Creating players or femininity?

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National Pro Fastpitch , . Is Jennie Finch Part of the Solution?. N.d. Photograph. http://www.janettv.comWeb. 4 Feb 2014. <http://www.janettv.com/7-ways-better-promote-women’s-fastpitch-softball&gt;.

When one first looks at this ad, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t probably race or gender but just another one of your typical ads. At face value, we just see this as an ad trying to promote and publicize softball. However, if one were to look more in depth, one could see that the image of who and what type of girl plays softball, is being subtly imprinted and reinforced into our minds. Through mainstream advertising techniques, this ad is reinforcing the stereotypical softball player as this blonde hair, caucasian woman.

Our culture sees the ideal woman as this blonde hair, fit girl in which Jennie fits into perfectly. This entices people to the ad and perhaps the sport because they want to meet this idea of the ideal woman. Jennie isn’t overly masculine in the way she looks and in fact has a pretty balanced body. Her body thus reinforces the image of what women should look like to be considered a softball player or athlete. Going further into this, by choosing Jennie, the advertisers are discriminating against all other races and body-types who may be interested in this sport. It’s hard to want to join a sport if you’ve never seen anyone who looks like you participate in it. This is similar to the NFL Draft article in that nowadays, Caucasian athletes don’t feel like they even have a chance in football compared to African Americans just because of their race. The image of NFL players are a majority African American and this alone discourages people of other ethnicities to even try out.

Also, just like Heywood’s article about “Producing Girls”. Just like how the Go! Girl! Go! project was supposed to encourage and show girls that by being athletes, they can too be successful in the corporate world, this ad is showing girls what type of person is successful in playing softball. These ads shape the ideals we have of women either in the corporate world or on the softball diamond and whereas the corporations that were behind the funding of the Go! Girl! Go! project consciously and directly were influencing girls to one day join the corporate world, the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) organization (funded ad) is in turn doing the same thing for fastpitch softball whether they are conscious of it or not.

Lastly, the way Jennie is positioned in the ad is a very feminine pose. It’s not one of her in action and showing the intense and competitive side of the sport. This relates to the many ads in which woman are always shown as soft and inviting and not hard and intense. The smile on her face and the closed, angled position of her body also makes her less intimidating. The staging of her body reinforces femininity by showing the world once again that women are these sweet, nurturing, non-aggressive people. This part of the ad goes against the lesbian/butch stereotype softball carries. It also undermines how intense and competitive softball is. By promoting softball in this way, it makes the sport more appealing to new players because the gay stereotype might not make the sport too attractive. As with most stereotypes, they’re simply not true and just because one plays softball, it doesn’t make them gay. By presenting Jennie as they did, NPF can ignore the negative stereotype and increase the appeal of the sport.

Overall, in trying to promote fastpitch softball, the NPF brought up issues of race and femininity into light. By choosing Jenny as their spokesperson, they may have inadvertently discouraged other races or girls of different body types away from the sport.

References 

Oates, Thomas P. “Erotic Gaze in the NFL Draft” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 4:1, 2007, 74-90.

Heywood, Leslie “Producing Girls: Empire, Sport, and the Neoliberal Body” in Physical Culture, Power, and the Body, London: Routledge, 2007, 101-120.

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One Response to Creating players or femininity?

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    I like how you imply that Jennie Finch is part of an sort of re-branding of softball as properly feminized. It gets at the question of, what is the problem to which she is the solution? Is it dominant stereotypes of lesbianism in softball? Does Finch properly sexualize the sport? These would be great questions to explore further. I like your analysis about her position, but I still feel as if there is something more to the crouch. And what’s up with all the softballs surrounding her? Why is she showing one of them to us?

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