Throwing Like a Girl

Throwing Like a Girl
2014 Top Global Topics on Facebook 2014 Top U.S. Topics on Facebook
1. World Cup 1. Ebola virus
2. Ebola virus 2. Ice Bucket Challenge
3. Elections in Brazil 3. Robin Williams
4. Robin Williams 4. Super Bowl
5. Ice Bucket Challenge 5. Michael Brown/Ferguson
6. Conflict in Gaza 6. World Cup
7. Malaysia Airlines 7. Conflict in Gaza
8. Super Bowl 8. U.S. midterm elections
9. Michael Brown/Ferguson 9. Malaysia Airlines
10. Olympics in Sochi 10. ISIS


I’m a sucker for all the year in reviews that come out every December. Facebook’s year in review is a tool to get a quick read of macro trends on the national and global conversation. It shows us what we are shocked by, moved by and entertained by as a society. What we are talking about on Facebook points to what we value, fear, dream about and hope for. It tells us what and who has the power of our time and attention. Does posting on Facebook count as talking, sharing and connecting? For better or worse, I think it does. The Pew Internet Project says 74% of U.S. adults on the Internet use Facebook. We gotta pay attention to these lists and ask some questions.

Ebola clearly touches a nerve in us, and Facebook lends itself to spreading the concern and fear. The Ice Bucket Challenge, with 17 million videos, is marketing genius, but can we keep the fight against ALS going strong? Does posting on Facebook help us feel like our work is finished? We have a need to talk about mental illness and depression, as we use Facebook to grieve and sift through the loss of Robin Williams.

Digging deeper, notice that there are no females in the top ten athletes talked about on Facebook in 2014. Beyonce, Nicki, Taylor, Iggy, Katy and Kim all made the top ten entertainers. Beyonce, in fact, is queen. We also like Elsa, Kalisi, Piper, Hazel Grace, Katniss and Olivia Pope just fine. There is room for these expressions of femininity. But female athletes? Even in an Olympic year, nope, not trending just yet. There are things about Katniss, Elsa and Beyonce being high profile that make me excited for young girls swimming in the water of media. But I’m still waiting for the day when female athletes are revered for their strength and embodiment. We have a lot of work to do to get there:

The disembodiment of girls is a world problem, but I believe the U.S. has a special strand all its own. The Facebook report gives us other clues about limiting the athletic scripts for young people. Comparing the Global Trending Topics to the U.S. list, the Superbowl outweighs the Olympics and the World Cup on the U.S. list. Choosing football over soccer and a national competition over international ones tells us something about where our priorities lie and which athletes we give power to. We still like to see men pummel each other while women shake a bit more than just their pom poms on the sideline. Now, I’ve taken my fair share of naps in front of the Vikings game on a Sunday afternoon, but the birth of our son has made me look at the football culture anew. I think back three years to when I needed to call the police to report domestic violence on my neighbors on Superbowl Sunday. I look at the cheerleaders, the concussions, the commercials, the off-the-field news of violence, and the business of it all and wonder if it is time to follow my former professor in making new Sunday rituals.

Am I being too sensitive? I don’t think so. I work with, coach and teach young women. They are disembodied and told to stay that way. Boys can look up to LeBron or Messi or Jeter or Peyton Manning or Shaun White in addition to Pitbull and Jimmy Fallon. Girls have the fictional Katniss, animated Elsa or unattainable Beyonce to choose from. There are so few high profile, strong role models in the media who have vaginas like them and are fully clothed. Boys and girls need to see more women plastered all over the television and Facebook, trending for throwing and running like the strong bad-asses they are.

Will a female athlete make the Facebook athlete list in 2015? I doubt it, but someday soon I hope.