By Alaa Jahshan
Watching the Super Bowl is a big event flooded by many seemingly non-football related activities, including big budget commercials, movie previews, and half time parties; but before the fun and games, we need step out of this sphere of reality and look at a little history of sports. Since Grecian Olympics, sports have been a male activity and for a long time, females participating in sports have been largely oppressed. In the US in 1972, the Title IX act was passed to allow women to participate in sports at all levels. We can see that for a long time, sports have been engrained as a male limited activity, and as a sign of masculinity.
Among many other sports, football remains a strongly male dominated activity. How does this sport influence masculinity? The Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles did a study showing that of American boys from ages 8 to 17, 98 % consume sports media. The study also found that “professional sports are virtually dominated by men—from the athletes and coaches to the commentators and reporters—sports media have the potential to transmit powerful ideas about manliness and masculinity.” A lot of these powerful ideas about masculinity are visible through manipulation of the game viewing experience. Replays and commentaries reinforce violence by focusing on plays that are physically intense and players who continue to play with injuries, displaying ideas of what men are supposed to do and be.
What other images of masculinity did the Super Bowl constantly show? There is the continuation of staying updated about quarterbacks and outlining personal characteristics. Players are deathly attractive and are sometimes portrayed in heterosexual relationships with supermodels. Advertisements are masculinity-charged, (Ford – ‘Built Tough’, Budweiser – ‘King of Beers’). Even the names of the teams that were playing were named the Giants and the Patriots. The Patriots even have an image of a tough-looking man’s face on their helmets. The Super Bowl may be looked at as a perpetuator of male dominance in society and masculine ideology in American culture.
The traditional way of starting the Super Bowl is to have a super star sing the national anthem, including frequent cuts to the players and audience while it is being sung. The masculinity and sports relationship is not complete without nationalism. A very important process in international competition is supporting your country, introducing many social aspects such as national pride through a sport. Such a bond can easily be traced in language. It is common to hear someone who is disconnected from actually participating in the sport say things like, “we won”, as if it were a collective experience, which many can argue. Possibly more troubling is introducing sports as male dominated through which we can see this type of violent masculinity feeding nationalism.
By Alaa Jahshan