April 24, 2012

How to invent a sport women would like

In the name of gender equity, the Summer Olympics are debuting women's boxing at the London games. Women's wrestling was added at the 2004 Athens games. 

The problem, of course, is that very few women are interested these highly masculine sports. Yet, as part of Chris Rock's Keep Your Daughter Off the Pole movement, it would be good to invent some sports that would appeal to normal girls and young women. The idea would be to come up with something less crudely sexualized than pole dancing but less unfeminine than wrestling.

One problem is that the kind of sports-minded nerds who would be good at inventing the rules for sports generally don't understand women well, and conventional female minds aren't tuned to inventing universal rules for sports. There have been a lot of studies of little boys and little girls making up games with balls. The boys argue a lot, but from their arguments actually do evolve better rules that deal fairly with an ever-larger percentage of future situations. The girls, in contrast, tend to devolve the rules to make participants feel better in the present by making ad hoc exceptions when feelings get hurt.

What do women want? Well, one approach is to look at the sports that most excite women viewers in the Winter and Summer Olympics: figureskating and gymnastics.

Another approach that converges on a similar idea is to look at women's fashion magazines. Why, for generations, have women been buying magazines to look at pictures of 5'10" 112 pound fashion models? Yeah, yeah, I know, it's all a Big Gay Conspiracy. But, 2Blowhards had a little essay once on why Mrs. Blowhard loved looking at pictures in fashion magazines. 
There's an additional fantasy element too, which is autonomy. Part of what women fashion-magazine fans seem to enjoy imagining is the fantasy of being found glamorous purely for its own sake. They seem to want to forget about the pleasing-guys element. There's a little defiance in the fantasy -- and you can see the defiance in many of the kicky poses and attitudes the models strike. 
Perhaps something that helps explain the appeal of these images is that not only do many women enjoy imagining looking like these models, they enjoy imagining feeling like them too. I think guys often forget what a weighty and earthbound thing it can be, being a gal. There's so much dreariness to contend with: fatbags, hormones, moods, emotional agonies, etc. Women are weighed down by a lot of burdens, or at least they feel that they are, which is good enough for the purposes of my attempt at an explanation here. 
The gals in the pages of fashion magazines and catalogs aren't weighed down by anything, not even flesh. They burst out of cabs, they leap onto sidewalks, they let loose with irrepressible guffaws, they're caught by insistent cameras looking their klutzy-but-charming best; they're tall and slim, and they're feelin' good and they're lookin' ready to dazzle. The girls in the pix get to enjoy the champagne-and-cocaine fun parts of being a grownup woman. They aren't saddled with fat asses and wobbly upper arms, with PMS, with no-good boyfriends and lecherous bosses, with imperfect features, with senseless mood swings, etc. 
What the fashion mags are selling is, to some extent, a fantasy of play and freedom. Which, come to think of it, is (in a general sense) pretty much what men's magazines sell too. Many guys enjoy indulging in fantasies about utopia -- a male utopia full of gadgets and sex-without-consequences. Many gals love indulging in fantasies about utopia too -- a female utopia, where the fantasizer is carefree and irresistably desirable 24/7. 
My hunch: perhaps superslim-and-supertall are a visual representation of carefree-and-desirable.

What we want in feminine sports is to emphasize, in the interests of keeping-your-daughter-off-the-pole, is to downplay the Desirable aspect and emphasize the nonsexual aspects.

A reductionist approach would be that what might attract feminine interest in a sport is freedom from gravity. Figure skaters glide endlessly and then leap and twirl. Gymnasts fly through the air. The final night of women's figure skating in the Winter Olympics is to crown the World's Greatest Princess and the all-around night of women's gymnastics in the Summer Olympics is to crown the World's Greatest Pixie. 

The problem with this is that nobody really is free from gravity. Competitive cheerleading, for example, is a feminine sport that has evolved toward ever more high-flying death-defying stunts, which is great, except for the cheerleaders who end up in wheelchairs for life.

Trampolining was recently added to the Olympics and it's very exciting because it's amazingly high-flying. But it's also terrifying to watch. I don't think the dads and moms of America are going to get too excited about their daughters taking up trampolining. When I was a little kid in the 1960s, trampolines were a popular backyard amenity. But then they stopped being common because so many kids got hurt on them. 

So, here's my idea for the perfect 21st Century sport for middle class American families with daughters: invent a sport where the girls fly, do quadruple somersaults and quintuple axels or whatever, but are actually in movie special effect wire work harnesses, like in The Matrix.

So, that takes the fear of paralytic injury out of the equation. You still have the puberty problem (the laws of physics decree that girls who haven't developed T&A yet can spin faster than those that have). Figure skating and gymnastics had to put minimum age requirements into the Olympics to keep their sports from being dominated by girls taking drugs to hold back puberty.

So, there's no perfect solution, but some kind of acrobatic event suspended from a bungee cord might go over big with today's parents and their daughters. Another possibility is that "indoor skydiving," flying on fan-blasted air that you can now do at amusement parks. For the very rich, zero gravity acrobatics flying on the Vomit Comet could be the next big thing.

65 comments:

MC said...

"The boys argue a lot, but from their arguments actually do evolve better rules that deal fairly with an ever-larger percentage of future situations. The girls, in contrast, tend to devolve the rules to make participants feel better in the present by making ad hoc exceptions."

LOL. The story of American politics since the 19th Amendment.

NOTA said...

Zero-G ballet?

Peter said...

Skydiving is (literally) a flying-through-the-air sport, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to score.

Aretae said...

Re: wired trampolining.

Certainly for trampoline and diving competitions at a low-end college, we used to practice that way.

Anonymous said...

Chicks really aren't into physical competition. Emotional, psychological, yeah, at times.

Chicks end up on the pole, not because they love competing but because they are narcissistic. Men actually like competing, but aren't so desperate for approval from others rather they want to prove something to themselves. Some men are narcissists of course, but it is more of a chick thing.

KlaosOldanburg said...

Diving meets your criteria.

a woman said...

I would just rather watch the men compete.

Check that. I haven't watched the Summer Games in a very long while. I get tired of Bob Costas talking and of never knowing when the events will be telecast. I usually miss the events I'd like most to watch because I don't know when they'll come on or because I like to see them live and not tape-dalayed. What sporting event is exciting in a tape-delay?

I like the sprints and the relays, and the hurdles, and I only really love them if the Americans have a chance to win. Oh, years ago, I liked the pole vault and the...what's the event in which the guy competed and did the Fosbury (sp?) flop? What's that called? I liked that.

I like the Winter Olympics, and yes, I love the figure skating and ice dancing, and I miss Torvill and Dean tremendously, but they should allow the skaters to compete in a darkened rink and with spotlights. I also love the downhill and short track skating of the Winter Olympics. We women like speed.

The Winter Olympics used to be much better when ski garments were attractive and not the sloppy hip-hop mess they are now. In my youth I skied, but never progressed past the intermediate level. Shopping for ski clothing was great fun.

As for women's fashion mags...I like looking at the accoutrements of fashion the most--the sleek, black cars and limos from which the women emerge, the darkened urban skylines in the background, the romantic, (I use the word here to connote mystery)swanky restaurant in which she sips her champagne. In the days of my youth she'd have had a cigarette between her fingers, and wow, though I haven't smoked in years, I just had a sudden desire for a Salem or a Virginia Slim menthol with the champagne...spirits are so much better with a cigarette.

Yes, what the fashion magazine sells is a fantasy, an escape, but it does so by couching that escape in mystery. The picture of her from the back, as she walks toward a door makes us ask who awaits behind that door? Who is sitting across from her at the table in the darkened restaurant? As the chauffeur holds open the door to the limo as she bends to enter, who is in that back seat? (I fill in the blanks, of course. He's in a black tux... unless I'm in the mood for a winter white dinner jacket...and he has dark hair, never any facial hair, and he wears a mysterious grin. )

I'd like a night out like that much more than watching some dumb women's sporting event at the Olympics, Steve.

Anonymous said...

"So, here's my idea for the perfect 21st Century sport for middle class American families with daughters: invent a sport where the girls fly, do quadruple somersaults and quintuple axels or whatever, but are actually in movie special effect wire work harnesses, like in The Matrix."

3D fencing.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure feminism is really behind this. More events means nations--even dinky ones--have more of a chance at winning medals. So, if women's boxing gives a chance for China, Kenya, Mexico, Russia, Cuba, etc, etc, etc to win more medals--and even a gold in some dinky event counts equally as any gold medal in the final count--, I think most nations want it.

Mr Lomez said...

The problem with all of these acrobatic sports, from a competitive standpoint, is that ultimately the winners and losers are determined by a panel of judges. Maybe this is what women want, to be judged by others--I can anticipate an argument for that. But I suspect part of the fantasy of of those fashion mags is that judgment is being withheld--no lecherous male gaze or envious female stink eye in this "utopia." These women know they are glamorous without needing (or seeking) validation of it from others.

To get back to how this is relevant to sports: perhaps what women need is a sport that combines the physical "freedom" of acrobatics but that has some kind of objective measure of who wins and loses, where merit is determined by the performers, not by observers.

I have no idea what this might look like.

Anonymous said...

You suppose porn will be an event one day?

Anonymous said...

The biggest scandal in the Olympics is the medal in Equestrian only going to the person. What about one for the horse(which does all the hard work)?

Anonymous said...

How about scrotum hacky-sack? That seems to be the favorite sport of the married women and feminists, at least. I don't know how it would play on TV, though.

Anonymous said...

I think spear-fighting and kendo would be great events.

Anonymous said...

How about the 100 m cartwheel?

Anonymous said...

How about hotdog eating?

Anonymous said...

The truly ridiculous Olympics event--and a huge money-waster--is Paralympics. Everyone is for it(to pat themselves on the back as being so compassionate and inclusive)but NO ONE WATCHES IT.
But I think I know a way to make paralymics popular by at least making it entertaining.
How about blind boxing, armless wrestling, and equestrian with three legged horses.

Anonymous said...

"Trampolining was recently added to the Olympics"

This is what I call a bullshit event.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else -- and it hasn't -- it's that girls should stick to girls' sports, such as hot-oil wrestling, foxy boxing, and such-and-such.

(r)Evoluzione said...

"So, here's my idea for the perfect 21st Century sport for middle class American families with daughters: invent a sport where the girls fly, do quadruple somersaults and quintuple axels or whatever, but are actually in movie special effect wire work harnesses, like in The Matrix."

This exists. It's called aerial dance.
http://youtu.be/yOotE8XpuCw?t=5m50s

Geoff Matthews said...

If it requires a judge, it isn't a sport.
I am aware that this would eliminate most of the events at the Olympics. This is a feature, not a bug.

Anonyia said...

There is no need to search for some mythical sport to interest women that is still somewhat feminine: they already exist in the form of running, volleyball, tennis, swimming, diving, etc.

Most leisure runners these days actually do seem to be female, a change that has occurred in the past 10 years.

Kylie said...

"So, here's my idea for the perfect 21st Century sport for middle class American families with daughters: invent a sport where the girls fly, do quadruple somersaults and quintuple axels or whatever, but are actually in movie special effect wire work harnesses, like in The Matrix."

Or like a premenopausal Mary Martin playing Peter Pan.

"...perhaps what women need is a sport that combines the physical 'freedom' of acrobatics but that has some kind of objective measure of who wins and loses, where merit is determined by the performers, not by observers.

I have no idea what this might look like."


Dwarf tossing?

Ex Submarine Officer said...

Why, for generations, have women been buying magazines to look at pictures of 5'10" 112 pound fashion models?

Two things that men and women have in common is that they like looking at women and enjoy the company of men.

Anonymous said...

Right, what women really want is a sport where they don't have to wear skimpy clothing, so their daughters don't grow up with a job where they have to spread their legs wide and spin around a pole. Any Olympic sport reminding them of that dire fate would surely be unpopular.

Anonymous said...

Like that awesome bungee/dance thing Angelina Jolie did in the Tomb Raider movie! That would be a great sport.

Anonymous said...

If Mr. Sailer reads this, could he please provide a link for the specific studies on children and rule making that he alluded to?

Anonymous said...

Girls want things that make
Common sense,
The best for all concerned.
Don't want to have to go
Out of their way, and the
Girls want to be with the girls.
Girls are getting into
Abstract analysis, want to
Make that intuitive leap.
They're making plans that have
Far-reaching effects, and the
Girls want to be with the girls.

David Byrne is right, as so often.

Anonymous said...

I have a theory that teenage girls in sports is the cause of the epidemic of man-jaw we are experiencing. I read somewhere that boys get their square jaws at adolescence when there is a surge of testosterone. My theory is that competitive sports releases extra testosterone in women during adolescence and thus, man-jaw. So keep girls out of sports until their 20s.

neil craig said...

When Musk gets his commercial flights to space going I think zero-G gymnastics/ballet would fit the bill.Not likely to have mmass competition till the cost comes waay down but that may make it all the more alluring.

Londoner said...

As spectators, women who are even slightly interested in sports like to watch what men like to watch - men's sports. The overt lesbianism of much women's sport, coupled with grim memories of the unwanted attention of butch physical education teachers at school, puts a lot of women off having anything to do with e.g. women's football, rugby etc. Plus women have an eye for exceptional skill and athleticism, and they know they're not going to find that in women's sports. For participation, most women I know also prefer mixed sports - tennis, badminton, volleyball, rounders, ultimate frisbee. There is little appetite for an all-female sporting environment. Playing alongside men gives structure and direction to any game (your point about playground rules) and allows women to compete as vigourously as they want without any real risk of winning - which in an all-female field is as likely to make you hated as admired. Plus most women don't object to hanging out with some sporty guys for a couple of hours.

Snowboarding is a really interesting one - it is fairly dangerous and often exceedingly physically painful, and yet women - usually pretty, feminine ones too - absolutely love it. So snowboarding gets my vote as the sport/discipline which best combines athleticism, intensity and physical challenge on the one hand with feminine grace and elegance on the other (and yes they do love the snowwear fashions).

Anonymous said...

Do any of you guys even KNOW a woman?

Any sport that would truly appeal to women would have to involve elaborate and expensive outfits.

el dorado said...

"Two things that men and women have in common is that they like looking at women and enjoy the company of men."

Not really. We enjoy talking about liking the company of men. Men are very important, after all. And when there's any common ground at all, we do enjoy communication with them. There are a few who really seem to have found Mr. Right and some who just prefer men either because they are very sexual or just like masculine interests better; some girls had close relationships with brothers or fathers and keep on looking for that--I still expect the ideal man to be into scientific and sci-fi like my older brother; but by and large, most of my female friends and acquaintences have more fun among themselves, with about 20% of the conversation about how they would like to find Mr. Right. Or maybe they're just more comfortable. In my entourage, the 80% remainder can get very strange and atypical though. It's mostly in the head, enjoying men's company.

Anonymous said...

An Olympic post with no mention of plunge for distance? What gives?

Lise said...

@a woman "Yes, what the fashion magazine sells is a fantasy, an escape, but it does so by couching that escape in mystery."

you said this so well!

I would add that fashion models' and gymnists' freedoms include an inability to get pregnant. They are like anti-Aurignacian Venus statues.

Kylie said...

"Two things that men and women have in common is that they like looking at women and enjoy the company of men."

Maybe in your circle. I'd say two things that men and women have in common is that they like looking at women and enjoy critiquing the women they look at.

Jean_d said...

I agree girls like defying gravity. Witness the huge popularity of freestyle skiing, for example. Dangerous, but crazy exciting.

I also think that girls/women like their individual sports to be about them, not the other person. So boxing and wrestling will never achieve the same popularity. It's not necessarily about hurting other people.

It's interesting that the IOC was so quick to add sports that few people were clamoring for - wrestling and boxing, while steadfastly and repeatedly refusing to add women's ski jumping, a sport for which there is great interest. (Which is also gravity defying!)

Plung for Distance said...

It's odd that they've kept ballroom dance out of the Olympics for so long despite heavy lobbying.

This, given the popularity among women of figure skating and gymnastics which are basically hybrids of dance.

My guess is that there are far more women in the world who dance than do gymnastics or ice skate.

pat said...

It looks like I came back just in time. No one seems to have considered Women of Ninja Warrior.

That's the marketing name for American TV and of course it has nothing to do with ninjas or warriors, but it is an artificial sport created specifically for women's abilities and limitations.

The original Ninja Warrior was (and still is) open to both sexes. For those who don't know - it's a four stage obstacle course conducted over the course of a single day outside. It has been designed to favor the small Japanese man. The greatest ninja has been Makoto Nagano who is 5'3" and weights 130 pounds. He is now being surpassed by a younger and even smaller guy.

Americans are just too big. They never can get past the third stage which emphasizes upper body strength. Approximately 99% of all entrants fail. Except women. 100% of all women have failed. Indeed only one woman has ever gotten past the first stage.

So they made up a women's only version that is better suited to their abilities. The principal quality that they emphasize is balance. The women look good competing. Most of them fall in the water of course but they look good doing it.

Albertosaurus

PC adherent said...

The PC logic gets a little twisted around these new women's sports.

It seems that most recent sports like women's boxing, wrestling and MMA are nearly exclusively for the entertainment of men. You can see an all white (does that make it racists as well?) male audience at this women's MMA championship bout at 10:02 in the video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o8s4YmcOIU&feature=related

Even promoter of "sports" like pole dancing can at least claim to have much more popularity among women in health clubs than brutal martial arts sports that women are being promoted in.

So it is more PC to support sexist sports like pole dancing that many women actually like or to support empowering sports like MMA that the vast majority of women don't like and done for the enjoyment of white men?

Anonymous said...

South Africans should petition to have rape made into an event. Easy golds for them.

Anonymous said...

More ridiculous the sport, the less major nations are likely to invest their money and time in winning them... and so small nations have a chance of winning golds too.

Anonymous said...

Equestrian move aside.

Anonymous said...

How about armwrestling?

Anonymous said...

How about the 50 m sprint and 25 m sprint.

Anonymous said...

How about the bench press and dead lift?

Anonymous said...

How about rope climbing?

Anonymous said...

http://youtu.be/WOZIG16XaGM

More ideas for new events.

Anonymous said...

http://youtu.be/4ZfPb6e7NeI

Now, here's a real sport.

Anonymous said...

"Peter said...
Skydiving is (literally) a flying-through-the-air sport, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to score."

Easy.
Last person to open parachute gets gold.
Second from last to open parachute gets silver.
Third from last to open parachute gets bronze.

Hacienda said...

The few women who do box seem to enjoy it.

I knew girl basketball players before Title 9, that would hang around looking for games. They were not not not good, but still enjoyed playing. And the best of them were better than the worst boy players. But the circumstances prevented them from expressing their enjoyment at being better. Is that tragic? Or that just the lot of women?
Are women just men locked up in the jail of women's bodies? And wouldn't Olympic boxing be a step in finding out? Let's find out!

Beauty and athletic competition don't mix well. Figure skating is the perfect blend. Rythmic gymnastics, synch swimming is about a close as the summer games get to the perfect sport for women.

James Kabala said...

"There is no need to search for some mythical sport to interest women that is still somewhat feminine: they already exist in the form of running, volleyball, tennis, swimming, diving, etc."

This is correct. At least on the high school level, the idea that for a girl to play sports is unusual or freakish has been dead for a long time. It was certainly dead or at least dying when I was in high school in the 1990s.

Steve Sailer said...

Fourth to open his parachute gets to live.

rob said...

I wondered why you put up a picture of a bunch of dudes hanging out in a living room for an article about lesbians getting married. I had to enlarge the photo several times to figure out that I was wrong.

as said...

I love Michael Blowharattracted to supermodels; theyd. Finally, something more intelligent, sensitive, and perceptive than the usual "no straight men are look like boys; they are too thin; fashion is gay, etc..."

I bet Michael Blowhard has had lots of women fall madly in love with him, unlike anyone else in the "hbd" sphere.

Peter said...

The few women who do box seem to enjoy it ... Beauty and athletic competition don't mix well.

Oddly enough, some women boxers are quite hot. Here are a few, all champions in their weight divisions:

Anne Sophie Mathis (middleweight)

Hanna Gabriel (light middleweight)

Frida Wallberg (super featherweight)

Jelena Mrdjenovich (featherweight)

Jackie Nava (super bantamweight)

Leader of the Sailer Blog Commentariat said...

Sport women would like?

Extreme shopping.

Anonymous said...

It's always amusing to witness Steve's readers expound on their knowledge of game blogs when they don't know any real women.

Anonymous said...

"And the best of them were better than the worst boy players. But the circumstances prevented them from expressing their enjoyment at being better. Is that tragic? Or that just the lot of women?"

To not give it to them both ways. To let them be happy to defeat boys, and yet not letting even mediocre boys enjoy beating the crap out of the best of them. Or to give extra training to the worst of boys so that even they can beat the crap out of 'em.

It's not unusual to see 'women's rights' et al being defended even on conservative sites as a fall-back plan for the traditional women of yesteryears, "my granny lost her husband, or he was a drunkard, her education was thus vitally important". The fall-back plan is now officially the alternate plan.
For men, there is nothing if they don't pass the first test.

The whole 'women's sports' is the same thing. Letting women have it both ways. Those who are feminine get a good deal, those who are freaks still get to have a good deal, while their betters are being made to deal with their feminine side.
And to top it off they want more, "equal prize money now goddamit" with chants of girlpower.

Though to answer your question, such sad feelings can never originate in the first place if she was never taught the game. Same for the other 'grieving from the sexism in the world' girls.

Anonymous said...

"Oddly enough, some women boxers are quite hot. Here are a few, all champions in their weight divisions"

They won't be hot for long. I can take women's wrestling, but women's boxing just seems eewwwww.

Anonymous said...

And if sports are an expression of the intense male-male sexual competition then it's easy to see why it'd be unsettling for females to be allowed in them just because one of them can play better than some other male players.
Indeed, the feminist dogma that men enjoy battering women sounds more like their own inner feelings that come out as 'girlpower'/'down with male ego' chants when vice-versa happens.

IOW instead of the framing the debate as why don't males allow females in their competitions, it should be framed as to why are these women so insistent on being spoilsports and crashing the party.

Dr Van Nostrand said...

Wonder if this womanly fondness for flying is why all these feminine hygiene products have "wings"!

Seriously though women have no business flying..a plane anyway.Female pilots are four times more likely to crash a plane than men!But they are safer car drivers than men!

Anonymous said...

Any flight instructor, male or female, would rather have female students. Women do fine in many areas of flying. They actually excel at flying rescue helicopters, they will go where the men won't, which is good news if you're a downed airman behind enemy lines. But they have no business in fighters.

Dr Van Nostrand said...

They actually excel at flying rescue helicopters, they will go where the men won't, which is good news if you're a downed airman behind enemy lines. "

Please provided evidence for above claim.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Here's a new article that confirms your general take on women's interest in the Olympics.