Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

06 May 2008

WNBA Rookie camp includes a visit from Bobbie Brown artist

Low ratings and attendance has apparently forced the hand of WNBA President Donna Orender, a former basketball player herself. She's created a workshop for this year's rookies on makeup and fashion:

As part of the rookies' orientation into life as professional athletes, the WNBA for the first time offered them hour-long courses on makeup and fashion tips. The courses, at an O'Hare airport hotel, made up about a third of the two-day orientation, which also featured seminars on financial advice, media training and fitness and nutrition.

This is not as drastic a move as one may think. After cooling off from my initial shock and anger, I realized that this is just one more step in the craptastic direction of making some of the strongest and best athletes in the world into cheesecake pin-ups. Lisa Leslie of the LA Sparks was never seen without lip gloss on. Now, she may be a fan of the lip gloss and that's fine, but she was THE face for the WNBA for many years and after having a child last season, she's back. Yes, she is one of the best players, but she's also one of the most feminine one as well.

The photo I've posted is from a
'behind the scenes' photo album. The first three photos are of the players getting all gussied up aka all girly. Candace Parker, in the photo, has joined Lisa Leslie in LA and are being marketed as not just a pair of kick ass players, but the photos of them (which I can't find now!) are super girly.

I've been musing in my head the idea and fact that girls today can jump from their pink dresses into cleats without much thought, so why am I so pissed? I'm pissed because I fear that the focus on these athletes’ outer appearance
reduces the positive influence of sports and is downplaying their achievements on the court:

Susan Ziegler, a Cleveland State professor of sports psychology, said disparity in wages and media coverage between male and female athletes, along with a battle against perceived negative stereotypes, are factors in marketing female sports figures for their physicality rather than their athletic assets.

The WNBA, she said, seems to be becoming more image-conscious.

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

Ziegler has done extensive research on female athletes being sexualized through the media. Even with something as common as applying lipstick, promoting physical appeal can take away from the athletes' legitimacy, she says.

"Once you begin to worry about how the person looks as opposed to how she plays, you've crossed the line into dangerous play," Ziegler said. "We're not really focused on marketing them as athletes but as feminine objects."

Did ya see that? The WNBA is still "fighting" the image that all their players are ugly lesbians. *sigh* Our collective fear of the Lavender Menace never seems to leave us! Feminist Law Professors sees how the inevitable impossible beauty standard we hold actors and other entertainers was bound to leak down into sports. Not to mention the WNBA's view that about womanhoood.


Forget about the Miley Cyrus photos…This is a much bigger danger to our daughters. What does this really tell our girls? That your amazing jump shot and great ball handling skills doesn’t mean much if you can’t apply eye liner (something I didn’t attempt until I was in my 30s) or know what type of skirt is in fashion?


The reality is that every girl growing up in America today knows all of this. My generation knew it once we say cute Mary Lou Retton everywhere and saw this line of thought devolve into Anna Kornakova-mania. Cute sells, plain and simple. But somewhere in all of this, I thought that a sport that relied solely on skill (gymnastics has artistry points) like tennis, basketball, and soccer would be free from beauty sells. Luckily for the marketing gurus, cute girls play softball too.


Despite this reality do we really need a women’s professional sports league to send yet another message to us that we need to not just practice our free throws, but also know how to "how to perfect [our] arcs" on our eye lids? I’m still going to buy some tickets for the Chicago Sky, but I just might skip the eyeliner that night…maybe.

Oops...forgot my hat tip to Women's Hoops for alerting me of the story. This blogger always tries to give credit where credit is due!

Photo credit: Bill Frakes/SI

Technorati tags: WNBA, make-up, fashion, WTF

2 comments:

I am so happy to have someone to share this story with. I teach an online composition class and one of my students told her story in several essays in class.

She was a star basketball for a Div I college and got pregnant. Her coach, among others, encouraged her to terminate. She chose to keep her baby and was kicked off the team. Perhaps this is commonplace in woman's athletics. She was not bitter and is now getting her degree online so she is quite motivated but that just struck me as unfair and not very "woman friendly."

Beth Brand

I've heard stories like that Beth. I've also heard amazing stories of college mamas who have the baby on Friday and are back on the court Monday. Neither are very woman friendly.