How To Invent A Sport Women Would Like
April 24, 2012, 03:17 PM
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In the name of gender equity, the Summer Olympics are debuting women's boxing at the London games. Women's wrestling was added at the 2004 Athens games. 

The problem, of course, is that very few women are interested these highly masculine sports. Yet, as part of Chris Rock's Keep Your Daughter Off the Pole movement, it would be good to invent some sports that would appeal to normal girls and young women. The idea would be to come up with something less crudely sexualized than pole dancing but less unfeminine than wrestling.

One problem is that the kind of sports-minded nerds who would be good at inventing the rules for sports generally don't understand women well, and conventional female minds aren't tuned to inventing universal rules for sports. There have been a lot of studies of little boys and little girls making up games with balls. The boys argue a lot, but from their arguments actually do evolve better rules that deal fairly with an ever-larger percentage of future situations. The girls, in contrast, tend to devolve the rules to make participants feel better in the present by making ad hoc exceptions when feelings get hurt.

What do women want? Well, one approach is to look at the sports that most excite women viewers in the Winter and Summer Olympics: figureskating and gymnastics.

Another approach that converges on a similar idea is to look at women's fashion magazines. Why, for generations, have women been buying magazines to look at pictures of 5'10" 112 pound fashion models? Yeah, yeah, I know, it's all a Big Gay Conspiracy. But, 2Blowhards had a little essay once on why Mrs. Blowhard loved looking at pictures in fashion magazines. 

There's an additional fantasy element too, which is autonomy. Part of what women fashion-magazine fans seem to enjoy imagining is the fantasy of being found glamorous purely for its own sake. They seem to want to forget about the pleasing-guys element. There's a little defiance in the fantasy — and you can see the defiance in many of the kicky poses and attitudes the models strike. 

Perhaps something that helps explain the appeal of these images is that not only do many women enjoy imagining looking like these models, they enjoy imagining feeling like them too. I think guys often forget what a weighty and earthbound thing it can be, being a gal. There's so much dreariness to contend with: fatbags, hormones, moods, emotional agonies, etc. Women are weighed down by a lot of burdens, or at least they feel that they are, which is good enough for the purposes of my attempt at an explanation here. 

The gals in the pages of fashion magazines and catalogs aren't weighed down by anything, not even flesh. They burst out of cabs, they leap onto sidewalks, they let loose with irrepressible guffaws, they're caught by insistent cameras looking their klutzy-but-charming best; they're tall and slim, and they're feelin' good and they're lookin' ready to dazzle. The girls in the pix get to enjoy the champagne-and-cocaine fun parts of being a grownup woman. They aren't saddled with fat asses and wobbly upper arms, with PMS, with no-good boyfriends and lecherous bosses, with imperfect features, with senseless mood swings, etc. 

What the fashion mags are selling is, to some extent, a fantasy of play and freedom. Which, come to think of it, is (in a general sense) pretty much what men's magazines sell too. Many guys enjoy indulging in fantasies about utopia — a male utopia full of gadgets and sex-without-consequences. Many gals love indulging in fantasies about utopia too — a female utopia, where the fantasizer is carefree and irresistably desirable 24/7. 

My hunch: perhaps superslim-and-supertall are a visual representation of carefree-and-desirable.


What we want in feminine sports is to emphasize, in the interests of keeping-your-daughter-off-the-pole, is to downplay the Desirable aspect and emphasize the nonsexual aspects.

A reductionist approach would be that what might attract feminine interest in a sport is freedom from gravity. Figure skaters glide endlessly and then leap and twirl. Gymnasts fly through the air. The final night of women's figure skating in the Winter Olympics is to crown the World's Greatest Princess and the all-around night of women's gymnastics in the Summer Olympics is to crown the World's Greatest Pixie. 

The problem with this is that nobody really is free from gravity. Competitive cheerleading, for example, is a feminine sport that has evolved toward ever more high-flying death-defying stunts, which is great, except for the cheerleaders who end up in wheelchairs for life.

Trampolining was recently added to the Olympics and it's very exciting because it's amazingly high-flying. But it's also terrifying to watch. I don't think the dads and moms of America are going to get too excited about their daughters taking up trampolining. When I was a little kid in the 1960s, trampolines were a popular backyard amenity. But then they stopped being common because so many kids got hurt on them. 

So, here's my idea for the perfect 21st Century sport for middle class American families with daughters: invent a sport where the girls fly, do quadruple somersaults and quintuple axels or whatever, but are actually in movie special effect wire work harnesses, like in The Matrix.

So, that takes the fear of paralytic injury out of the equation. You still have the puberty problem (the laws of physics decree that girls who haven't developed T&A yet can spin faster than those that have). Figure skating and gymnastics had to put minimum age requirements into the Olympics to keep their sports from being dominated by girls taking drugs to hold back puberty.

So, there's no perfect solution, but some kind of acrobatic event suspended from a bungee cord might go over big with today's parents and their daughters. Another possibility is that "indoor skydiving," flying on fan-blasted air that you can now do at amusement parks. For the very rich, zero gravity acrobatics flying on the Vomit Comet could be the next big thing.