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Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 27, To frame our research, we locate it within previous examinations of the lesbian subject in sport focusing particularly on the limited research that specifically explores the complex meanings associated with coming out in sport. By using the term lesbian-centered perspectives, she meant to differentiate this body of research from those studies of gay men in sport, which impart decid- edly different theoretical lenses. With this categorization, King highlighted the ways in which much previous research explored how lesbians managed their sexual identities within homophobic and heterosexist sporting environments.
Further, they demonstrated the veracity of their claims largely by presenting interview data from research on coaches and athletes. According to King , this type of evidence tends to occlude the discursive production of available sexual identities, an issue that is never fully resolved within this body of research. For King the lesbian-centered approaches yield two additional concerns. We heed these main concerns as we proceed in our own work on lesbians in sport.
Despite some of the aforementioned theoretical limitations within this subset of research, other work on lesbians in sport proves insightful for our own project. For instance, much of the research which examines lesbians in sport implicitly relies on the belief that larger social forces, such as mass media, contribute to the isolation and shame felt by lesbians in sport. Plymire and Forman suggested: An open discussion of lesbians in sport is rarely, if ever, undertaken in the traditional mainstream media. Media discussions of lesbianism usually bemoan the unfair lesbian stigma that confronts heterosexual women in sport.
Alter- nately, the media make a spectacle of lesbianism when an athlete comes out or is outed. In either case, lesbians are marginalized and the code of silence is reinforced p. Indeed, this belief underscored many of the positive responses received by Swoopes and Jones. Their research challenged the previously-accepted belief that one must be publicly out to be an agent of change. As such, their work invariably called for further examinations into the notion of the publicly out—and subsequently politicized—lesbian, a position supported by influential scholars such as Griffin and Lenskyj While we do not necessarily draw from all facets of queer theory to carry out our analysis, we call upon some of its tenets to make our most important points.
Much of the work within queer theory already provides critiques of heteronor- mativity, which is the idea that heterosexuality is the coherent and privileged way of understanding sexuality. We build on this established critique by highlighting the presence of a related concept: homonormativity.
This scholarly critique focuses predominantly upon the de-politicizing processes which work to locate social jus- tice and welfare matters to the periphery Keddie, We argue, thus, that the market- ability of the lesbian celebrity athlete coincides with the rise to significance of the niche gay market. We now provide more details of our analysis process. At present, only two corporatized coming out narratives from professional lesbian athletes exist, and thus our decision of which texts to analyze proved quite easy.
We followed Johnson et al. For our project, the first author read through both texts to identify dominant themes. Yet, despite our careful and detailed reading we acknowledge that our analysis will be partial and politically motivated as it subscribes to the understanding that cultural studies analysis can never be anything but implicated within the social conditions on which it is premised King, , p. Before presenting our findings, we offer further background on Jones, Swoopes, and Olivia to provide a context for our textual reading. In addition to this article in The New York Times, Jones held a news conference at a Rancho Mirage hotel during the week of the tournament to more formally announce and present her deal with Olivia Murphy, , p.
Swoopes was well known in the US before her narrative emerged; she established herself as a legitimate star in when she scored 47 points during the nationally-televised National Collegiate Athletics Association NCAA Division I championship game.
In fact, they signed Jones, Martina Navratilova, and Swoopes as endorsers of the company in quick succession in —5 Rovell, This convenient slippage blurs the way in which the company benefits from these particular constructions. Olivia—as cultural intermediary—has been directly involved in the process, and the company, through athlete sponsorship, advertising and marketing, inevitably helps to shape identities and subjectivities. As a consequence, Olivia needed to find a way to merge profit-making with its politics. It created an ancillary label, the Second Wave-Olivia label Lont, and altered its collective orientation to adopt a more hierarchical organizational structure Martin, Olivia Cruises and Resorts likely targets some of the same market that supported its records and concerts in the s and s.
I have strong feelings about gay and lesbian rights: I vote; I have my beliefs. I support causes and I support people, gay and straight, who have inspired me through the years. But first and foremost, I am a proud and blessed member of the LPGA and a professional athlete, not an activist p. Jones directs readers to understand her narrative as purely a personal choice by foregrounding her location as an athlete first, denouncing any activist sentiment, and using a confessional, first-person tone. The focus on the personal reflects a decidedly neoliberal shift to individual responsibility.
Later in her narrative, Swoopes reveals the role that Olivia had in facilitating her coming out decision. The emphasis on individuality and choice does two important things. First, it allows each athlete to be distinct from their fellow professional athletes which helps to ameliorate the likelihood that other female athletes and the leagues will be implicated i.
Through posing this question, Jones directs others to read her decision primarily in commonsense economic terms and not as a political maneuver. Therefore, her coming out narrative placed the WNBA in a precarious marketing position due to its previous reliance on Swoopes as a heterosexual and family-oriented star.
As such, she frames her decision to come out as an individual choice and one that she does not wish to impose on others. This narrative strategy works to effectively minimize the potential negative implications of her actions e. Not to my knowledge. This is clear as both athletes seemingly defend the leagues that employ them. In their coming out narratives both Jones and Swoopes devote a considerable amount of space addressing their fears that they will lose straight fans because of their decisions to come out.
She writes: It is tremendously important that I consider my fans and how they may respond to this new chapter in my life.
The support and the loyalty of my fans far exceeds anything I might have earned on the course. I count this as one of the true blessings in my life. The last thing I want to do is upset this balance p.
Therefore, by virtue of her endorsement alone, she provides an example of a new, visible albeit commercially- inspired lesbian athlete. As celebrity lesbian athletes Jones and Swoopes invariably assist Olivia in reaching lifestyle lesbians consumers. Therefore, the Olivia endorsements through which Swoopes and Jones came out marks an important milestone for lesbians in sport as it presumably allowed each to come out with some degree of control and support.
The narratives of Jones and Swoopes demonstrate the corporatization of coming out and an unfolding of a new era of lesbian celebrity in sport—an era of virtual equality wherein the illusion, as opposed to the reality, of civil rights, and equality for lesbian athletes exists Vaid, , p. As a conse- quence, and as a result of our analysis of the relationship between Jones , Swoopes , and Olivia Cruises and Resorts, the new, visible lesbian celebrity athlete requires further and ongoing interrogation. Notes 1.
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Please see Gever for a detailed account. This report emerged approximately six months after her Olivia announcement. We would encourage future research to examine this new information about Swoopes with com- parable examples of fractures within the production of celebrity personas in sport, e.
For instance, most WNBA teams have struggled with how to market to a visible, yet mostly unacknowledged, lesbian fan base. See Myrdahl Relatedly, the LGPA has deployed specific strategies to locate their members as feminine and presumably heterosexual athletes.
See Wolter It should be noted that at one point, Swoopes does choose to affiliate with LGBT and other fans who might feel empowered by her decision to come out when she acknowledges the presence and support of other lesbians within the WNBA. The LPGA demonstrated similar concerns about association of lesbianism within their league. See Crosset and Wolter McDonald Eds. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Andrews, D. Sport stars. London: Routledge. Banet-Weiser, S. Hoop dreams: Professional basketball and politics of race and gender. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 23 4 , — Birrell, S.
Reading sport. Cahn, S. Feminist Studies, 19 2 , — Carlisle Duncan, M. Gender warriors in sport: Women and the media. Bryant Eds. Mahwah, N.