More Than Just a Pretty Face By:Meagan Jones

Mirror mirror on the wall who is the prettiest one of all? Mirror mirror on the wall who is the most athletic of them all? It’s game day, which would you think a male would say and which one would you think a female would say? No surprise that the first statement would come from a female rather than a male. On game days for a young lady and you would think that looking good would be the last thing she would worry about, you would think that making sure she has her equipment, is mentally prepared, and is well rested would be on the top of her list. Well when talking about females in the sports world you are wrong, young women are focused now mainly focus on their appearance not on the game itself. From personal experience I know this to be true on game days’ softball will get to the locker room an hour or so early to get out hair braided by another teammate. We make sure our hair looks good so there is no confusion that we are certainly not lesbians and we make sure our eye black is smeared perfectly. None of this will help us while we are up to bat or on the field, but we were taught if you look good you play good.   Teaching young women to be more focused on your looks than mentally preparing for the game or match that day is a shame and unfortunate. Being a female athletic I have experienced this first hand, while working out I was told not to work out so much because I could potentially look manly and that is not reality I was just trying to get stronger so my athletic ability would improve, never have I heard a male be told to not work out as much unless it was because the trainer was pushing them too hard or they were overdoing it causes it to hurt themselves.  We have the right to belong in the sports world and to have them look at us as athletes not a female athlete; making the sports world gender neutral will allow mainly women to focus on the game rather than how she looks while playing the game. On the other hand, we look at males in the exact opposite of females we expect every male athlete to look strong and “manly” and when they do not show those qualities we think lesser of them. For example, as a society the typically male athlete is muscular and has an athletic build in most cases but not all cases there are not skinny male athletes. This has cause men to start over eating or what nutritionists call binge eating which is an eating disorder. “According to a 2007 study by Harvard, up to 40% of binge eaters are male.  A 1999 study of NCAA athletes found that male athletes are more likely than female athletes to overeat on a daily basis. Binge-eating has recently been recognized as the most prevalent eating disorder in the United States.  Binge eating among males is condoned by popular culture, but it is not condoned for females” (E. 2010).  Society thinks they cannot perform the task at hand if they are not built the way we want them to look or act the way we want male athletes to act.

In the sports world society shows actions of hegemonic femininity when talking about female athletes and we show actions hegemonic masculinity when talking about male athletes.  “Hegemonic femininity, also referred to as “emphasized femininity” is a concept that was developed while discussing with hegemonic masculinity “to acknowledge the asymmetrical position of masculinities and femininities in a patriarchal gender order” (Hollar, L. 2012). “In gender studies, the theory of hegemonic masculinity refers to the belief in the existence of a culturally normative ideal of male behavior. Hegemonic masculinity posits that society strongly encourages men to embody this kind of masculinity. According to the theory’s proponents, it is not necessarily the most prevalent form of male expression, but rather the most socially endorsed that always contributes to the subordinate position of women they perceive” (W. 2012).

During any sporting event women are evaluated on their skills, but one aspect that media focuses on is their looks and how they portray themselves. In the 2000Sydney Olympic Games, the two main female athletes were being talked about consistently throughout the games and these two women were Marion Jones and Amy Acuff. Marion Jones was a track runner and an WNBA player who during her prime time was one of the best but later was found guilty of using steroids to enhance her performance. But before Jones was caught using steroids she was infamous for how muscular and strong she was.   “Prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games she planned on winning five gold medals. She declared it a certainty. Jones isn’t model-like-thin, she’s strong and muscular. This could be viewed as being unfeminine. She most definitely doesn’t confirm with stereotypes of femininity” (Lamoureux 2012). Marion Jones unknowingly broke down every social norm that society had set up for women. She had this natural beauty about her; she did not wear tons of make-up and in fact she did not wear any when it came time for her to compete, she was not known for her petit build but in fact she was known for her strong and muscular build.

Some said she was too muscular and not lady like but in her mind she was only worried about winning the gold medals and she was not going to let the media change the way she trained. Jones gave a quote talking about how she would like to spend the rest of her athletic career she said “The ultimate would be to compete in a couple more Olympics, hopefully break some world records and wind up my sports career with a couple of years in the WNBA” (Jones, M. 2001). Jones was getting media coverage because she was an inscribe athlete, she wasn’t thin as a rod or a size zero. She was a well fed woman who trained and shaped her body to the best athlete she could be even if the training did have some steroids involved she was using them to win not to look pretty. Jones is not showing hegemonic femininity because she is showing society that women are more than just a pretty face, women can also be bad ass athletes winning the gold medals.

Then there is Amy Acuff who was also training for the Olympic Games, but took a completely different approach when training she was not out gaining muscles but more so toning and trying to lose weight rather than bulking up for the games. Lamoureux says in her article that “It shouldn’t be any surprise to realize that during the U.S. media build-up towards the Sydney Games the most photographed female athlete was not Marion Jones but Amy Acuff. Acuff is 6ft 2in, blonde, part-time model, and a high jumper.

She didn’t say anything about wanting to win a gold metal during the pre-Olympic media coverage. Instead she said she wanted to work on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition: “Because people get a lot of attention for that.”” (Lamoureux 2012).  Acuff is stuck in the social norm and is showing hegemonic femininity, she is showing that women are petit, weak, and that she is just a pretty face trying to be on the cover of a magazine. If society did not train women to think like this she probably would be more focused on a winning a medal rather than doing a photo shoot. One of the hardest things that women have to overcome to break the hegemonic femininity is that the media is going to talk about both looks and skills. “Girls also see a double standard in covering women’s sports. When male athletes receive media attention, such coverage is primarily focused on their skilled performance. When female athletes receive media attention, the media is much more likely to focus on their physical attractiveness or non-sport-related activities” (Lopiano, D. A. 2008). This usually happens in tennis where the media will focus mainly on their looks rather than their achievements for example a former tennis player named “Anna Kournikova, who has yet to win a professional singles tennis tournament, was one of only six women ranked among the most important people in sports. This double standard devalues the athletic achievements of female athletes compared to their male counterparts (Lopiano, D. A. 2008). Hegemonic femininity at its finest proving that in the world of sports you just need somewhat of a winning record and a beautiful face, it is discouraging to young ladies out there training for their games because they know if their body is not “perfect” then they can forget about getting air time from the media even if they are winning. The media is changing though in some ways you cannot fight the fact that some women are incredibly muscular like Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey and are getting much of the media time because they are winning and the audience loves them, not all muscular female athletes are this lucky though.  “Society tells us that boys are the athletic ones and girls are beautiful.  However, more and more women are making a living for athletic ability, most of the time because they are a beautiful athlete.  Women athletes have made huge strides since Title IX but there is still room for improvement” (Marci 2008).

Unfortunately, where female athletes stand with the media coverage and society, if you are not extremely pretty and breaking records then you do not receive the same media time as other pretty female athletes. It is discouraging for young female athletes in two ways making them feel as if they are not beautiful then they will not get attention needed for the games that they play in but also it is a slap in the face saying that we only care that you are pretty and not your athletic ability. From personal experiences I have received this first hand but in a different way, I have played softball for years and now at a collegiate level I hear this more than ever. When I tell people that I am a college athlete their first guess is cheerleading or dance, don’t get me wrong those are awesome sports but no I play softball and the reactions I get sometime are priceless. I’ll get “oh but you are so pretty you should be playing more of a girly sport.” What the hell is a girly sport? Or my favorite “aren’t you afraid you are going to be dirty or hit by a pitch? I have plenty of scars and even a few torn ligaments to prove that I am not afraid of getting hurt or dirty. But why are my looks the first thing being asked about when I talk about sports I play or watch? Because of hegemonic femininity, femininity is like that little voice in your head that says be more “lady like”, “always wear your make up”, and “put your best foot forward”. Well screw that. Ladies you are more than just a pretty face and we deserve to be recognized for being athletic, we should be praised like the males on how long we are in the gym training, or out on the field getting more reps not asked about the clothes we are wearing while we are performing these activities. If looks could be taken out of the equation and we as in the media and society just focused on how well we can serve the ball, throw the ball, shoot the ball, kick the ball, we can swim, hit the ball, and every other sport out there instead of how we look while doing it we would finally get the credit we actually deserve. It starts with one person making a change avoiding the questions about the looks, adding the questions about how they train and how hard they train, making it known they are a bad ass athlete rather than some petit little girl who doesn’t know a lick about sports. It is time for women of the athletic world to stand together yes be proud that you are beautiful but don’t let that shine over the hours spent in the gym, on the field, and the mental preparation it takes to become an amazing athletic. Demand the same respect that the male athletes receive but it will take time so always be proud of yourself because at the end of the day self-gratification is the best type of gratification do it for yourself and no one else. Remember at the end of the day you are more than just a pretty face, you are a bad ass, training machine, unstoppable fighter, strong women. Nothing less.








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