Loren's editorial today discusses the sexualization of women in the sports world. There seemed to be several different arguments at work here, and I want to try and separate them from each other.
Men's sports get a ton of coverage, and their (mostly male) coaches are therefore in the spotlight. The wives of these men are often depicted as physical accessories to their husbands in a way that successful women's partners are not - because women coaches tend to be coaching less-covered (women's) teams, but also because of gender norms which more closely link a woman's worth with her physical appearance and husband's status (and, importantly, with her acceptance of a submissive relationship to that husband). The sexy/mothering dichotomy is interesting in this, but I won't get Freudian.
Jenkins' front-page Times article presents wives whose significance is entirely relative to their function in the lives of the men who comprise the legitimate event. They play the supportive wives of die-hard coaches, the mother figures and the nurturers to the team. More and more, they also represent the sexy hallmarks of the accomplishment that continues to define a woman's success as gauged by popular media attention: her ability to satisfy the heterosexual male gaze.
This expectation of women's "physical availability for men" extends to female athletes, who are photographed in hyperfeminine clothing and whose bodies become the main attraction, instead of their actual athletic accomplishments. I'd love to hear our female athlete readers weigh in: how can we navigate the tension between this physical nature of sports and the resistance to objectification we promote as feminists?