There are many reasons to love the WNBA – for it’s athleticism, it’s symbolism, it’s social importance – but one of the reasons I really love the WNBA is the way the players play the game with passion and aggression mixed with having a good time and a sense of humor. It lacks the over-the-top machismo of the NBA, and this is a good thing. Over the past week, the WNBA has gotten a lot more media attention that usual for a smooch between players during a game, resulting in a personal foul for both players involved. Phoenix Mercury veteran star Diana Taurasi was messing with Minnesota Lynx player and long-time frenemy Seimone Augustus by distracting Augustus from her blocking attempt by giving her a peck. This was not a romantic advance. The woman have known each other for nearly 20 years and Augustus is soon-to-be married. This was just basketball players messing with each other, having fun playing the game they’ve devoted their lives to.
When asked about the kiss in post-game press conferences, the players went on to be even more good-humored about their kerfuffle. Augustus said, “as far as me and Diana and the tango dance that we had, I always say she just wanted some of my deliciousness.” Taurasi confirmed this account and said, “I was just trying to make sweet love. That’s about it.” Can you imagine any male athlete being so comfortable with their own sexuality and athletic ability to be so hilarious?
The WNBA is the only women’s professional team sports league in the U.S. and it has not been the most popular league. It’s relative lack of popularity is probably at least partially owing to the ways in which the players challenge our notions of femininity and power. The players either get ridiculed as women for not being as good athletes as men or ridiculed for their athleticism being attributed to their mannishness or their sexual preferences. And either way, most people have no actually bothered to sit down and enjoy a game. It’s good! And this is coming from my own stereotypical cis-gender female self who usually can’t be bothered with watching team sports. Maybe all along it was because I find the way men play less interesting than the way women play.
But this past year has been a good year for the WNBA, with some exciting rookies increasing viewership both at stadiums and on ESPN. Hopefully this upward trend will expand the popularity of the league as well as our conceptions of womanhood. Sadly for you, dear readers, the league is already in its playoffs and we’ll have to wait until next May to get our sporty feminism on.