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More on women, boxing & the up’n’coming OL2012

14 Feb

The boxing girls of Kabul”  is another “must see” on this road up to the London 2012 Olympics, looking at young women from Afghanistan who engage with the sweet science in a quest for action which includes nothing less than –  movement, success, self-worth, courage, power and the fight itself.

I had seen a similar documentary a few years back on young Indian women that had much of the same toning – courage is a keystone term: Boxing – of all places – is the arena where agency, movement, and personal freedoms are found.

NY Times article: In India, Women See Boxing as a Way Up

Wall Street Journal article: A Fighting chance – Muslim girls box their way out of poverty


Suggesting skirts: How to make boxers *look* more like women?

29 Oct

As the 2012 Olympics are just around the corner, it’s nearly *and sadly* expected that a bout of gendered dilemmas will roll on out. This time it lands with boxing – women’s boxing that it. And it’s not about whether women will be able to participate in the ring, but on what they will be wearing. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) has a “suggestion” of feminizing the discipline, how you ask? By “suggesting” that women boxers wear skirts. The grounds for such a move, as one boxer puts it – away from the traditional dress of boxing itself – is to help viewers distinguish between male and female boxers in the ring. In other words, the muscular physiques of women and men in action were perhaps just being viewed as “boxing” rather than any marked version of it.

Two nations – Poland and Romania – have taken up the call, also adding the skirts are more “elegant”.

Just to be polemical, I wonder if someone on the AIBA advisory council offered a counter recommendation to “suggest” that male boxers become “more manly” by taking on the glitzy knickers of pro-wrestlers  instead? That would certainly help “distinguish” them for the viewers. Perhaps the lone women representative on the council might have offered such a “suggestion”, but perhaps didn’t get “backed” by her “peers” who must be cognizant of what athletes desire from their sport (NB: not “women athletes”, but athletes full stop.)

Is this gender equity? Are these athletes being taken seriously? Or are they just being sluiced into what is the discipline of   “spectator  sports for men”.

14-year old girl gives game content

16 Sep

A 14-year old girl requests EA to get a female persona added to the latest NHL 12.

The power of one. Say no more!

Who’s the real number one?

24 Aug

This was emailed to me by a colleague.

How he phrased it:

First you watch this: Sharapova

Then you watch this: Djokovic

“so you will understand who the real #1 in tennis is.”

*Spolier alert*

Of course we don’t know the full story by watching a couple of commercials on Youtube  (one “serious” the other “viral” – as Djokovic along with Murray also have the “serious” version of the commercial).  Was Sharapova there in the background as a part of the “fun”. Why was there a wig on set in the first place – that can’t have been coincidental.  It rolls on out as yet another example of the marginlisation of women athletes in achievement sports and in the most awful way – as whilst it is a market ploy, this one adds the layer of ground floor (player) positioning.

What’s at stake in such laddish jokes? I would argue the most practical – the continuation of positioning women as second class citizens in the wide world of sports. Djokovic might be loved for his joker personality and light-heartedness in play – but this act, in this context, unfortunately plays into the already rich actuality of women’s positionality in sport. In a constant “battle” with performing as woman (and Sharapova is an example of commodified feminity in sports culture), performing as elite athlete, and being taken seriously, on their terms, as always already both.


It’s not a rape in cyberspace, it’s something more pervasive

1 Jun

Somehow a riff off of Julian Dibbells’ work “A rape in Cyberspace” is necessary as an entry point here. It’s just the word itself. When it is used – rape – we remember it. From the hundreds (thousands?) of articles I have read during my academic life – this is one of those titles that sticks out as memorable and troubling and important to explore.

In my fieldwork during 2010, the site of the North American video gaming semi-pro scene (whose identity I’ll keep at bay here) shored up some moments where “rape” was being shouted out. In this space it was not a cry for help, it was a sneering call of triumph over a now powerless victim – the opponent. The word has clout, and I remember being chilled to hear it in use. Even more so by the people who were using it, soft spoken young men who were taking their bachelor’s degrees in programming or political science at some well-to-do university. You might scoff at my naiveté, but let me broaden the context. This more benevolently competitive group of players were actively performing their competition in a way which worked to sharply contrast them to the other gaming competitions and competitors in the space – as one player put it,

“we’re the nerds here and proud of it, they’re [pointing across at a shooter game area] the ones that are the jocks”.

This player was referring to some unspoken yet recognizable traditional sporting masculinity that gets tied with specific forms and contexts of jockdom as well as competitive computer gaming cultures.

“Rape” as a term has found a certain hold in pop-culture as a competitive dominance metaphor  in video game play but also on university campuses (with reference to exam experiences) to the point of it being unnoticed by many of today’s youth in its everyday appropriation. In competitive gaming cultures, use of the term is defended on two accounts – 1) That the user of the word has no intention of it relating to sexual dominance and 2) that the word in use is metaphorical to the actions/results of competition in a 14th century etymology of the word (to seize by force). Such arguments hold no water, to the point that I am parched. Working backwards, the term has etymologically been associated with sexual power since the 15th century, and the terms rapist or raped in use for over a century. Simply bracketing the century old, culturally recognizable association of the word is a bit of a stretch if not folly as an argument.

The decontextualization of such a powerful term is a task that I don’t believe a community of mostly teenage boys is equipped to handle. It is interesting that the term has become so popular in player versus player (contra player versus environment) games (as opposed to the education situation where an inanimate “exam” was the culprit of the act). The term is thus shouted “I raped…someone” or “I was raped…by someone” or worse still “we raped…others”. The humanness of the action is where the repulsion lies. Players in favour of using the term would argue that the workd “fucked” or “killed” are also commonly used terms in competition to describe dominance. Answers to this would also sit with what is culturally recognizable: “fuck” has a history as a swear word that is currently in use, as does “killing” – as in “making a killing”, but also here the action relates to the simulation of the gameplay.

An interesting turn of events happened in the sportification process of one particular game “StarCraft II” – moving the scene out of the niche, a streamed half-time show online broadcast blew up a storm when the casters flippantly used the term rape to describe game action. Perhaps this is the  most positive affect to date of the commodification of  high performance computer game play, reflective critique of the culture(s) which have developed from a fairly homogenous group (that being mostly white or asian, heterosexual male teenagers). If such young men want to be nerds “and proud of it”, I might suggest reading a little Ghandi and taking in consideration “Be the change you want to see…” In that way, “nerd masculinity” (whatever that may be) might be understood as inclusive by setting itself as something far apart from the hegemonic masculine language of such high performance computer gaming scenes and communities of play.

Just race car drivers

27 May

If you haven’t yet heard of Danica Patrick, then get on your search engines – she’s the woman that has been a top ten contender over the past years in the Indy 500. A sport that infamously has been the action center of male drivers and as the Jr’s and Sr’s are aplenty, one even might note that it is often in a nepotistical fashion that track knowledge gets passed along.

Patrick has turned out attention back to the track, as a sporting space where the physicality needed to play at the elite level is not a variable: She is one of several contenders in this years race, perhaps flagging that the doors to the vehicles themselves are being opened up from the inside (though remember someone else is still holding the keys to the cars). Whilst it is a fantastic sight to see, I get troubled by the para-text of the athletes in action. This report brings news of one driver’s efforts only to phrase it in a bracketed manner, as something still different than the rest, in this case noting that Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro qualified “fastest among the women, 24th overall”. The swimsuit spreads are a certainty, as is the Sports Illustrated cover with a glossed and well manicured (read not active) “athlete”/model. Watch out at this years Indy 500, perhaps we’ll hear that they’re “just race car drivers” after all.

[edit] – just came across this post on racing mothers which adds more layers to the discussion. And another link to a film about Swedish race car driver’s come-back to the track after putting family first.

Abusing Title IX

27 Apr

Interesting how loopholes are used to make gender equity look like a reality. In this NY Times article, we hear of how male practice players get counted as women athletes on the basketball court. How women walk-on tennis players are present on the roster but don’t really have to practice with the team let alone go to tournaments and represent the school. It makes me realize that my own participation in USA as an NCAA scholarship athlete was part of that sham – we too had one season with male practice players. I’m sure those guys, who were quite proud of being a part of the athletic department, didn’t know their role was positioned as “statistical woman”. I know that we the players were not aware that these men – who were helping us out – were in actuality taking up positions for other women to gain a scholarship through the athletic department. Transparency = 0.

EDIT: The women’s sports foundation has posted a response to the article in question [PDF]

Launching a new game in town – Women only

16 Apr

Roller Derby CopenhagenRoller Derby Copenhagen

Roller Derby CopenhagenIt might not be digital – but it’s tough fun that requires your own technologies (quads, big knee pads, and mouthguard to name a few) to get on the playing field!

The Copenhagen Roller Derby team (Copenhagen Rolling Heartbreakers) took its first ever bout on Danish soil with a staggering victory over the Belgium team (Gent Go-Go Rollers Girls).

Here’s a little footage to get you sparked to go and buy your own gear and get cracking!

Males can be “pets” too…

15 Apr

World of Warcraft has been swinging around since November 2004 with this very suspicious looking demon (succubus) pet for Warlocks. (Check out the earlier succubus designs!).

Her abilities include Seduction, Avoidance, Lash of Pain and Soothing Kiss. On wowwiki we are offered a little trivia,

“Succubi have a rather notorious idle animation set. She will either pose, admire her nails, or on occasion spank her butt and let out an erotic squealed “Oooooh!”

The real news here is that Blizzard might be looking to make a male version. Can I make an “erotic squeal – “Oooooh!” now?

Blue post : Originally Posted by Zarhym (Source)

I’m happy to share we actually do have plans for offering players a choice between male and female versions of all warlock demons. This is a task already in our system, though I don’t have a time frame for you at the moment. Other art tasks could always take precedence, but we’re committed to making this happen.

What is Team Unicorn?

23 Mar

In the last post I mentioned Team Unicorn (TU). They are, in all actuality “old news” – going viral back in September 2010 with their riff video “G33k and G4m3r Girls” (parodying Katy Perry’s California Girls), which pulls cameos from Stan Lee, Starbuck (scream!!) – aka. Katee Sackhoff, and Seth Green (who is married to one of the. erhm, Unicorns).

Actionflickchick takes up some of the debate on the conflicts surrounding the production, the representations, and the viewer polemic regarding the intersection of women, “geeks”, and sex appeal/attractiveness. They also grab an interview with TU, here’s a snippet: Continue reading