hey, many girls have jumped over from other teams to join ours.

    So you can't put down the HUFC team for they have been nothing but helpful and supportive. In fact they shared with me that it took them nine years to get where they are now.... and they are currently playing in the U.S OPEN.

    Apart from misunderstanding the HUGS, I think the point that critics have to realize
    is that women's soccer is the fastest growing sport in the world, and that we all have to accept it will grow in all forms, including some you may disagree
    with. I find that you have unfairly used our mission statement and image
    on one day that you had to observe to prove a point that isn't really HUGS'
    Lets keep in mind that male footballers also cash in on their looks.
    You called the girls kittens, but at least you saw beginners getting out there and trying to play against all odds. It's easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize recreational club soccer, isn't it?

    BTW Paula Radcliffe - is probably the most high profile british athlete of all and gets WAY more
    coverage than many of the male runners - because she wins. She got coverage before
    her baby and after it. Having her baby had nothing to do with it.

    In addition, the HUGS women are not little babes
    or kittens. Every girl has a college degree, and careers ranging from Investment bankers, Film Directors, Graphic Designers, Stunt Woman, Lawyers and working Actresses.
    I think you keep forgetting that these fairly succesful women get together to bond in a healthy and safe environment.

    So what's the stink with our original kits that was donated to us by another woman? What is so wrong with embracing you femininity? It's not like the women are exposing their hoo - haa's ! I see girls wearing less on the streets and in the clubs.

    You may not agree with some of the media attention we have gotten, but this has opened doors to the women on our team who are seeking to one day be part of a professional team. Due to some of the contacts we have aquired in the last two years, some of our woman have been given the opportunity to appear in commercials, films, and internships relating to soccer. They are meeting influential people that can help them get closer to their career goals, and have met with other pro teams.

    So yes we might wear lip gloss, but does that mean we are not allowed to play or be knowledgable about the game? Does this mean I should turn women away from the team, because they have a nice haircut? Does this mean I turn away women who might be new to the world of soccer and are interested in learning a new skill?
    I think there are far worse things happening in the world than a few girls wearing a bit of mascara on a soccer pitch and half an inch off their shorts.
    We are into our league three games, all which we have won and have high hopes of winning the league.

    All in all, I wish you had taken the time to talk to us and properly done your investigation. We invite you to come and play with the HUGS and learn for yourself what we are. We don't tear others down, instead we help build them up.

    FYI - those young women you talk about who don't have the opportunities to play... many will benefit from our future charities we plan on organizing. Have you ever physically taken one of them by the hand and walked them on to a pitch ? Well, I have!!!!

    Best Regards,

  7. I am really glad to have feedback from HUGS players. The game I saw was a while ago - near the start of your team from the information you give above. As it happens, I tried talking to players but no one seemed interested in talking to me - probably just the difficulty of trying to talk to people at a game. Ian introduced me to a couple of folks that day (at Crossroads), and I talked to some supporters watching the game.

    And lest people forget: this is a blog - an on-line public diary. This isn't a newspaper. I do try to get the facts right, but this is more of an editorial space than anything else. I described what I saw, and stand by it.

    My blog entry didn't pretend to understand how the women who play for HUGS think about it. Which is, again, why I am very glad to have your comments here.

    I was introduced to HUGS by Ian Carrington, of HUFC - and he definitely gave me the impression that HUFC managed and ran the team. More than an impression, in fact - he told me to come see "our women's team" play. The HUFC website also suggested that HUGS was a "spin off" of HUFC.

    I agree: women working together as a team is a fine feeling - be it in heels & lip gloss, or in studs & ponytails! I feel very similarly about my team here in London. My point vis a vis the lip gloss issue was rhetorical.

    The website & press material related to HUGS is apparently misleading - given how you write about the team above. Those images trade on standardly sexy imagery to "lure" interest in the women's game - and furthermore muddies the waters by presenting HUGS as a team "furthering the cause of women's football". (How? Funding girls teams? Showing up to support the semi pro teams in the area? The NWT?)

    My politics on such things are plain - I'm an anti-homophobic, anti-racist Marxist feminist etc. - I am clearly not HUGS ideal audience - I'm generally "against" the deployment of "cute" to assuage male anxiety about women in any setting.

    I wish that female players of all sports were relieved of the pressure to feel that they need to present themselves as hyperfeminine & cute & non-threatening in order to make people interested in their sport. That's a pressure exerted by the media, and I don't see how HUGS combats that.

    On a more personal level, when I first heard about HUFC, I liked HUFC's association with punk and rock and roll - so when I saw there was a sister team, I expected something, well - a little more rock and roll. As I wrote, I was looking for a little more Joan Jett and a little less Ashley Simpson.

    And watching that game I remembered my own days as a punk fan, and how generally sexist punk & rock were/are as social environments.

    The HUFC/HUGS thing seems to me to mirror that.

    I am glad your team enjoys the support of HUFC. But that support doesn't necessarily make either HUFC or HUGS an organization that meaningfully fights sexist attitudes about gender and sports on & off the pitch.

    I am a blogger with a clear point of view. My intention is to get people thinking and talking about the cultural politics of football.

    Clearly, I've done so with HUGS - from the length of your comments, it seems that I've hit a nerve.

  8. Hello Again,

    It's not about hitting a nerve, I just wanted to make some clarifications :) It's easy to scratch the superficial surface and make judgments.
    I felt like it was my duty to say, "hey these girls are doing some positive for themselves and their near by community". Maybe H.U.G.S started out a bit fluffy, but everyone is trying to find that inner rock-star in themselves. When you meet the girls individually, you might actually find some punk rockers in the group after all. Not everyone is pink and glossy.
    We have women from all walks of life, and it's great to see unlikely friendships building because of the bond the team provides.

    We as a group have had to battle with our own issues and in finding a proper identity for our team that truly suits us. I think when you check in again in a couple of months you might be a bit surprised. We have been working on revamping the old site and our image. But don't want to give anything away yet...:)
    Yes you may just be a blogger, but it still would be nice if you took the time and guided/advised the women instead of tearing them apart. We are a new team who is trying to find it's place. If you feel our little club soccer team is doing such a disservice to all women in soccer ... then please step up and lead the woman in a better direction.

    On another note, I can say that many of our stronger players have said to me, "I hate that I have to feel like making myself look like a boy out there to have others assume I'm good on the field", so for us it's about finding that balance. I want the women to feel like they can have the freedom to be themselves. There are always two sides to a story...

    Outside of H.U.G.S I work in a male dominated career, and I always feel the need to seriously dress down in order for my clients and co-workers to take anything I say seriously. So in a way, sometimes it's empowering to touch upon my feminine side. It's finding that middle ground and feeling comfortable with it.

    I'm aware we will not be able to please everyone, and opinions will be made.... but my personal mission is for our women to enjoy being part of a team and getting some game time in.

    Also I don't think HUFC created their team to fight sexism, seriously look at the roster. It started with a group of lads who just wanted to play some soccer.


  9. great comments again. thanks for taking the time to read & respond. my take on HUGS public face is harsh, but it is a team that seeks out a public image - the mere fact that it has a website & myspace page sets it apart from the majority of teams against which it plays.

    i am glad to learn that my post from earlier this year has sparked discussion - these issues are hard, and women have different relations to them, different experiences with what is empowering, with what is disabling.

    i will keep my eyes on the site, and will be sure to check out one of your games when i'm back in LA.

    congrats on your winning season!

  10. Hi Again,

    I swear this is the last time:) We have been approached by several branding companies, and I would like to chat with you outside of the blog ---- about our team choosing an appropriate and responsible image that would inspire young girls and perhaps show men that woman can hold their own on the field. Now that the team has evolved and grown it would be great to get some input on how to move forward in a responsible and positive fashion.
    If you are interested.... I would love to hear your input:)


  11. Hi again! :)

    Feel free to e-mail me at - we can take our conversation private that way if you like.

    I'm travelling lots, so if I go 'dark' for a few days, trust that i'll reappear within a week.

    I am flattered you'd want to talk about these issues - they are hard. I just did an adidas sponsored art project about grass roots east LA futbol, and we wrestled with the implications of corporate sponsorship. it is harder for women, I think. I mean, while I love that a women's amateur team is getting sponsorship, I resent that it comes via the 'sexy' image. There isn't anything at all wrong with being feminine and being an athlete - but it's hard knowing that basically women's teams worldwide struggle to get the least little bits of support - because sexism & homophobia are so rife. Adidas etc. are happy to lay down money for a team of 'hot' women. BUt why not support women's football more generally? I mean, half the cultural anxiety about the so called masculinity of female athletes (especially in soccer it seems) is homophobic.

    By the way: Adidas doesn't sell women's soccer shoes in its stores in the UK. 2 million women play in England alone. Why don't they carry women's gear (no shirts for women, no long pants, shorts, etc.)? Because, if you ask me, their executives actually don't care about women's football at the grassroots level. (Neither does Nike - and there is no such thing as Lady Footlocker in the UK.)

    Kudos to HUGS for working the system, but it's hard to know when one is working the system, and when the system is working you. Especially in LA!

    Again, thanks for engaging with me in dialogue. This is the thing I most love about blogging!

    By the way: check out Fair Game - it's a women's soccer magazine. It will give you a sense of what brands have over the years shown interest in the women's game.

  12. Very cool, I'll send you an e-mail later this week, and thanks for taking an interest and sharing your thoughts :)
    BTW we won our game 13 - 0 last night.... against a team that has been around for awhile.

  13. Hi Beate,

    Wow. 13-0? Brutal. Sounds like you all should move into a better league?

    I have such mixed feelings about how HUGS started, about its image - but - as I think I said in response to another comment about this entry: I can't imagine anyone joining a team and not wanting to do well - competition is fun, but not if you are getting slaughtered every time you take the field, or - worse - if you feel people don't take you seriously.

    It is true that I didn't write my entry from the perspective of being a part of HUGS - I wrote from the perspective of a woman who loves the sport, and in response to what I saw - which was, as you guys have pointed out, was just the surface.

    While as a writer/player I've decided to focus my energies on other settings - namely the more east-side/Latin scene and the question of what options are available to girls & women in places like the Ramparts district (which is my own), I would like to do a follow up on HUGS in the fall when I move back to LA. This would give us a chance to meet, talk, but for me to learn about how you guys stepped into this concept, and have made it your own. That sounds to me like a really good story!

    Again, I am really glad you guys commented on my post - you've given me lots to think about.

  14. Jennifer - thanks for your well-written commentary on women's soccer, and especially the HUGS team.

    As a former college player at the dawn of Title IX in the mid-90's, a player in an uber-competitive LA area league, a working professional in the entertainment industry, and an acquaintance of a HUFC player, I was elated to hear about a women's team and jumped onto Google to find out more. Imagine my elation turning to disgust when I saw their projected image and realized they weren't serious players. "Oh great, another one of those...." was my reaction. Of course a team with "Hollywood" in their name would have to look absurdly the part. It's "A League Of Their Own" all over again.

    Reading Beate's comments (and your debate together) gives me hope that the team is out to remedy their initial effort, but they now have an even tougher hill to climb in order to overcome the damage done.

    Beate - while your intentions were honorable, the initial execution did your team a terrible disservice. We are trying to re-start the women's professional league in the US here and appearing to prioritize manicures over skill is not what we needed. HOWEVER, it seems you have new life and a new direction, and having an A team and a B team is an excellent start and will only expand the awareness. I hope for continued success for your team and look forward to seeing a game in person sometime. Only time will tell, but a positive and accurate portrayal of skillful women's soccer is what we can only hope for out of HUGS. After that, haircuts and manicures will only enhance the game.

  15. Thanks for your comments. It helps to get 'back up' from players with a lot more experience than me!

    On that note: I come back to LA in September and would love to connect with a women's team there. Where would you send a very enthusiastic, fit 40 year old who came in late to the game, but holds her own in pretty competitive games (but is certainly not a top notch player), and is a sucker for training in any form? (I live in Silverlake.) I wonder if our circles overlap - I played with Sole Sisters in Glendale for a bit - and they had links to HUFC...

    My e-mail address, btw:

  16. I think this is really unfair. Painting these girls as embarassments to the mens team to me only perpetrates your allegations of sexism. Describing them all as tan, airheaded and made up is also unfair: I played for the team for over a year, I'm an attorney who graduated from an ivy league school, not a model or a musician, I'm practically transparent I'm so pale, i dont think I showed up to a single game with make up on (unless it was from the night before), I'm a little left of Che Guavara and my school thesis was on the development of the Suffragette movement.

    When I first arrived at a HUGS game I was open minded and these girls welcomed me in. Showing up to one game with them doesn't entitle you to judge them.

    And so far as their soccer ability level goes - these girls aren't playing professionally - but for fun and to stay fit.

  17. dear anonymous,

    if you read the above dialogue you will get a more detailed account of the issues at stake - but let me say, the HUGS team i saw, and the website, calendar type pictures and logo - which are still up - was not an embarassment to the men's team. this original incarnation - which the HUGS women themselves have been revising - was embarassing to women athletes who have been fighting sexism of a wide variety for a long time. i felt embarassed, and was so turned off i never went back to see them play again.

    (that said, it was after living in england for a year that i realized the particular branding of HUGS stunk of european-style attitudes about women and sports - and in the original post i wonder how much the HU men's team was to blame for things like the team logo.)

    i know things have changed, and the HUGS women have invited me to come see them play again - but i've decided to use this blog to cover other kinds of teams - women's sports gets so little coverage as it is, i just don't want to give more ink to this sort of thing.

    i will never be comfortable with this type of marketing of women's sports, and the sexism it implicitly supports (see my post "modern minstrels"). if you read other posts on this blog, you'll see citation of a study by a sports marketing researcher who found that such efforts not only fail to raise the visibility of women's sports - they in fact drive fans away. (my own experience with HUGS being a good example of this.)

    i know, too, that the HUGS women are fun, smart, and competitive. no woman needs to wave an ivy league diploma to prove she's smart to me.

    from my perspective, the intelligence and interestingness of the HUGS women only makes the use of that woman on all fours logo (for example) all the stranger. because it suggests that the HUGS women are smart enough to see the insult in that image, but don't care.

    as i say in my comments above, it all looks like overcompensation: "here is the sex kitten of our public image, so maybe you won't be threatened by seeing us for the strong, smart, and fierce women we really are."

    i can't believe that anyone who identifies themselves as "left of che guevara" would feel OK with that image - with the use of sex to "sell" the sport.

    As long as that logo & those images are there as the public face of the team, I'll never be a fan - no matter how great their record is, and how impressive and stylish their footwork gets.

    But I don't have the impression that this matters - because clearly, given how the team is "branded" I am not its "target" consumer.

    That said, From A Left Wing is one of the few sites to actually take HUGS seriously - to treat the team as women athletes, and, above all, to respond to them as an amateur female athlete and a real fan of the game.

    My criticism is, in other words, a sign of respect - an indication that I expect more.


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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