American Women Athletes Part One: In which women athletes need to be sexy and heterosexual (preferably with child/ren and husband/boyfriend)

I have been watching the World track and Field Championships recently. Specifically the Jamaican team. Usain Bolt has been breaking world records left and right, and is thus getting the lion’s share of press. But the women’s side of the ledger has been way more consistent than the men’s, having racked up three gold medals, (100m Shellyann Fraser, 400m Melaine Walker, 100m hurdles Brigitte Foster-Hylton) 3 silver (200m Veronica Campbell-Brown, 100m Kerron Stewart, 400m Sherika Williams) and 1 bronze (Dellorean Ennis-London), as opposed to Bolt’s two gold and Powell’s bronze. Well, he’s breaking world records, and Flo-Jo has set the bar so high that today’s athletes cannot reach them. goes the argument.

So why are women so routinely consigned to the bottom of the page? When she was finally given the microphone, Campbell-Brown bravely broached the issue.

“It’s a touchy subject, but if I should be honest, I really believe men get more attention in this sport. It’s based on the fact that the world record in the 100m and 200m for men is reachable. For me, my PRs [personal records] are 10.85[sec] and 21.74[sec], which I just accomplished here and I only ran that once. It is hard for me to even think about the world record.”

Why so? Because since Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 1988 world records in the 100m and 200m, no female sprinter has come anywhere near breaking them – not even a drug-fuelled Marion Jones. Meanwhile, in the men’s sprints, the 100m world record has been broken 11 times in the past two decades.

But its not quite that simple. As the article goes on to state:

But perhaps unattainable records are not the only problem. Even in the days when women were breaking sprint records they still didn’t get the headlines of their male counterparts. Some may argue that personality is as much a part of the equation – and Bolt’s celebration dances certainly add weight to that theory – but Flo Jo ran in one-legged fuchsia tracksuits with six-inch nails, so why were her achievements so often overshadowed by the rivalry between Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis?

The media have a major part to play. Britain’s 17-year-old Shaunna Thompson, who won double gold in the sprints at the Commonwealth Youth Games last year, says she sometimes struggles to recall who won the women’s 100m at major championships.

“That’s one of my events and even I’m forgetting sometimes! People know all the men, but sometimes the women get forgotten about. If Usain Bolt is all you hear about on TV then that sticks in peoples’ heads. No one’s saying Shelly-Ann Fraser [Jamaican who has won Olympics and World Championship 100m gold medalist], so everyone’s like who’s Shelly-Ann Fraser?”

There are a multitude of problems that lead to the lack of esteem in which women athletes, compared with male athletes, are held. But first, a little history:

History of Women in Sports Timeline

  • 776 B.C. – The first Olympics are held in ancient Greece. Women are excluded, so they compete every four years in their own Games of Hera, to honor the Greek goddess who ruled over women and the earth.
  • 396 B.C. – Kyniska, a Spartian princess, wins an Olympic chariot race, but is barred from collecting her prize in person.
  • 1406 – Dame Juliana Berners of Great Britain writes the first known essay on sports fishing. She described how to make a rod and flies, when to fish, and the many kinds of fishing in her essay, “Treatise of Fishing with an Angle.”
  • 1552 – Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87), an avid golfer, coins the term “caddy” by calling her assistants cadets. It is during her reign that the famous golf course at St. Andrews is built.
  • 1704 – Sarah Kemble Knight (1666-1727) sets out alone on horseback from Boston to New Haven and later New York, keeping a diary of her travels, which was published in 1825 as The Journal of Madame Knight.
  • 1722 – British fighter Elizabeth Wilkinson enters the boxing ring.

Wait, what? The Games of Hera? There were such a thing? Chapter 10:Women and Greek Athletics page 113

One of the great problems that women athletes face is the idea that women are heterosexual sex objects. And the beauty ideal for these sex objects is a thin shape, with a bit of a curvy shape, (but not too curvy, thats fat), and a distinct lack of muscles. So female athletes are by definition considered deviant. And the more strength and height that their sports require, the more un-feminine, and deviant they are considered.

And so it was, that when Mildred ‘Babe’ Erickson 1911-1956, started her astonishing athletic career, well. Lets just say she was NOT received well. Take a good look at her accomplishments:

Sports: Golf, track and field, basketball, baseball, softball, diving, roller skating, and bowling

Olympics:

* X Olympiad, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1932, Athletics/USA

Babe Didrikson Zaharias Records:

* Gold, Javelin toss, X Olympiad, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1932.
* Gold, 80 metre hurdles, X Olympiad, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1932.
* Silver, High jump, X Olympiad, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1932.
* 10 Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA) major championships. Tied for third most wins through 2006.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias Honors:

* “Female Athlete of the Year”, the Associated Press, 1932, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1954.
* U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, 1983 (charter member)

This woman was one of the best athletes of her time. But what were the press obsessed with?

Perhaps the most deep-seated is the fear that women’s athletics might erode traditional femininity. The global sports world registered this concern at least three decades before the institution of sex testing and long before the Renee Richards case. In the early 1930s, when Mildred “Babe” Didrikson, the greatest woman athlete of modern times, set world records in the woman’s 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw, reporters continually remarked on her masculine appearance, and the press focused on the Olympic medalist in a campaign to restore femininity to athletics. The controversy finally ended when Didrikson married, started wearing dresses, and turned from competing in track, basketball, baseball, football, and boxing, to setting records in the more acceptably feminine world of golf. MORE

And, well, take a look at this recent article by ESPN

not until her later years did she dress and act less manly.

While she excelled in competition, she often alienated teammates and competitors. She frequently acted like a self-centered prima donna, a boastful person who constantly sought attention. Although she became somewhat less arrogant over the years, she still remained flamboyant and cocky – and often overbearing.

He would become her manager and advisor, but in the later years of their marriage, problems arose as Zaharias lost influence with his wife. Babe spent more time with good friend Betty Dodd, a young golfer who was a natural athlete and had no interest in looking feminine. She often stayed at the Zaharis’ home in Tampa.

See anything interesting? Her dress is still being critiqued, her “boastful” manner is taken as fact…really, has this dumpling LISTENED AND WATCHED male athletes lately? Wanna bet that she was just a confident person, (which women should not be?). And this article was written in 2007!

In 2009, of course, women athletes are expected to be sexy.

The Women’s Sports Foundation concurs that(Dis)Empowering Images? Media Representations of Women in Sport

What We See: The Sexualization of Women Athletes

In written texts, visual images, and spoken commentaries, women athletes are often portrayed as sexual objects available for male consumption rather than as competitive athletes. For example, the June 5, 2000 Sports Illustrated cover and several inside photographs of tennis player, Anna Kournikova, show her posing seductively for the camera in her off-court wear. When notable female athletes are not pictured, pretty models are often used to portray “ideal” feminine athleticism or represent society’s traditional notions of women’s role in sport (passive, non-competitive, weak, and emotional). Such portrayals create an image of a “heterosexy” (Griffin, 1998) female athlete who can be athletic while maintaining heterosexual sex appeal. This ultra-sexy image underscores physical beauty and femininity more so than athletic skill, power, and strength.

One way media may sexualize women athletes is by focusing on their physical appearance. Characteristics favored in visual media are those commonly associated with feminine beauty, such as smiling, unblemished skin, slender and toned physique, and long blonde hair.MORE

Wanna be a basketball player? Don’t be to muscled and strong now…<a href=”Who died and made ya’ll the femininity police? The case of Brittney Griner

Cosmo warns that sport loving women would be single for the rest of their lives (the author of that piece of drivel was a male. In a women’s magazine)

Wanna be a martial artist while being a woman? Better be pretty…Superheroines, sports and sexuality: or, why can’t we be both?

Gina Carano might have appeared on the show American Gladiator, where she wore a spandex costume and goes by a superhero nickname, “Crush,” but her real job is Muay Thai and mixed martial arts (MMA). There’s no padding or trick camera angles to what she does in the ring: that’s her putting her body on the line, and only her training and skills can protect her.

Carano just had her first MMA loss to another real-life superhero, Cris “Cyborg” Santos of Brazil. The matchup was the first time two women had headlined a major MMA card, and predictably, it drew obnoxiously sexist media coverage, including the typical division of the women into “pretty” and “not pretty.” Cyborg even faced an interviewer before the fight who asked her if she wanted to beat Carano up because she was famed for her looks.

Cyborg, all class, said that she wanted to fight Carano because she was the best, not because she was pretty—and then she choked the interviewer unconscious. Not really

One writer said,

“Now the question is, can Strikeforce and women’s fighting build the sport around someone who isn’t a beauty queen? Whether that statement offends you or not, reality is there was a reason Carano was part of American Gladiators and did so many appearances on shows like Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel. That said, Carano is also far from finished. She proved even in a loss that she’s a legitimate fighter.”

Carano proved a long time ago that she was a legitimate fighter, with a 12-1-1 record in Muay Thai and now a 7-1 record in MMA. Male fighters with far worse records are never questioned on their “legitimacy,” but the idea that a pretty girl can in fact be capable of knocking someone out seems to shock the (largely male) fight press again and again. Then, of course, we get the assumption that Cyborg isn’t pretty—by whose standards are we judging pretty women, anyway?
MORE

And as I linked before in Which Women Play on the Center Court at Wimbledon? the best athletes in the world aren’t judged solely on their ability. Oh no.

Anyway, Sarah N. sent in a link to a story at the Mail Online about how women’s perceived attractiveness plays a part in deciding which matches will be played on the main court at Wimbledon. The organizers of Wimbledon don’t try to hide the fact that the appearance of the competitors is taken into account when scheduling matches:

…the All England Club admitted that physical attractiveness is taken into consideration. Spokesman Johnny Perkins said: ‘Good looks are a factor.’

And as this article in the NationSexism on Centre Court [Wimbledon] points out:

Several players, including some of these “easy-on-the-eye unknowns,” were upset with the setup. But much of the media dismissed the story as unimportant. L.Z. Granderson, a normally sane voice in the ESPN archipelago, wrote a column in which he stated simply, “I don’t see the harm.” After conceding the obvious–that the policy is sexist–Granderson played devil’s advocate: “I actually find the Wimbledon officials’ honesty quite refreshing…. last I checked, gender equity in the workplace wasn’t a beer on tap at the Kit Kat Club. Sometimes people like what they like, and accepting that also requires a certain degree of tolerance.”MORE

Sociological Images then links to an article FEMALE ATHLETES: BE PRETTY, BUT NOT SEXY. OR PREGNANT. I actually disagree with this headline, because a quick google of “sexiest women’s athletes” brings up 10 pages of results. Sports Illustrated has come up with 100 Greatest Women Athletes, but women athletes very very rarely make it to their cover. What you are guaranteed to see once a year is the fucking swimsuit edition, shot with mostly models. although many women athletes do it as well. Funny how men mostly manage to keep their fucking clothes on.

Paradox on the Pitch Part One, Two, Three a documentary by youtuber ixdeb, takes on the issues that female rugby players at the University of Oklahoma have in “managing the expectations of masculinity on the pitch with society’s expectations of femininity off of the pitch.”

And you do NOT want to deal with the comments that get made about female body builders. Suffice it to say that there is a reason for the tons of articles on google that reassure women that they will not get bulked up like those ugly female bodybuilders if they pick up some weights. Honest!

The 2008 Olympics was when I first became really aware of the problem.

Womanist Musings irately pointed out:Olympic Gymnast Alica Sacramone: Only Your Sex Appeal Counts

Hoyden about town muses that If bare midriffs and short shorts really made athletes run faster

After Ellen noted that an astonishing amount of photographers decided that women’s bottoms were the best place to park their lens.

Grazing Sheeple wrote about even more of the same phenomenon in More Olympic Porn or the never-ending wedgie

Now, ABC ran an article claiming that Skimpy but Sporty: When Less Is More. In other words, gymnastic and beach volley ball athletes want to wear skimpy clothes, cause they are more comfortable. Its only those prude POC like Locals in Somoa who requested that they be changed to something more modest for the South Pacific Games and the Indian team, who flatly refused, and got to wear t-shirts and long shorts. who complain. By the way, the ABC article is wrong, the bikinis are the RULE. and, as a commenter on Feminist law profs pointed out:

The issue here is not whether female athletes prefer bikinis — and, having had sand in a one-piece, I can sympathize — but whether they are required to wear them.

I think that this is quite telling:

The men do not like to play in tight spandex shorts only because, well it is not generally considered very flattering and can be offensive… cling to every little bump, lump, and outline everything he has (or hasn’t).

In other words, the men’s uniform is based on best performance (tight material to prevent abrasion or sand), but also male modesty (shorts to hide the naughty bits)!

The thing is though, that all is not as well as ABC makes it out, though. Austrailia has found that Tight Uniforms are turning off girls from organized sport And I am going to bet that more studies like this wil; turn up some of the same type of things in other countries.

While Westerners sexualize their female athletes, they tend to get very intrigued, and in some cases, annoyed with Muslims; Westerners, South Asian or from the Middle East who want to compete in more modest clothing.

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a record breaking basketballl player from Memphis has dealt with her share of issues. Bahrain’s sprinter Ruqaya Al Ghasara provoked widespread interest. More and more Muslim athletes are competing in full hijab though. In the 2008 Olympics there were half dozen veiled Egyptians, three Iranians, an Afghan and a Yemeni … competing in sprinting, rowing, taekwondo and archery. But in some cases, Muslim pay a high price for trying to follow their faith and compete at the same time. In 2007, Juashaunna Kelly, a Theodore Roosevelt High School senior who has the fastest mile and two-mile times of any girls’ runner in the District this winter, was disqualified from Saturday’s Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet after officials said her Muslim clothing violated national competition rules. (Note that if you want to be a casual Muslim swimmer and wear burkinis, be careful in Western countries such as France and Italy.)

Women and Sports Foundation tackles some of the problematic assumptions behind the BS:Unveiling Myths: Muslim Women and Sport

So, I’ll stop here for tonight. I’ve been working on this for four days, and the topic is much bigger than I thought. Next week, sex tests and women athletes, trans women athletes, lesbian athletes and possibly disabled women athletes. (or maybe I’ll make the disabled women athletes their own post. we’ll see)

Have a great week!

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American Women Athletes Part One: In which women athletes need to be sexy and heterosexual (preferably with child/ren and husband/boyfriend)

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29 Responses to American Women Athletes Part One: In which women athletes need to be sexy and heterosexual (preferably with child/ren and husband/boyfriend)

  1. 1
    buttercup says:

    Excellent piece and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it.

    I was enraged by ESPN the Magazine’s cover story on Candace Parker and repeated references to her breast size, beauty, etc. A woman can never be judged by her accomplishments first, and sport is no exception-appearance is the #1 consideration.

    Makes me very stabby.

  2. 2
    Myca says:

    I just wanted to comment on what a fine, fine post this is. I’m really looking forward to more in the series.

    —Myca

  3. 3
    Lis says:

    What an excellent piece! I’d love to see a piece on disabled athletes–I have a friend who’s a paralympian, who’s commented that the only photographer present at one of her recent international meets worked for an amputee fetishist website.

  4. 4
    nobody.really says:

    Nice research.

    Just as the sociology of athletics is only one part of sexism, sexism is only one part of the sociology of athletics. Because many people project moral qualities onto sports, we face a social tension. We like to think that sport teaches – and more importantly, demonstrates – that hard work, self-denial and determination gets rewarded. And because we invest sports with this moral force, we care deeply about anything that would appear to tamper with the meritocratic nature of sports. People who wouldn’t think twice about using makeup, implants or cosmetic surgery to gain an advantage in the competitive world of mate-attraction take great umbrage at the idea that an athlete might have gains some unfair advantage through the use of drugs — or even expensive equipment not available to the other athletes.

    Yet when athletics goes professional, we confront a new reality: nobody cares how good you are if you can’t make it pay. A gold-medal curler is unlikely to ever approach the earning power of even a marginally-good figure skater. Professional sports, it turns out, is not focused on excellence but on entertainment value – a fact that is only too painfully obvious to any Chicago Cubs fan.

    This point was illustrated in the TV series Coach, which followed the professional and personal trajectory of a talented but rather narrow-minded college football coach. He values playing good football. He keeps a recording of the best game his team ever played. They lost, but that’s as it should be, because they were playing an objectively superior team. What mattered was that they played up to their potential; meritocracy was vindicated. But in the show’s final two seasons the coach achieves his dream of coaching a professional football team. There he discovers that NOTHING – from the circumstances of his hiring to the selection of his players – is governed by the standards of meritocracy as he knew it. In one episode the team owner directs the coach to make an offer to a new player not because the player is good enough to play professionally, but because he’s young and sexy and will help broaden the viewing demographic among women 18-34. The coach is appalled — and even more appalled when the player accepts while knowing that he’s being hired as a sex object. The coach – and by extension, the audience — is forced to confront the fact that the meritocracy of sports is just window-dressing for the demands of entertainment.

    I will now offer my own sporting effort at setting a world record for the category “Most obvious statement ever posted on Alas, a Blog”: A lot of people find it entertaining to watch sexy women (Ok, he’s off to a good start) – and this dynamic is not restricted to the world of sports (OH MY! What a finish! What! A! Finish! He sticks the landing…!).

    Thus, what I find remarkable is not that the world of professional athletics would focus on sexy women. What I find remarkable is that we might expect anything different. When we start picking our actors and news anchors and politicians and [select your public occupation of choice here] without regard to physical appearance, that will signify a momentous shift in humanity. What it would signify, I suspect, is that we’ve all gone blind. Until then, I’m not holding my breath for the day that we stop discriminating on that basis – in sports or any other realm.

  5. 5
    PG says:

    One of the great problems that women athletes face is the idea that women are heterosexual sex objects. And the beauty ideal for these sex objects is a thin shape, with a bit of a curvy shape, (but not too curvy, thats fat), and a distinct lack of muscles. So female athletes are by definition considered deviant. And the more strength and height that their sports require, the more un-feminine, and deviant they are considered.

    I wonder to what extent this is a white beauty ideal. From what I understand, the African (and African-American) beauty ideal is more compatible with those curves coming from some literally big-ass muscles. “You can have them bimbos, I’ll keep my women like Flo-Jo.” As non-white women become famous and deemed attractive, their body types are sometimes trendy — I remember seeing a lot of gym classes several years ago advertising that they’d help you get the “J-Lo booty,” which does require being muscular, not skinny.

  6. 6
    Brynn says:

    Great post!

    Just wanted to add one other point: when women excel in sports or “perform too well,” especially if they’re of color, it seems they are then forced to prove that they “aren’t men,” as evidenced by the recent bruhaha over South African runner, Caster Semenya who is being forced to “prove she’s not a man” after winning the gold medal in the 800-meter world championships last week.

    As I wrote in a brief post at Bilerico, I understand that the presence of testosterone–synthetic or naturally produced–can give a physical edge in some sports, justifying setting up competitive categories or banning certain drugs. The sensational and derogatory public discourse around this case, however, illustrates just how widespread are sexism and ignorance about sex and gender across the globe, in addition to the terrible prejudice women face in the world of sports.

  7. 7
    Elayne Riggs says:

    Very nice if incomplete overview; look forward to more. As someone who grew up before Title IX and never got over not being able to play baseball in high school, not to mention follow any sports aspirations I might have had toward anything approaching a professional level (hey, how’s that 1952 ban on women playing pro baseball coming along?), I fear none of this comes as any great revelation to me. Hey, I’m from the days of Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs (no relation, thank goodness). As far as I’m concerned, even though women have made considerable strides in sports since second-wave feminism and Title IX, we still have way too far to go in the for-goodness-sake 21st century. (One of my current pet peeves? How a local cable network brags about showing all the games of “all nine major sports teams” in NY, not one of which is a women’s team despite how well the WNBA’s Liberty does.)

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    so why were her achievements so often overshadowed by the rivalry between Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis?

    Consider that a contested rivalry is more interesting than domination by a single athlete.

    Here’s something I remember along these lines. My daughter is an athlete. She played tennis, ice hockey and fast-pitch softball in high school (as well as on traveling teams) and played fast-pitch softball and squash and tennis in college. But fast-pitch softball has been her main sport. I’ve probably watched her play 300 games. So during the 2004 Olympics I was eager to watch the gold medal game between the USA and (O.K., I don’t remember who was playing). But I was doomed to dissapointment. Instead of showing American athletes competing to win the gold medal, the network showed … a gymnastics exhibition! An exhibition, mind you, not actual competition!

    Of course, the male gymnasts are well-built young men and the young women compete in form-fitting outfits, whereas female softball players rarely (Jennie Fitch aside) have the kinds of bodies that you’ll see in swimsuit issues. And it’s not like it was a surprise that the U.S. was going to be playing in the gold medal game when they decided to schedule the exhibition. I was pretty pissed off.

  9. 9
    Doug S. says:

    As far as I can tell, the only purpose of professional athletics is to sell tickets. If nobody buys tickets, nobody cares enough to support it. And, for what it’s worth, people believe that sexy female bodies sell tickets. So we see attention paid to athletes with sexy female bodies.

  10. 10
    FormerlyLarry says:

    We (certainly as a culture, but maybe even as a species) prize beauty more than any other single personal characteristic. More than intelligence, competence, athleticism, character, ambition, anything. If I recall correctly, some studies have shown that even infants, before they could be influenced by culture recognize and are attracted to pretty faces.

    Hollywood worships youth and beauty (which usually coincide). There too many examples to mention but just recently when I was reading reviews on the new star trek I was struck by how many reviewers felt it was necessary to mention that they were happy to watch the new young sexy cast rather than being subjected viewing the old boated originals.

    I think women are both fairly and unfairly judged by different standards than men.

    Fairly, (and I think even most women would agree with this) because women are certainly more beautiful then men. And not just generally either. IMHO, women are just on a different level. Almost like comparing male athletic prowess to female.

    Unfairly, because, unlike modeling, sales, and the like, most pursuits don’t (or shouldn’t) require looking good as a major qualification.

  11. 11
    AndiF says:

    Yes Formerly Larry, everybody knows that women are more beautiful than men. Well straight women and homosexual men might disagree but that is irrelevant because if a straight male says that men and women believe something to be true, then it must be so as the opinions of straight males are the norm and everything else is an aberration.

    unusualmusic, this was a fantastic post and I really appreciated and learned a lot from the excellent reserach.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    Formerly Larry, first of all, what AndiF says.

    Secondly, :

    We (certainly as a culture, but maybe even as a species) prize beauty more than any other single personal characteristic.[...] women are certainly more beautiful then men.

    If these two statements were both true, it would be very hard to explain why the wage gap between women and men favors men.

  13. 13
    Robert says:

    The statements can be reconciled if we assume that working women are the uglier ones, and the pretty women get married (or date sugar daddies or come from money) and stay home.

    However, that isn’t my experience of observing working women.

  14. 14
    chingona says:

    nobody.really,

    Yet when athletics goes professional, we confront a new reality: nobody cares how good you are if you can’t make it pay.

    In one episode the team owner directs the coach to make an offer to a new player not because the player is good enough to play professionally, but because he’s young and sexy and will help broaden the viewing demographic among women 18-34. The coach is appalled — and even more appalled when the player accepts while knowing that he’s being hired as a sex object. The coach – and by extension, the audience — is forced to confront the fact that the meritocracy of sports is just window-dressing for the demands of entertainment.

    A lot of people find it entertaining to watch sexy women

    There’s a lot in your analysis that I think is basically correct, but the way you frame the issue kind of flattens out the gender issues.

    Certainly, in professional sports, it has to pay. And there are plenty of sports that don’t pay because there isn’t a large audience for them. And it’s sometimes difficult to say why one thing is popular and another isn’t. I mean, it’s easy to say that X or Y is kind of boring to watch, but when poker is on TV, that whole argument falls apart and we’re left with a certain ineffable something.

    Anyway …

    The incident from Coach that you use as an example is … from a fictional show. I have no doubt that male athletes who are better looking or have a better story might get more media attention than other athletes who are similarly talented or even more talented, nor do I doubt that teams encourage that. But do football teams and basketball teams really hire players just cause they’re hotties? And if a player is really good, does he not get attention if he’s not hot? I can think of plenty of male athletes who aren’t particularly attractive who get a lot of media attention.

    Now, yes, a lot of “people” find it entertaining to watch sexy women. But those people are overwhelmingly straight men.

    It seems to me that part of the problem is that the assumption is that the only market for women’s sports is the same market as that for men’s sports and that the only way to capture that market is to sex it up. Whereas the primary market for women’s sports actually is women who play sports and their families and friends, and they often are turned off by the over-emphasis on sexiness. I recognize that market is smaller and more niche, at least for now, than the market for male sports. Doesn’t mean it can’t pay, but it will pay less and you have to market it differently.

    But it doesn’t seem to me that trying to sex it up has really resulted in large male audiences for female sports. “People” get all hot and bothered about, say, Anna Kournikova, but do they actually start watching tennis more when she’s not playing? Seems short-sighted to me.

  15. 15
    FormerlyLarry says:

    Andif,

    Sure, if you assume one only recognizes the physical beauty of a person if they are sexually attracted. The problem is that isn’t true. Me, and probably millions of other men, would have no problem recognizing that George Clooney, or Brad Pitt, or whoever, might be a handsome fellow without having the slightest bit of sexual attraction.

    My wife (and millions of other straight women), can see the beauty in a Megan Fox, or Halley Berry, or who ever else, and not be sexually attracted to her.

    Do you believe that Cosmo, and other magazines targeted mainly at women are filled with other beautiful women (rather than men) because they want to appeal only to gay women? That’s why I said I believe that even women (straight women even) would probably agree that women are more beautiful than men. I could be wrong about that, but that’s my best guess.

    Amp,

    Do you dispute either contention alone (especially the first)?

    Those statements do not necessarily conflict. Beautiful women can easily (and usually do) marry well up from their economic class. Probably much more so that men. They get in higher paying jobs then less attractive people (acting, sales, modeling, etc.) Just another best guess, but I imagine that really attractive women have many more opportunities to advance in what ever position they are in.

    The problem you might be having reconciling those statements is that most people are not especially attractive. Beauty just isn’t that common. If it were, it wouldn’t evoke such infatuation, envy, or even resentment.

  16. 16
    Laurie says:

    Fairly, (and I think even most women would agree with this) because women are certainly more beautiful then men.

    My mind is boggling and my mouth is gaping open. This is just crazy-talk!

    Beautiful women are not featured in women’s magazines so that women can ogle them. They are featured to sell products to women, such as clothes, accessories, diet products, etc. This is because women are valued more for their beauty than for their achievements and therefore many are naturally interested in putting energy into trying to look like these beautiful women.

    I also disagree with the notion that beauty is more valued than any other thing. If that were true, beautiful people would run the world. That’s not the case. It is true that beautiful people can get rich in advertising, fashion, and film, the richest people are those who can run companies and create products that people want or need or think they want and need.

    You sound like an apologist for treating women more like eye-candy than serious athletes or achievers in other areas.

  17. 17
    AndiF says:

    Cosmo and fashion magazines are filled with beautiful women not because they believe that women like to look at beautiful women but because they telling women that they need to look like those beautiful women in order to have any value and if we want to look like those beautiful women and thus be valuable, we will buy — literally and figuratively — what they are trying to sell us. The beautiful women are there to instill fear and self-doubt.

    And, of course, I can appreciate beauty without being sexually attracted to someone and apparently so can you so that would appear to say nothing about one sex being inherently more beautiful than the other. Brad Pitt is gorgeous; Halle Berry is gorgeous. And Michelangelo’s David is the more beautiful than both of them.

    And the advantages of good looks in advancing one’s career is well-documented but it works equally well if not better for men.

    Edited to add: and what laurie said.

  18. 18
    Jake Squid says:

    FormerlyLarry,

    Please stop now before you embarrass yourself further. Right now you’re just making stuff up to justify your tastes.

    If you’d like to dispute that, please provide some factual citations to back up the following claims:

    1) … women are certainly more beautiful then men. And not just generally either.

    2) Beautiful women can easily (and usually do) marry well up from their economic class.

    2a) Probably much more so that men.

    3) Beauty just isn’t that common.

  19. 19
    chingona says:

    Plenty of women are taught that being beautiful is very, very important, but I don’t see a lot of objective evidence that beauty is more prized than any other quality. And while being good-looking generally is preferable to the alternative, plenty of attractive women who aren’t say, models or actresses, find they have to fight the assumption that because they are good-looking they must also be stupid. (The models and actresses have to fight that assumption, too. I just think that assumption is less damaging to them professionally because their looks are such an important component of their job.)

    ETA: What everyone else said.

  20. 20
    chingona says:

    Beauty just isn’t that common.

    So, this is getting pretty tangential and is pretty damn subjective, too, but I feel like the opposite is the case. Not quite the opposite, but it’s always seemed to me that most people are decent-looking and what’s really unusual is for someone to actually be ugly.

  21. 21
    FormerlyLarry says:

    Jake Squid,

    Making stuff up? I laced my posts with enough caveats, “best guesses”, and “IMHO”s so that even the not so careful reader wouldn’t make the mistake you obviously have. I simply gave my personal opinion, a few anecdotes, and an interesting study I recalled (maybe incorrectly?). Your personal opinion based on your experiences isn’t the same as mine. That’s fine, we just disagree is all. If this blog were limited to quoting pier reviewed scientific research you could probably delete the vast majority of posts and threads.

  22. 22
    Jake Squid says:

    FormerlyLarry,

    You made the following claims with no caveats as to opinion:

    We (certainly as a culture, but maybe even as a species) prize beauty more than any other single personal characteristic.

    Fairly, (and I think even most women would agree with this) because women are certainly more beautiful then men. And not just generally either. IMHO, women are just on a different level. Almost like comparing male athletic prowess to female.

    Beautiful women can easily (and usually do) marry well up from their economic class. Probably much more so that men. They get in higher paying jobs then less attractive people (acting, sales, modeling, etc.)

    Beauty just isn’t that common. If it were, it wouldn’t evoke such infatuation, envy, or even resentment.

    Can you back up any of these claims?

    The only opinion you have in the quoted bits is about women “being on another level.”

  23. 23
    FormerlyLarry says:

    Jake Squid,

    You’re being ridiculous. Even in the sections you just quote has plenty of caveats so that any reasonable person would only believe that I am just giving a personal opinion. If it makes you happy, I will concede to the mistake of not having my lawyer proof read these posts to make sure I have every single sentence with an appropriate caveat, source citing, and proper footnotes.

    But I am not going to derail this thread any further with this silliness.

    *ON EDIT – Lawyer caught a few mistakes

  24. 24
    Laurie says:

    So it’s okay to make any ridiculous assertion as long as you preface it with “IMHO” ? Putting a caveat in place means you can’t be called on anything silly that you say? And if you are just here to say you think women are more beautiful than men, so what? If that’s “just your opinion” why should anyone care and what does that have to do with whether women athletes are treated fairly?

    Anyway, I wanted to say that this post is wonderful. I love all the links and information. Sorry about the thread derail.

  25. 25
    Sailorman says:

    This thread is really quite amusing.

    As a straight guy I like looking at beautiful women, just as my straight wife likes looking at beautiful men. But what that has (or should have) to do with sports is entirely beyond me.

    When I am watching tennis, gymnastics, or volleyball, I want to see good athletes. I’m rather watch Jon McEnroe play tennis than Anna Kournikova; if I want to see someone pretty instead of someone good then why watch pro sports at all?

    I’m not actually much of a pro sports fan, evidenced by the fact that I don’t have (or want) a working TV antenna. But I know a lot of sports fans. What seems strange is that so many men are willing to be convinced by the media that their vaunted “sports appreciation” is less important than a skimpy tennis dress.

    Adding to this is that fact that the pro athletes are so limited in number, that it’s not hard to find ordinary people who are as good looking. Is Anna K beautiful? Sure, I guess (actually not my type), but no matter what your preference, chances are if you walk through NYC for an hour you’ll see plenty of people who are better looking than her. So why degrade sports, when beauty–whatever that means to you–is so readily accessible elsewhere?

    (My own pet peeve: Olympic women’s beach volleyball. I used to play daily, for years, and I love to watch people at the top of their game. I wish the between-serve time were filled with slo-mo replays of all of the spikes and blocks and jump serves, instead of butt shots. Who the %^$@ cares what their butts look like? Show me the play!)

  26. 26
    Jake Squid says:

    Dude, in the quotes in that block quotey thing in my last comment there is one caveat. And I noted it.

    Please point out the caveats in the following assertions that you made:

    1) “We (certainly as a culture, but maybe even as a species) prize beauty more than any other single personal characteristic.”

    (here you make a caveat as to whether or not our species prizes beauty above all, you do not do so with regard to whether or not our culture prizes beauty above all. Can you support that assertion?)

    2) “Fairly, (and I think even most women would agree with this) because women are certainly more beautiful then men. And not just generally either.”

    (here the caveat is that you “think even most women would agree” but there is no caveat wrt “women are certainly more beautiful than men. And not just generally either.” Would you like to back up this claim?)

    3) “Beautiful women can easily (and usually do) marry well up from their economic class.”

    (Not a single caveat here. Unless it’s hidden behind that rock with Loo-Kee. Do you have any data to support this?)

    4) “They get in higher paying jobs then less attractive people (acting, sales, modeling, etc.)”

    (If this one has caveats they are the most beautifully hidden things ever. Data to support? Even data to support that acting, sales and modeling are higher paying jobs than say, computer science, the law or investment banking?)

    5) “Beauty just isn’t that common. If it were, it wouldn’t evoke such infatuation, envy, or even resentment.”

    (Do you really consider the, “If it were,” to be a caveat?)

    Are you sure you understand what a caveat is?

    You derailed the thread at comment # 10 with your absurd claims and then followed it up by refusing to support your claims or to retract them when challenged.

  27. 27
    chingona says:

    May I make a humble suggestion, as a non-moderator here? Given his reaction, I’m pretty sure Larry knows that what he said is not defensible (or he would have defended it), but he’s not going to retract it either because he still thinks he’s right or because he feels defensive about being attacked on all sides or both. I don’t know if this thread has more life in it or not, but I’d rather err on the side of productive conversation and let this derail die a quiet death.

  28. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Agreed. No more posting on this thread, please, Larry.

  29. 29
    FormerlyLarry says:

    OK, no problem. I certainly didnt intent to a major distraction. Can I post a response in one of the open threads?

    [Yes, that would be okay. --Amp]