Author: has written 8 posts for this blog.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

42 Responses

  1. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

    I’m not sure the emphasis on “heterosexuality” is accurate. One can be a woman who desires men without desiring to cater to the male gaze (personally, I feel like I am the gazer, and they should be wearing sharp clothes and sunglasses just for ME. :-)) Conflating “femininity” and “heterosexuality” reinforces the concept that a woman who desires men *must* desire to dress up pretty for men, and a woman who desires women will almost certainly not dress up pretty for women.

    If heterosexuality were compulsory, but catering to the male gaze was not involved, then men would be under equal pressure to be attractive… but they’re not. It doesn’t matter to the male sports fan how many women a female athlete is secretly sleeping with, as long as she dresses and behaves as if she is trying to be attractive to him, the male sports fan. An outspoken lesbian with a femmy presentation would probably have a large fan following.

    To me, this article would be more accurate if instead of emphasizing compulsory heterosexuality, it emphasized the role of catering to the male gaze… which is *not* identical to female heterosexuality. Honestly, they are only tangentially related.

  2. Renee
    Renee April 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm |

    Agreed with Alara, although I’d specify that what we’re talking about here is a heterosexual male gaze (in fact, that’s what we’re almost always talking about when we use the phrase “male gaze”).

    Also, I think there’s an underlying current of transphobia that plays into this. The author almost gets there when she points how women in sports are required to always appear like “real women”, but then backs away from it again. The fear that someone isn’t really the gender they purport to be is deeply rooted, and is responsible for a lot of the compulsory gender performance we see.

  3. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck April 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm |

    This reminds me of what is currently happening in France. The French Federation of Tennis is looking for a replacement to national coach Guy Forget. Among the candidates is Amélie Mauresmo, who is told by many that she would get unanimity if she weren’t a woman. Honestly, I’m not sure her looks (she doesn’t fit in the restrictive definitions of “feminine”) and her sexuality (she’s openly homosexual) do play a huge role in this, so much as rejection of the idea of a WOMAN coaching MEN.

  4. Beauzeaux
    Beauzeaux April 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm |

    My husband and I are big fans of women’s basketball where we first noted the ponytail phenomenon. Almost all the white women had long hair that had to be tied up during games. Hardly any have short hair.

    On teams where we actually knew players, there were always both lesbian and straight women. All the white women had long hair. All were very careful not to appear too “butch.” There have been numerous coaches of women’s basketball (in the US) who devoted a large portion of their time to ferreting out lesbians and expelling them from the team.

    There’s a LOT of pressure on female athletes to present themselves as sufficiently girly. For a woman who is lean, muscular, fit, and competitive that means long hair & makeup.

  5. Milla
    Milla April 25, 2012 at 10:12 pm |

    I find the use of heterosexuality here to be peculiar (also the notion that feminine is substitutive for heterosexual— that’s a leap that needs to be unpacked), as it ignores the transmisogyny that’s supporting these notions about gender. And I would argue that the transmisogyny here is very apparent rather than under the surface, especially for women of color— one only has to look at what Caster Semenya went through to see that.

    While I don’t doubt there’s a great deal of heterosexism women face in athletics, it seems apparent that there’s transmisogyny at the core.

  6. Claire K.
    Claire K. April 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm |

    @Alara and Renee: She could have emphasized it more, but the author did mention –and I’d agree– that the fear of appearing masculine is linked to the way female athletes are often accused of being lesbians. The issue isn’t whether lesbians are actually more masculine than straight women but that women who are perceived as masculine are often assumed to be lesbians, so women who seem masculine in some respect (like playing sports and having muscles) have to work harder at femininity if they want to avoid the “lesbian” label.

    It’s not always easy to disentangle prejudice based on sexual preference from prejudice based on gender presentation. To the people who mock female sports stars, “like a man” and “lesbian” are generally interchangeable. An athlete who was openly lesbian but very feminine might not experience as much homophobia because her willingness to serve heterosexual men through her appearance mitigates her unwillingness to serve them sexually, but that doesn’t mean there’s no connection between lesbophobia and denigration of female athletes: even when people ridicule a straight (or closeted queer) athlete by saying she “looks like a man,” they more often mean that they think she’s really a lesbian than that they think she really is male. So, the author could have done more to emphasize that issue is the perception, by misogynist homophobes, of a link between lesbianism and masculinity, but the relation between lesbian panic and denigration of female athletes is still worth discussing, I think.

    I’m also interested in a kind of counter phenomenon: lesbians embracing female athletes who appear unfeminine. When Nadeshiko Japan (the women’s soccer team) won the World Cup last summer, many lesbians were excited to see “people who look like us” hailed as national heroes (because they provided hope after the earthquake). How the players “look like butch lesbians” was a popular topic of discussion in women’s bars and other lesbian social spaces for a while afterwards. This kind of talk might be unfair to straight women, who have to risk being labeled lesbians if they venture out of femininity, but it’s also hard to blame lesbians who indulge in this behavior for looking for positive representations of themselves in the media. After all, it’s true that even on the rare occasions lesbians show up in the mainstream media, they’re generally very feminine, to compensate for their lesbianism –while in reality, though many lesbians are not at all masculine or boyish, there are many more masculine lesbians than masculine straight women. There’s no essential correlation between gender presentation and sexual preference, but masculinity still tends to be a part of both homophobic representations of lesbians and many lesbians’ ideas about ourselves. (Spoken as a feminine lesbian, btw.)

  7. Carpenter
    Carpenter April 26, 2012 at 2:06 am |

    I while ago I read some great books about gender roles and the asymmetry in men’s and women’s training and expectations that result from them . I think one was called Built to Win and the other one was The Frailty Myth. It offered some pretty sobering anecdotes about and stats. We are all familiar with women’s basketball where women seem to be actively discouraged from ‘showboating’ moves that people accept from men hence social expectations impressing themselves onto people’s physical bodies and limiting their skill sets.

  8. John
    John April 26, 2012 at 8:29 am |

    I’m not convinced.
    Has the author has watched much women’s rugby in the UK? “Feminine” isn’t quite the word I’d use to describe many of the players, particularly the forwards, some of whom are getting towards the weight and size of their male colleagues. Most weigh over 12 stone. Claire Purdy of Wasps weighs 14 stone – no surprise that she plays prop forward for England. Jane Leonard was the British Army’s female middleweight boxing champion as well as an England rugby player.
    Where is the evidence for this “pressure”?

  9. Norma
    Norma April 26, 2012 at 9:07 am |

    Has the author has watched much women’s rugby in the UK?

    No, women’s rugby is definitely not sexed up in the UK. Not at all.

    (Links potentially NSFW.)

  10. John
    John April 26, 2012 at 9:38 am |


    No, women’s rugby is definitely not sexed up in the UK. Not at all.

    That’s not what I said, you’re arguing something different. I was talking about “femininity” in terms of identity (as the author of this article does). If women want to take their clothes off because they want to show how buffed up they are while raising money for charity, who should stop them?

    Actually, talking about femininity, looking at some of the players in the photos, I think I win. There’s some pretty butch types there.
    Also, the University photos are followed by photos of men’s teams stripping off, so the playing field is pretty level here as well.

    But equally, I don’t like body facism going the other way. If some women want to choose a certain look, “girly”, “feminine” or “butch” or whatever, who should stop them? Free country, innit?

  11. Norma
    Norma April 26, 2012 at 10:12 am |

    Also, the University photos are followed by photos of men’s teams stripping off, so the playing field is pretty level here as well.

    False equivalence, male gaze, feminism 101, etc.

    Actually, talking about femininity, looking at some of the players in the photos, I think I win. There’s some pretty butch types there.

    Since all the women are either in lacy lingerie, rugby shorts, or nothing, I’m curious as to what tipped you off. It couldn’t possibly be that you associate athletic bodies with homosexuality, could it? Wasn’t there just an article about this somewhere

  12. samanthab
    samanthab April 26, 2012 at 10:23 am |

    Well, it would be helpful to have some sources here. It’s one thing for women athletes to talk about pressures they feel; it’s quite another thing when commenters are questioning women athletes casting doubt on women who have long hair. Maybe they felt pressured, or maybe they like long hair. I’m uncomfortable with women being judged for their hair one way or another. I’d really like to hear directly from them about their choices.

  13. John
    John April 26, 2012 at 11:00 am |

    Not playing, you’re boring, sorry.

  14. matlun
    matlun April 26, 2012 at 11:02 am |

    Just anecdotally from Sweden, I would say that the homophobia in sports is much worse for men. For women homosexuality is almost expected at least in some sports (for example soccer).

    I am not saying this is good – it is just a different stereotype. But my experience does not really seem to match what is described in this article.

    (Of course there are sports where the women are fairly explicitly used as sex objects such as tennis and beach volleyball. But that also seems to be a different dynamic than described in the OP)

  15. roymacIII
    roymacIII April 26, 2012 at 11:14 am |

    You mean to say that you don’t think that men lift weights and work out in frilly underthings, as well?

    I think you hit it exactly on the head, Alara. Anyone who wants to see the pressure on women to appear traditionally “pretty” or femme needn’t look far–a glance at how people comment on men’s versus women’s sports should be enough. Or look at the sorts of “articles” that get written about athletes. That any particular athlete may not conform to the pressure doesn’t mean that the pressure isn’t there, or that women who play sports aren’t routinely judged for their sex appeal.

    Sports sites like “Bleacher Report” routinely publish “articles” about how sexy or not women atheletes are. Hell, they have an entire section of their site devoted to putting up pictures of “hottest athletes.” Any guess how many men make that cut? They make it very clear how they feel about it with lines like this, about possibly meeting women atheletes: “First, they are professional athletes and it is always cool to run into a pro. Second, and more important, these are women that look amazing in bikinis. They are hotter than anyone else on the beach, and deserve our praise” (I’m not linking either site because, seriously, I don’t want to drive more traffic to them than they already get).

    But no, I’m sure that constantly being judged for their looks doesn’t put any pressure on female athletes. =/

  16. Norma
    Norma April 26, 2012 at 11:59 am |

    Anyone who wants to see the pressure on women to appear traditionally “pretty” or femme needn’t look far–a glance at how people comment on men’s versus women’s sports should be enough.

    The way women are depicted in promoters’ and sponsors’ ads is revealing, too:,8599,2081209,00.html

  17. Norma
    Norma April 26, 2012 at 11:59 am |

    Whoops, reversed block quote there, sorry.

  18. Jen
    Jen April 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

    I think this happens to some extent whenever a woman tries to enter a field that is/was traditionally “masculine.” I can only speak from my own experience.

    As an archaeologist, I feel there’s pressure to “present feminine” in heels, makeup and fashion when teaching or attending a conference – more so than my female colleagues in the other social sciences. I can’t help but feel that we must do this in order to “atone” for the fact that 1/3 of the year, we’re in the field looking (and working and drinking and cursing) just like the dudes.

    Never mind that I got into this field because I LIKE camping and comfy hiking boots but couldn’t care less about how my hair looks.

  19. anyc
    anyc April 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm |

    I can’t help but laugh at the troll who wormed his way into the conversation, demanding Norma drop everything and “prove” her point,(after HE determined the guidelines for doing so, of course), because he was “not convinced”. When he was flatly proven willfully ignorant, he says, “I win”, like a petulant toddler, and runs away – hilarious! A-plus, Norma.

  20. John
    John April 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm |


    Actually, Norma was arguing about a completely different point from the one I made originally, one that I have absolutely no interest in debating because she doesn’t actually have a point at all. If you look at the photos that Norma linked to, you’ll see a wide variety of body types and short hair and long hair. So what’s the issue? Some women take their clothes off for a calendar shoot and look as if they’re having a good time? Norma doesn’t like it, because she’s the Feminist police. So are these women are wrong to do so, because they are all slaves to the Patriarchy? Have you any idea how sad you come across with such a bs position, trying to stop women doing things they want to do because it offends you? Beyond pathetic.

  21. John
    John April 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm |


    BTW, would you care t comment on my original point? How “feminine” is a woman who plays prop forward for England and weights 14 stone, or one who used to box for the army? Think these two would submit to being classified by this author, or would they tell you all to get your prod noses out of their affairs? I wonder…

  22. Beauzeaux
    Beauzeaux April 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm |

    I certainly see your point — no one who weighs more than you think suitable can be feminine. (14 stone! — she should just kill herself for presenting a body so distasteful.)
    And just in the last year, the organization that controls Olympic boxing (men and women) announced that they were going to require that women boxers wear SKIRTS in the ring. (The uproar that ensured caused them to back off a bit and say that skirts would now be optional.) So your “woman who boxed in the army” very nearly was required to femme it up if she wanted to box elsewhere.
    Last year the body that controls badminton also announced a requirement that women would now wear skirts. They also had to back down.
    These proposals didn’t just come out of no where. They’re part of a system that exerts lots of pressures on female athletes to conform to some pre-determined feminine standard.
    Just because there is the occasional woman athlete who says “screw that” and refuses, doesn’t invalidate the argument.

  23. Colin Reid
    Colin Reid April 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm |

    I agree with Alara – the constant scrutiny of sportswomen’s appearance is mainly objectification rather than enforcing heterosexuality. That said, it does seem that many sports (especially team sports) have a deeply homophobic culture around them as well. Men aren’t free from it by any means (the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ attitude is notoriously strong in European men’s football, for instance), but we rarely hear about how it affects women precisely because women’s team sports are so marginalised. Surely there is room to discuss both issues without conflating them?

  24. lapidary6
    lapidary6 April 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

    Rugby is an outlier. It doesn’t make much money, and it certainly doesn’t receive the same sort of pressure to conform to the heterosexual male gaze as other more mainstream sports that have more television potential. Beach volleyball and basketball were already name-checked, and I’d add tennis and maybe swimming/diving and skiing to the mix as sports with a high degree of pressure towards conforming to the heterosexual male gaze.

    I played a non-money sport in college, and did not always conform to standards of femininity. There was pressure to conform. Not insurmountable pressure, not irresistible pressure, but still, it was there. I bet the rugby players cited by John experience this pressure as well, but have formed a strong enough subculture to largely resist it, with exceptions as noted by Norma.

    Thinking back to the many, many women athletes I know in college, I’d say that generally, as the potential for lucrative success and media exposure grew higher, the pressure to conform to traditional heteronormative standards of femininity grew higher, including the lesbians being more and more closeted. Field hockey, rugby, water polo, softball all had out and butch members of teams that were accepted and supported. Basketball and volleyball had few to no members that intentionally presented as lesbian.

    Which, yes, is basically the point made by the article.

  25. Brennan
    Brennan April 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm |

    Dear John,

    You, sir, are everything that’s wrong the dialogue about women in sports. Your astounding lack of brainpower has apparently led you to conclude that a woman’s “femininity” can be directly related to her weight because . . . um . . . reasons? You are similarly under the delusion that the mere act of training for a particular sport and conditioning one’s body can make one a “butch type.” You have zero understanding of gender and what constitutes gender expression and probably don’t even realize that “butch” can be applied as something other than a derogatory term. Simultaneously, when presented with overtly sexualized images, you chose to play dumb in a feat of trolldom that would be impressive if it weren’t so sad. I will say this only once, so try to get it through your head: muscles do not imply gender expression. Interest in a particular sport does not imply gender expression. Participation in sports *should not* come with mandated gender expression. These athletes have better things to do than to sit around waiting for the likes of you to stereotype them.

    It’s been fun, but we should really stop seeing each other.

  26. MozInOzz
    MozInOzz April 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm |

    I think it depends a lot on the sport. Women’s cricket and soccer seem to have the assumption that most of the team will be queer (not to go on about bisexual, trans and poly invisibility, but, hey), at least in Australasia. And the women in the Australian judo team seemed quite unwilling to dress up femme for the calendar I shot, it was all gi’s and track suits.

    But netball? OMG, girl’s boarding school territory. The media presentation of “traditionally girly sports” is as bad as when women go into most heavily male ones (female cyclists seem to really cop it, possibly because of the teenage boy dominance. But that doesn’t explain tennis. We will not mention beach volleyball (do men even play that?)). It reminds me of one of the failblog entries on a music video “this porn is ruined by the bad soundtrack”.

  27. Donna L
    Donna L April 26, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  28. Azalea
    Azalea April 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm |

    Ugh. WHY is it that aman who looks nice,.LIKES to look nice for him but the most conceited woman on earth could spends half her life admiring herself in the mirror and people will swear the ONLY reason she looks good is for a man. No. Laila Ali didnt “get pretty” for men, shed TELL you she was BORN pretty and dare you to prove she was lying.

  29. Norma
    Norma April 27, 2012 at 1:50 am |

    So what’s the issue? Some women take their clothes off for a calendar shoot and look as if they’re having a good time? Norma doesn’t like it, because she’s the Feminist police.

    This made my day, dude.

  30. Li
    Li April 27, 2012 at 4:13 am |

    Just a clarification, but the term compulsory heterosexuality has a discreet meaning that isn’t literally “compulsory heterosexuality”. We’re talking systemic heterosexuality here (ie. the social construction of two distinct gendered sexual categories), not individual sexual orientation. This is one of those times in which looking up proper definitions is potentially useful.

  31. Li
    Li April 27, 2012 at 4:16 am |


  32. John
    John April 27, 2012 at 5:16 am |


    You may choose to disagree, but why get personal? As it is, you clearly haven’t understood the article (or even bothered to read it at all). To quote from it:

    Driven by fears of being labelled as lesbians, women athletes seek to project an over-emphasized heterosexual, feminine image.

    OK? 14-stone prop forwards are not typically “feminine”, whatever you personally might think.

    Whatever point you are struggling to make in your agitprop reply, it is lost in the ad-homs and evident loathing. Learning to write an intelligible sentence would be a good start for you.

    Have you even watched women’s rugby, BTW? One of my former colleagues played scrum-half for Wales, so I used to spectate occasionally.

    I suspect I’ve been a bit nearer to the game than you have or are ever likley to be. Take a hike.

  33. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 27, 2012 at 6:37 am |

    John, did you really say heavy women can’t be feminine? Who the fuck cares if most of them weigh over 12 stone? Stop with the fat hatred. You’re showing your ass.

  34. Caperton
    Caperton April 27, 2012 at 9:50 am | *

    John, don’t confuse “I don’t think a 14-stone woman is hot” with “a strong, 14-stone woman can’t be feminine.” First of all, having a certain body type and performing femininity are two different things. Second of all, you personal opinion about women’s bodies != objective fact.

  35. samanthab
    samanthab April 27, 2012 at 10:21 am |

    I don’t think it’s remotely hard to see that there’s pressure on women athletes to meet certain standards. What I’m uncomfortable with is the elision of “feminine” or “femme” and “patsy to male standards.” You deny women agency and you deride women when you do so. I’d like to hear from women athletes directly, and it’s a problem when we let men’s comments about women define those women one way or another. I know what creepy dudes have to say. When do we get to start hearing women’s voices?

    People need to re-read their copies of “Whipping Girl” if they are inclined to equate not- “femme” with liberation, which is where a lot of this is edging towards. I would obviously equate the *option* to be not- “femme” with liberation, but it doesn’t follow that we all need aspire to what is conventionally considered “masculine” presentation. It’s an understanding that suggests that what is “masculine” is also “natural” and free of constraints, and I really don’t think that’s true.

    Also, Li, compulsory heterosexuality does, from what I’ve read, literally mean compulsory heterosexuality. Adrienne Rich uses the term to address systems, sure, but I think she wants us also to read the term literally.

  36. Pillbug
    Pillbug April 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

    Re: In defense of John

    Irrespective of what one thinks of John’s tone-deafness, of which there is some, his position has been somewhat misconstrued.

    The article was stating that there is pressure on female athletes to appear feminine. John was saying “but wait: look at these calendars/presentations” in which non-“feminine” individuals appear .. and I think we all would concur that muscles, short hair, and to some extent, body type (in terms of size) impact the perception of someone as “fem,” which, of course, is part of the general feminist critique: who determines what is “womanhood/feminity” and how does the male gaze impact this. Some of the critiques redirected ire at John for having made this determination (“Your astounding lack of brainpower has apparently led you to conclude that a woman’s ‘femininity’ can be directly related to her weight because”), whereas he was merely recognizing the standard which is under critique here specifically, and, wrong as he may have been, was disagreeing not with the premise that male gaze impacts views of “feminity” but that it is relevant to the context of sporting. In short, I think some of those who disagree with John vociferously decided to play pedantic games of misconstrual to lash out. There is no reason for this, and such tinkering is an all-to-common tit-for-tat on these sorts of boards.

    One can disagree with John, or ignore him, but these sorts of persistent ad hominen attacks degrade the overall value of the discourse in general, and for those participants and lurkers looking to learn and explore. Every thread ends in assorted insults and vague accusations of privilege.

  37. The Lasyn
    The Lasyn April 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm |

    Wow, looks to me like folk are searching for whatever organization there is out there to promote their ideology rather than letting people who are a part of the organization decide for themselves.

    Leanne Norman makes all these assertians about what she feels the players/coaches/etc. should do and not what the players have said.

    Talk about projection and treating the players like little kids.

  38. Brennan
    Brennan April 27, 2012 at 8:37 pm |


    Yes, I was mean to John. I do not feel bad because he was trolling.

    The author interviewed women coaches herself. They gave personal examples of the phenomenon that she calls “compulsory heterosexuality” and we commentors have called “enforced femininity.” John is not convinced. He thinks the whole thing is a load of hogwash (meaning, what, that the coaches just imagined the pressure they described?). He’s pretty sure it’s all nonsense because *he* has actually seen a real-life women’s rugby game *in person* and some of the women had muscles (can you play rugby without muscles?). He wants us all to know what an expert he is on the basis of . . . his . . . former colleague who used to play. So, he’s qualified to correct all our silly ideas about gender performance in sports marketing. Clearly, he knows more than Leanne Norman. After all, all she did was research the history of women in sports, report conclusions from previous researchers, interview women coaches from across the UK and (according to my Google-fu) get a PhD in Coach Education from the University of Bath with “women and sexuality in sports and coaching” as her primary research interest. (Feministe mods, can you confirm that this is the same Norman, and maybe get a quick bio for her?)

    Okay, back to John and his “ideas.”

    I’m not convinced.
    Has the author has watched much women’s rugby in the UK? “Feminine” isn’t quite the word I’d use to describe many of the players, particularly the forwards, some of whom are getting towards the weight and size of their male colleagues. . . . (blah, blah, 12 stone, blah, boxing, blah blah,)
    Where is the evidence for this “pressure”?

    Women coaches in the UK talked to me about their professional experiences and personal stories, including issues that affect their sense of self. They described the constraint they feel from trying to conform to hidden rules and practices.

    One of those hidden rules, according to the interviewees, is appearing “feminine.”

    Found the evidence for you, John! Right there in the described experiences of the women it affected, as told to an expert in the field. This isn’t evidence enough for John. When what you see when you look at a person matters more to you than what they say about their own lives, then you have nothing to contribute to these conversations.

    In case we needed further proof, when another commentor responded with photographic evidence of women rugby players in hypersexualized photo shoots, he chooses to double down on his willful ignorance.

    If women want to take their clothes off because they want to show how buffed up they are while raising money for charity, who should stop them?

    Actually, talking about femininity, looking at some of the players in the photos, I think I win. There’s some pretty butch types there.

    For context, the linked images included a complete rugby team decked out in lingerie and high heels. But, supposedly, when John looked at them all he saw was people showing off how buff they are. I call bullshit because John was probably not born on another planet. The sexualized connotations of lingerie and high heels aren’t exactly some closely guarded feminist secret.

    So, I was suspicious after his first post and convinced by his second. And, like any good troll, he kept coming. Really, I could fill up my bingo card with this guy. He doubles down. He triples down. He demands evidence and then ignores it when it’s presented. He invokes the Feminist Police. He throws out the passive-agressive “Not playing, you’re boring, sorry” and then comes back a few comments later to tell us all the reasons the target of that comment was wrong. He condemns ad hominem attacks while using them enthusiastically. He does everything short of grab a club and hide under a bridge.

    John is a troll. He is not “tone-deaf.” He is doing this on purpose. He has nothing to contribute, and I have no interest in engaging him in dialogue.

    So, I was rude to the troll in the hopes that we could skip to the end–the part where he sputters in rage and throws out some “ad homs”–and prevent the 60 comment back and forth of twelve patient commentors trying to convince him that a woman can weigh 14 stone and still perform femininity. That’s the wrong conversation to be having. Having acknowledged, based on our own observations and the research of an expert, that there is a problem with gender performance in sports, we should be discussing why that is and how to stop it. Every time one of these trolls crops up and we have to spend hours “educating” hir, we lose valuable opportunities to discuss what really matters. So, no, I’m not sorry I was mean to the troll. I can’t keep him from coming here, but he does not get to set the dialogue *or* the tone. Not in our spaces.

    I apologize for the Olberman reference, though. Don’t know what I was thinking, subjecting you guys to that.

  39. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists April 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm |

    Norma ruined feminism, Pillbug is mansplaining the troll, and I’m just wishing someone would ban him.

    To me, compulsory heterosexuality means a social requirement to perform heterosexuality. Anyone who thinks that the social requirement for heterosexuality is strictly limited to an expressed desire for the opposite sex is probably operating under the delusions of heterosexual privilege.

    Compulsory heterosexuality can be used to describe many experiences of the queer-identified or perceived queer person. It might describe the way in which heterosexuality is an assumed trait that will not be questioned unless someone is presenting “queer”. This “queer” presentation can be an attempt to reduce this societal compulsion towards heterosexuality.

    For women in sports, however, the issue seems to have less to do with queer self-identification, and more to do with a perceived masculinity, and therefore queerness, on the part of any woman choosing to play and excel at sports.

    When your job, livelihood, or social status are in jeopardy due to a perceived “queer” presentation, that is society’s compulsory heterosexuality. In order to maintain the privilege and support that perceived heterosexuality imparts in this homophobic society, you will need to find a way to reassure viewers of your gender normative and heterosexual inclinations.

    When you are a person doing something that signifies to the rest of society that you do not strictly adhere to gender norms ( ie women playing sports), society’s demand for reassurance on the part of your gender and sexual identity becomes greater. This demand for heterosexual reassurance is what I perceive this article to be about. Women in sports have an undue burden of finding a way to present as properly feminine to assuage the doubts of the traditionally minded that a woman playing sports could ever be ladylike enough for their calendars and zit cream ads.

    My food pellets for the troll:
    John, your fat-shaming and gender essentializing points about the super HUGE rugby player who couldn’t possibly be seen as feminine are a direct example of the phenomenon I describe above. You are placing strength and size directly into a category of masculinity due to the compulsory heterosexual categories of our society. This is the way in which compulsory heterosexuality is exerted on women athletes through the discourse surrounding sports. This is due to your straight male privilege that is unable to understand how objective statements regarding the merits of a particular body’s femininity only contribute to the problem of compulsory heterosexuality. You are self-righteous in your ignorance and have been a rude boor.

    Pillbug, please refrain from “explaining” trollish asshattery to us in the future. We feel no compulsion to pick apart manure looking for diamonds, and your concerns that the feminists are degrading the discourse seem like a perfect reason for you to leave swiftly in order to protect your finely tuned sensibilities.

  40. Norma
    Norma April 29, 2012 at 4:54 am |

    One can disagree with John, or ignore him, but these sorts of persistent ad hominen attacks degrade the overall value of the discourse in general, and for those participants and lurkers looking to learn and explore.

    Cry me a river. If you come to a feminist site, assert that certain athletes aren’t feminine because of their weight, demand that people address your questions, and write off people who disagree with you as “feminist police” and “body fascists,” you’re not looking to learn and explore. You’re here to stir shit up.

    If you want to teach John the basics of sexism, go do it. Not my job.

  41. Pillbug
    Pillbug April 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm |

    in order to protect your finely tuned sensibilities.

    Thanks for noticing. I’m blushing brightly, indeed!

  42. Anya
    Anya May 3, 2012 at 4:09 am |

    As someone who is helping start up a roller derby group, this post interested me greatly. I want to help provide a space where people can dress up for bouts in a way that makes them feel comfortable, or fancy, as they wish.
    I have heard many comments about how the dressing up undermines it as a sport, but have to admit that that is half the fun! That’s what attracts previously unsporty people to a full-contact group sport.
    Still I am mindful of the pressures between presenting for the male-gaze, and dressing up to make yourself feel good (and feeling like you *have* to dress up).
    My question is, how do I promote a positive environment to our players? What things should I keep an eye out for?

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.