Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lisa Leslie: "WNBA Players Need to Act Like Women"



Buried in all of the hagiographic commentary about Lisa Leslie - the retiring veteran of the Los Angeles Sparks - a few people at Twitter and RebKell are commenting on something that Leslie said in the post-game comments after the Phoenix-Los Angeles game. Namely, that Leslie said something very much like "WNBA players need to dress like and act like women on and off the court."

This is only a paraphrase. I'm trying to find the actual comment. It looks like neither the WNBA nor ESPN will display the entire press conference - particularly since Leslie was supposedly critical about media coverage as well. I hoped that it would have been attached to the archived Sparks/Mercury game at WNBA Live Access, but no such luck.

So if Lisa Leslie said something like this, I wish someone had asked her - what are women supposed to look like? What are the rules? Are they written down somewhere? Who drew them up? You? And how are women supposed to act? (I suppose they shouldn't be playing basketball. Too masculine.)

Learning that Leslie said something like this casts a raincloud over what should be the honoring of a legendary player.

9 comments:

Scarab said...

I agree. So glad I wasn't the only one who noticed that comment. I was enjoying her speech right up until she said that. I was so disgusted I changed the channel.

Gary said...

That's one of the many reasons why I don't like Lisa Leslie. If she meant that women should be in their stereotypical gender appearance and role then she's alienated about 90% of the WNBA. I'm so glad we won't have to hear more about her potential "last game ever."

Q McCall said...

I recently came across her old quote, "I'm strong, I'm tough, I still wear my eyeliner."

And it has a similar tone to what I'm hearing from the presser, but I think another piece of it is the idea that "femininity" can include strong/tough... that's not inherently bad, though it still seems to me to confine women to a very difficult beauty standard.

However, every woman I ran that by loved it -- to some it seemed liberating as in, "Your standards can't confine who I am." Small sample of people with master's level education, I know, but still interesting.

Personally, I wish she would stop saying stuff like that.. but then again... I'm a man...

But I like you petrel am VERY disappointed that neither the WNBA nor ESPN has posted the entire presser. I think it probably only reinforces whatever points she made about the media.

If anyone does find a clip of the entire presser, please send it along...

Anonymous said...

She has done enough for the womens game to express her opinion on how she feels...if u dont agree thats fine

afoundingfan said...

I'd like to know more behind the comment. On the surface, to me, the comment smacks of homophobia, and her comments about makeup and her book title "Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You" can be construed as backhanded comments towards those she doesn't find to be feminine (read: lesbians, oh dear!). On the other hand, I don't know how players dress and act off the court/out of the usual public eye. Perhaps LL's opinion is that you are representing the league and therefore you should dress--for lack of a better term--professionally.

I know this isn't exactly apples and apples, since male athletes don't get held to the same standards and don't have to defend their sexuality as much...but if this was a male NBA player taking some of his counterparts to task for their style of dress, would anyone care?

Q McCall said...

Phoenix Stan has posted the audio on Swish Appeal... I have yet to listen to them... but look forward to doing so..

http://www.swishappeal.com/2009/9/27/1057352/lisa-leslie-still-fighting-for

re: Anonymous: I totally agree that she has the right to her own opinion...and having not listened to it yet, I don't even know what that opinion is... but I think it is important/worthwhile to think about because what Leslie says obviously has consequences for those coming behind her, good or bad.

ATLDreamFan17 said...

I don't remember where I heard/read it (I will have to try and remember) but Leslie has made comments like that before but she was speaking as to why she herself chooses to wear ribbons in her hair during games and things of that nature. She's always come across IMO as a player who doesn't like to see girls/women in baggy clothes and such.

If the comments turn out to be what they seem its not surprising. The WNBA itself put rookies through a "beauty camp" of sorts. The world of track and field recently had a scandal of sorts when an athletes femeninity was brought into question (regardless of the outcome the fact it was even brought up is an issue).

I'm curious as to what the full statement was and what context it was in. Yes, Leslie is entitled to her opinion. Either way a discussion is needed as to what it means for athletes to "act like women".

Diane said...

Well, seeing as there are plenty of men that dress more like women than I ever will? It's awfully hard to figure out the rules and who wrote them. Excellent point, Petrel. I've wondered about this alot....wondering if there is an unspoken division between team members that differ by orientation....hmm.

Q McCall said...

I agree ATLDreamFan17 -- even a cursory look at quotes/books from Leslie over time speak to the same thing.

Perhaps the difference is that by uttering it in this context, it seems more central to her legacy because she's stating explicitly that it's a standard she wants to see...

I'd actually be interested in certain player reactions to it because as afoundingfan says, it does carry with it implicit assumptions about the intersection of sexuality and femininity, which like it or not is just different for women than for men in this society...