For the past year I have been helping professors Michael Messner and Cheryl Cookie compile research for this telling report about coverage of women's sports. Many hours of ESPN and local news analysis later, we found disturbing trends in the way women were persistently ignored by sports media. This past year, 2009, actually showed lower female coverage than any of the previous years in this twenty year study. I encourage everyone to read this report because it reveals how misrepresentative women's sports coverage is of female sports participation.
This portrait shows a female rower climbing into the boat. I chose this pose and composition because it highlights an exquisite combination of strength and beauty within the athlete. Her rippling arm muscles and strong thighs reveal an unquestionable athletic competence. This painting is also a big step for me technically. It utilizes layering within oil paint that my previous works lack.
This year's Winter Olympics has no female ski jump event. The world is rightly infuriated at this news. The International Olympic Committee provided feeble arguments to support this decision. Elaine Bergstrom explains the issue in her article "Women ski jumpers are denied an Olympic event" by writing:
"The IOC states that ski jumping is too dangerous for women, which has done little to calm the anger of the female jumpers. A number of them took their battle to the Canadian courts, arguing gender discrimination, which is illegal in Canada. It would have been a slam-dunk victory were the Olympic committee a Canadian entity. But since it is not, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that it cannot order the IOC to hold the event."
Furthermore, Gian-Franco Kasper, the president of the International Ski Federation was quoted saying the sport "seems not to be appropriate for women from a medical point of view." WHAT?!!!! Can he be serious?!!!!!! I think women have come a long way since the time of half court basketball and fears that too much exercise would make a woman's uterus fall out. Women's Ski Jumping Vice President Vic Method hits the nail on the head when he says, "This is a big macho even in Europe. If suddenly you've got these little size-four girls jumping comparable distances, the men don't look so macho anymore." Let's not forget that a woman, not a man, named Lindsey Van, holds the WORLD record for the 95-meter jump. Because of the shortsightedness of a few people in key positions, Lindsey will not be competing this year. What kind of message does this send to young girls around the world?
The American Society of Criminology found that, "...among college students, athletes tend to be disproportionately represented in reports of sexual assault, abuse and intimidation. Moreover, there is a significant association between athletic participation and sexual aggression and willingness to use force to coerce potential sexual partners." This may come as no surprise when one scans a newspaper and finds the numerous stories of athletes charged with sexual assault or violent acts. A study by Sarah McMahon from Rutgers University found that the culture of a male student athlete supports rape through "the fostering of a sense of privilege and entitlement for male athletes; the sanctioning of violence and aggression within the context of a sport with possible "spillover" effects; the use of derogatory language to describe women in team settings; and the belief that there are certain circumstances when sexual violence is "unintentional" or the victim's fault." This drawing shows the correlation between the violence learned on the field and the violence afflicted towards women. I used black charcoal to emphasize the darkness and pain that many women are forced to endure while our patriarchal society condones male behaviors that lead to sexual violence and abuse.
This piece is a companion work to "Female Arms" (see lower post). I wanted to exemplify the strength female athletes possess in their legs. So often we encounter spindly legs on models that support a weak-legged ideal for the perfect female form. I wanted to build a new aesthetic appreciation for the beauty of female muscle and strength. I toyed with the word "Thunder Thighs," which is commonly used in a derogatory or insulting way towards women, and used it as a positive term to highlight the strength and power within an athlete.
This painting shows Venus Williams in two very different lights. On top she is powerful and muscular and focused on her sport. On the bottom, she poses seductively with weaker looking arms. Another fascinating quality is that her skin tone is much lighter when she is sexualized. This implies our culture still values lighter skin tones in terms of conventional beauty.
I created this portrait of Amanda Beard to show the contrast between her as a swimmer (on the right) and her posing for Playboy (on the left). This is the first canvas I have made that contains both forms of imagery. One can quickly see the differences between the two. On the left she appears less athletic and much more vulnerable, while on the right she is completely engaged in her sport and powerful.
This painting is a portrait of my own hand during peak rowing season. It shows the layers and folds of hard earned blisters I developed while adapting to the grip of the oar. I added long acrylic nails to my hand to display the contrast between a sport specific behavior and what society asks women to do to maintain an appealing external image. The contrast is almost comical yet it speaks to a deeper issue surrounding the conflicting values with which female athletes contend. Developing rough hands and large muscles makes a female rower stronger at her sport, and thus raises her status in the athletic world. However, when she confronts broader societal standards she immediately finds messages that she is contradicting expectations of her gender. Her skin quickly becomes too rough and her muscles become too large and intimidating for society to accept.
I based this painting off of a small image of Maya Moore on the cover of a Sacramento Newspaper. I enlarged the fist sized newspaper version of her to a commanding four by five foot black and white composition. I wanted to give her a physical presence. Her muscles ripple as she screams. Her voice, though not audible from a painting, is very important. It represents the voice female athletes obtain. In a lot of advertising campaigns women cover their mouths with their hands or have their mouths closed. Women are frequently visually silenced in such imagery. Here, a strong woman yells to her fellow teammate commanding attention.
While I was giving a presentation for a sociology class about my work, one of the students asked me what I thought about gymnastics. After some consideration I realized there are extreme differences between the postures of male and female gymnasts. Often female gymnasts must smile and perform. I went to a gymnastics competition at UCLA where I observed a common move for the floor routine was butt shaking to the music. It seems comical to imagine a male gymnast doing the same, but painfully normal to think of a female gymnast looking cute for the judges. This series of portraits focuses on the postures female gymnasts take on during their routines that contain an element of sex appeal or prettiness.
I based this painting off an image I found in an article about anorexia and gymnastics. My immediate frustration was the pairing of sexual, almost humorous, imagery to depict a serious topic. This painting intends to highlight the forced male gaze that accompanies sports viewing. The female athletes here are being photographed and packaged like cheerleaders on a side line. Reducing the shot to strictly a sexual body part further objectifies and dehumanizes the athletes.
I created this painting to demonstrate mental toughness and determination in a female athlete. I wanted to keep the emphasis on the mind of the athlete, which comes across through her subtle but powerful facial expression.
The obvious discrepancy between male and female volleyball players begs the question, why must women wear more revealing uniforms? Why not have men wear speedos? How much of the attraction to female volleyball is for the sport and how much is for the spectacle of a semi nude woman? In short, I wanted to have a character ask a question that would generate more questions and debate. Sometimes stating the obvious elicits a much needed conversation about issues some would rather ignore or trivialize.
This is a portrait I created of myself and my pair partner. I used strong color combinations and thick brush strokes to heighten the intensity of the painting. This piece is meant to contrast with the common sexualized visual imagery of female athletes. It accomplishes this through emphasis on strength and athletic purpose.
Female Basketball Player (SOLD) 30x48 in acrylic on canvas
In this painting I wanted to capture the intensity and presence a female athlete possesses. I sought to accomplish this through the composition and body posture of the figure, the direct confrontational gaze with witch she confronts the audience, and through the use of bold brush strokes and strong colors. Through this style I hoped to capture a quality in athletic women that the camera misses.
I created the following artworks in reaction to the overwhelming amount of sexism in sports media (sports magazines, sports commentary, conservative talk radio, and TV coverage of sports). Today, female athletes all too often receive more attention for their "sexiness" than their athletic prowess. I am both a college athlete and an artist at USC and the athletes I workout with everyday are far from the images of female athletes gracing the covers of popular publications like Playboy, Shape, and Fitness. Modern female athletes are strong, independent, hard working, and work out for the sake of sport, not for the sake of looking attractive for the heterosexual male gaze. The emphasis placed on sexual appeal reinforces preexisting notions that a woman's sexual attractiveness supersedes her talents, goals, strengths and ambitions. I intend to show gender inequities through the eyes of the female athlete. She is a specific window through which I am examining a broader issue.
I have explored this concept with a variety of mediums including paintings, drawings, comics, collages, and graphic compositions. My paintings often heroicize the female athletic figure through bold compositions. These large oil and acrylic portraits of female athletes demonstrate their musculature, strength, and mental focus. The comics I create serve as direct social commentary on the inequities women face when entering the athletic world. I have also employed the use of graphic compositions and collages to incorporate the widespread sexualized imagery of the female athlete into a critical dialogue. Through this range of two dimensional artworks, I am able to communicate the complexity of the issues surrounding gender and sport.
It is important to note that my artwork does not seek to attack female athletes who have promoted themselves through sexualized imagery like Amanda Beard, Amy Acuff, Danika Patrick, or Maria Sharapova. On the contrary, my work is intended to question the very existence of a system where their posing and exploitation is possible and financially attractive. I hope that my artworks on this subject will initiate a crucial dialogue about the modern female athlete. With these steps towards consideration of the female athlete beyond a sex object, perhaps women will be able to professionally succeed in sports without having to bare it all.
When going to a sports bar or strip club, men can expect to see traditional gender roles. The dominant male athlete glows on the screens of all the tvs while the female athlete will only find herself represented in an objectified and sexualized form. This comic intends to show that a man cannot support women's sports while objectifying them. The Al character realized he cannot look at female tennis players the same because his daughter, a female figure in his life who he respects and wants to see equal opportunities for, is now also a tennis player. His friends remain absurdly in the dark and continue to promote an antiquated view of women in sports.
This oil painting captures the moment right before the race. I am aesthetically attracted to the variety of positions and postures athletes take on when they mentally prepare for the trials ahead. One cannot ignore the musculature of these female figures. Because they are turned away and focused on their sport they avoid giving the viewer the satisfaction of a sexually confirming female gaze.
"Female Arms" (SOLD) 18x24 inches graphite on paper
When most viewers confront this painting they assume it is a combination of male and female arms. After reading the title they see they are mistaken. I intend to demonstrate the variety of female physiology through this drawing and to undermine notions that women cannot obtain upper body strength. Many female athletes feel insecure about their large muscles because they feel less feminine. Through this work I want to show that having strong arms is a feminine quality.
"In Contemplation of a Race" 3x6 ft oil on canvas (Donated to USC Rowing)
This painting shows rowers after a race. The viewer sees both the mind and muscle of the athlete here because of the obvious musculature of the women and the focused gazes they possess. The large scale of the canvas also heroicizes the athletes. I like using paint to portray female athletes because large paintings take on an immediate physical presence and give credibility and importance to their subject matter. This piece is meant to be a counter argument to the painting below of Maria Sharapova.
In the 2008 Olympics female ping pong players noticed that their sport drew very low numbers. Sports officials, recognizing that women's sports with skimpier clothes like volleyball and tennis draw more crowds, suggested that women's ping pong change alter their uniforms to be sexier. This comic mocks the fact that the knee jerk response to fewer numbers is more skin.
This is another example of a painting that highlights the strength and musculature female athletes can build. This painting is a self portrait. As a rower I often perform this exercise to strengthen the finish and send off of the stroke. The content of this work, a sport specific training exercise that strengthens forearms and biceps, helps support the idea that female athletes workout to become better competitors. Women, like men, like sports, enjoy overcoming pain, and want to push themselves to their limits. Images like this greatly contrast with the common portrayal of female athletes as weak, sexy objects, ready to be swept away by their strong male counterparts.
This black and white painting serves as an example of the real female athlete. The subject portrayed here contradicts the commonly propagated images of female athletes as sex objects. This figure is strong, determined and focused. I used black and white paint to further emphasize her action. The elimination of color allows the viewer to pay full attention to the physicality of the rowing motion being depicted.
NBA regulation sized basketball 29.75" Right ($200) 1x2 feet oil on wood panel
While researching this topic, I came across an unusual distinction between the regulation sizes for basketball sizes in the WNBA and the NBA. Trivial seeming distinctions like this promote an overall sense of female athletic achievement as being somehow less important or significant. I also became fascinated with the juxtaposition of two very different women on one court. On the left, in the women's sized ball, you see the strong female basketball player. On the right, in the male sized ball you see the typical "Laker Girl." The contrast between the two heightens their differences in achievement and purpose. Furthermore, the distinction in circle size parallels the inequities between attention paid to female accomplishment and female appearance.
I gained inspiration for this comic after reading about the connection between sports terms and terms used to objectify and victimize women. Terms like player, playing the field, score, hit that, and 4th base all create a scenario where the man is the active agent using his physical power to dominate a situation with a woman.
"Everyday Athletes" 1x2 feet, collage and paint on wood
As a female athlete, I find myself very frustrated with the overall visual imagery in popular women's sports magazines. All too often a model, not an athlete is supposed to demonstrate an ideal athletic build for a woman. I noticed a homogeneity in the types of women represented. They are usually slim, Caucasian, and have little to no muscle definition. Ads for workout companies like Bowflex often show the man working out while a woman is supporting him. This occurs in the collage where the woman sits smiling on the man's back while he does push ups or stands gazing with admiration at him while he does pull ups. This dynamic reinforces the role of men in sports as active agents and women in sports and spectators or cheerleaders. There is an image in here where the man is supporting the woman, however her cleavage focuses the viewer on her sexuality instead of her strength.
This collage shows the problematic absorption of female athletes into celebrity culture. Athletes like Amanda Beard, Anna Kournekova, Maria Sharapova, and Danicka Patrick have all become "Star Athletes." This is not to say they have the same connotations as the terms Joe Montana, or Tiger Woods. They are not stars for their athletic accomplishment when they are absorbed into the greater celebrity culture. They must fit themselves into a preexisting marketable, and heteronormative role in order to gain public appeal and approval. It frustrates me that it is easier for a female athlete to make the cover of Sports Illustrated by wearing her bikini than by winning Olympic medals.
I created this comic to question why a female athlete should have to concern herself with her appearance in order to achieve monetary success. Amy Acuff, an Olympic high jumper who posed for Playboy, exemplifies this by saying, "Playboy publicity helped the team secure training facilities and a coach. My chances are the best they can possibly be and Playboy has a part in that."