Tuesday: En Garde

Looks like it’s going to be a thing this week, covering women in sports. This is a marvelous example of covering a female competitor, this short film profiling U.S. Women’s Individual Foil fencer Nzingha Prescod — it’s about her and her approach to her sport, period. Does she sound like somebody who doesn’t care about the results of competition, like she’d rather have narrative surrounding it?

Her next match is tomorrow at 8:10 a.m.; I wish I could catch it live online.

[Journalism 101 fail again -- who are these competitors and what country do they play for? Which sport is this?]

[Journalism 101 fail again — who are these competitors and what country do they play for? Which sport is this?]

Another example of crappy coverage comes from BBC — can’t imagine why the UK became so white nationalist, can you? Let’s not note the countries or the individual competitors, let’s point out their attire and hint at religious and political positions at the same time. What garbage.

If you’re not already familiar with ‘male gaze‘, it’s time for a primer on this concept first theorized 41 years ago by Laura Mulvey. I don’t know if I can even call it purely feminist theory any longer though it arose because of feminism’s emergence. The way content is constructed can be political, and the way we view it can also be political; if content can be constructed for the male gaze, it can also be constructed to perform for political ideology. What we see in the BBC’s photo is both a political and sexist statement — the bikini-clad woman preferred over the fully-clothed woman whose attire has been mislabeled (it’s not a burka), the lack of identity in either case. These women are figures to be looked at for visual enjoyment and not in a manner which satisfies women but a male gaze with a particular ideological slant.

The problem with NBC’s constructed Olympic coverage is that the corporation believes it has created a ‘female gaze’ product — but women don’t feel immersed in the sports they are watching, continually disrupted by the inauthenticity of the content they are viewing. It feels forced, like we are supposed to care about the content presented apart from the actual sports on the screen based on a third (and likely straight male) party’s expectations of the female audience, but the mediation and curation process interfere with our autonomy in viewing. We feel a jarring disconnect from a state of attentive viewing into a state of critical viewing — we’re left unsatisfied.

I don’t think men are feeling any better about the content they are seeing because it fails to serve their gaze in a manner which they have always expected from the male-led sports and entertainment industries.

It’s so damned easy to fix, too.

The one entity finding a silver lining in NBC’s coverage of the Olympics? Netflix, which blames flat subscriber growth on the games’ broadcast. Hard to argue with this based on anecdotal evidence; everybody who ordinarily binges on Netflix programming and shares the experience in social media during cooler months is now complaining about NBC’s programming.


  • Not one but THREE illegal emissions control software programs in VW’s 3.0L vehicles (Reuters) — U.S. isn’t saying how they found them but the existence of multiple programs hints at the reason for the lack of a “fix” for 3.0L passenger diesels under the terms of the proposed settlement. Volkswagen has admitted to emissions controls defeat in its 2.0L and 3.0L passenger diesel vehicles it marketed as “clean diesel” here in the U.S., but it has not been forthcoming about the emissions cheat methodology. If I had to guess, I’d say every one of the 3.0L vehicles will be bought back — because even after all this time, VW having known the cheats were discovered in 2014, the company still does not have a true fix for the 3.0L engine.
  • GM now testing self-driving Bolt in AZ (The Detroit News) — This is the second city in which GM has tested the Bolt; first tests were in San Francisco, which seems to me more challenging than Scottsdale.
  • Court case against GM starts this week (Bloomberg) — Judge will have their hands full trying to keep the case focused on whether ignition switch at fault or not given the driver’s youth and alleged reckless driving.


  • Delta’s massive outage yesterday still causing scheduling problems (Bloomberg) — System failure still attributed to power outage though interestingly Georgia Power said it was a Delta problem. No mention anywhere of other possible causes for the outage — so far.
  • Southwest’s July outage revealed enterprise problems (Bloomberg) — The crash of a single router caused massive problems which Southwest is still digging out of weeks later. Why is this airline lacking adequate failover? Why is this airline so focused on stock price now to detriment of instructure, in spite of fuel costs having fallen so much since June 2014?
  • Teen security research awarded one million flyer miles by United Airlines (ZDNet) — Olivier Beg reported 20 undisclosed bugs to the airline. The largest single reward he received was 250K miles, meaning the worst single bug he found was medium in severity. Certainly cheaper to offer Beg the equivalent of 20 roundtrips to the U.S. than pay for the costs related to a major bug-related outage.


One for the road
Looks like the FBI hasn’t found an app for that yet — remote surveillance on smartphones, that is. Isn’t that interesting?

Off to cook dinner before the nightly Olympic debacle begins. Wonder what fresh hell the taped delayed coverage will bring?

18 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    The photo – looks like volleyball, and the woman on the right is part of the German team.

  2. Desider says:

    Frankly, I see a Muslim woman in full attire having a good time, apparently beating the German woman on that point (and yes, it’s obviously volleyball). If you follow the URL there, you find out pretty quickly she’s from Egypt & the results of the match (if you couldn’t spot the EGY on the original pic.
    Sure, it’s a hijab (+ long-sleeves), not a burka, but it’s also a news magazine trading on a clever title, so bikini vs. burka gets the point across – and it’s a nice one – woman who feel comfortable covered in their religion’s clothing can still compete and even look like they’re having a good time.
    (of course you wouldn’t know that in a burka).
    Anyway, not everything’s criminally anti-feminist/misogynist, even though the Chicago report on the “wife of the Bears lineman” was pretty horrid.

    • bloopie2 says:

      Careful now–you note, appropriately, how headlines are used to draw in readers to the full article–but this one says: “En Garde”.

  3. bloopie2 says:

    The Delta power outage may well have been caused by them—the MTA outage of the New Have line a few years ago was the result of a failure of their own feed. Anyone know if they make backup generators big enough to handle a whole computer system? I assume so. You’d think that would be a good investment in “critical infrastructure”.

  4. bloopie2 says:

    Yes that is an excellent video. Is it the case that NBC shows nothing like that? Nothing at all?

  5. Rayne says:

    P J Evans (6:31) — Yeah, the GER on athlete’s top along w/tri-color emblem clinched the ID given who they were scheduled to play. But the BBC should have told us that instead of the ‘bikini vs burka’ bullshit — could have been any number of other teams, and not every Twitter user gets the images if they are using 3rd party apps.

    Desider (6:51) — Wow, such strong deductive skills. I see two female athletes at a volleyball net, and a URL I have zero interest in following if the news outlet offers such lazy misogynist, racist hackery. There were better tweets with more thorough, neutral reporting. I picked them instead to follow through.

    bloopie2 (7:24) — I caught a bit of tonight’s evening news on NBC; they were doing a profile on Simone Biles, but cheese-on-rice they belabored her familial background so much instead of looking at Biles’ accomplishments. NBC really can’t do sports coverage on female athletes. Can they do male athletes? No idea, I have no interest in bothering to find out as I’ve already spent so damned much wasted time on their misogynist, racist crap.

    If I were an exec at the broadcaster with the contract for the 2018 Winter and 2020 Summer Olympics, I would so contact the team which produced this short on Nzingha Prescod. Imagine a 5-minute short like this one for every athlete before the games begin.


    What really bugs the shit out of me in addition to this ongoing sports debacle: knowing Ailes at FOX wasn’t the only misogynist pig in news coverage, that there are others in the industry, that they pervade other areas besides news, and the numbers of women in front and behind the camera implicitly tell another part of the story. A large part of this crap coverage is because not enough women are show runners across the industry.

    • bloopie2 says:

      Rayne, you are dead wrong as to what Desider said. Tell me, what headline should they have said in three words or less to draw the reader’s attention? The women’s names? Yeah, that will work. There apparently really is a good story there (I can’t find it online, I’m just going by Desider’s description); did you even read it? You’re a writer, for gosh sake; if you can’t see that “Bikini vs. Burka” is one way to shorthand a story about religion and culture and to get people to read about it, then you are sticking yourself in a hole full of self-pity and willfully blinding yourself to other things. I thought it was the case that most everything you ever write about, is what pisses you off (which is fine, in and of itself–that’s the point of journalism, to inform others of bad things). Maybe I’m wrong about that; maybe all you ever see is what pisses you off. Example: “I see two female athletes at a volleyball net, and a URL I have zero interest in following if the news outlet offers such lazy misogynist, racist hacker”. Well, that truly is blind–you don’t see that the one was from Egypt and was victorious in a burka and that the story might be lauding and celebrating her. And of course you don’t even need to follow the URL, because you already know what it is going to say and you have no interest in it. Really? So, you have closed yourself off to the possibility that anything written about a dark-skinned woman that is not exactly to your liking, immediately and at first glance from the headline alone, can be anything other than racist and misogynist?
      And speaking of headlines, why did you use the headline “En Garde”? What on earth does that have to do with misogynistic broadcasting? Even the video you posted is not about fencing; it is about a particular woman and her life story and commitment. So, why that headline? Today I ended up reading a great post from you about misogynist broadcasting. Maybe I should have just stopped after the headline, on the ground that I don’t “have any interest” in fencing? Come on.

    • Desider says:

      Well, Rayne, having been in the news business, I also know that my taste is probably not the one that draws the most clicks, and BBC as a global British news org has to figure out its audience and what gets them to click (it is the country that gave us #Brexit and Boris Johnson).

      I’m just glad we have fewer volleyball ass photos, and for me I could figure out the context of the photo w caption well enough. (no, they weren’t focused on reporting the German-Egypt match – it was a human interest of changing times, interaction of Mideast-western mores, probably helped some by the Muslim team being competitive rather than just show, and of course seeing an ebullient face wrapped in hijab rather than dour photos of unhappy women kept under wraps.

      Seemed like enough to me. YMMV.

  6. Peterr says:

    Wheels . . . VW is apparently striving to win the Lance Armstrong Award for integrity in competition.
    Wings . . . I was caught in that Southwest mess in July — took me 24 hours to get home from a conference, instead of the scheduled 8 hours. The other complicating factor for SWA is that because their reservations system is entirely separate from the shared system used by all the other major carriers (as well as the online booking sites), they could not help passengers switch to flights by other carriers. This may have saved them some short term money, but it’s going to cost them in the medium term (it took longer to dig out from all the cancelled flights, mis-scheduled flight crews, and stranded passengers) as well as the long term (lots of unhappy customers).
    Words . . . “Get a warrant” is such a lovely phrase, especially when uttered by a federal judge.

  7. Desider says:

    BTW, there’s quite a bit of reporting on clothing changes this Olympics, especially the revival of the more traditional fabric swimsuit after the distorting effect of high tech body suits nearly destroyed the sport. There is a fashion and utilitarian aspect to Olympics clothing and the athletes themselves – appreciated when shy of purely exploitive – and while I never thought the bikini was key to volleyball success, I would have thought that excessive clothing including headwear would be a detriment. Apparently not so much.

    Anyway, you’ve keyed on a good reason I don’t have my own blog – I couldn’t make it 1 week with the outrage of the more PC, and I’m not unhinged enough to go for the radical right.

  8. Rayne says:

    bloopie2 (11:03) — I don’t know what twig you wedged up your butt sideways, but I’m not responding to most of your comment except to say I chose ‘En Garde’ for the hed because I led with a particularly good short video about a fencer.

    Desider (1:53) — Well, Desider, having been in the news business, I also know that particular BBC tweet is called CLICKBAIT, intended to be inflammatory enough to provoke a click-through to a news story and viewed as unacceptable practice (now openly discouraged in social media). And if you’d actually been looking at the coverage in social media of the same EGYvGER match, you’d know other outlets used ass shots — in this case, the GER competitor’s framed against EGY. The media hasn’t stopped using them. Maybe so much male gaze has inured you to them.

    And how nice of you to marginalize women’s anger at being used like commodified props as just so much PC. We’ll all just go back to the kitchen now and refrain from disturbing your privileged entitlement.

    Someday it’d be nice to expect news outlets to treat women’s volleyball, beach or indoors, like this.

    Or like this match in which a Muslim country is represented.

    No comments about attire, just the teams playing and the score.

    • Desider says:

      Anger management some? Never mind.
      [you find BBC’s snapshot somehow offensive; I find yours boring; as I said, YMMV. What “commodified props” you find in this, I just commented on a BBC snap showing volleyball players at the Olympics that somehow didn’t meet your standards, not a Suzie Homemaker 50’s retrospective]

    • Desider says:

      PS – I looked at 3 total pictures of women’s volleyball, from the 1 you have on your blog (yeah, on closer look it has EGY and GER on the uniforms, + volleyball net), so no, haven’t been looking at
      social media.

      [also maybe please define “ass shot” from your perspective – from the 3 pictures I saw total, there’s no gratuitous focus on ass only – didn’t take my “male gaze” elsewhere, thank you very fucking much. I’m not a fan of volleyball bikinis, but that’s what someone seems to have settled on, so I expect that’s what BBC will shoot athletes in]. No idea how it qualifies as “CLICKBAIT”, but have it your way – boring, but pure. I’m through.

  9. RUKidding says:

    Writing only for myself, I find Burka v Bikini not only stupidly incorrect but a loaded comment meant as Clickbait. I, too, am sick and tired of sexist, politically-loaded junk like that. It has no place in commentary about the Olympics. Get over it. Some Muslim women cover up, wear a hijab and they can do sports well. Let’s focus on that, rather than their attire, as well as loaded comments that lead to anti-Muslim sentiments.
    I, too, don’t mind information about what the atheletes are wearing, if it has some intrinsic information to impart, such as the difference between the fabric swim wear this year v the super technical fabric they’ve worn before to their detriment. That has an impact on their sporting abilities and is news worthy. Most of the other commentary is simply cringe worthy. It’s fricking 2016. Can we move on and be more mature?
    Vis SouthWest: I’m really getting sick and tired of this airline and their lust after the almighty dollar at the expense of their crews and passengers. I used to like them more, but they’ve become overly greedy to the detriment of all concerned. Given their ever increasing fares in conjunction with the world-wide drop in oil prices, one would like to believe that they’d improve some of their technological infrastructure, but No. Greed rules all and the CEO’s gotta take home millions upon millions because he “works so hard.” I, too, also regret their booking system, which doesn’t interact with the other airlines, so that, if your SW flight is cancelled, you are pretty much on your own. They simply don’t give a sh*t what your problems might be. I’ve written to them numerous times about this, and all I get are lousy form letter responses.
    Greed trumps all (take that any way you want).

  10. Jim McKay says:


    Honestly, I’ve watched competition every evening this week (including women’s beach volleyball last night) & I just don’t see any of this… misogyny or even more subtle insinuations.

    Normally I avoid these conversations. Only reason I “chime in” on this one… I’m in front of my computer at home and watching Amy Goodman. She’s doing an interview with Vanity Fair editor: Sarah Ellison, discussing the Roger Ailes “sex scandal”. She’s talking about recorded phone calls with Ailes but some of the women who he “approached”. Incredibly damning (I did not know of these calls).

    I mention this only because… Ailes had much to do with steering US’ trip down the rabbit hole. Bush Jr. would never have been elected without him, and I can’t even count all the important issues torpedoed by FOX under Ailes’ lead since then. To think someone with this power/influence has all this sick “stuff” going one all these years… maybe something that should get a LOT more attention. This is on sick SOB, and he literally was one of greatest influences taking US down these last few years.

    Maybe if you want to attack misogyny, consider going after this one… a situation where it exists in spades and it’s sickness has harmed many, many people.

    Just my $0.02 worth.

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