One would think that being a top-ranked athlete for a winning college team would speak for itself and need not be glamorized. True sports fans don’t go to games for halftime shows or courtside cheerleaders, but to witness true athleticism. For the women of the Florida State Seminoles basketball team, this means being able to play some serious ball. And, as of late, it also means playing some serious dress-up.
In recent weeks, many college sports fans have been talking about the team’s new website. The site features the players in full makeup, wearing fancy dresses and either in or leaning seductively upon a limousine. Of course, they look fabulous, but one question comes to mind when looking at their gussied up website: Why?
According to college and pro-women’s basketball reporter Jayda Evans, the women’s basketball program at FSU hired a public relations firm to re-design the team’s site. The goal? “To let everyone know that female athletes are powerful and beautiful,” according to a press release. Because, you know, if you are a woman who plays sports, being powerful is just not enough.
But the message that many, including Evans, got from the site is that homophobia in women’s sports is alive and well, and that glamour shots are just one of the tactics employed by teams and programs to make sure no one thinks of their players as lesbians.
In her column for the Seattle Times, Evans mentions Training Rules a documentary about homophobia in women’s sports that features former Penn State coach Rene Portland. The overtly homophobic Portland allegedly had three rules for her players: No drinking. No drugs. No lesbians.
“The film is fascinating in its inside look at how homophobia has a choke hold on women’s sports in general,” Evans writes. “How it’s used against each other in recruiting, tagging programs as full of lesbians, and how schools/coaches over feminize themselves to not appear lesbian. All under the ‘innocent’ veil of wanting to show women athletes can be ‘powerful, beautiful, strong and accomplished.’ Or, to put it more simply, heterosexual, too.”
Carnal San Francisco writer Tim McElreavy agrees with Evans , claiming that the word “lesbian” has become as hated in the women’s sports world as the word “lose.”
“Women who happen to be lesbians (or are thought to be) are finding themselves sidelined or even kicked off teams because they don’t live up to a particular image desired by the coach, the university, or the sport in general,”McElreavy writes.
I have yet to hear what the women of the FSU Seminoles think about their team’s new site, but their coach is singing the tune of the PR firm they hired: “We feel it is important to set ourselves apart as much as we can,” Coach SueSemrau said in a press release. “We look around at how things are presented in our business, and so much of it looks the same. We had a vision for something that others were not doing. We wanted to have a product that would stand out to the people we are trying to reach.”
In general, it’s sad that women’s teams think it is necessary to market these girls as a sexy “product” rather than stress the excitement and adrenaline that can be found on the court. Sure, NBA stars are sometimes glamorized in fancy cars, designer suits and seriousbling — but something tells me that was not the goal with the new FSU women’s site.
Even setting homophobia aside for a second, the site is blatantly sexist. While the men’s team page shows pictures of them on the court, doing slam dunks and holding a trophy while smiling about their win, the top women’s team page declares a “Passion for Winning” and just beneath that, “Come out and play.” Come out and play? Really?
What do you think of the femmed out site? Homophobic? Sexist? Neither?