Day Eighteen: March 28


Today we are continuing our discussion of athletes and how they are represented within mainstream media. I have many different examples that I want to discuss:

EXAMPLE ONE: Always the bridesmaid... 

This example made me curious about whether or not men's basketball teams are ever referred to as "bridesmaids." After a very quick search, I found this: Kansas men's basketball team ranks high on the "bridesmaid" list  Why the metaphor of the bridesmaid? Is it sometimes used to mock male athletes with femininity?

(I also randomly found this: Brides and Basketball Reactions?)

EXAMPLE TWO: Athletes or Women Athletes? Why do we need to distinguish?

Male as the neutral default

Anthony Jacobsen writes: 

Men and women have been separated in the world of sports for as long as most of us can remember. The very idea of the term "women's sports" shows the idea of a sexed body. The women are given their division of sports and activities. They are believed to not be able to compete with the men so they have their own group for fair competition. In most sports when the name of the sport is given people generally assume it is referring to the men's version. If the women's version is the subject it almost always has "women's" or "ladies'" in it somewhere.

EXAMPLE THREE: Pornographic eroticism and sexual grostesquerie?

PORNOGRAPHIC EROTICISM: sexuality is the primary characteristic of the person represented (McKay/Johnson). As opposed to athletic eroticism where sexuality is just one dimension of human experience, as a quality that emerges from the self-possession, autonomy and strength so evident in the body of a female athlete (492). 

SEXUAL GROSTEQUERIE: black women's bodies are represented/understood in terms of excessive and deviant sexuality...accessible, available, deviant, wild...unfeminine yet hyperfeminine, erotic yet deviant (493-494).

Serena Williams promoting Top Spin 4: Compare the commercial below with the Spin 4 premiere video on their website:

Now check out this video of Roger Federer in a commercial for chocolate:

  • How does "sex sell" in these different advertisements? 
  • What differences do you see in the ads? How are those differences shaped by race and gender?
  • (How) are Williams and Federer represented as athletes in these ads? 
  • Are these examples of pornographic eroticism (see McKay/Johnson)?
  • What about "sexual grostesquerie"? Does this Williams' ad reflect this?
  • Does Serena Williams represent postfeminist empowerment or radical feminist reinforcement of the system (see Carty)?
Carty writes:

who controls choices that women make and for what ends? When sex appeal, as defined by toned bodies, is refigured as a type of sexuality and when athletes comply with these efforts to feminize their bodies, it leaves the institutions in place that ultimately control and reinforce representations of feminized athletes (153). 

What do you think of this Serena Williams' ad for HP? What sort of representations of bodies, femininity, athleticism, sexuality are offered in it?

What about this advertisement with Maria Sharpova for Nike (from 2006)? Is this a positive representation? Does it challenge traditional notions of femininity and women athletes? Do you see whiteness functioning here? If so, how?

Finally, check out this brief footage of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova facing off at the Australian Open in 2007 (Williams won). How do their performances in this match differ from their performances in the commercials? Does the contrast between performances undercut their representations as (female/women) athletes?

Even more...

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