July 24, 2017
In this week's edition:
- Gender and the Sports Entertainment Industry (2/4)
- Oh Yes She Did! Featuring a project by GUPI
- UPDATE: Full website launches tomorrow!
Gender and the Sports Entertainment Industry:
An Industry Overview (2/4)
An addendum to last week's post: I forgot to include information about the NBPA, the National Basketball Player's Association, which is the official union for NBA players. The NBPA negotiates minimum wages for all of the players, and also supports people with their grievances. Their power and value comes from their personalities. The greater the character and the uniqueness (Steph Curry vs. JaVale McGee) gives one more social capital. To back up their contract negotiations, players will use such arguments as performance numbers both in attendance and on television – however how did they build up these numbers?
“Who tells the story dictates the story line.”
Note: for the purpose of this article, I’ve focused on the American sports environment since that’s where the majority of our work occurs.
One of the most frequently used arguments for promoting men’s ultimate instead of mixed or women’s ultimate is because “men’s ultimate gets more views” and “men are more athletic than women and therefore better than women”. What instead we’re looking at is a correlated concept: we believe that men are more athletic than women because we have seen men play sports much longer than women and have therefore defined “athleticism” as what a man’s body can do compared to a woman’s. This comes from a historical inequality with the amount of media produced for and about women.
Let’s look back at the history of media for a second. Seeing images on a screen began in 1896 with the first movie theatres. Then, color television came to our homes in big frames and tiny screens in 1936, the same year that Jesse Owens won four gold medals against Adolf Hitler’s Aryan racers in Nazi-occupied Germany. It was also just 16 years after the 19th amendment was passed, which allowed married women to own property, have legal claim to money they made in the workforce, and join their male counterparts in the voting booth 160 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Over that 160 year head start, men had built up a significant amount more wealth and cash than women, who were just entering the workforce and building their wealth.
Keep in mind that in a capitalist system, your cash is your oxygen. You can’t engage in a capitalist system if you do not have any money.
Men, meanwhile, had access to money, careers, and playing sports. They could have any job they wanted, and particularly in the media, since they were both producing and consuming the media at the same time. That means that the people producing the videos, directing the videos, and watching the videos were majority men. That means the people who were making our political decisions, healing our wounds, and arguing for us against the judge were all men. The men who ran the medical research during the 19th century “characterized women as the physiologically inferior sex, weakened and ruled by their reproductive systems.” When professional baseball was created in the 1870s, women who exercised were socially considered prostitutes and were gossiped about throughout the town. The stories about women were being told by men. The stories of what was valued as “athletic” referred to what men referred to as “athletic” because men had the cash to engage in the argument and discussion of who was an athlete.
With all the crazy colors and outfits of the ultimate community, we forget that not long ago, women were forced to only wear dresses and skirts.
And with the money men made from their jobs, they could meet in cafes and bars to discuss business and legal matters, or attend sporting events. The term “Return on Investment” is what is used to justify the argument of why more men’s sports are on television. Return on Investment, or commonly referred to as ROI, explains that you should make the investment that gives you the highest rate of return possible. Marketers are going to target the groups that will make them the most money, which exemplifies the early professional sports market. From a business perspective, it made no sense to produce anything for women because they couldn’t pay for it. The world of leisure was only accessible to men until the mid-1900s as women started working out more. Athletic opportunities for youth became more accessible in 1972 when Title IX was passed and required schools to offer equal opportunities for boys and girls, which increased the number of girls participating in sports from 1 in 27 pre-Title IX to 1 in 2.5 in 2001.
The media, however, has yet to update itself. Today women write only 1.8% of all sports media. In 2009, a 20-year study found that 96% of sports news on network and cable television were about men. The author explained, “The discrepancy is important as it reinforces the historical stereotype that sports proves men are superior to women, that the women’s product isn’t the same quality or would not have the same mass appeal. Those arguments have been used before, such as when African Americans weren’t considered good enough to compete in Major League Baseball.”
This reflects the current unspoken construct of toxic masculinity, the act of affirming male domination by socially requiring men to act tough and macho as superior beings to women. Men created an environment where men play sports. Then, men created a media environment that only supported men’s sports, and from the numbers above, that’s close to the same media representation we see today.
The process of emasculation then becomes the binary negative of toxic masculinity, which prevents men from sharing feelings or “acting soft”. Supporting women’s sports is a threat to the male superiority version of masculinity that we witness today because women’s sports prove that strength is a feminine trait as well. Patriarchy is negative therefore for both the oppressors and the oppressed because all parties are then restricted to boxes of what people can or cannot achieve.
Written by Laurel Oldershaw, who plays for the Vancouver Sneaky House Hippos out of Vancouver, BC.
OH YES SHE DID!
A Guest Project by Minnesota GUPI
Minnesota GUPI, a youth led organization out of the Twin Cities put together this incredible collection of photos on their website, as they explain, "to take harmful, disheartening comments made by male youth players about women’s ultimate and use them to empower the girls in our community. We want to reclaim the phrase 'skyed by a girl' to not be a source of shame for men’s players, but to celebrate women’s players. We have juxtaposed comments made by members of our own community with some of the most athletic plays by female youth players in Minnesota, because it’s far easier to show that the statements are unfounded than to say it. Ultimately, we realized that we don’t need to say anything to condemn hurtful language by male players, because if we highlight our women’s players their hard work, talent, and grit speaks for itself."
FULL Website Releases Tomorrow!
You might have noticed that some of the links on our website haven't been working, and that’s because we’ve been putting together lots of different projects from our side and taking time to build the website. We’ll release the full website tomorrow morning at 8 am EST. Make sure you set an alarm!
- Have you checked out our podcast yet? It's super fun and features our first segment of LOL: Laurel Out Loud and an interview with Bex Forth of the EuroStars Tour. Find our new podcast at https://www.facebook.com/TheUplineCut/
- The EuroStars Tour continues this week with Tuesday against Boston Brute Squad, and a Friday doubleheader against Seattle Riot and Seattle Underground! Be sure to tune into the Facebook Livestream if you can't be there in person.