Women and Sports: Whose Team is the Media On?

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog contains coarse language and discussions of sexual harassment against women.

Actress Ashley Judd is an avid fan of the Kentucky Wildcats and March Madness. And like any avid sports fan, she gets often gets riled up while at games. On Sunday, March 15th, she tweeted that the opposing team was “playing dirty & can kiss [her] team’s free throw making ass” (Judd 2015). She never could have expected the type of response that her simple tweet would receive. In an article written by Judd herself, she reports receiving tweets “calling [her] a cunt, a whore or a bitch, or telling [her] to suck a two-inch dick” (Judd 2015). This is not the first time Judd has received sexual abuse over the internet, and she has since attempted to press charges against her offenders (Judd 2015).

So what is really going on here? Some argued that she deserved what she got because her original tweet was offensive towards the opposing team (Judd 2015). Others stated that as a celebrity, she has to have a thick skin against what is merely an incident regarding “internet trolls” (ReviewTechUSA 2015). But this horrifically common incident of online sexual abuse is actually part of a bigger issue: what roles should women have in sports, and how should they be portrayed in these roles?

Curt Schilling, a sports analyst for ESPN, published an open letter on the internet after his daughter received sexual harassment over twitter after he had announced that she would be pitching for a university softball team in the year to come (Mullen 2015). He slams the internet trolls, saying, “What part of talking about a young woman, my daughter or not, makes you even consider the possibility that this is either funny or makes you tough?” (Schilling 2015). Despite this, it is clear that he does not fully understand the severity of what is at hand when he let the perpetrators off the hook by saying “guys will be guys… guys will say dumb crap, often” (Schilling 2015). This statement can be interpreted as Schilling knowing his audience, and reaching out to the males reading his open letter and identifying with them so that they will listen to what he has to say about online sexual harassment. However, what Schilling does not realize is that by saying this, he delegitimizes the trauma of sexual harassment by writing it off as “just a joke” or “dumb crap.” Another disturbing conclusion drawn from this article is the idea that men do not realize how serious sexual harassment is until it happens to someone close to them, such as a daughter—and by then, it is too little, too late.

The reason that I bring up Curt Schilling’s open letter is because when juxtaposed with the Ashley Judd article, there is one imminent similarity: when women become involved in sports, it is used as an excuse to victimize them regarding their gender and sexuality.

Ashley Judd makes an interesting comment when she states that her uncle, who also made comments about the opposing team’s dirty plays, was “[immune] from abuse” because he is “a male sports fan” (2015). Melissa Jacobs, a professional sports writer, agrees wholeheartedly with Judd by writing, “If you’re a woman talking about sports on social media, the only way to avoid harassment is to fake your gender. If Kentucky fan ‘Judd Ashton’… suggested that Arkansas was playing dirty last weekend he might be told he’s a moron or to fuck off, but he would never receive the sexually-charged threats that people directed at Ashley Judd for doing so” (2015).

It is interesting to note that while society has moved forward in many ways regarding gender equality, the world of sports remains very heavily dominated by males. Even at the high school level, the “standard story,” which is the “classification of humans into two distinct types of human on the basis of sex and gender” (Aulette & Wittner 2015) portrays the males as the football players and the females as the cheerleaders, showing off skin and dancing in their mini skirts on the sidelines. These gender roles exist partly to enhance capitalist systems—the belief that people prefer to pay to watch males play sports than to watch females play sports, and that having scantily-clad women to cheer them on would further attract the male viewer (because that is who is assumed to be the spectator when it comes to sports) to feed money into the sports industry.

Female sports games are also seen in opposition to male sports games—an example of binary thinking, categorizing factors “into two exclusive opposites” (Aulette & Wittner 2015). A study by Michael Messner showed that when comparing the commentary on women’s games and men’s games, reporters repeatedly emphasized the pink logos and the gender of the players in order to give a “necessary sense of clarity for the viewers” (Messner et al. 1993).

Furthermore, when women do play sports, they are marketed in a way that emphasizes their sexuality over their actual talent. “Unlike male athletes, female athletes do not have the luxury of being primarily portrayed as performance athletes, as coverage of their beauty and sex appeal usually overshadow highlights of their on-field endeavors” (Liang 2011). This overt hypersexualization occurs because having the qualities of a successful sports player—tough, strong, and physically able—is seen as masculine and not in line with emphasized femininities, the “dominant images of the supposedly ideal woman; includes dependence, sexual receptivity, motherhood, and subordination by men” (Aulette & Wittner 2015). Thus, female athletes are sexualized and objectified in the media to counteract their “masculinity” that they gain from playing sports. In a gender studies tutorial run by Maria-Teresa Matani, we compared how females were portrayed in sports magazines as opposed to males–it was quite clear that the males were usually the ones in sports gear and actually doing things, while the females wore skin-tight clothing and were objectified by the camera (Matani 2015).

Nothing showcases this emphasized femininity and hypersexualization more than female tennis players. I want to draw attention to Venus Williams in particular—there are a few clear systems at play in the techniques used to market her. She is sexualized not only because she is a female, but also orientalized because she is black. Although orientalism is a term that originally applied to the east, any groups that are “others” can also be orientalized in the media by portraying these “other” groups as exotic, passive, and sexualized, and often the target of fetishization (Alden 2015).

So what is there to be done about the exclusion of females from the realm of sports? One thing that everyone can do is show solidarity by supporting both female and male athletes. An example of solidarity between athletes is when Sidney Crosby, who is very well respected in the hockey world, attended the women’s hockey match between USA and Canada to cheer on his fellow athletes (Digital image 2014). If male athletes continue to show their support for their female counterparts, this will have a huge effect on how the media sees female athletes—hopefully, by finally seeing everyone as equals.

-curlyfrypoutine

WORKS CITED

Alden, Joddi. “Globalization, Colonialism, and Orientalism in Visual Culture.” Queen’s University. Kingston, Ontario. 29 Jan. 2015. Lecture.

Alter, Charlotte. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time. Time Magazine, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. <http://time.com/3750788/ashley-judd-speaks-out-about-twitter-abuse-and-rape/&gt;.

Ashley Judd Is Pressing Charges Against Internet Trolls. Perf. ReviewTechUSA. YouTube, 2015. Film.

Aulette, J., & Wittner, J. (2015). Gendered Worlds (3rd ed.). New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Digital image. Tumblr.com. 12 Feb. 2014. Web. <http://gfhockey.tumblr.com/post/76431172838&gt;

Jacobs, Melissa. “Ashley Judd Isn’t Alone: Most Women Who Talk about Sport on Twitter Face Abuse.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/19/ashley-judd-women-sports-twitter-abuse&gt;.

Judd, Ashley. “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass.” Identities.mic. Mic, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. <http://mic.com/articles/113226/forget-your-team-your-online-violence-toward-girls-and-women-is-what-can-kiss-my-ass&gt;.

Liang, Emily. “The Media’s Sexualization of Female Athletes: A Bad Call for the Modern Game.” Student Pulse. Student Pulse, LLC, 2011. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. <http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/587/the-medias-sexualization-of-female-athletes-a-bad-call-for-the-modern-game&gt;.

Matani, Maria-Teresa. “GNDS125 Tutorial.” Queen’s University. Kingston, Ontario. 1 Jan. 2015. Lecture.

Mullen, Shannon. “2nd NJ Man ID’d in Curt Schilling Tweet Case.” App.Com. Asbury Park Press, 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. <http://www.app.com/story/news/crime/jersey-mayhem/2015/03/02/adam-nagel-accused-schilling-daughter-tweets/24270373/&gt;.

Schilling, Curt. “The World We Live In…Man Has It Changed. ADDENDUM!” Curt Schilling’s Official Blog. WordPress.com, 1 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. <https://38pitches.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/the-world-we-live-in-man-has-it-changed/&gt;.

Freedom of Religion or Freedom to Discriminate?

It appears that when it comes to overcoming discrimination against gay people, we are taking steps backward instead of forward. This is at least the case in Michigan, where recently it came to light that a doctor from Roseville refused to treat a child simply because she had two mothers (myFOXDetroit.com Staff 2015). Parents Krista and Jami Contreras described Dr. Vesna Roi as “friendly” and “straight up” and that they were “really happy with her” (myFOXDetroit.com Staff 2015) – that is, at least until she failed to even come into the office when Krista and Jami’s daughter, Bay, had her very first appointment. Her reason for failing to treat Bay was her religion: She stated in a letter that “after much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationships that I normally do with my patients” (myFOXDetroit.com Staff 2015). Krista and Jami were horrified by the fact that their child, who had not yet even developed her own sexual orientation, was being discriminated against due to their own sexuality (myFOXDetroit.com Staff 2015). Ironically, Dr. Roi wrote to the couple in a letter saying that she “would never judge anyone based on what they do with… free choice”, although Dr. Roi’s replacement told the two mothers that Dr. Roi had not come to work that morning to avoid seeing them (myFOXDetroit.com Staff 2015).

Unfortunately, it seems that the couple will not be able to sue since there are no laws to protect those who identify as LGBTQ from discrimination. The American Medical Association states in their policy for “Continued Support of Human Rights and Freedom” that they “oppose any discrimination based on an individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, national origin or age” (AMA Policies on LGBT Issues 2015), however, doctors are allowed to choose to not give treatment if it is “incompatible with their personal, religious or moral beliefs” (myFOXDetroit.com Staff 2015). In the autumn of 2014, the state of Michigan attempted to create laws to protect LGBTQ from such discrimination, however, the bills did not pass (Ford 2015), and instead, the state concentrated on a bill called the “Michigan religious freedom restoration act (RFRA)” that allowed more religious freedom (Ford 2014). The RFRA grants people the ability to refuse service to certain people if it goes against their religious views (Ford 2014), making it easier for people like Dr. Roi to make religion a scapegoat for homophobia, which is “the discrimination against and hatred of lesbians, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people” (Aulette & Wittner 2015).

The reason that bills like the RFRA are even being considered is because there are many moral complications at the point where religious freedom and equal rights cross. Supporters of the bill argue that discrimination is not a one-way street, and that there must be protection for discrimination against religion along with protection for discrimination against LGBTQ people (Oosting 2014). Jase Bolger, the house speaker who proposed the RFRA, gave the example that “a baker should [not] be able to fire an employee for being gay or refuse to make a birthday cake for a gay customer” but the baker “should not be forced to make a cake for a same-sex wedding if such a union would run counter to his or her religious beliefs” (Oosting 2014). In opposition to the bill, Rabbi Jason Miller argues that the RFRA “allows individuals to put their religious beliefs above civil law and cause hardship for other individuals” (Miller 2014).

Having been raised in a religious household, I can almost understand Bolger’s side of the argument, or at least where he’s coming from. Religious freedom is important. However, it is ridiculous that a doctor could refuse treatment to someone who needs it simply because of his or her sexual orientation, or that a landlord could attempt to evict someone whose sexuality doesn’t align with his or her religion. These actions result in the strengthening of heterosexual privilege as well as heteronormativity, which is the idea that heterosexuals are “normal” and anyone who deviates from it is “unnatural” (Aulette & Wittner 2015). Imagine the outcry if a gay doctor refused to treat a child because his or her parents were straight. Of course, this is a different situation since there are no known religions that are against heterosexuality, but I am simply trying to point out how rejecting a gay person services is not out of the blue in our society, but it would be ridiculous if things were reversed. As Rabbi Miller writes, “freedom of religion shouldn’t be unconditional” (2014). I firmly believe that people should be allowed to practice whatever religion they choose, but whatever they believe should not have a negative effect on other individuals.

– curlyfrypoutine

WORKS CITED

AMA Policies on LGBT Issues. (2015). Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member-groups-sections/glbt-advisory-committee/ama-policy-regarding-sexual-orientation.page?

Aulette, J., & Wittner, J. (2015). Gendered Worlds (3rd ed.). New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby. (2015, February 18). Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-same-sex-couples-baby

Ford, Z. (2015, February 19). It Was Perfectly Legal For This Doctor To Refuse To Treat A Same-Sex Couple’s Newborn. Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/02/19/3624769/michigan-doctor-discrimination-child-same-sex-couple/

Ford, Z. (2014, December 4). Michigan Advances ‘License To Discriminate’ While LGBT Protections Stagnate. Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/12/04/3599833/michigan-rfra-discrimination/

Miller, J. (2014, December 11). Freedom of Religion Shouldn’t Be Unconditional. Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://time.com/3629943/michigan-religious-freedom-restoration-act/x

Oosting, J. (2014, November 12). Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger seeks to pair gay rights bill with ‘religious freedom’ act. Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2014/11/bolger_proposes_religious_free.html

Taking a Look at “The Way He Looks”

After viewing the trailer in class, I had high expectations going to see The Way He Looks, the film based off of I Don’t Want To Back Alone, a short film created by the same director and producer combo: Brazil native Daniel Ribeiro and Diana Almeida from Mozambique. The film’s website boasts 31 different awards and a worldwide release to 22 countries.

So, on Saturday, January 31st, I journeyed down to The Screening Room to see if The Way He Looks would hold up to my expectations. The film was being shown as part of Reel Out Film Festival. I sat down in the second row of the small theatre, which was quickly filling up with other people around my age. As soon as the film started, I regretted not sitting in the very front row, since it was at times hard to read the English subtitles at the bottom of the screen. However, I tried to ignore this extremely minor inconvenience and enjoy the film.

The Way He Looks is a coming of age story following blind teenager, Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo), as he grapples with gaining more independence from both his parents and his best friend, Giovana (Tess Amorim). Leo’s world is turned upside down when he meets Gabriel (Fabio Audi), a new student, who he immediately connects with. The film explores his relationship with Gabriel as well as his friendship with Giovana all while Leo deals with the taunting from his classmates.

Let’s start off with what I really liked about the film. First of all, it was beautifully scored, including songs by Belle and Sebastian and The National alongside classical music (Leonardo’s favourite genre). The cinematography was also quite stunning, exploring the boundaries of film with quirky camera work. An example of this is the precise and fixed birds’ eye view shot of Leo, Giovana, and Gabriel by Giovana’s pool; a shot that is repeated throughout the film.

But my favourite thing about the film was the freshness of the storyline. To me, The Way He Looks is a love story between two boys, but it doesn’t try to bring attention to the fact that it is a homosexual relationship. Many queer love stories (such as Brokeback Mountain or Lilies) often emphasize the homosexuality, which is important in some regards, but it also makes queer relationships seem abnormal. The Way He Looks did a terrific job of balancing between showing how homosexuals are disadvantaged in society due to unfair gender stereotypes and biases but also portraying the relationship in a very real form. The film also demonstrates an understanding of the gender spectrum, as both Leonardo and Gabriel are shown considering a relationship with a girl – Leonardo wanting to kiss Marta at a party, and Gabriel flirting with Karina on the school camping trip. Although these scenarios can be interpreted as the boys being “confused about their sexuality,” I think that it serves to show that sexuality is a spectrum, not black and white.

The Way He Looks also deals with the intersectionality of its characters and how it affects them. Leonardo is not only homosexual, but blind, allowing the film to comment on ablebodied privilege. The race of the characters can also be pointed out – they are all Latin American – however, the movie does not address many problems of race, other than portraying the US as a “safe haven” for Leonardo when he decides he wants to go there to escape from his overprotective parents.

I want to take a look at the final scene in the film (this section will include spoilers, of course) – the pivotal moment when Leonardo is ready to let the world know about his feelings for Gabriel. As Leo, Gabriel, and Giovana are walking home after school, Fabio, the boy who leads others in bullying Leonardo for the entire movie, mocks Leonardo for holding Gabriel’s arm, an action that throughout the story was more for utility than romance. They stop walking, and the next shot is a close up as Leonardo tentatively slides his hand down Gabriel’s arm so that they are holding hands. Fabio’s friends then laugh, but more so at Fabio than Leonardo and Gabriel. I thought this scene was a perfect ending to the film, again serving to normalize homosexual relationships since Leonardo and Gabriel’s classmates are not shown teasing Leonardo for being in a relationship with a boy.

There are a few things that I would have liked to see in the film that was not brought up at all. Mainly, it would have been interesting to see how Leonardo’s parents would react to him being in a relationship with a boy. Leonardo and Gabriel’s relationship is also quite desexualized (they are only shown kissing, although Gabriel does also stare at a naked Leo in the shower), which displays that the filmmakers think that audiences are not quite ready to see homosexual relationships in the explicit way that heterosexual relationships are portrayed in the movies. I understand that both Leonardo and Gabriel are young, but I think the director/writer could have pushed their relationship a wee bit further.

Overall, I can’t think of many ways in which The Way He Looks could be improved. It was a cute and quirky film about extremely loveable characters that find love while navigating the maze that is adolescence. I would extremely recommend watching it – I’ll definitely be watching it again, as well.

– curlyfrypoutine

Works Cited:

“The Film.” The Way He Looks. Lacuna Filmes, 2014. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.thewayhelooks.com/#!about/c10fk&gt;.

“The Way He Looks.” Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com, Inc., 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1702014/&gt;.

The Way He Looks. Perf. Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, Tess Amorim. Vitrine Films, 2014. Film.