Are they heroes or homosexual?



It is difficult to discuss the stereotypes that surround field hockey because the assumptions about the sport in the United States are not transnational.  In fact, the dominant ideologies surrounding the sport in the U.S. are almost the exact opposite of those held in countries where field hockey is much more common, like Great Britain.  In the United States, field hockey is seen as a woman’s sport.  Most people think that men do not even play it and when they find out that they do, they think it is humorous and ask if the men wear skirts and if they are all “gay”.  In the U.K. field hockey is predominately a male sport and holds no sexuality stereotypes like it does stateside. When looking at this advertisement I first thought of all the ways in which Americans would view it, but then it crossed my mind that this advertisement was not meant for Americans.  This advertisement is a photograph of members of the British 2012 Olympic Field Hockey Team.  It appeared in the July 2012 issue of Cosmopolitan UK as part of the British testicular cancer campaign, Everyman.

The photo depicts several men posed around each other.  Each man is in very good physical shape has depicted by the lines their muscles create and the shadowing and highlighting used to emphasize the large size of their muscles.  Field hockey sticks are also held by a few of the men to connect them to their extraordinary talent as members of the Olympic field hockey team.  In this manner the advertisement is relying on the use of the male gaze (Bruce).  The male gaze is typically used to sexualize and objectify a female body, but in this case it is being used to objectify and sexualize male bodies.  The ad is for testicular cancer, thus they are attempting to appeal to men, not women.  The male gaze is used for ordinary men to be able to look at these extraordinary men.  The men in the photo with their ideal bodies and superior athletic ability embody hegemonic masculinity.  Every man who sees the athletes wishes that he could be like them.  The advertisement thus utilizes this dominant ideology surrounding what a man should look like and be able to do to raise awareness that testicular cancer can effect “every man”, even these men who everyone holds in such high regards.

However, due to the advertisement using the male gaze to look at men instead of women, it opens up the door for people to discuss sexuality.  On one hand, one can look at the photo for what it is suppose to be.  It is meant to demonstrate hegemonic masculinity by showing men with ideal bodies positioned and lighted to show off their muscles and essentially their “manliness”.  This goes against many of the stereotypes held by Americans who think that field hockey is a female sport.  However, despite how muscular the men may be, the photo still shows a bunch of men naked together.  While only two of the men are physically touching in the photo, it immediately raises questions of homosexuality.  This homoerotic view thus coincides with many American stereotypes of male field hockey players who believe male field hockey players are feminine and “gay”.  As mentioned before, this is where the issue of transnationalism comes to play.  The British do not hold these stereotypes about men who play field hockey.  In the U.K. playing field hockey is just as “manly” as football or soccer.  Consequently, I do not think this advertisement would raise the same homosexual discourse that it would in the United States.  Overall, to the American audience with their stereotypes and ideologies, I do not think this ad would be successful for its cause.  However, to the British audience who do not hold the same stereotypes as the Americans, I think it is a brilliant way to flip the script of dominant ideologies to expose the realities every man: big or small, famous athlete or mail man, has to face.


Bruce, Toni. “Reflections on Communication and Sport on Women and Femininities.”  Communication & Sport 1(1-2). Pp. 125-137. 2013. Print.

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1 Response to Are they heroes or homosexual?

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    Your attention to the differences in the sport stereotypes across transnational contexts is really important. It demonstrates how the reading of cultural meaning is always dependent on the particular context in which the reading is taking place. This ad also lends itself to what some scholars call a “gay window” reading or advertisement. Such ads can be read differently by a straight or queer audience. Such images contain subtle clues that imply an alternative reading to what a heteronormative audience might see. The man touching the other man’s shoulder could be read as one of these subtle signs. This image also makes me think that the ad works to masculinize testicular cancer, a disease that is often read and felt as emasculating because of the surgeries and procedures often undertaken by patients. Using sport masculinity as a way to rewrite this narrative is interesting and worth thinking about further.

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