Monday, May 12, 2008

And Gracefully and Grandly... Gracefully and Grandly

Apparently, part of the WNBA's new player orientation now includes instruction on the very important basketball topic of how to apply makeup. It's sort of a new strategy to make men interested in the WNBA because, you know, God forbid men view female athletes as athletes rather than babes. And Goddess forbid only little girls and lesbians like the WNBA.

Kudos to anyone who actually wants to wear makeup during basketball games. But, this marketing ploy smacks of the idea that female athletes must be "women first" and real athletes second in order to be successful or recognized. Professional female basketball players, as the WNBA admits, are a "tough sell." To be honest, I sort of think that really means that they're a "tough sell" to men, many of whom explain away their lack of interest in women's sports by enlightening us all as to the suckiness of women's sports in general. Why should they, they argue, pay to watch the equivalent of high school boys play basketball? These men, dear WNBA, are who you are trying to entice to games by slapping lipstick on your players? Do you think that by turning female athletes into sexy ladies, men will magically begin to see them as legitimate athletes?

In addition, rather than confronting the pervasive homophobia that is still rampant and accepted in the sports' world, the article took for granted that women being thought of as unfeminine or as lesbians were negatives. One sports psychologist, for instance, quoted in the article had this to say:

"No. 1 is, of course, the need for the image of WNBA players to be seen as real women. That comes from the lesbian homophobia that surrounds women in sports in general."

And she's right. The subtext of this article indicates two things: (1) That "real women" are those who know how to put on a mean eyeliner and (2) The WNBA is concerned with the lesbo image.


There's at least one catch with this "concern," as the sports psychologist continues:

"The problem is if only 8 percent of the coverage is on women, and the vast majority of the time we're talking about who they're married to, what clothing they're wearing, what kind of parents they are, there's not much room left to say, 'What a great athlete.'"

While watching women's sports, I have sat perplexed many a time as a "highlight reel" of a particular female athlete veered into off-topic territory of the woman's husband, family, and children. Neat-o. How often does that happen in a Derek Jeter highlight reel? But I think we all get the point. Lest anyone dare to think otherwise, female athletes are not gay, they're not gay, they're definitely. not. gay.

Now, I can understand that heterosexual female athletes don't want to be associated with the rampant lesbianism that exists in female athletics. And yes, hel-lo everybody, lesbians are and always will be rampant in sports no matter how much makeup you slap on people. But rather than feeding into the anti-gay bias, shouldn't we be attacking the pervasive assumption that being a lesbian is something bad to be?

Well, if that's too controversial how about we start by ridding ourselves of the assumption that one must wear makeup to be considered feminine, to be thought of as beautiful, and/or to please men?

It speaks to the still-sorry state of gender equality in sports when female athletes are constantly expected to convince the masses, especially men, that even though they're good at sports they're still feminine "women." Can't female athletes just be taken for what they are, whether they're DYKEY, un-feminine, feminine, or whatever?

What is unfortunate is that, with the obsession on pretty female athletes, female athletes who are not considered "bombshells" yet who are still great athletes, go largely unrecognized in the sports' media. In order to get recognition as a female athlete, one pretty much has to be beautiful and great at sports. Which is sad. I'm pretty sure that for every Jenny Finch (who, yes, is an amazing player) who poses for Sports Illustrated in a bikini, there's an unheralded Marla Hooch quietly hitting home runs and waving to the camera from a distance.

But alas, then the article just started to get silly:

"You don't want to be caught without your game face on," makeup artist Faith Edwards said as she applied foundation to Charde Houston of the Minnesota Lynx.

Does this remind anyone else of the scene in the greatest movie ever where Betty Spaghetti is touted as also being an accomplished coffee maker?


You can have your pretty ball-dropping Dottie Hinson. When the game is on the line, I'll place my bets on her tomboyish-probably-lezzzbian kid sister Kit.

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