Sports & Gender: Do Olympics Fans Prefer Men Together, Women Alone?

An interesting article examining the role of gender roles & identity in sports, in particular how despite increasing visibility of individual female athletes, teams are rarely recognized with similar reverence. The author suggests that this could be due to the same “male gaze” principle which guides filmmaking, where men “Individual female athletes seem to be acceptable targets for the male gaze, but somehow women’s team sports don’t work that way.” Furthermore Frank Deford, on NPR, says, “we do not yet seem prepared to accept women’s teams as our representatives.”

Individual female athletes seem to be acceptable targets for the male gaze, but somehow women’s team sports don’t work that way. When the Olympic women’s soccer team was the object of so much acclaim, much attention was focused on the lovely Mia Hamm. Even as recently as last summer, Wimbledon officials blithely admitted that “physical attractiveness” played a part in which women played at center court. Lindsay Vonn, target of so much admiration, is an “all-American blonde”—who uses men’s larger, heavier skis because of her size and strength (but you’ll find many more references to her appearance even in articles that note this fact).

We spoke earlier this week about the importance of women’s hockey to girls, and this article also mentions that women’s hockey is basically scheduled around men’s hockey.

However, men’s sports aren’t immune from gender-based bluster—take the fabulous Johnny Weir, U.S. figure skater, subject of his own Sundance Channel documentary/reality series, and how fans think he’s been robbed of medals he deserved because of his flamboyance. Weir skated to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, wore a pink-laced corset top, and says things like:

“I love my glitter, I love my prettiness, I love getting my hair done before the events, I love putting on makeup because I’m going to be on TV.” (@globalcomment)

During a press conference yesterday, Weir says he was ‘frankly, pissed’ upon learning that the two French-language commentators questioned his gender and made other jibes during his performances last week. After the press conference he did what we all do – went to Twitter to reinforce his feelings:

On the theme of people who don’t think the Olympics are totally awesome in every way, a group of  Anarchists also came together to protest the events this year:

This was not “just another summit”—this was the culmination of several years of direct action by indigenous people, anarchists, anti-poverty activists, environmentalists, and others against the 2010 Olympics. One of the most inspiring aspects of this convergence was the framework that created it. Unlike many summits, which lack an anti-racist and anti-colonial analysis, indigenous sovereignty and decolonization was front-and-center this time.

CRAP (Child Rearing Against Patriarchy) have released a feminist kidzine, Spratz! but Jezebel is having some issues with it. Per Jez: The zine is compiled by a group of kids and adults, who clearly have very different ideas about the message they want to disseminate. The stories and illustrations created by children – including The Tough Cinderella and a short cartoon about sexism – are more lighthearted and fun than just about anything else. Which is the major problem with Spratz!: it’s just not very much fun. I can’t imagine a time in my childhood when I would have picked this up and thought how exciting! let’s read about sexism and discrimination! (@jezebel)

Apparently you can cure yourself of homosexuality by doing “guy stuff” like football. Who knew?

Lauren Ashley, aka Miss Beverly Hills, who represented Beverly Hills in the Miss California pageant this November, has pulled a Carrie Prejean and publicly denounced same sex marriage to Fox News, quoting the usual lines from the Bible and going so far as to wish death on homosexuals:

“The Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman. In Leviticus it says, ‘If man lies with mankind as he would lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death and their blood shall be upon them.’ The Bible is pretty black and white. I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone…If he says that having sex with someone of your same gender is going to bring death upon you, that’s a pretty stern warning, and he knows more than we do about life.” (@fox news)

Lauren Ashley is of course above such sins claiming: “I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke weed or cigarettes. My definition of partying is a little different. I feel like my body is the Temple of God and it’s my temple so it’s really good to treat it well. I also feel like sex was made for marriage.” So, let’s assume the nude pictures will hit TMZ sometime in March?

Meanwhile, the city of Beverly Hills is disavowing any relationship to the pageant that crowned Lauren Ashley, who is a resident of Pasadena. City leaders further denounced her position on gays and said they are looking into blocking the pageant from using their name in future contests. (@latimes)

Hey – were you at the Tegan & Sara show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg last week? Check out this Craigslist Missed Connection from the W4W section. (@craigslist)
In a brilliant move, a 24 year-old law student/gym rat in New York City has set out to go all of 2010 without paying for a gym membership, relying entirely on free passes from Crunch, New York Sports Club, 24 Hour Fitness and the like. She provides helpful tips on scoring free personal training sessions and gives funny anecdotes about getting caught and thrown out of Equinox.

Furthermore, Autostraddle’s own Natalie did the exact same thing in 2006, where’s her book deal? (@bunsofsteal)

“Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth living on the streets and in foster care need our support more than ever. In New York City, the True Colors Residence is going to play a big role in providing these young people with the leg up and encouragement they need. I am thrilled that construction has already begun and I am honored to be a part of this important project.” – Cyndi Lauper, commenting on the groundbreaking for the True Colors Residence for homeless LGBT youth in Harlem.

Italian Vogue Embraces The Black, The Curvy: “The good news? Vogue Italia‘s new websites embrace black people and curvy models. The bad news? Vogue Black and Vogue Curvy are two separate sites, sequestered from the main Vogue Italia homepage.” (@jezebel)

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Jess is a pop culture junkie living in New York City. She enjoys endless debates about The L Word, Howard Stern, new techy gadgets, DVR, exploring the labyrinth of the Lesbian Internet, memoirs, working out, sushi, making lists, artsy things, anything Lady Gaga touches, traveling, puppies, and nyc in the fall. Find her on Twitter @jessxnyc or via email.

Jess has written 240 articles for us.


  1. I think the problems are in things like hockey, you can’t tell whether or not the girls are OMG HAWT, which, as we all know, is the most important part of competition, am I right?

    • I get all kerfuffled trying to decide who to lust after when there’s so many of them running about. That’s why I prefer Tegan and Sara – if I was that mystery lady I would have shouted “Ask *me* out!”. Missed chance there, tsk tsk. (note the segue from one topic to the next there? slick, eh? No? sigh)

  2. That is the best missed connection ever.

    Reminds me of the time I shouted at Jenny Lewis in New Haven. “You’re SUCH A BABE!” and then she said I was more of a babe and I died. I don’t think anyone else found it that charming though…

  3. While on the subject of girls and sports, I saw this tale of female whoop-assage today:

    I think the problem with women’s sport (or, more accurately the problem with people’s problem with it) is that a lot of people only want to witness the “best.” The fastest, strongest, highest; not necessarily the most entertaining. By the freak of biology, the domain of the “best” almost always belongs to the blokes.

    Comfortable in the conceit that they don’t have to credit women with recognition for their sporting achievements, watching women’s sport becomes, for the average straight man, a routine activity of checking out hot girls. I’m not saying this to rail against men, I’m saying this because my many straight male friends have told me that it’s the case.

    I truly believe that the reason fans prefer individual women’s sports is because in team games the camera operators are obliged to move the camera around the team, to wherever the action is. Whereas in a sport like tennis, they can spend more time focusing on getting the best up-skirt shot on one player.

  4. I was just watching the news, and a journalist asked Lauren Ashley: “What if a gay person considers themselves a Christian?”

    She was speechless. NBC News just aired her going “uhhhhhh” for 15 seconds. It was fantastic.

  5. idk why vogue or other magazines make this big deal about when they FINALLY embrace “black women”, it shouldn’t be a big deal, black women should grace vogue all the time, not just sporadically and then they make this major announcement as if they should get an award for it,

    just like afterellen, don’t get me wrong I do enjoy that site, but they rarely ever cover anything about black women,black celebs etc…however for black history month, they were so hyped up to feature there lesbian black women, and they seemed so anxious to have there “we celebrate black lesbian” feature…if they looked hard enough or wasn’t stuck in a box then they would know that there are a few bisexual black celebrities…and they don’t need to only celebrate us when its rose rollins, because there’s other bi and gay women out there

    blah blah but i do appreciate autostraddle for always including all races

    anyway good post and wow at that video of ex gays lol reminds me of “but i’m a cheerleader”

  6. So getting all up-close and sweaty with a bunch of homo-leaning dudes is supposed to make you LESS gay?

    Ohhhkay then….

  7. “I feel like God himself created mankind and he loves everyone, and he has the best for everyone…” Just stop there, Lauren Ashley.

  8. If someone mentions this Tegan and Sara Brooklyn show I couldn’t get tickets to one more time I’m gonna absolutely flip a shit.
    And craigslist, really?

    Vogue’s got the right idea, but they’re not doing it right.

    • I just saw Tegan and Sara an hour ago.. literally. Tegan and sara wasn;t as talkative or funny tonight and I was kind of bummed because I needed it. My car broke down one block and 2 hours away from the show. I got my ass out in my mary janes and pushed my car off the main street and into a lot because I was NOT going to miss Tegan and Sara. Then waited 1 1/2 hours with the ugliest girls ever basically smashing on the sidewalk. I hated the standing venue with a passion and almost had to slap someone. Tonight was a night of modeling through it to the 8th degree.

      But then they sung divided so beautifully and I was there with sister who came just so I wouldn’t be alone so for 2 1/2 minutes all was right in the world.

      • Now that’s dedication. Hopefully it was worth it even for just those 2 and a half minutes.

        I went to my first Tegan and Sara concert in Atlanta on Tuesday and I can see what you’re saying about the banter. I expected a lot more but they were still just as hilarious as I expected them to be. I went solo though and as a straight guy, I gotta say that it was a surreal experience. I drove by the venue 2.5 hours before the show expecting to get a bite to eat close by only to see this long line snake around the building so I ditched my dinner plans to get in line. I would later find out that the first people in line had been there since 10AM. Whoever made the comment about the plaid shirts wasn’t joking. It was either that or the black and white horizontally striped shirts from the album cover art. The stares I got though were classic though – next time I won’t dress like I’m going to a dance club. Once inside and the concert started is when it got real interesting as, at 6’3″, I was one of the tallest people in the place. I mean, I’ve partaken in some crazy outdoor rock concerts with mosh pits and stuff but this had to take the cake as girls half my size vied for position in front/around me. I was shoved, stepped on, elbowed, you name it. One girl was nice enough to ask if she could get in front of me though and I quickly obliged. Yeah, so apparently that’s a lesson learned on my part. Nothing can get in between a rabid fan and T&S.

        I had a blast though. They played a little of everything and it was an overall good set. I sang along to everything and probably made an ass of myself in the process but whatever. Next time maybe I won’t have to be so evasive to my manager as to why I had to take a day off in the middle of the week, in the middle of a big project.

        That’s more than a few initial observations I wanted to make. Oh well, good luck with getting your car fixed.

        • I am 5’9 and even I couldnt see at times so I definitely wasn;t tolerating the rude people even if they couldn;t see. It comes with a territory and they should have gotten there earlier and/or left the bar alone.

          Yes it was all worth it. I really love Tegan and Sara. I would even go to a standing venue. I just wont try to be in the front. I will hang back and find a chair because my legs and back were killing me! Tegan and Sara were great. The light show was awesome and they sounded really good. But that ‘Divided’ just got me it was SO pretty!

          • Ugh, I saw Tegan & Sara at Town Hall in NYC on Halloween night and it was THE best night of my life, hands down. Like, they bantered and it was so cute. They talked to all the people wearing costumes and told the most adorable stories, and hearing Sara say “I’m gay, I’m so so gay” made my heart giggle. Also, I saw Carmen Elle for the first time in life as an opening act and fell in love with her too. But anyway, they played all of Sainthood and a shit load of old songs and it couldn’t have possibly been more perfect. Tegan finished with Call It Off and it was so so pretty, everyone was singing and she got distracted and messed up because of our sining and started over. So cute! The best part is that the whole show is on youtube now so I get to relive it, right down to all the banter.

            I need to see them again, like now.

          • I know. I should be in Austin right now at their other show. But I waited to get tickets. And since it was a seated event I was like I want to buy the best ones and they only had balconys left. :(

  9. while on the subject of lesbians, women and sports, theres a documentary called “training rules” about women that are told they have to stay in the closet if they want to be succesful athletes, and about this famous coach that told the athletes on her team that they couldn’t belesbians, check out the trailer and more info on it here>>

  10. Men together, women alone. Guys, I’ve had So Many Feelings about this phenomenon floating around half-formed in my brain in recent months, but I never really thought about how it’s reinforced in sports too. You see it so much in our entertainment, though. It’s fascinating. Men have bands, women are solo artists, or the frontwoman in an otherwise male band. A bazillion Smurfs, one Smurfette.

    Male is default, female is particular. Men are individuals, women are women. One woman is all the story needs, since we’re all kind of interchangeable anyway. And since there’s only one position open, women are supposed to compete with each other for that one spot, not work with each other. Women are expected to have catfights when we’re put together, or be boring and talk about boys and shoes, not have any creative chemistry or incredible camaraderie and teamwork. That stuff is for the boys.

    I don’t know. I don’t have a point really. It’s just so… there… in our culture. And once you see it you can’t unsee it.

    • A lot of salient points here. The male buddy movie is a recognised genre, but I can’t really think of any mainstream female equivalents – at least ones that don’t break the Bechdel rule and the women are just talking about men.

      It seems the tv/film industry is far more comfortable perpetuating Bride War-esque tales of antagonism between women.

      It’s a huge shame, because I have such great memories of playing football (soccer) at uni, because we had such fantastic team spirit. And I don’t just mean the vodka.

      Good point about the trend in music too, which I think is much more noticeable in the indie/alternative scene. Thinking about it, in the UK there have probably been more successful girl bands in mainstream pop than boy bands in the last decade or so, I guess since the Spice Girls rose to fame…my god did girl power actually work?! Hmm, I have kind of forgotten what it was I was saying, but I think I’m going to google some articles about gender in pop for the last few years…

      • When I try to think of a female buddy movie the only thing that springs to mind is Thelma and Louise. Which ended well.

  11. “Individual female athletes seem to be acceptable targets for the male gaze, but somehow women’s team sports don’t work that way.”

    Such a great article! But let’s give it up to Team Canada’s Ladies Hockey team who won Gold last night! Was so happy!

  12. I have to admit, after Hungry Beast’s non-stop hypocritical televisiual crap, I feel exceptionally embarrassed to be:
    A) Australian; and
    B) Gay.

    Shafter presents these stories, but she really has no idea what the word “biased” means.
    A while back they presented a segment defending pedophilia as a “sexual orientation”.
    Now they are presenting homosexual men with wives and children as christian martyrs, striving to purge the world of people just like them… We all know how this ends.

    I’m sorry America.
    I too pray for Hungry Beast’s ABC reign to end.

    • Hi Caity,

      Hungry Beast chooses to approach issues from different perspectives to provide an alternative to what you see in the rest of the media. We are a group of 19 young people challenging the predictabililty of mainstream news and current affairs – because we aren’t satisfied with what’s dished up to us on TV.

      It would have been very easy for me, as a proud lesbian, to slam conversion therapy in that story but I think it’s way more interesting to get inside the heads of people who live their lives in ways we don’t necessarily agree with.

      That’s not about presenting someone as a martyr – that’s allowing someone to talk about their world and letting viewers interpret what they’re seeing.

      And the story featured 3 guys. 2 of whom said how ridiculous and damaging conversion therapy was for them – that’s 2 against 1. I think providing one counter perspective is fair journalism – regardless of whether you see that opinion as right or wrong.

      The overwhelming reaction to this story related to people being shocked and angry that the idea of gay conversion exists and that portions of our society interpret Christianity in such away. It seems the majority of the audience felt sorry for Haydn and his family… and for a world that allows this to go on.

      This story stirred up a lot of debate drawing attention, outrage and analysis to the ex-gay world – rather than letting it bubble along un-noticed.

      As far as the story on paedophiles goes… we interviewed a young guy who admits to having a sexual attraction to children… but who THANKFULLY hasn’t acted on it. Our story was about treating paedophiles before they offend. Surely this is a more constructive way to approach the issue – rather than just reporting on the ‘monsters’ who have offended.

      I encourage you to keep watching, commenting and thinking about what you see on Hungry Beast.


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