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Puerto Rico: Media Coverage of Women's Basketball Gold Medal

Puerto Rico's Women's National Basketball Team earned its first medal ever [es] in the Pan American Games held recently in Guadalajara, Mexico, after beating Mexico 85-67 in the gold medal match. Blogger and sports journalist Rafael Díaz Torres wrote a noteworthy article in the blog Comentario Deportivo Boricua [es] in which he offers an interesting critique on the mainstream media coverage of this historic event. The moment of the women's team victory is captured in this youtube video posted by user theliontree:

In his post, Rafael states that we must rethink how we think of women athletes in the Island:

Estas 12 mujeres son parte de la bandera deportiva boricua y sus triunfos son tan valiosos como los obtenidos por la versión masculina de la selección nacional de baloncesto. Su victoria debe motivarnos lo suficientemente como para continuar trabajando en favor de derrumbar las barreras deportivas de género. Esa medalla de oro también nos obliga a repensar las formas en que interpretamos, analizamos y cubrimos el deporte femenino.

These 12 women are part of the Puerto Rican sports flag and their triumphs are as valuable as the ones obtained by the men's version of the Puerto Rican national team. Their victory should motivate us enough to keep working in tearing down gender barriers. This gold medal also forces us to rethink how we interpret, analyze and cover women sports.

He remarks on the differences between how the men and women's teams are referred to:

Tenemos la mala de costumbre de utilizar selectivamente la etiqueta de “femenino” para referirnos a los equipos de baloncesto de mujeres. No se hace lo mismo con la versión masculina. Tal forma de expresarnos es injusta ya que al describir a los hombres como “Equipo Nacional” y a las mujeres como “Equipo Nacional Femenino”, damos a entender que el baloncesto es un campo masculino en donde siempre se parte de la premisa de que van a participar solamente varones.

We have the bad habit of using the label “feminine” when referring to the women's basketball team. This does not happen with the masculine version of the team. This way of expressing ourselves is unjust as it describes the men's version as the “National Team” and the women's as the “Feminine National Team”, indicating that basketball is a man's field, where we start from the premise that only men participate in it.

He also criticizes the fact that in the press many women athletes are portrayed as sexy celebrities:

Ser selectivo e incluir fotos de atletas altamente sugestivas y provocadoras (i.e. Fotos de El Nuevo Día sobre Yarleen Santiago en voleibol de playa) debe ser inaceptable en el 2011 y el futuro deportivo inmediato.

Being selective and including very suggestive and provocative photos (for example, photos in El Nuevo Día about Yarleen Santiago for beach volleyball) must be unacceptable in 2011 and the immediate future.

Ultimately, he says, women athletes must be celebrated as much as men athletes are:

La emoción que desbordamos por nuestros atletas masculinos debe ser replicada para las mujeres deportistas, quienes con mayores vicisitudes que los hombres, salen al terreno de juego o competencia a representarnos con el mismo amor y tesón.

The outpour of emotion for our men athletes must be replicated for our women athletes, who facing greater difficulties than men, enter the sports field or contest to represent us with the same love and effort.

Raúl Feliciano Ortiz, from Revista Cruce [es] also wrote an article on the subject in which he comments on the coverage of the women's basketball team compared with the men's team.

Y si pensamos en que este equipo logró una hazaña similar a la de la Selección masculina en el 2004 al ganarle, por primera vez, a un equipo de Estados Unidos, vemos que la disparidad en cobertura es abismal. Cuando los hombres le ganaron al Team USA en el 2004, se le dedicaron múltiples noticias, segmentos especiales y hasta posters en la parte de adentro de los periódicos a un equipo que ni siquiera consiguió llegar a las semifinales del torneo olímpico. Las mujeres tuvieron que ganar oro para lograr una cobertura similar y, aun así, me parece que tampoco ha sido igual.

If we think that this team's victories were similar to the men's victory in 2004 over a team from the United States [at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece], we'll see that the coverage's disparity is abysmal. When the men won over Team USA in 2004 there were multiple news stories, special segments and even posters inserted in the newspapers of a team that eventually did not even reach the semifinals of the Olympic tournament. The women had to win gold to get similar coveage and even then, it has not be the same.

In the end, he wishes that this may only be the first of many medals for the women's team:

Espero que la historia de esa medalla no sea solamente que fue la primera, sino que fue parte de un cambio de visión de mundo en nuestro entorno puertorriqueño. Hay algunos buenos indicios; esperemos que no sea una simple moda. ¡Enhorabuena!

I hope that that this medal is not only the first, but part of a change of the Puerto Rican world view. There are some good signs; let's hope it is not only a passing fad. Congratulations!

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