Intro to the Photo Essay

Returning back to my original piece and its focus on hegemonic masculinity in American football, I decided to flip the script: I will pursue a photo essay surrounding the evolution of women’s professional football in the U.S.

Did you know the U.S. had women’s professional football leagues? Did you know there are multiple? 

I didn’t, until my favorite Big Brother contestant Kaycee was one.

The general conventions of a photo essay are according to my personal favorite and always reliable source, Wikipedia, are as follows: a series of photos, made to evoke emotions for the viewer; can be purely photographic, include small captions, or full text essays that include photographs.

I am not a regular consumer of photo essays; therefore, this will be a bit out of my comfort zone (not as far out as a podcast would be, but definitely not as comfy as the op-ed). I found some really incredible examples to help me in this endeavor:

Brief captions:

A more interactive, multimedia approach:

Because I cannot travel to these games, nor travel back in time, these will have to be photos that I obtain from various media outlets. I still do not know exactly what the structure of the essay will be – this is something I could use all of your help on. Initially, I wanted to focus on the Legends Football League – former title, the Lingerie Football League. I worry, though, that a photo essay will play into the sexualization of these players and not tell the full story. Many are women who genuinely love the sport of football, and I do not want to contribute to a narrative that reduces these women to their uniform. If I focus on this league, I want to be sure to tell the whole story – how this is a product of American society, not the women’s autonomy. There are other leagues that I can focus on, that do not have quite the same, let’s say, controversial overtones: the Women’s Professional Football League, the Women’s Football Alliance, the United States Women’s Football League, among others. I want to do my best to portray the current status of women’s professional football in the U.S, something that I’m assuming most of us don’t know too much about. Any input you guys have is welcomed, and frankly, necessary. Plz help me.

Introduction to the Feature Profile

When I first think about a “feature story” or a “profile”, I think of someone’s face plastered across the top of an article, in an exploitative way that is somehow not exploitative. The unwritten consent of this person to have their entire life summarized, spelled out, and in some ways simplified, in black and white print is derived from their fame, success, or often, wrongdoing. However, in a less subjective definition, the reference site ThoughtCo teaches us that the feature profile is  an “article about an individual, such as a politician, celebrity, athlete, or CEO” which “seeks to give readers a behind-the-scenes look at what a person is really like, warts and all, away from their public persona”. According to this “How To” article in the archive of the NYT,  the person profiled is often popular in the news at the time.

The feature profile is the print news media’s version of a documentary, or biography. This story telling of another’s life has been adapted into other forms, as well: one of my favorite Podcasts to listen to is NPR’s “How I Built This” with Guy Raz. I believe that his podcast, a dive into the success stories of prominent business people such as Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s, would also fit into this genre of feature.

I plan to do a feature story about Colin Kaepernick, as he was the catalyst behind the player’s protests of 2016 that have led to so much debate and controversy in the political and athletic realm. In no way do I intend to imply that Colin Kaepernick is the main crusader of this movement.

Since a main aspect of feature articles is the interview with the person or people who know the person, and Colin Kaepernick, as well as his friends, have better things to do than talk to me, I will have to find a way around this. Possible tactics to avert this possible setback include reading features that have been done on Kaepernick, such as “Colin Kaepernick Has a Job” via The Bleacher Report (s/o Max for the recc!), or any writings done by Kaepernick himself.

One interesting aspect to think about feature profiles, is the current state of feature profile’s in today’s age of social media. With so many opportunities for public figures to create their own public image through this platform of social media, will the feature articles survive? Is there any advantage to the celebrity to transfer the image creation out of their own hands, into the hands of a stranger? These topics and more were explored in this September 2018 article from the NY Times.

Examples of features:

Carl Karcher, founder of Carl’s Jr.

Sheila Michaels, crusader of “Ms.” movement

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and cultural icon


Introduction to the Op-Ed

Honestly, before writing this blog post, I would have struggled for words on what exactly constitutes an Op-Ed. An opinion piece, riddled with facts and research, about something at least a bit relevant to current times, I think? I found a succinct definition that I have attempted to adhere to throughout my Op-Ed exploration. In my probe, I seem to have stumbled upon a distinction between an Op-Ed Editorial and an Op-Ed Column. Editorials are written collaboratively with the editorial board, and express the views of the paper as a whole. Columns are the work of a sole author, and opinions are totally their own. As I do not write for a paper and it would difficult to craft a piece in which the entire Tu/Th 1-2:30pm Minor in Writing Gateway agrees, my piece will be of the latter distinction.

One of my absolute favorite past-times is reading Op-Ed articles, and I tend to gravitate towards The New York Times as the source of my content. As I scroll through my “saved for later” list, the log of articles I read that move me and prompt me to save them forever in this digital hide-away, it is obvious that I am most likely to read and love articles about three things: education, sports, and love. I find my own opinions often altered or challenged by Op-Ed pieces, and it is the capability of Op-Ed’s to do just this that inspires me to write one of my own. 

It wouldn’t be a post about how much I love Op-Ed’s if I didn’t include some of those very works that I claim to love so much. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to intake most of my Op-Ed content from the NYT; I am trying to expand my network in this regard. I just find their column the easiest to navigate, and the most diverse in their material covered – I don’t want every single Op-Ed I read to be about politics (@ Washington Post).

Frank Bruni is my all time favorite Opinion columnist. When I was a senior in high school, I read his book Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be, and it completely changed my outlook on the college admissions process. This work was basically an Op-Ed that extended for 200+ pages. Much of Bruni’s work focuses on education, like this article I read recently about the danger that modern American universities are placing on the humanities as a discipline, or this one that is in some ways an extension/ postlude his book that I discussed earlier.

Much more relevant to my delve into the world of sports and hegemonic masculinity in the paper that I plan to recreate, I wish I could force everyone I know to read this article. Public opinion, to my experience, still stands at a point where most people reject the notion that sports can and should mean anything more than a favorite past-time, their fantasy team, or 75% of conversation that goes on at any Buffalo Wild Wings, anywhere. My hope is that current events (Colin Kaepernick, Serena Williams, Nike, Golden State Warriors, and so much more) bring attention to the presence of sports in society as having overarching racial and political meanings. And to tackle that substantial task, I can think of only one way to do it:

Ryan Clemmons – Intro

Hey everyone! My name is Ryan Clemmons and I am from Westland, Michigan – about 30 minutes away from AA. Most people haven’t heard of Westland, so if you’ve heard of Canton, it’s right next door. I am a Junior studying Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in writing (obviously). The current plan is to attend law school – at least that’s what I tell my dad to keep him sane. I took a Research Methods course this summer and fell in love with it, which has me heavily considering possible PhD programs as well.

I’m an only child and I live with my dad. We are super close, even though he refuses to let me call him my “best friend”, he is. He’s my hero in more ways than one. My maternal grandparents (Nana and Papa) live three houses down from me, and have been a huge part of my life. My dad’s mom (Grandma) lives a few streets over, and is the person I call when just about anything happens in my life. Good grade, bad grade, new pens, bad break up: Grandma knows about it.

Here at Michigan, I have played on the club volleyball team since freshman year. I’ve played volleyball year round since middle school, and though I chose not to pursue the sport in college, I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I am also in a pre-law and public policy co-ed fraternity, and I work at the law library.

Some of my favorite past-times include listening to podcasts, bullet journaling (if you haven’t heard of this, look it up – it’s like an entire subculture and it’s changed my life), reading (not as much as I should), watching and talking about sports, and intaking as much television and movies as physically possible. I wish I knew how much of my life I’ve spent in front of a tv, it’s probably a lot. I love any movie with Dermot Mulroney, and I’ve watched just about all of them with my Grandma. I have more cinematic interests than mid 90’s rom-coms, but I’ll save those for another post. My favorite sports are college football – the college categorization is important – and professional baseball. I do not particularly like or follow professional football, and my only claim to basketball is winning my March Madness bracket last year.

I (accidentally) have taken two ULWR classes thus far at UMich, and in both classes I felt like I experienced the most growth as a writer and a person. When I came across the minor in writing, it appealed to me for two reasons: the ease with which I would fulfill at least the ULWR part of the minor, and the opportunity to develop myself further as a writer. Writing has always held a special place in my heart. When I was young, I wrote many fiction short stories, if they could even be called that. In high school, the ACT-style focus of writing turned me away from the practice, and more recently I’ve developed a love for academic writing. I think people who enjoy and care about writing are the best kind of people, and I’m excited that the minor will allow me to get to know all of you.