Editor's note: This YouthNoise blog by Tara Conley originally appeared here as part of the Play City campaign. Play City seeks, through sports, to energize individuals, revitalize communities and catalyze change in the world.

Did anyone happened to catch Texas A&M's newly released media guide for the 2009-2010 women's basketball team? Or Florida State's women's basketball team website? Oh how times have changed since I was a college athlete.

The Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans recently wrote about the newly redesigned women's collegiate media guides and websites with an overt feminized message. One has to question if this is some kind of attempt to re-brand female basketball players based on widely accepted views that if you're a female college athlete who plays basketball, odds are you're a lesbian.


Evans' article examines this seemingly new wave of over-feminizing female basketball players as a way to mask "butchness." (Yes, even the WNBA has attempted to sex up/feminize its gals). Evans highlights Training Rules, a recent documentary film by Dee Mosbacher and Fawn Yacker about former Penn State coach Rene Portland, who supposedly touted three rules for her female players: No drinking. No drugs. No lesbians.

Here's the trailer clip from Training Rules:

Evans writes:

"The film is fascinating in its inside look at how homophobia has a choke hold on women's sports in general. How it's used against each other in recruiting, tagging programs as full of lesbians, and how schools/coaches over feminize themselves to not appear lesbian. All under the "innocent" veil of wanting to show women athletes can be "powerful, beautiful, strong and accomplished." Or, to put it more simply, heterosexual, too."

As a former high school basketball player and collegiate track athlete, I've experienced first-hand the turmoil female athletes (whether they identify as lesbian or not) endured at the hand of coaches and peer athletes. These same athletes, who were also my friends, were labeled as "butch" and "lesbos" and misjudged accordingly because of what others assumed or "saw."

In high school, I was called a "man" a "horse" and a "dinosaur" for the way I appeared on the basketball court and track. My legs were huge. I'd curse when I got upset. I was faster than all the other girls (and some guys). And at times, I walked around with a head scarf wrapped around my head because 1) it was hella comfortable during track meets and basketball games, and 2) it was hella cold in Cleveland, Ohio. The folks who called me a man, horse, or dinosaur learned somewhere that if the fastest girl or best long jumper in the state didn't act (or hell, look) like a lady or wasn't girly in nature and in stature that she, that I, must be the opposite of that; manly, animal-like, and monstrous. Some people's logic is the epitome of #epicfail.

The sexualization and over-feminization of female athletes is nothing new, and neither is the ridicule female athletes experience because who they are and how they act don't measure up to another person's standard of womanhood. I share Evans' position that dressing up these women for a website or media guide is offensive because it works to undermine the ability each one of these athletes have worked to master since childhood. And I'll take it a step further; the fact that these universities are promoting an overtly feminized "illusion" is asinine and creepy (Texas A&M coach Gary Blair adjusting his tie in the picture above is just all kinds of weird).

Whether these women like to wear dresses or not, or whether they identify as homosexual or heterosexual isn't the issue. The problem is disconnect: What does wearing a silky prom dress circa 1999 or posing in a sultry manner while wearing a black cocktail dress have to do with how many boards these women can grab per game or how accomplished they are on and off the court? What does one thing have to do with the other? If my school or coach would've ever suggested that I pose wearing a dress or high heels for the sports media guide/website so as means to appear "powerful, beautiful, strong, and accomplished," I would've laughed hysterically in their face and redirected them to my stellar grade point average, field goal percentage stats, and scholarship awards instead.

Don't play me for a fool.

When the game means more than wind sprints and foul shots. When it takes on a different connotation. When it becomes as much about how these women look as about how they play and hustle on the court. When young girls, hoping to one day play for schools like Penn State, Texas A&M, Florida State, or the WNBA, think that part of being a powerful, beautiful, strong, and accomplished female athlete means looking good in a dress or high heels, then society--touting tolerance in the guise of fear and cowardice--has officially failed its daughters.

The day we start asking our men's teams to pose for media guides and websites in Rambo outfits with machine guns strapped to their backs to appear, you know, "manly" instead of appearing like, you know, basketball players is when you'll catch me on the first flight to a desert island. Ok, maybe that was kinda an exaggeration of epic proportions, but arguably not as ridiculous as female basketball players posing for "glamour shots" in collegiate sports media guides.

*head desk*