Occasionally female athletes get a bit of coverage in the mainstream media. Here in the Media Forum, we take a look at what people are saying and you can tell Sportsgirls what YOU think.
Monday 19 October 2009
100 year old athlete Ruth Frith calls the shots
Here at Sportsgirls we love ‘em all ages. Even if they’re 100 years old, like World Masters Games shotput gold medallist Ruth Frith. The Games hit Sydney this week and are an opportunity for mostly ‘post-peak’ people to play sport against each other. Shotput star Frith has become the face of the Games (even if she doesn’t want it), edging out 101-year-old Reg Trewin for the spotlight, even though she reportedly doesn’t see herself as a poster girl: “I don’t feel that way at all” (The Australian).
But we’d probably recommend against following all of Frith’s advice, which includes not eating your vegetables and getting women out of the workplace and back into the kitchen (“Women shouldn’t work: Centenarian” - Brisbane Times).
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Monday 12 October 2009
Tander proves women can drive
The world of V8 Supercar racing and Bathurst 1000 might seem a bit too blokey to some, but Leanne Tander made headlines by racing in the legendary Mount Panorama race last weekend. The Herald Sun described Tander’s qualification for the race as an introduction into “one of the most inclusive clubs” as a female driver at Mount Panorama. The Brisbane Times noted that Tander, wife to Garth Tander who poled first this year, was the first female driver on the Mountain in a decade, but was “more than a token marketing inclusion, deserving a start on merit”.
However, The Age revelled in the novelty of a female racer, describing her short stint in the gravel as resulting in only “some minor cosmetic damage to the brightly coloured No. 333 Falcon”. One would be hard pressed to hear any cars driven by male racers described as “brightly coloured”, although many are.
Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph joked about the problems of a Holden-Ford rivalry in the Tander marriage, ending up in the “Entertainment” section of the website. Looks like Leanne Tander’s got a bit further to go before she makes it to the sports pages at the Tele.
What do you reckon? Should Tander be on the sports pages?
Monday 21 September 2009
Serena Williams apologises for outburst
"I need to make it clear that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act — win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner." So said Serena Williams this week, apologising for her verbal attack on a lineswoman in the US Open (as quoted in The Times). Allegedly, Williams screamed, “You don't know me. You better be right. I could shove this ball down your throat.” Warning: Video contains partly censored harsh language
The Times used the Williams outburst to ponder this week “Is it OK to throw a hissy fit?”, deciding that ‘hissy fits’ are “deplorable displays of temper” that are “rarely pretty and are usually counterproductive”. While this obviously shows some gendered use of language (hissy fit...or anger management problem?), we’ll count this as a win because Williams can now legitimately be considered the “female John McEnroe”.
Susan Dominus waxed lyrical in The New York Times about the comparisons between Williams and her opponent Kim Clijsters, and the different models of femininity that each present. According to Dominus, you too would be angry if your opponent was the crowd favourite, a mother and professional tennis player, and therefore, the one who has it all.
What do you reckon? Are female sports stars like Williams allowed to get angry or was she out of line?
Semenya cases raises gender issues
Poor Caster Semenya. Instead of celebrating her gold medal at the World Championships, the 18-year-old middle distance runner spent the week fighting off the international media, with gender tests ordered by the IAAF. The subsequent (and leaked) findings were that Semenya has both male and female genitalia.
Many commentators have deplored the invasion of privacy that the gender tests and media coverage posed to Semenya. Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, reportedly slammed the lack of anonymity that usually accompanies IAAF investigations: “It is one thing to seek to ascertain whether or not an athlete has an unfair advantage over others. But it is another to publicly humiliate an honest, professional and competent athlete” (quoted in The New York Times). Journalism professor Anton Harber also criticised the lack of privacy given to Semenya, especially “by those who published her (alleged) medical status before she even knew it herself” (All Africa).
Putting aside the privacy issues, many media outlets have treated this incident as an opportunity to discuss the difficult topic of hermaphrodites and gender classification. Some noted the problems with identifying Semenya as 'male' based simply on some masculine characteristics, while the African National Congress went one step further, condemning “the motives of those who have made it their business to question her gender due to her physique and running style. Such comments can only serve to portray women as being weak” (quoted in The Guardian). Meanwhile, The New York Times also explored the Semenya story, as a reflection of either racism against black athletes or sexism against athletically successful women.
Germaine Greer (of course) got her two cents in, with quite an interesting discussion of gender classification in The Guardian. She notes that out of the 6000 tests conducted when gender testing was compulsory (in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics), “no instance of a male athlete knowingly misrepresenting his gender had been identified. Instead the tests picked up developmental sexual disorders in a number of women who didn’t know they had them”. This, Greer argues, only resulted in embarrassing a small percentage of athletes and, hence, gender testing was discarded. She ends with the argument that although it might not be ‘fair’ for Semenya to compete against women, “doesn’t all competitive sport canonise and glamorise the exploitation of genetic advantage? Who said life was fair?”
There has been disagreement about what the next step should be for Semenya. Michael Donaldson, sports editor at New Zealand’s Sunday Star Times, argued in his September 13 article (available from Factiva) that Semenya should “be left alone to continue with her career” because she is not intentionally cheating, and her biological status has only given her a marginal advantage. However, “what’s really likely to happen is that she will be driven out of the sport by rabid misunderstanding and lack of tolerance. I get the feeling athletics officials would love to see Semenya hounded out of the sport by embarrassment and stress. Why else would they insensitively insist on leaking information about Semenya to the press?”
What do you reckon? Is Semenya a cheater? A man? A woman? Or is all this irrelevant?
Tuesday 15 September 2009
Female boxers under scrutiny
The IOC surprised everyone recently with the announcement that there would be three women’s boxing events (flyweight, lightweight and middleweight, with 12 competitors in each category) at the London 2012 Olympic Games. This is a big step forward for the sport, especially considering that the NSW government is only just lifting the ban on women’s boxing this year.
Of course, the sports writers went mad. Some argued that the inclusion of women’s boxing into the Olympics showed increased parity within the sports world. Michael Rosenthal wrote: “the women deserve the same opportunities as the men”. Or as Bill Littlefield stated, “the people who object to [women’s boxing in the Olympics] are misogynists, morons, or both.”
Others didn’t see the opportunity to hit other women as a step forward for feminism. George Diaz (in “They shouldn’t toe line”) shows his respect for women in “Equal opportunity is a great thing, and while it’s true I’ve been titillated by an occasional cat fight hair pull, I draw the line when it involves women trying to pummel each other in a blood bath staged inside a cage”. Meanwhile, “I’m all for equal pay, a female president and my daughters growing up in a misogyny-free world. I just don’t care to see them in a boxing ring”, argued David Whitley (quoted in Patricia Nell Warren “When women do a no-no in sports”). Nell Warren, conversely, argues that perspectives like Whitley’s smack of “unspoken homophobia”: “Women who do a no-no in sports are still seen as unfeminine and unnatural, ergo lesbians”.
Of course, we saw that same old argument trotted out again – women aren’t as good as men: “No one in their right mind could ever say women boxers are the equal of their male counterparts in any department. It’s just a stupid argument because women will never have the same skill levels” (Frank Warren) [Here, Sportsgirl Cass O’Connor would like to point out that, although there aren’t many female boxers who could take on a male heavyweight champ, this is the same for any male flyweight. Boxing as a sport demonstrates that you don’t have to be the biggest to win; speed and technique are what shape true champions]. Rosenthal rejects criticisms of the women’s game: “Some of the most entertaining fights I’ve seen live were women’s bouts. And they’re just as passionate about what they do as the men”.
What do you reckon? Should women box? Should the IOC have included women’s boxing in the next Olympics? Or do you play a sport that you think is more deserving to be included in the Olympics?
Image credits: Sportsgirl name, logo, and colours, Da Font 'Capture It' font, Reisio: Wikimedia Commons (basketball), Philipp Kilnger: Flickr Creative Commons Licensed (condensation), Cassandra O'Connor: Sportsgirls (unicycle), altemark: Flickr Creative Commons Licensed (megaphone), Sgt Caboose: Flickr Creative Commons Licensed (athletics track), John Ovingtion: Flickr Creative Commons Licensed (V8 supercar), eliteballer: YouTube (Serena Williams clip), José Sena Goulão: Flickr Creative Commons Licensed (Caster Semenya), Lata Hamilton: Sportsgirls (boxing), HTML Comment Box: Comment Boxes
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