Screw You, Tim Tebow: Thoughts from a Feminist Sports Fan

{Katy Gehred is a first-year graduate student in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. Originally from Dayton, Ohio; she is currently researching gender in early-America.}

Photo courtesy of SI.com

Prior to the Broncos/Steelers game of January 8, one of my friends posted a Facebook status which read something along the lines of: “Well, one of them will rape you and the other won’t let you get an abortion.”

I’m sure that dark comedy like that was floating all over the internet before the Tim Tebow/Ben Roethlesberger showdown. I noticed because usually the sports smack-talk that shows up on my feed is humorous at best, and at worst annoying; rarely does it touch upon topics that I actually care about.

Now, as a Packers fan I know a little something about loyalty to a sports team (unlike Brett Favre, OH SNAP!) and so I understand how trivial it is. I mean, I root for the Packers, I get emotionally involved to the point of shouting at my television screen and then I move on with my life. Loyalty to a specific sports team is simultaneously insanely dedicated and astonishingly trivial. Because after the blood, sweat, tears, and emotion of a football game is over, it all comes down to a bunch of guys in weird outfits running around and knocking each other over.

Perhaps I’m revealing myself as a bad fan or something, but I’ve always assumed that the whole point of football was that it didn’t matter. It’s a cathartic way to have some silly regional pride—or vent some pent up emotions—while eating Buffalo wings with people you like.

And so when a scandal happens, like Ben Roethlisberger or Kobe Bryant being accused of rape—or the horrible Penn State child abuse case—all of a sudden something fun and cathartic gets mixed up with something deeply serious and disturbing. And that can be conflicting for a fan whose parents dressed them in team jerseys before they could even talk; it’s hard to shake that kind of dedication.

Much ink has been spilled about sex scandals in sports. The media loves pitting the stereotypical he-man sports fan—who’s never taken a Women’s Studies course in his life— against the anti rape-culture of women’s rights activism. Rape cases and sex scandals are rarely cut and dry and so a whole lot of hate and victimizing gets spat out before the media finally loses its interest. And by then, usually, the perpetrator goes back to being a role-model for children and making more money than I’ll see in my entire life.

And so life is hard for a feminist sports fan. I certainly don’t have any answers. Is it better to just pack it in and boycott sports? When I think about the beer commercials I’ll have to sit through that sounds pretty tempting. But then I think about that Giants game last week when I could hear everyone in the apartments around mine celebrating simultaneously. I’ll never hate sports, but I just can’t forgive the rape apologists either.

LEMME TELL YA ‘BOUT SPORTS

John Walker is a Sarah Lawrence graduate who really likes the internet a lot.

So, sports.

Yeah, so, bring a book. I was gonna write something that would oh-so-subtly lead you from the theme of sports to the actual subject of my post: halftime shows. Then, I realized that I was really down to the wire in getting this piece in. Ok, so whatever, I still was totally set on my theme! AND THEN Gawker, by way of Deadspin, decided to rank every halftime show EVER on the Kinsey scale, as in assigning it a 0-6 as determined by its dad-rock to sequined riffs quotient.

Brilliant! Unless you’re me, right now. So basically, I’m not gonna fuck around with you. I’m gonna get right to the point and state loudly and clearly: I’M WRITING ABOUT MADONNA, AND YES, IT’S RELEVANT TO SPORTS. OH, AND, LET ME COUNT THE WAYS.

*ALSO I JUST NOTICED THAT I’M REALLY INTO COMMAS ATM [at the moment, not automated telling machine, IF THAT’S EVEN FOR WHAT IT STANDS #whatsgoogle]. FOR THE SAKE OF THIS PIECE, LET’S JUST SAY IT’S MY “STYLE.”*

Let’s begin:

1. Coming off of her Golden Globe win for Best Original Song, Madonna continues her comeback at the Super Bowl halftime show. Along with a medley featuring her classic hits “Ray of Light,” “Vogue,” “Music,” and “Holiday,” “The ‘Donz” [as nobody calls her] will publicly premiere her soon-to-be released single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.

This combo intrigues me, as the minaj ménage evokes 21 flavors of nihilism in quite unique ways. Madonna’s, while originally landing on the more hedonistic side of things, has, since 1998’s pivotal Ray of Light, performed in a cool and almost emotionless persona. M.I.A. is quite similar in her delivery, never seeming to be “trying,” so to speak, when she approaches the listener. It’s in her musical composition, especially on MAYA, that she speaks to a certain destructive quality, what with chainsaws as actual instruments and the like. More performative in her nihilism is Minaj, at least when in her Roman persona. Hers is a much more literal interpretation of destruction, which when coupled with such stony personas as Madonna and M.I.A., makes for quite the intriguing grouping.

2. As for the single itself, “Give Me All Your Luvin'” is still givin’ me 21 flavors of tingles [is this my “thing” now? ugh fml whatever I stand by it], even nearly four months following its unofficial leak.

In case you don’t know the full deal, here’s a super brief summary: someone fan in Spain leaked the song in November, litigation ensued, and most importantly John’s had a demo copy of the single to jam to since late fall.

Caught up? Good.

While not a revolutionary new step in her musical evolution, I feel like “Give Me All Your Luvin'” expertly blends together the first two periods of Madonna’s career in a seamless, effortless way. When I listen to the song, I hear hints of “Burning Up” couple with an overall undertone of “Beautiful Stranger,” and yeah, perhaps the kinetic feeling of “Ray of Light.” Using “Madonna” as a framework through which to create new work, the eponymous songstress is thrillingly post-modern, or rather, post-Madonna.

Ok, yeah, that was awful. Sorry. Ugh.

3. Maybe I’m just 8 years old (or, uh, 19) but Madonna’s new album is called M.D.N.A.

lolz.

4. Madonna’s probably going to wear fingerless gloves and/or long sleeves, because the world can’t handle the fact that she has really veiny, “unfeminine” arms. It’s really quite silly, because these underlying aspects of her physique are only visible because A) she’s in really good fucking shape, and B) the cul-tcha DEMANDS that she be so toned in the first place simply to remain relevant. It’s like, nobody would care about her if she didn’t keep herself in a sinewy state, and yet all she gets in return is: “GO HOME GRANDMA GAGA FOREVSTAT!!!!”

I would love to have that kind of muscle definition, but eh, I’m pretty happy with most of my arm-lifting being related to pouring more cabernet.

Whatever, what I really wanna talk about is: FINGERLESS GLOVES AT SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOWS. BECAUSE. It reminds me of what Britney Spears wore at the 2001 extravaganza, AND BY EXTENSION, what was considered cool to don at the time. I’ve been cooking this in-retrospect theory about popular fashions from late 2000 to mid-2002, and it goes something like: “DON’T WEAR ANYTHING ON YOUR DECOLLETAGE, CLEAVAGE, OR MIDRIFF. INSTEAD, DO WEAR FABRIC OVER YOUR ANKLES, WRISTS, AND ARMS.” Here are some visuals.

4. I’m really interested to see Madonna re-assert herself in a post-Lady Gaga music context. FIRST OF LET ME SAY NO DUH, LADY GAGA IS ALREADY ASSERTING, OR RATHER INSERTING HERSELF INTO A POST-MADONNA WORLD, WHICH IS A POST-THIS PERSON, POST-THAT PERSON WORLD ANYWAY. But come on. In a culture whose memory exponentially dwindles by the year, this is for all intents and purposes a “post-Lady Gaga era.”

Released in 2008, Madonna’s last album, Hard Candy was released four months, to the day, before Lady Gaga’s The Fame, at least according to Wikipedia. Gimme a break, I don’t go to school anymore. BYE BYE, CREDIBLE SOURCES TO BACK UP THE WORD COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH.

Especially considering Madonna’s recent 20/20 interview, during which she stated that comparing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” with “Express Yourself” was, in her words, “reductive,” I’m interested how she fares.

About Madonna’s “reductive” comment, I can understand it two ways: A) Yes, “Born This Way” is a reductive reinterpretation of “Express Yourself,” seeing as how Lady Gaga is taking in many ways the rubric set forth by her predecessor and yet not quite delivering the punch; and B) The question itself – “Is Lady Gaga copying you, Madonna?” – is a reductive manner in which to view pop culture, female icons, and even interviews, seeing as how the interviewer [WHO DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT REDUCTIVE MEANS] could have asked Madonna ANYTHING, and she focused on “Is Lady Gaga copying you?”

*PS – Can you tell how much I struggled not to say “Gaga” or “Madge?” I just don’t like “Gaga” minus the “Lady,” and who the eff calls Madonna “Madge” IRL??

5. I’ll work on being coherent, should we meet again.

6. GO PATS!

Super Bowl Round-Up

Super Bowl News and Analysis

Huffington Post: What to Say to Young Boys and Men About Big Ben

“There will also likely be considerable hand-wringing from many in Steeler Nation, who will cheer for their team with a troubled conscience, out of concern that their cheers could be construed as support for a man — the team’s quarterback and on-field leader — with a disgraceful record of mistreating women.

The following talking points are designed to give parents, coaches and other adults some ideas about how to frame conversations with boys and young men (and girls and young women) about the Ben Roethlisberger case.”

Change.org: Super Bowl: ‘One of the Biggest Human Trafficking Events in the U.S.’

“At the second annual meeting of Texas’ anti-trafficking task force last week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot announced that his staff is already getting ready to help authorities stop traffickers during the Super Bowl—which he described as “one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States.” Task force staff will train law enforcement to identify victims of trafficking, and to engage with them as victims, rather than criminals.”

ColorLines: Mike Tomlin’s Super Bowl Return Is Proof Affirmative Action Works

“But Tomlin wouldn’t likely be roaming the sidelines if not for the Rooney Rule, which requires an NFL team with a head coaching vacancy to interview a candidate of color. Before the rule, few African Americans were granted interviews, let alone given head coaching jobs.”

Socialist Worker: Those Non-Profit Packers

“Actually, it’s not quite accurate to say the Packers are without an owner. They have 112,000 of them. The Packers are owned by the fans, making them the only publicly owned, not-for-profit, major professional team in the United States.

…. In the United States, we socialize the debt of sports and privatize the profits. Green Bay stands as a living, breathing–and, for the owners, frightening–example that pro sports can aid our cities in tough economic times, not drain them of scarce public resources.”

Ms. Magazine: There’s a Reason Lucy Grabs the Football from Charlie Brown

“When do corporations spend $100K-per-second for TV ads in which the product will inevitably be forgotten by consumers, but the content will help spread misogynistic stereotypes?

On Super Bowl Sunday.”