All in “The Name of the Game?” The Perilous Practices in the Sports Industry

Ashley Judd’s enthusiasm for college basketball has recently been silenced by threats and attacks she underwent via Twitter. Following a tweet regarding a play by the opposing team, she received tweets of an assaultive nature, both physically and sexually.[1] While social media could be a vehicle for constructive dialogue or social progression, it also serves as a platform for racism, prejudice, and other harmful forms of bullying.[2] A victim of sexual assault as a youth, Judd drew attention to the systemic problems behind the motive of these tweets; she “asked for it” and deserved it.[3] While the backlash surrounding Judd’s tweet exposes the prevalence of rape culture in many different spaces, one can notice many problematic tendencies before her tweet, beginning with event she was at.

While sports may seem to be a fun, healthy, harmless activity, some of institutions behind this form of recreation possess many colonial trends that one can trace back hundreds of years ago. As an attendee of a college basketball game, Judd was supporting one of many sports organizations which glorify the patriarchal culture; profiting off of lower class, African American bodies, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is guilty of engaging in the continuation of a form of free labour. During “March Madness,” over one billion dollars is made in ad revenue, and college basketball coaches, often white, upper class, Christian men, make millions of dollars a year. Despite these numbers, players do not make a penny, and the NCAA reminds the media that they are “students, not employees.” With many of these players struggling to maintain their college workload, coming from households so poor that “their lights are about to get cut off,” these men are inherently abused by the system and their coaches. [4]

Michael Sam http://ca.eonline.com/eol_images/Entire_Site/2014110/rs_634x1024-140210045753-634-Michael-Sam-JR-21014_copy.jpg

These “opportunities” that young men are given are not without threats, significant sacrifices, and hazing, and like many other institutions, the league is not open to any talented player. Michael Sam, an openly gay football player, has been kicked off of two NFL teams; while coaches deny that his sexual orientation had anything to do with the decision, one look at Sam’s statistics makes it clear that this is likely the case, reminding one that sports remains an inherently heterosexist space.[5] While race might not be an issue, being cisgendered and straight certainly is. Additionally, coaches verbally abuse their players for an “unacceptable” performance by using gay slurs; for instance, one coach angrily told his players, “You’re a fucking faggot, you’re a fucking fairy.”[6] Additionally, “fag” is regarded as one of the worst insults in the world of sports.[7]

Toronto Argo Cheerleaders http://www.argosendzone.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Where-the-hell-was-I.jpg

While there is no space for gay athletes in sports, the spaces that women occupy is also rather alarming. Women are spectators, but only if accompanied by men, “sports moms,” or are cheerleaders or dancers, having their bodies objectified for the purpose of straight men’s entertainment. In addition, the sports industry possesses a glass ceiling, as women athletes are almost always unable to attain the same levels of success that men athletes are.[8] Men are consistently paid more than women athletes, and many sports fans are unaware of the women’s equivalents available to them, allowing one to realize that lack of proper attention women athletes receive. Many of these problematic tendencies can be linked back to the “television sports manhood formula”; some of the features of this formula include that “white men are the voice of authority,” that “sports are a man’s world, ” and that women are “sexy props” for men.[9] Unfortunately, the attention that women in sports often receive is one of a hyper-sexualized nature, simply serving as accessories to the game. When asked how to increase the popularity of women’s soccer, one of the head executives of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) suggested the athletes “should wear shorter shorts.”[10] Unfortunately, such horrific sentiments are not uncharacteristic of the organization.

NCAA State Teams http://nexgenmadden.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/28lx3sp.jpg

One could easily liken organizations like the NCAA and FIFA to other colonial structures; Joddi Alden points out that colonialism exists in the form of white supremacy, and capitalism commodifies workers and their bodies, and these tendencies can easily be spotted in both organizations.[11] With each organization being ruled by white, upper class, Christian men, they profit off of bodies in different ways. For the NCAA, many of the basketball players are lower-class African Americans, who go unpaid for their participation, while their coaches have million dollar salaries.[12] FIFA is inherently colonial, as it goes into second and third world countries, demands that the nation’s government build multi-million dollar stadiums that they cannot afford, and institute their own rules and regulations, whether or not they conflict with a country’s laws. Meanwhile, all of the profits for the games go to FIFA. With the 2022 games being hosted in Qatar, a nation regarded as a “modern day slave state…4000 workers will die before a ball is kicked off.”[13] FIFA successfully engages in a short-term form of colonialism, one based on the exploitation of labor, leaving these nations in crippling conditions.[14]

Ashley Judd’s treatment on Twitter was absolutely horrendous, and showcased one of many problematic discourses that are a product of the sports industry. Hegemonic masculinity is the only acceptable mentality for many sports; these sports, regarded as power and performance sports, “organize hierarchies of authorities from owners to coaches to athletes,” perpetuate colonial methodologies and racialized frameworks.[15] African Americans were previously seen as a form of technology during the long-lasting transatlantic slave trade, but continue to be regarded as forms of property, rather than humans, by the sports industry.[16] Additionally, FIFA seems to have co-opted their own colonial practices, by entering third world countries, forcing their practices on citizens, and leaving the nation in worse circumstances. Many think of sports as just “fun and games,” but one need not dig deep to find an abundance of problematic practices.

[1] Charlotte Alter. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape” Time Magazine, March 19, 2015.

[2] Danyel Haughton, “Seeing is Not Believing.”

[3] Ashley Judd article Ashley Judd. “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass.” Identities Mic, March 19, 2015.

[4] John Oliver, “The NCAA,” March 15, 2015.

[5] Will Femia. “Michael Sam, First Openly Gay NFL Player, Cut by St. Louis Rams.” MSNBC, August 30, 2014.
Greg Price. “First Openly Gay Football Player Cut By Dallas Cowboys, So What’s Next for Michael Sam And The NFL?” International Business Times, October 22, 2014.

[6] John Oliver, “The NCAA,” March 15, 2015.

[7] Judy Aulette Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Words, Third Edition. (New York: Oxford, 2015): 447

[8] Ibid, 452.

[9] Ibid, 444.

[10] John Oliver, “FIFA and the World Cup,” June 8, 2014.

[11] Joddi Alden, “Globalization, Colonialism, and Orientalism in Visual Culture.”

[12] John Oliver, “The NCAA,” March 15, 2015.

[13] John Oliver, “FIFA and the World Cup,” June 8, 2014

[14] Maria-Teresa Matani. “Colonialism and Slavery.”

[15] Root Aulette and Wittner, Gendered Worlds, 459.

[16] Danyel Haughton, “Seeing is Not Believing.”

Bibliography 

Alden, Joddi. “Globalization, Colonialism, and Orientalism in Visual Culture.” GNDS 125 Lecture, January 29, 2015.

Alter, Charlotte. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape” Time Magazine, March 19, 2015. Accessed April 1, 2015. http://time.com/3750788/ashley-judd-speaks-out-about-twitter-abuse-and-rape/

Femia, Will. “Michael Sam, First Openly Gay NFL Player, Cut by St. Louis Rams.” MSNBC, August 30, 2014. Accessed April 5, 2015. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/michael-sam-cut-st-louis-rams

Haughton, Danyel. “Seeing is Not Believing” GNDS 125 Lecture, March 2, 2015

Judd, Ashley. “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass.” Identities Mic, March 19, 2015. Accessed April 1, 2015 http://mic.com/articles/113226/forget-your-team-your-online-violence-toward-girls-and-women-is-what-can-kiss-my-ass

Matani, Maria-Teresa. “Colonialism and Slavery.” GNDS 125 Tutorial, February 12, 2015.

Oliver, John. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: FIFA and the World Cup (HBO)” YouTube Video, 13:13. Posted by “LastWeekTonight” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlJEt2KU33I&feature=iv&src_vid=pX8BXH3SJn0&annotation_id=annotation_2807374561

Oliver, John. “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: The NCAA (HBO)” YouTube Video, 20:53. Posted by “LastWeekTonight” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX8BXH3SJn0

Price, Greg. “First Openly Gay Football Player Cut By Dallas Cowboys, So What’s Next for Michael Sam And The NFL?” International Business Times, October 22, 2014, Accessed April 5, 2015. http://www.ibtimes.com/first-openly-gay-football-player-cut-dallas-cowboys-so-whats-next-michael-sam-nfl-1710370

Root Aulette, Judy and Wittner, Judith. Gendered Words, Third Edition. New York: Oxford, 2015.

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All in “The Name of the Game?” The Perilous Practices in the Sports Industry

“It’s perfectly legal- but is it right?”

One would never expect to be neglected of basic necessities, such as health care, due to their sexual orientation, and for it to be perfectly legal. However, this is exactly what happened to Krista and Jami Contrearas, whose six-day-old infant was turned away by Doctor Roi for this reason. With the mothers citing that they are “completely prepared for this to happen other places,” this highlights many problematic trends in the United States.[1] Clearly a proponent of a heteronormative society, Doctor Roi’s prejudicial actions are protected under the American Medical Association (AMA). However, the protections of many minority rights are not yet established. The United States has yet to legalize gay marriage nationally, and many citizens are suffering as a result. Meanwhile, subsequent laws are being passed to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and to safeguard religious rights, leading one to wonder whether or not the law exists for their protection or penalization.

The clashing of minority rights has not gone unnoticed, as many citizens notice that religion is being used as a mechanism to discriminate against the LGBT community. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is determined to fight for the community’s rights, and is aware of the use of religion as a tool of discrimination. “We continue to seek anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in employment, housing, businesses, and public places. We advocated for state and federal non-discrimination laws, and litigate to ensure that religious beliefs cannot be used to justify acts of bias.”[2] The ACLU dedicates an entire section of their website to outline instances where religion is utilized to discriminate against women and the LGBT community, such as employment, medical care and other services.[3] While the ACLU feels the law can be exercised for the good, not all Americans are so optimistic, realizing that tangible change will take a lot more than passing a bill, or striking down an existing law.

A map of states which have legalized same-sex marriage. Blue = Legalized, Grey = Illegal, Purple = Not legalized, but accepts same-sex marriages from other states. https://www.aclu.org/maps/same-sex-relationship-recognition

Despite the AMA’s protection of a doctor’s “personal views,” as was the case with Dr. Roi, there are conflicting clauses in their Code of Ethics. For example, “the relationship between patient and physician is based on trust and gives rise to physicians’ ethical obligations to place patients’ welfare above their own self-interest[.]”[4] Additionally, in their Declaration of Professional Responsibility, physicians possess “the duty to treat the sick and injured with competence and compassion and with prejudice, prohibit[ing] racial, ethnic, and other forms of bias.”[5] The contradictory nature of the AMA’s rules and regulations illustrate how governmental establishment of rules can also be disregarded successfully, or utilized to further prejudicial means.

Although religion is used as a discriminatory law-making tool, some argue that the alleged homophobic passages in the Bible do not truly exist. Mark Achtemeier, a former “anti-gay evangelical” minister, elaborates; upon searching for the meaning of the alleged scripture, “the best you wind up with is a statement that says, ‘Well, these passages don’t mean what you think they mean.’ It was essentially and argument from silence[.]”[6] When one considers that the religious rationale for homophobia is based on intangible biblical texts, it causes one to wonder how their views have been granted such legitimacy.

In June 2013, the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down on the grounds that “violated the constitutional right to liberty,” however judges did not consider the creation of state legislation to counteract DOMA’s dismantling.[7] State-placed bans on gay marriage were instituted, and while many states have rid of such bans, others have upheld them. In September, a federal judge upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage, citing homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice,” stating “neither the Supreme Court nor the Fifth Circuit has ever before defied sexual orientation as a protected class[.]”[8] Additionally, in the fight for same-sex marriage in Michigan, where the Contrearas family resides, a dominant amount of testimony provided was about “whether or not gay parents were suitable to raise children,” a consideration that no one possesses when discussing heterosexual marriage. [9] Posing any obstacles possible to circumvent striking down the ban, one journalist comments that one needs to “understand that that battle for civil rights does not end with the law.[10]

http://a.abcnews.com/images/Politics/164683607_6_16x9_992.jpg

A homonormative standard also creates tensions for the LGBT community, as members of the community present their own problematic views, bringing each other down. Fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana, who identify as gay, recently criticized same sex families, suggesting that “the only family is the traditional one” and that they are “opposed to the idea of growing up with two gay parents.”[11] Referring to invitro fertilization (IVF) as producing “synthetic children,” these two white, upper class men manage to degrade a diversity of family types, and in turn provide support for those who are homophobic and do not feel anyone identifying as LGBT to be a fit parent, an incredibly problematic message to deliver.[12] While IVF remains a form of pregnancy that is only attainable to those who can afford it, an even stronger hierarchical system is established by suggesting these families are inferior.

While the fight for legal equality continues, one must consider the often-contradictory nature of the law. Louisiana’s federal judge who claimed homosexuality is a “lifestyle choice” also feels African Americans to be protected under the fourteenth amendment, yet racial tensions continue to characterize American society.[13] Additionally, while rules exist to ensure that patients receive necessary healthcare, doctors are also legally allowed to refuse patients based on personal beliefs. The fight for legal change must also be met with corresponding social changes, otherwise the law’s efficacy could be questionable. What is perfectly legal is not right – at least not yet.

Bibliography

American Civil Liberties Union. “LGBT Basic Rights and Liberties” https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/lgbt-basic-rights-and-liberties. Accessed March 13, 2015

American Medical Association. “Opinion 10.015 – The Patient-Physician Relationship.” http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion10015.page? Accessed March 16, 2015

American Medical Association. “Declaration of Professional Responsibility”. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/declaration-professional-responsibility.page? Accessed March 16, 2015

Baer, Mark. “The Same-Sex Marriage ‘Debate’ Is Based Upon Ignorance and Inaccurate Information.” Huffington Post September 11, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-baer/the-same-sex-marriage-debate_b_5800482.html

Chellew-Hodge, Candace. “Marriage is for Everybody, says Former Anti-Gay Evangelical.” Religion Dispatches, September 15, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015 http://religiondispatches.org/marriage-is-for-everybody-says-former-anti-gay-evangelical/

Fox News. “Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby” My Fox Detroit, February 18, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2015. http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-same-sex-couples-baby

Root Aulette, Judy and Wittner, Judith. Gendered Words, Third Edition. New York: Oxford, 2015.

Stone, Brian. “Why Legal Equality Isn’t Real Equality.” Huffington Post, March 10, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-stone/gay-right-legal-equality_b_4932478.html

Ward, Victoria. “’How dare you refer to my beautiful children as synthetic’: Elton John livid at Dolce & Gabbana IVF rant” National Post March 16, 2015. Accessed March 16, 2015. http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/03/16/how-dare-you-refer-to-my-beautiful-children-as-synthetic-elton-john-livid-at-dolce-gabbana-anti-ivf-rant/

[1] Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby” My Fox Detroit, February 18, 2015.

[2] “LGBT Basic Rights and Liberties” https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/lgbt-basic-rights-and-liberties

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Opinion 10.015 – The Patient-Physician Relationship.” http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion10015.page?

[5]. “Declaration of Professional Responsibility”. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/declaration-professional-responsibility.page?

[6] Candace Chellew-Hodge. “Marriage is for Everybody, says Former Anti-Gay Evangelical.” Religion Dispatches, September 15, 2014.

[7] Judy Aulette Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Words, Third Edition. (New York: Oxford, 2015): 227.

[8] Mark Baer. “The Same-Sex Marriage ‘Debate’ Is Based Upon Ignorance and Inaccurate Information.” Huffington Post September 11, 2014.

[9] Brian Stone. “Why Legal Equality Isn’t Real Equality.” Huffington Post, March 10, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Victoria Ward. “’How dare you refer to my beautiful children as synthetic’: Elton John livid at Dolce & Gabbana IVF rant” National Post March 16, 2015.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Mark Baer. “The Same-Sex Marriage ‘Debate’ Is Based Upon Ignorance and Inaccurate Information.” Huffington Post September 11, 2014.

“It’s perfectly legal- but is it right?”

Film Review: “The Dog”

When one views the trailer for “The Dog,” it is easy to write this movie off as a story of crime. Intriguing as it may seem, the connection between John Wojtowicz, the Dog himself, to the LBGT community does not appear strong, despite knowing that he robs a bank to fund his transgender lover’s sex change surgery. However, the trailer does not do the film its justice, as it chronicles a man’s adventurous life, filled with love, sexual diversity and social change. Directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren provide their audience with a film that is both climatic and informative.

John Wojtowicz, a cisgender man from New York City, takes viewers through his life as a soldier, a member of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), a four-time husband and proud criminal. One learns about the LGBT community following the Stonewall Riots and becomes acutely aware of how difficult life was for a gay or transgender person in this time. The film takes viewers through John’s military career, where he has his first “gay experience,” his marriage to his cisgender wife Carmen, his relationship and marriage to transgender women Liz Eden, the bank robbery he commits for her surgery, his time in prison, the creation of the film “Dog Day Afternoon,” and his relationship with his gender fluid wife George.[1]

One theme that the film addresses is ability, as viewers learn about John’s brother Tony. Tony suffers from epilepsy and seizures, and was taken away from his mother Terry when he was five and placed into a state institution. Although Tony’s narrative is not dominant, one learns about the struggle of the differently abled from his scenes. Following John’s release from prison, he and Tony go to Coney Island together. Terry narrates this scene, explaining what happened to Tony as a toddler and how he ended up in state custody. Tony’s epilepsy causes him to lose his memory, requiring him to relearn many things following a seizure. The stigma attached to the differently abled is made abundantly clear when Terry expresses her fear state intervention, leading to the separation of Terry and Tony.[2] One can also observe that John treats Tony differently; when discussing his bank robbery with Tony, he does not say that he robbed the bank for Liz’s surgery, which he always mentions in other conversations. Additionally, John expresses his frustration with Tony’s inability to understand that John is dying from cancer.[3]

John is liberal about expressing his sexuality, however his views towards others seem oppressive. He mentions that his GAA membership is due to sexual intentions, while his counterparts are concerned with political change.[4] He does not consider how his race places him in an advantageous position, as he clearly benefits from being a cisgender, white man. In addition, his attitude towards Liz’s surgeries is not always supportive, as he deprives her of any agency. He explains that prior to her hospitalization, Liz “agreed” not to have the operation because John was against it, ultimately leading to her suicide attempt.[5] John does not identify with essentialism, explaining that he looks for a partner with “big tits and a little dick,” yet he initially refuses to support Liz’s surgery.[6] He adheres to hegemonic masculinity; described as the subordination of women, authority and aggression, these traits seem to come through rather strong when he describes his relationship with Bobby Westenberg.[7] John ultimately gets what he wants from his sexual partners, often through force, and sees no wrong in this. He is not concerned with receiving Bobby’s consent, and despite his refusal, he coerces him to have sex with him.[8]

While the film chronicles John’s life, it is Liz’s story that exposes the many problematic institutions in American society. Upon her hospitalization, she is labeled insane because of her wish to have a sex change, illustrating the problematic way that North American society handles one’s transition. Aside from stigmatizing Liz, John points out that doctors wanted to treat her with Electric Shock Therapy to “cure her.” [9] To transition in Canada, one must be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, suggesting that being transgender entails a mental illness. Archaic “remedies” such as conversion therapy continue to exist in the United States, to “cure” transgender youth, suggesting that one’s gender identity is invalid if it does not match their biological sex.[10]

Following Liz’s suicide attempt, she is able to have her surgery, but the film does not address the lack of access some have to these procedures. Liz herself points out how expensive her procedures are, but does not consider that other people have no means to fund their surgeries. This suggests that for one to successfully transition, they need to possess economic and racial privilege, as healthcare is not universal in the United States, and racial and colonial structures continue to dictate one’s accessibility in society.[11] The film seems to conveniently ignore the white privilege that John and his peers possess. Despite chronicling the years following the Civil Rights Movement, the film makes no mention of the African American experience. [12]

The Reelout Film Festival provides a very welcoming, comfortable and warm experience for those who attend. The screening room itself is not large, but it is certainly cozy and welcoming. It is evident that the Festival is appreciative of its community support, as the ads presented were exclusively local, and these sponsors provided some giveaways for audience members. A diverse audience attended this screening, as people of many ages were in the audience, and pricing was rather reasonable. However, the venue could have been somewhat more wheelchair accessible; it was unclear if the venue had an elevator, and the theatre was on an upper floor in the building. While select parts of the film were captioned, full closed captioning would have made the film more accessible to some viewers.

Although John exhibits some problematic behaviours, his story is certainly one that needs to be told. “The Dog” shows a man who embraces his sexual identity, and eventually his partner’s gender identity. Describing himself as a pervert with “horns,” John’s wives and members of the GAA speak of his intentions positively.[13] John’s story illustrates the importance of social movements and fighting for one’s rights, but also exposes how far society needs to go to rid itself of some long standing prejudices and oppressive structures.

[1] The Dog. Directed by Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren. (2013, Toronto, Toronto International Film Festival, 2014), Cinema.

[2] Terry Basso Wojtowicz, 2015, The Dog.

[3] John Wojtowicz, 2015, The Dog.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Judy Aulette Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Words, Third Edition. (New York: Oxford, 2015): 33.

[7] Root Aulette and Wittner, Gendered Worlds, 413.

[8] John Wojtowicz, 2015, The Dog

[9] Ibid.

[10] Laci Green. “Pray the Gay Away.” January 14, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGFEDYrkDek

[11] Matani, 2015, Week 6

[12] John Wojtowicz, 2015, The Dog

[13] The Dog, 2015.

Continue reading “Film Review: “The Dog””

Film Review: “The Dog”