Tag Archives: Olympics

The ESPN Body Issue & #HuskyTwitter

Last week for Role/Reboot I wrote about the annual ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue”, which features naked portraits of lots of people who can do some crazy powerful/graceful/coordinated shit with their bodies. The cover star, baseball player Prince Fielding, is an atypical choice for ESPN and quickly launched the #HuskyTwitter hashtag in celebration of a different kind of athletic body.

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I’m all for celebrating different kinds of athletic bodies, but I’m still dismayed to see that the women featured in the Body Issue generally don’t get to break the mold of traditional “athletic” the way that Fielder does. Where are the husky female athletes? A sleuthing reader dug back through the archives and found this 2009 entry with shotputter Michelle Carter.

Screenshot_7_14_14_11_07_AM-2He also pointed out that there aren’t as many sports that allow for husky women to excel; they don’t get funneled into linebacker positions on the football team or heavy wrestling weightclasses. Sure, maybe, but it’s also about whose bodies we are comfortable celebrating as “Bodies We Want,” which is what ESPN titles the series. We don’t see Taylor Townsend, Holley Mangold, Rebecca Adlington or other, phenomenally gifted female athletes as possessing desirable bodies because they don’t fit the only mold we’ve been taught is desirable.

Prince Fielder is certainly a deviation from the normal ab-fest we expect to see in these stories, and that’s a great start. Men need variation in “Bodies We Want,” too. But let’s not forget the ladies as we break body barriers and celebrate the husky athletes. We’re here too!

Related Post: Is it objectifying to ogle World Cup soccer players?

Related Post: 1 in 4 women don’t exercise because they don’t like the way they look

 

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“If you’re feeling attacked, it probably means you’re having your privilege challenged”

If you haven’t spent much time with the Batty Mamzelle essay “This is what I mean when I say ‘White Feminist'”, you should.  If it hasn’t entered the canon of intersectional third wave feminist texts, it’ll be inducted any day now. It is brilliant.

As a feminist who is white, I do not want to be a White Feminist, which Cate defines as follows:

“White feminism” does not mean every white woman, everywhere, who happens to identify as feminist. It also doesn’t mean that every “white feminist” identifies as white. I see “white feminism” as a specific set of single-issue, non-intersectional, superficial feminist practices. It is the feminism we understand as mainstream; the feminism obsessed with body hair, and high heels and makeup, and changing your married name. It is the feminism you probably first learned. “White feminism” is the feminism that doesn’t understand western privilege, or cultural context. It is the feminism that doesn’t consider race as a factor in the struggle for equality. 

For visual learners, she included this amazing Venn diagram, and I’ve added my notes with yellow arrows:

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I know I have flirted the line with White Feminism. I was in White Feminism territory when I posted on Facebook about blackface. I was in White Feminism territory when I failed to consider how a movement like SlutWalk may not work for women of color whose experience with hypersexualization (see #FastTailedGirls) is different than mine. And I know that, when my White Feminism tendencies come out (and if you grew up with White Feminism, were taught White Feminism, and read White Feminism, it can be hella hard to retrain yourself), I am epically embarrassed to be called out. When you are working hard to be the best ally you can be and you take a misstep (even a well-meaning one), it’s hard not to go straight for a defensive crouch. But you don’t know me. I’m not like that. I’m on your side. 

But that’s a selfish, unhelpful response. It’s not about you (me). As Cate writes “It can be very off-putting to feel attacked for a transgression that you know yourself not to be guilty of. But in the context of social justice and movement building, if you’re feeling attacked, it probably means you’re having your privilege challenged, not that you are a bad person.” All you can do is apologize, step back, analyze, and learn from it.

In a related story this week, Jeff Yang wrote for the Wall Street Journal about the selection of Ashley Wagner for the Olympic Team (4th place in the Nationals) over Mirai Nagasu (3rd). As he points out in his follow-up piece, we will likely never know for sure whether race, specifically, played a role in the selection, but it’s not unreasonable to ask the question:

My WSJ piece is focused on the idea of the “golden girl” — a term first applied to one of Olympic skating’s early superstars, Sonja Henie, and which has survived since then through the years as an appellation for a particular type of skater: Blonde, ivory-skinned, willowy, slender. The term “golden girl” is akin to the term “great white hope”: It is a racialized archetype that infuriates people when you actually call it out as a racialized archetype.

Remember guys, if you’re feeling defensive, you’re probably just having your privilege challenged.

Related Post: Pax Dickerson didn’t notice male privilege

Related Post: David Roberts at Grist explains White Liberal Dude Privilege

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S(M)onday Scraps 103

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1. HISTORY: Imagine you’re 23 and you’re heading off to WWII as a nurse. What do you pack? Slate‘s new history blog has got you covered with a real recommended packing list. Don’t forget your homemade Kotex!

2. ELLEN: Ellen solves all problems. In this clip, she takes on Abercrombie and their whole “only skinny kids are cool” baloney.

3. ART: Like me, you probably assumed pin-up artistry was historically a male artform. Not so! Three of the most respected pin-up artists were women, who knew?

4. SPORTS: Remember Allyson Felix, the Olympic sprinter? What happens after you win gold and you’ve accomplished all your goals at 26? Grantland finds out.

5. EVEREST: Apparently, Mount Everest is overrun by inexperienced, poorly equipped climbers. National Geographic explores what it’s like to wait in line to hike the summit.

6. MAKE-UP: In this short Thought Catalog piece, Chelsea Fagan explains some of the complex rationales that inform female make-up habits. It’s not as simple, “I want to look hot.”

Related Post: Sunday 102 – Depression cartoons, GeoGuessr, war photos, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 101 – Lean In letters, Colbert’s homphobia song, American Girl evolution

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Sunday Scraps 74

1. WRITING: Junot Diaz has a new book. The Atlantic wonders if Diaz, whose characters are consistently horrible to women, can write a sexist character without writing a sexist book.

2. SPORTS: With the Olympics being all about Missy, Gabby, Serena and the Fab 5, Grantland wonders if we’re past what he dubs “the Kournikova era”, when being hot matters more than being good.

3. DRUGS: Artist Bryan Lewis Sanders takes most drugs known to mankind and then draws self-portraits (Cultso).

4. ADVERTISING: Man, sometimes Google knows what’s up. Instead of doing the “dumb dad” routine in their latest Chrome campaign, they actually do a pretty cool portrait of a father-daughter relationship.

5. LIT: Literary archaeology is the coolest. For only the second time ever, a photo of Emily Dickinson has been found!

6. TRANS: DC launches its first ever transgender respect campaign with billboards featuring real members of the trans community and the (obvious) directive to treat everyone with respect and dignity.

Related Post: Sunday 73Joy of Sex illustration history, Philip Roth vs. Wikipedia, my new fave NFL player

Related Post: Sunday 72 – Zoe Smith vs. haters, Valerie Jarrett, Katherine Boo on Katrina

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Sunday Scraps 72

1. ZOE: British Olympian Zoe Smith strikes back at body haters in an extremely articulate and extremely badass blog post.

2. RACE: Nicole Moore at the Huffington Post addresses the recent announcement that Nina Simone will be played by Zoe Saldana and the controversial history of casting famous black women.

3. KATRINA: For the New Yorker’s Letter from Louisiana Katherine Boo reports on one town’s reaction, years later, to Katrina evacuees.

4. WRITING: How do contemporary writers address texting, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, FourSquare, Skype and the like in new fiction? The Millions addresses the “awkward but necessary role of technology in fiction.”

5. WHITE HOUSE: New York Times profiles White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett on her role in the Obama administration, especially during his courtship of female voters.

6. MEDITATION: Men’s Journal follows one man’s journey into total silence and total boredom in a 10-day meditation course at Dhamma Giri in Western India.

Related Post: Sunday 71 = Cosmo around the world, Helen Gurley Brown, Dr. Ann McKee

Related Post: Sunday 70 = Louie CK interview, boys in dresses, tween books

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Sunday Scraps 71

1. GLOBAL SEXUALITY: New York Times report on the global domination of Cosmo and how cover to cover, mag to mag, the content shifts to accommodate cultural norms from Kazakhstan to Singapore.

2. HELEN: More Cosmo: Letters of Note has a spectacular letter from legendary Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown to the editor of Turkish Cosmo berating her for the offshoot’s content.

3. OLYMPICS: What happens to the Olympic facilities after the Games have come and gone? Sociological Images has a gallery.

4. FOOTBALL: When NFL players commit suicide, Ann McKee is the doctor they send their brains too. Grantland profiles McKee as she investigates what football does to the brain while also trying to save the sport she loves.

5. ADVICE: Four advice columnists, including Dear Sugar and Dear Prudence, gather for a roundtable to discuss advice-doling strategies and the most common dilemmas (#1 = How do I get over an ex?).

6. AMERICA: America Ferrera, who I’ve missed dearly since saying goodbye to Ugly Betty, is back with a web series called Christine. Worth a look.

Related Post: Sunday 70 – Louie CK, boys in dresses, US ladies at the Olympics, teen books

Related Post: Sunday 69 – Divers, books and bikinis, gun violence, big grocery stores

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Last Thoughts on the Olympics

True Confession: Contrary to the title of this post, these will probably not be my last thoughts on the Olympics. I think about them a lot. 

Katniss reps District 12

This is our first Olympics since Hunger Games fever swept the nation, since Katniss became a household name and “May the odds be ever in your favor” joined the lexicon. The Games joined the long history of fictional tournaments (Triwizard Tournament anyone?) that color my feelings on international competition and national identity.

When I think about it, really think about it, the whole concept seems pretty medieval. I said that to my friend, and she said, “Duh, Emily, it’s pre-Medieval, it’s literally ancient.” Oh, right. Rather than fuel patriotic fervor in me, this time around I found myself questioning the fundamental unit on which the Games are based: the nation.

I mean, these are just invisible lines drawn in the dirt at some point in the past, right? Invisible lines based on language, religion, skin color, facial features, or distinctions too fine for outsiders to notice. Or, they were based on where the oil was. Or, they were based on back room negotiations by white people who couldn’t give two shits about the finer regional distinctions that go back centuries….

These days, a national identity seems pretty close to arbitrary. British track star Mo Farah was born in Somalia, spent his childhood in Djibouti, is a British citizen, and trains in the United States.

U.S. Women’s basketball coach was born in Italy, a naturalized U.S. citizen. The soccer coach, Pia Sundhage, is Swedish. The volleyball coach is from New Zealand. The gymnastics team is coached by Romanian and Chinese-Americans. Canadian born soccer player Sydney Leroux chose to represent the U.S., making use of her dual citizenship. American-born basketball player Becky Harmon lives in Moscow and recently became a Russian citizen; she represented Russia. Four of the Italian water polo players only recently obtained Italian citizenship in order to compete with that team. And don’t even get me started on the independent athletes whose countries are recently dissolved or too new to support them.

So what exactly does it mean to point at a globe and say, “you’re from this corner, you’re from that corner, now have at it!” if the guy from this corner trains in that guy’s corner, and that guy was born in a different corner all together? Do these distinctions mean anything anymore?

Obviously, I’m viewing this high atop the America-is-a-melting-pot perch, optimistically and naively hoping for the world to blend into one big swirly mess ‘o humanity.

Kirani James

Just to play devil’s advocate with myself (you guys, this is how I have fun), maybe there is something to be said for nominating one person, or one group, and saying “you represent us.” Which “us?” This one, right here, on this island/square of grass/rocky outcrop/bustling metropolis/sprawling city. Did you see the Grenadians lose their shit when Kirani James won their first ever gold? Did it matter to them that he trains in the United States? Botswana, Cyprus, Gabon, Guatemala, Montenegro, Serbia and Bahrain (a female runner, no less) all won their first medals as wel. I guess that’s pretty neat.

Related Post: Conan O’Brien and Olympian Holley Mangold. Not cool, Conan.

Related Post: Remember that abc show about Olympic gymnasts?

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