Prompts for Week 14: Homophobia & Heterosexism

Please choose one of the following prompts. If you’d like to write on another topic, let me know and we can chat about it.

Prompt 1: We talked briefly about the link between homophobia and bullying. Please read this Fat Body Politics Blog and discuss how calling a female athlete a “dyke” works with regard to power, the heterosexual matrix, and ideology.

Prompt 2: Beginning next spring there will be a new, yet un-named women’s professional soccer league. Since the announcement many stakeholders and scholars have been debating how to properly market the league. Given our discussions this semester, what strategies would you promote? Which would you critique? And are there any other strategies which the league might consider?

Prompt 3: There seems to be a common assumption that men’s sport is more homophobic than women’s sport. In the past several weeks we have worked our way through “attractiveness,” muscles, femininity, race, and sex/gender/sexuality. We’ve seen how sports have change their rules and policies to be more “feminine” and how female athletes are expected to look and act in certain ways. Is men’s sport “more homophobic,” or does the homophobia/heterosexism just look different?

Prompt 4: We had a very good discussion about the ways we might combat homophobia and heterosexism in women’s sport. How might we actually put these things into practice?


Lauren Moss: Prompt 1


Muscles are a sign of toughness and tell a story of a path to success. It is a prized possession that many athletes cherish and that the average person plans to achieve. All athletes should be proud of their bodies, but society is giving out the message that female muscles are unattractive.  For female athletes, muscles seem to be a contradiction to society’s picture of the “perfect woman.” Our culture today, depicts the ideal woman as petite, thin while looking “tight and fit.” Unfortunately, that picture perfect woman that society tells us all to be, is extremely hard to achieve and not common today.

Female athletes with muscles have never been described as the perfect body that the average woman wants. Shawn Johnson, Olympic Gold medalist gymnast, has constantly been scrutinized for her body in society. There have been times when she was photographed in regular clothes and called “fat.” This woman is nowhere near fat and in fact extremely fit.

Johnson’s weight led to “hurtful” comments in the tabloids.

“That whole process kind of broke me down and taught me something,” she said. “People put too much emphasis on looks.” -USA Today

Even when she was at the top of the gymnastics world, Johnson battled weight issues.

“I was at the Olympic Games winning medals and I still doubted my image,” she said. “I doubted what I looked like. That’s sad. Girls should be taught different than that. I think everyone should be taught different than that” she said.

Johnson put on the weight after the 2008 Olympics and her 2009 victory on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” She tore her ACL during a freak skiing accident in early 2010 and added some heft to her athletic 4-foot-9 frame. Johnson said she’d perform Internet searches for her name and was horrified at the results.

We seem to have a skewed vision of what is beautiful. We are creating a hurtful world where if a woman puts on 5 pounds, she is seen as fat. Anorexia and Bulimia seem to unfortunately be common problems in today’s world. As a member of a sorority house who lives with 64 other girls, I have seen girls go through these struggles in order to look thin.

Muscles are beautiful. Women should be proud of their muscles, instead of being afraid how society will depict their image. As a society, we need to change our mindset and learn that all women are beautiful.

Kylie S. Prompt 4

ImageThinness as a standard for feminine beauty has created issues within female athletics for decades. Yet, the sport which it seems to be most prevalent in is women’s gymnastics. Gymnasts enter the sport at an extremely early age and are encouraged to maintain a small, girlish figure throughout their career. This fact often contributes to female gymnasts turning to extreme measures like anorexia and bulimia to remain as thin as possible. One such gymnast who struggled with eating disorders throughout her career was nine time Olympic medalist, Nadia Comaneci. She was the first ever gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 for a performance, but had to sacrifice along the way to sustain perfection. Another gymnast who struggled immensely with the expectation of thinness and perfection, and ultimately died from organ failure was Christy Henrich. She was told by judges she was too large for the Olympics team and would need to lose weight in order to make it. In desperation, Henrich turned to anorexia and bulimia and lost 47 pounds taking her down to only 60 pounds and shortly after she passed away at 22-years-old.

Gymnastics is not the only sport where the athletes suffer from this expectation. It is extremely prevalent in professional ballet, as well. The expectation for thinness in our culture pushes female athletes to overwork their bodies on little to no fuel. In cases like Henrich near the end of her life, it causes these women to have to completely stop participating in sport. In cases like Comaneci, it caused her to feel weak and never 100 percent. She felt pressure from constantly living under the spotlight and posing for countless magazines. This can be said for many female athletes. The pressure of thinness is always in the back of their minds as it is for most women in our society. However, for these women, energy is vital and they are unable to perform to their fullest when they are continually exposed to the expectation of perfection.  

It also causes these women to experience their bodies in a negative way. If they are stressing about whether they are thin enough, they are often not building the muscle mass they need to perform in elite athletics. They may never be satisfied with their appearance even if their performance is exceptional. It’s an ongoing cycle which will not end unless the media takes some of the pressure off by relenting from the obsession of thin women.


Donnelly: Prompt 3

Sports such as body lifting, weight lifting, and MMA are typically sports that males dominate in, we don’t usually see as many women who participate in these types of sports, so the women that do participate in these sports have to constantly prove their gender. In many ways, society makes women who participate in these sports appear as heterosexual by forcing them uphold this ideal feminine image. We see this in Choi’s article, Muscles Matter, where we learn that women who do participate in bodybuilding have to maintain an image that isn’t too muscular, but that they are also still maintaining a feminine image.


In this image above, we see these women body builders dressed up as feminine as possible. They are wearing high heels, bikini swimsuits, and are posed in a feminine way with their hands on their hips while smiling. They aren’t giving off a body builder type of vibe to show off their strength and lifting ability, because that is something that would be masculine. Instead, they are dressed as if they are in a beauty pageant because society expects them to be seen as a sex symbol as well as heterosexual, and if they weren’t smiling and appeared to be more masculine then society would view them as lesbians and they wouldn’t be “normal” according to the heterosexual matrix.

          Although these three sports are typically the ones with the most gender controversies, there are still other sports where gender is questioned. We see this in the Schultz article, Caster Sementa and the “Question of Too.” Caster Semenya didn’t fit into society’s gender norms because she was more muscular than the other girls and appeared to be more masculine. While competing in her running competition, we see her somehow manage to come all the way from last place to second place. Many questioned whether she was holding back and if she could’ve ran faster than she did. But because of her amazing comeback she was quickly put on the spotlight and her gender was questioned immediately.

              Women are constantly questioned about their ability to perform in all sports, not just weight lifting, body lifting, and MMA. As soon as a woman performs as well as, or better than a males performance she is suddenly put in the spotlight. Society still controls women who participate in sports by forcing them to still be feminine even if they aren’t. Many times women aren’t recognized for their talent, but instead are recognized for how sexy they are.  We see this all over as well as in magazine covers where women athletes aren’t in their typical sporting gear, but instead are in revealing clothes that not only sexualizes them but makes them also appear more feminine. Women athletes have to constantly battle with the heterosexual matrix and appearing normal in their gender while competing in sports.

Prompt 3: Derek Stecklein


Physical sports are often known as manly sports in which women do not participate; However over the past years women have got involved in sports such as weightlifting,bodybuilding, and MMA.

After these women began to participate in such sports, the media has been asking questions about these women and their gender. A lot of these women are bigger, stronger, and faster than others and because they are makes these questions arise as to their gender. I believe women get stereotyped because in the past women did not participate in these sports and now that the sporting scene continues to grow these women are doing manly sports that women have never been apart of during that time. In class this past week we discussed two women who because of weightlifting they were getting scrutinized because of the way they look.

One woman discussed Holley Mangold. Holley is a 22-year-old weightlifter from the United States who was competing for a spot on the USA Olympic team this past summer. Weightlifting has been a male dominated sport until recently when more and more media coverage started to show the sport. Women have not been seen as strong individuals and certainly are not supposed to be stronger than males. Conan O’Brien made the comment about her weight and how she was forcefully capable of bringing home unwanted men (Williams, 2012). The media tore into this comment about how she looked out of context. The media continue to be the talk of gender controversies because they do not look like the traditional woman .In class we learned about what the ideal woman has been over the period of time. In pre-modern time the ideal image of a woman was a larger, cherubic women who were well feed and in the upper class. As time went by in changed into larger women becoming those of greed and lack of control. The thinner women are the better in accordance to today. Also female body builders are thought to be considered masculine and unattractive.

Women have been questioned in sports in which they excel beyond the women they are competing against. Caster Semenya is a female track star who was questioned because she was so much faster than everyone else in the field and Brittney Griner has also been questioned because of her athletic ability along with her size and even the way in which she talks.

Women will continued to be judged based off their athletic ability no matter which sport they play. Society has an image of women and it is not one of strength and dominance in any sport today.

Week 13, Prompt 3 — Kyle Soldwisch

Sports such as bodybuilding, weightlifting, and MMA  are at the center of many “gender controversies” because women partake in actions that are not seen by society as feminine.  Women in bodybuilding,  weightlifting, and MMA do tasks that require physical strength.  This goes against the ideology that women should be weak and take a secondary role to men. Muscles and pulled back or short hair is also not seen as feminine, breaking another societal ideology.

Bodybuilding, weightlifting, and MMA are all the the middle of “gender controversies” because of the lack of exposure they recieve.  This makes it easy for women who do choose to participate to be deemed not feminine or as lesbian.  When exposure is given, it follows the ideological control of women that was discussed during class on Wednesday nights.  Women who bodybuild, weightlift, or fight are portrayed as athletes that are unnatural women.

According to a Nov. 11 blog post on Sports, Media, and Society, women like to be photographed in two ways:

(1)   A woman in an action shot, participating in her sport (competency frame),

(2)   A woman with some symbol of her sport (such as holding a ball in her hand), but outside of playing field (mixed message frame)

However, the media rarely portrays women in this way, instead choosing to show them outside thier athletic fields.  The blog post in Sport, Media, and Society claimed that  “hypersexualized, soft pornographic images are counter-productive as they do not foster respect for female athletes and women’s sports.”

This explains why women in bodybuilding, weightlifting, or MMA are at the center of “gender controversies”.  Action shots of the sports cannot be “hypersexualized” because of the physical stregth they require.  This does not allow the women to respected, but does allow them to be cast off as not feminine or as lesbian.

This isn’t the only sporting space where gender and sexuality are questioned.  To be honest, any sport that women have to be physically strong or have advanced physical capabilities is a space where gener and sexuality are questioned.  Whether it is softball, basketball, swimming, or track and field, women who exert themselves in  a physical way have thier gender questioned.  The reading on track runner Caster Semenaya (Schultz 2012) detailed how Semenaya’s gender was brought into questioning because she was running too fast to be a woman.  This proves that women from all sports are under questioning because being a great athlete isn’t seen as a feminine attribute.

Prompts, Week 13: Muscles, Atrractiveness, Heterosexuality

Please choose one of the following prompts. If you’d like to write about something else, let me know and we can work it out.

Prompt 1: Muscles seem to be a necessary part of sport in our culture. Yet, female athletes who have “big” muscles are often maligned in the media. Do a bit of research and find an athlete who found herself in the midst of controversy about her muscles. Provide a brief overview and analyze the comments surrounding the controversy using the heterosexual matrix.

Prompt 2: We’ve talked all semester about “attractiveness” and the idea that “sex sells.” Given the common assumption that women who are attractive and pretty will make more money in sports, generate 3 questions/arguments that expose “attractive” and “pretty” as mythical ideals.

Prompt 3: Why are sports such as bodybuilding, weightlifting, and MMA the center of many “gender controversies”? Are these sports the only sporting spaces where women’s gender/sexuality is questioned?

Prompt 4: Thinness  is the standard for feminine beauty in our culture. How does this affect the ways in which female athletes are expected to look? How does this affect their athletic performances? And how might it affect the way they experience their own bodies?


Week 11- prompt 3- Rector

Let’s face it… when it comes to females participating sport, according to many people, hair does still matter. The reading for last week, “Hair Still Matters,” focused on this issue that has become somewhat of a stigma within women’s sports today. This reading discussed the ideas concerning the relationship between hair, femininity, and sexuality as women and girls answered the question of whether or not hair is associated with femininity. Some people may admit that, some people won’t admit it, and some people truly do not focus on women’s hair while they participate in sport, which is the way it should be. However, it seemed that most women in this reading agreed with the fact that hair does still matter.

Diane, a 50-year old retired material handler said, “Right or wrong, you’ll say stuff like that’s a feminine cut, that’s not a feminine cut, or whatever. I think to the extent that you have this long flowing hair that’s perceived as very feminine, And the shorter you go, the less feminine it seems to be. So I definitely think that there’s some association with that.”

But why do these women say this and think this way? It’s simple. These’ women’s beliefs have been created through the mainstream media and other external forces that have repeatedly told them that this is how they should think and see things.

As a result, many people associate certain hair styles with femininity. If it was the case that hair truly didn’t matter, women would not spend as much time as they do coloring, straightening, curly, or lengthening their hair. It’s a fact. Many women are uncomfortable and self-conscious about their hair unless they have “altered” or “perfected” it in some way.

This past year an African American female Olympic gymnast, Gabby Douglas, stood up to this stigma. The young Douglas competed and earned a gold medal, earning a lot of media attention. However, it was her “nappy” short hair that caught many headlines as well. People critiqued her hairstyle and compared it to her teammates. But Douglas is an African American, and her teammates are white. How could she possibly have the same hair as them? Yea, her hair was different. But that really shouldn’t have mattered.

To me, this is a different situation than in many of the stories shared in “Hair Still Matters.” In Douglas’ situation sports are involved I think it was a low blow to call her out on this physical attribute that is really out of her hand. In situations where women are dressing up and trying to look pretty, hair may matter. But in situations where a lot more important things are on the line (an olympic freaking gold medal), hair should be the least of people’s worries.

Week 11- Boys and Field Hockey-Meade

After reading “Field Hockey: Fairhaven’s  Jamaul Jones thrives in girls sport” its states the benefits and the downfalls of letting males participate in female sports.  These gender differences and views are shown in the heterosexual matrix that we have been talking about in class.  The role of men in women’s sports has shown to be a very controversial issue.

Would it be that big of an issue for women to be playing in a men’s sport?  Yes in a different way.  The female playing or participating in the male sport would be looked at as weak and other players and parents would feel as if the girl would get injured or hurt.  This instance on the other hand, where Jamaul is playing in a female sport (which stated in the article originated and was played by males in kilts) is looked at as being stronger, faster and more aggressive.

This also shows the focus on the heterosexual matrix, because Jamaul played a sport that was played by females there was rumors around school and the field hockey community that Jamual was gay.  He was looked at by other male athletes as being weak and slow, all because he was playing and participating in a female sport. After trying field hockey Jamual realized that he loved the sport and was very aggressive in his first season.

Jamual realized that he was playing with women and figured out how to control himself while playing with his teammates and other women.  The heterosexual matrix shows that his beliefs as being a male shows that he has views just like other males, even though he was playing the sport with the women.  He realizes that if he played to his full potential he wouldn’t be able to physically compete with females.

All in all the heterosexual matrix is always in the back of everyones minds.  This article shows that both males and females have like views about how males and females can participate together in sport.  The views that females will always be the weaker sex will always be apparent.

Prompt 3- Campobasso- Gabby Douglas Hair

If you picture an Olympic female athlete, there are a few things that come to mind. She looks strong and she is muscular. And both of those characteristics are something feminine is not, according to predisposed gender norms. As we discussed in class, it is difficult for pro female athletes to be accepted for their physique. If you think about Serena Williams she has a very muscular body in comparison to a smaller, much less muscular looking tennis player, and as a class it was decided that the smaller, more petite athlete would be the more desirable ‘woman.’ Or at least men would consider her more attractive. This is something that has angered many women in our society for quite some time. For so many women, it is so hard to look like the female model you see in fashion magazines. Dominant culture gender characteristics are based on historic ideas of what a feminine woman should look like: tall, thin, petite, weak, hair combed, makeup on, etc. And then advertisements and the media have taken this image and engrained it into the minds of our culture, that anyone who does not look like this is then not considered feminine. But these ideas and these images discount so many real women who live in society today. These images discount race, and the different body types that make up the women in other races. These images discount social class and the fact that some people might not have the funding to look like a supermodel all the time. And lastly they discount different cultures, and what might be considered feminine to them. Just because a woman does not embody the feminine characteristics of a white woman does not mean she is not a real woman. This past summer the United States was very lucky to have the ‘Fab Five’ gymnasts competing on our side. Gabby Douglas was one of the team members of the Fab Five who won a gold medal for the United States, yet the many Americans were fixated on something other than her athletic ability. They were more focused on what her hair looked like than her performance in the actual Olympics. The 16-year-old Olympian sported a slicked-back ponytail with a few clips, much like the other gymnasts she was competing against. According to the men and women complaining, her hair looking ‘unkempt.’ Being a female athlete, or any athlete for that matter, your hair is not the first thing on your mind especially while competing. Douglas even commented on the criticism saying ‘Are you kidding me? I just made history. And you’re focused on my hair?’ She makes a great point too. Her hair should not be the focus of the American people who are supposed to be her biggest supporters while she is competing.