Black is Beautiful

These are a series of photos dedicated to athletic women of African descent. They are a cross generational mixture of photographs of  athletes from the past and present. This collection of photographs are personal favorites of the author. Enjoy these photos and  Black History Month.

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Black is Beautiful

I Still Like Marion Jones

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Marion Jones was a track and field athlete known for success at winning three gold medals at the Sidney Olympics in 2000. She was one of the most popular sprinters in the early to mid-2000s. Her reputation was tarnish when in 2007 she admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. From that point on the mass media demonized her. Prior to the 2007 admission, there was media praise on every magazine and newspapers. It is a fact that she did lie about her use, but this does not take away the fact she was a talented athlete. Marion Jones’ situation represents many issues with sports. The first is the cult of the role model. American society in particular holds their athletes to a higher ethical standard when they are flawed just like any other person. Another problem is that the War on Drugs mentality has been introduced to sports. Then there is an element of racial and sex discrimination. Lance Armstrong took steroids, but was never incarcerated. Like Marion Jones, he lied about his use. The only reason he did not face a sentence was because he was a white male. Marion Jones is still more admirable, because she admitted the error of her judgement. Even though she was disqualified for her use in the Sidney Olympics, her World Championship medals were also taken.  Even though that was done she will always be one of the best track and field athletes.

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Just a fast as the media builds someone up they will tear them down.

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This is a photograph from The Daily Telegraph hoping on the media hysteria over steroids. 

Marion Jones’ skill did not come from pills or syringes. It was developed through rigorous training. One cannot simply take steroids and expect to win an athletic contest. Marion Jones won the World Championships and Continental Cups with her talent and ability. Calling her a “cheater” seems to be baseless. Throughout  modern Olympic history men and women have used various substances. Many just have not been detected. This does not excuse Jones’ actions, but to focus solely on her demonstrates bias. Women come under even more scrutiny, because they are take what is derived from testosterone. This is perceived as a “male” only hormone ( even though women produce lower levels naturally) and women using steroids some how violates nature.  For men it seems more acceptable, which is a ludicrous double standard due to the fact anabolic androgenic steroids can pose serious health risks to both men and women. The War on Drugs philosophy is that certain drugs must be banned for the sake of public health. This flawed logic only makes certain drugs more desirable.Trying to prohibit drugs from sports from this perspective seems futile. Marion Jones did violate IOC rules, but no one should pretend that others have not.

The fans are partially to blame for the increase in use. Would people still be amused with sports events if performance levels dropped? The answer is obvious. Fans want see athletes doing feats that are almost superhuman.

Her medals may be gone, but she continues to participate in sports. From 2010 to 2011 she played basketball in the WNBA. The team she played for was the Tulsa Shock. Marion Jones also is a participant in Crossfit. If Marion Jones revealed the truth she may not have went to prison. The people who deserved prison terms more so were the businessmen of the BALCO corporation. This pharmaceutical corporation supplied elite athletes with performance enhancing drugs. Despite her lapse in judgement she will remain an important sports icon.

I Still Like Marion Jones

Closing The Gap – Women Vs. Men in Sports (UTTV San Diego)

Can women catch up to men in performance? This is not always a simple question. While men produce more testosterone, which allows for more lean body mass there is a point were women and men can overlap. Some women can be naturally stronger and with training could possibly beat men of equal strength. These are exceptions. This news clip discusses women’s athletic the possibilities. Notice the doctor says “you don’t have to look like a man to be talented.” This subtle sexism is ignored completely. Men come in all different shapes and sizes as do women. If the doctor’s idea of a man is something that looks like He-Man or Superman, this is an act of gender stereotyping. Some hold the belief you should look like however you see fit. Then her other comment about “women in cute skirts” was just comedic. At first she talks in the rhetoric of women’s liberation, then states “we don’t always need to go against the guys.” If a woman has the need to challenge a man, that is her decision. That seem to contradict her whole argument. There are women who are built better than others. If these women who have the strength want to compete with men, they should be allowed to. Dr. Marci Bothwell then states “most of us are not going to head to head with the men because we don’t have the strength or cardiovascular endurance.” Women athletes may not be able to challenge elite male athlete, but the majority average male population is a different story. If you look at the gap from that perspective, then the gap is closed. Sexual dimorphism does not imply inferiority;it means  men and women are different.

Closing The Gap – Women Vs. Men in Sports (UTTV San Diego)

Black Women Athlete Pioneers in Sport

February is the time  in which Black History Month is observed in the United States. Originally know as Negro History Week it was developed in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson  an African American historian, educator, and academic. It is pivotal that a history of a people be preserved. Black women not only had to deal with sexism, but also vicious racism. Black woman have made significant accomplishments in various fields. Sports are just one of these fields. There were many great Black women athletes, that have been ignored. They were pioneers that made it possible for future generations of African Americans to enter professional sports.

One champion of importance was Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994). She was one of the best track and field athletes of the 1960s. She was born in Clarksville, Tennessee and was very sick as a child. Not only did she have to confront illness, but racial discrimination. When attending high school she played basketball and was later noticed by a coach from Tennessee State University. She was the youngest member of the US Olympic team in 1956 .Her real success did not come until  the Rome Olympics in 1960. Wilma Rudolph won the 100-meter dash just in 11 seconds. Then she won the 200-meter winning her second gold medal. After her competition, she became famous. She retired from track in 1962 and became involved in activism. She went on to establish the Wilma Rudolph Foundation in 1981. The organization was designed to help young people in school and sports. Wilma Rudolph sadly passed away from a brain tumor in 1994. The Tennessee Tornado as she was called still is remembered.

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Before Venus and Serena Williams, there was another great tennis player known as Althea Gibson (1927-2003). Early on in her life she demonstrated athletic talent. She was involved in stickball, basketball, and paddle tennis. Althea Gibson broke into a sport that was dominated mostly by whites and the upper class. She began playing tennis at age 13. She learned how to play Tennis at the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club, which was opened to African Americans and whites. Althea Gibson in 1949 became the first black player in both the United States Lawn Tennis Association tournament and National Indoor Championships.  Althea Gibson also became the first African American to compete in the Fort Hills Tournament in 1950. At one point she was losing interest in the game. However, major victories in the Indian National, the Asian Women’s Title, the Italian including French Crowns changed her mind. Althea Gibson’s major win was the 1957 Wimbledon.  The following year came more victories.Althea Gibson also played golf professionally as well. She also became the first African American woman to become a member in the Ladies Professional Golf Association. Althea Gibson was the Serena Williams of the 20th century.

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Tidye Pickett  (1914-1986)  was a lesser known track and field athlete. She was the first African American woman to compete in the Olympic games. Pickett competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics at a time of serious international contention. Nazi Germany was growing more powerful, preparing for war, and espousing odious race hatred. Jesse Owens humiliated Hitler with his athletic performance disproving “Aryan superiority.” Tidye Pickett did the same, but was overshadowed in a way. Her success at the 1936 games inspired other African American women to get involved in sports. She won a gold medal for the fifty yard hurdles. Tidye Pickett faced much racism and discrimination. When her team mates went to victory celebrations, she was often excluded. This did not stop her success in her sport. After her athletic career, she became a teacher.

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The reason these women are great is because they confronted numerous challenges. They overcame the hostility of a white supremacist society to be the best in their sports. No one was going to stop them from being successful. There still is progress to be made, but black women in sports owe a huge amount of gratitude to these pioneers. These athletes faced racism, sexism, and detractors, but still performed excellently. Their stories are a true inspiration. To all who struggle, remember never let challenges defeat you.

Further Reading

Macy, Sue. Winning Ways A Photohistory of American Women in Sports. New York:Henry              Holt and Company, 1996.

Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Women’s Sports. Santa Barbra: ABC-CLIO, 1996.

Black Women Athlete Pioneers in Sport

Serena Williams Wins Australian Open

Serena Williams famed tennis player has won her 19th Grand Slam Title. Her victory occurred in Melbourne and soon she will be headed to Buenos Aries for the Fed Cup Match. If her victories continue it is probable that she could break Steffi Graf’s record.  The 33 year old tennis star shows no signs of slowing down and clearly is the best. Here at femuscleblog we congratulate your dedication to your sport and craft.

serena-williams-biceps Personal Stats

  • Turned professional in 1995
  • She is 5ft 9in  in height
  • Her highest ranking is No.1 before that she was ranked No.1 in 2002
  • Won a Gold Medal in the 2012 Olympics
Serena Williams Wins Australian Open