Saucers of Mud

August 18, 2008

Sociological Images

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 8:19 am

via a few sites recently, Sociological Images is a fantastic blog, which uses pictures to explain stuff. See the sexualization of female Olympic athletes, this post on how employees have to put their emotions to work, this post on the incompatibility of sex and engineering, and this ad from 1934 about the envy of skinny women for women who can put on weight. And this ad about how fat, nonwhite peasants inconvenience people who are destined to make over $100k (which I’d actually seen elsewhere). And other posts.

Thinking about this partly because of this picture — that’s the Pirates’ #1 draft pick, pictured in Pittsburgh black and gold.* You don’t even need the caption to recognize the image it’s taking off of, which is pretty impressive considering the color scheme isn’t even the same. Amazing job by the original artist in creating an iconic image.

*The Pirate fan community is excited because the new management team actually drafted the best player available and signed him for a lot of money but not too much, which is a nice change from the active malice exercised by the last two management teams.



  1. The game depicted in the last link of the first paragraph is clearly much more fun than the actual game of tennis. If the original guy had got hit with a racket I’d pay money to watch that sport.

    Comment by matt w — August 18, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  2. I thought about doing a post on the first set of pictures, but it would have been to point out that the uniforms (especially the track uniforms) by athlete’s preference and country. The American men in the 100m dash were wearing completely form-fitting unitards (or tight shirt compression shorts combo), and so were the women. The American women have fairly normal looking basketball jerseys, etc.

    And according to the NBC Olympics site, women can compete beach volleyball in one piece bathing suits, so I’m not sure where the rumors that there are limits on the amount of material used are coming from. (The guys still get to wear shorts, so it’s not the best example, but there’s no bikini-only rule.)

    I didn’t do the post because I agree with the overall point, but I found the images to be very much cherry-picked.

    Comment by dana — August 18, 2008 @ 10:50 am

  3. I thought they didn’t have a case for field hockey (the woman is wearing a skirt, but I’m not sure that’s any more sexualized than shorts). I was going to be a bit dubious about the basketball uniforms, but from this article apparently the tight stretchy basketball uniforms have been an issue (this also suggests that those may be old pictures). Beach volleyball is probably an extreme case, as the Crisis On Infinite Unfogged Flamewars reveals, but those track uniforms are ridiculous. (And even women wear those uniforms because they’re super-awesome athletically and not because they’re sexy, it still raises the question of why men in track don’t feel comfortable running in dong pouches.)

    In 2000 the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported maximum uniform sizes for beach volleyball in the Sydney Olympics. Maybe it’s an Australian thing?

    Also, since I’m posting, I get to post another thought about the folks behind that Ladders ad, if stealing from Belle Waring counts as a thought: That guy is so far at the front of the line that he may be up against the wall right this minute, absent any revolution whatsoever.

    Comment by matt w — August 18, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

  4. Are you, or they, nuts? That guy in the Ladders ad can’t even defend himself against being knocked over by a fat sweaty peasant! Who would ever hire him for a $100K+ job?

    Comment by Ben — August 19, 2008 @ 2:07 am

  5. I didn’t find the page on the Olympics particularly insightful. This trend has been obvious for at least 8 years, maybe more. Although athletes (male and female) are being sexualized, it is quite possible to see a liberating side for women athletes. First, being a strong, muscled woman is now seen as a positive, versus ideals of willowy ladylikeness. Second, it is a continuation of a trend in which women’s uniforms set aside modesty in favor of practicality – women used to have to play tennis in long skirts.

    Beach volleyball is obviously ridiculous, but it’s a special case – it’s freakin’ beach volleyball! It’s very athletic, but it’s not a real sport, it’s TV candy. The matches have official cheerleaders even at the Olympics.

    If you look at male distance runners, their shorts have gotten tighter and more skimpy over the years, too. They still wear tank tops rather than baring midriffs, but this is partly a question of what’s customary in the larger society – showing bellybutton is more acceptable for women than men, except for guys in cutoff shirts who drive Camaros. The male runners are always likely to have slightly more substantial shorts because, um, the need for some type of jock strap to avoid discomfort. There are other differences, like steeplechasers seem to still wear baggy shorts.

    A subtlety that the page should have picked up, but did not, is that uniforms vary slightly depending on the sensibility/prudishness of the athlete’s country. Look at the female runners – women from countries like Algeria often wear shorts that are rather longer than Daisy Dukes. This illustrates that anti-sexualization is not necessarily a liberating step.

    Comment by Ben — August 19, 2008 @ 2:39 am

  6. Well, the page was all Australian athletes — it didn’t address differences between countries. I think we can agree that both anti-sexualization and hyper-sexualization can be inimical to feminism.

    I also don’t think that the strong, muscled thing is that liberating, given how thin these women are. Not so counterstereotype.

    Comment by matt w — August 19, 2008 @ 10:30 am

  7. Not very relevant, but I just found out that Pittsburgh has a women’s football team, The Pittsburgh Passion:
    Their garb seems not hypersexualized.

    Comment by Matt's mom — August 19, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

  8. Relevant.

    Comment by andrew — August 22, 2008 @ 12:34 am

  9. […] Saucers of Mud says we’re “fantastic.” […]

    Pingback by Sociological Images » BLOGS THAT LINK TO US AND SAY NICE STUFF :) — October 23, 2008 @ 1:35 am

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