Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Women and Sports

A few years ago I made some trouble with a piece about women's sports that pointed out that women really can't compete with men on the playing field. I was egged on by ads from Gatorade and Nike and the WNBA which all carried the same general theme: Women are just as strong and fast and athletic as men are. Which is crazy. The most telling of the examples I found was Marion Jones, whose 2000 Olympic gold medal performance in the 200m would have earned her a fourth-place finish in the high school boys state finals that year in New Jersey.

It seems that the political line has changed on women's sports, as now exemplified by a new Nike ad:

"Are boys bigger, stronger, and faster? Yes. Is that all that has to do with being an athlete? No."

"It's not a girl thing. It's not a boy thing. It's a skills ["skillz"? -ed] thing."

Well, okay. Except that the logic of this points either to (a) uni-sex professional sports leagues, or (b) no longer bothering to keep score. (We'll leave aside that on the question of skills, too, men tend to be better than women. If you have any doubts, watch the passing and dribbling during a WNBA game some time.)

In another set of Nike ads for the U.S. women's World Cup team, the slogan tells us that they're "The best team you never heard of."

What I don't understand is why there's this vaguely accusatory stance from women's sports. Why do we have to pretend that female athletes are something that they're not? Shouldn't it be enough to appreciate them on their own terms?


Anonymous said...

The worst part of those news ads is Mia Hamm saying, "Oh, I've never won a bakeoff." Why insult other women. Proponents of women sports seem to always cross the line between promotion and instilling a cod-liver oil like obligation.

Anonymous said...

Approx. 20 years ago, while an undergraduate at Harvard, we had a banquet for the men's and women's crew teams. I was a member of the men's team. On the walk back to campus I had to endure listening to some enraged female rowers complain about the speaker, who was some form US Olympic Committe doctor. They were threatening some form of protest (I can't recall what). His crime? In the course of his lecture, he had discussed the effects of testosterone on skeletal tissue development and the corresponding impact on strength.

Pointing out that he was merely citing a generally accepted scientific fact, not to mention something that any mildly observant human could deduce, only served me to get into deeper hot water with my then girlfriend. The relationship didn't last.

The recognition of basic biological differences between men and women is at least a small step in the right direction.

Michael said...

Because women just don't do anything for pleasure.

Look at Oprah's book club, they don't read for pleasure, it's so they can "grow as a person."

Sports is the same thing, they don't do it because sports are fun, it's because they are empowering themselves.

Now we can argue is this something women do by themselves, or is it a reaction/product of the male culture. If we weren't such jerks about giving women opportunities in the past, they wouldn't have to find some sort of pseudo-significance in everything.