This advertisement for the National Pro Fastpitch league contains the argument embedded within it that masculinity is tied to a lack of safety. Within the selected image, is a person, or in this case a softball player, who seems to be laying on the dirt reaching for a base. It appears that this photo was taken at the time when the player was diving into a base based on the location of the base and the players hand, the dirt flying in the air around the player on the ground, and finally the glove containing the ball which looks to be in a motion of a tag. Also contained within the image is a helmet which looks to be flying in the air most likely as a result of the tag.
The caption on this advertisement reads, “When you play this hard safe is a relative term.” This caption brings up an interesting point about masculinity, that in order to be masculine safety is not an issue nor a priority, one has to be “tough”. In the article “Reflections on Communication and Sport: On Women and Femininities” by Toni Bruce some key points are discussed regarding media sport. Toni Bruce explains that both female sports journalists and female athletes, “are not male, and , as such, are not valued within the sport/media complex because they do not and can never meet the masculine standards on which it is built”(130). Essentially, female athletes lack importance and attention due to their lack of masculinity. Therefore, within the National Pro Fastpitch ad we see an attempt to prove this “masculinity” and gain attention through demonstrating a lack of safety, that softball is a high contact sport and therefore is masculine and worthy.
Leslie Heywood brings up contradictory analysis regarding can do and at risk girls in “Producing Girls”. Can Do girls are defined as the women who are adapting, flexible, and being active in the sports world. At risk girls on the other hand are those not involved in athletics (Heywood 104). Ironically, as it pertains to this advertisement; the woman pictured in this image who would be considered a can do girl, due to her involvement in sports, is literally at risk. Her helmet has been hit off her head exposing her to possible injury. The advertisement, in an attempt to project masculinity has demonstrated that can do girls are actually at risk, in terms of their safety.
Another factor of this advertisement that contributes to the attempt to display masculinity is the lack of obvious gender. The person in the image is obviously a woman as it is an advertisement for Women’s National Pro Fastpitch however she is not highly feminized and her gender is ambiguous. Sexuality also has a large role in the gender identification of this character due to the, “widespread assumption that women participating in sports that embody physical strength, aggression, and physical contact may be lesbian” (Bruce 129). Therefore, the stereotype that woman who are athletic have to embody “masculine” concepts such as physical strength and aggression and are also lesbian is extremely prevalent in society as seen through this advertisement. Society has placed the stereotype on women who are athletic as attempting to be or who are masculine women. With this stereotype in place it is impossible for a female athlete to be feminine because in order to be an athlete one must maintain masculine qualities, and as this advertisement exemplifies, lacking safety is an important masculine quality.
Bruce, Toni. “Reflections on Communication and Sport: On Women and Femininities” Communication and Sport 1:1/2 (2012) 125-137.
Heywood, Leslie “Producing Girls: Empire, Sport, and the Neoliberal Body” in Physical Culture, Power, and the Body, London: Routledge, 2007, 101-120.
National Pro Fastpitch. Advertisement. Pro Fastpitch. National Pro Fastpitch, Dec. 2011. Web. Jan. 29. <http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/national-pro-fastpitch-softball-played-hard-3-14923205/>.