Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Sporting Chance

It's been fairly clear, I think, that I am a huge fan of sport. I'll watch almost any sport on tv. One of my biggest horrors was the emergence of Tiger Woods and the realisation that I actually quite liked watching golf; another set of hours lost to that every year. My no-nos consist of NASCAR and motorsports in general; darts, snooker, fine, and I have not yet been tested on ten-pin bowling. I'm hoping no.

What I haven't really talked about are the negative aspects. I have the tendency to be dismissive of women's dislike of sport, I know, in part because I don't really understand it. One, I think that a lot of the dialogue is dismissive of men - to treat it as a silly hobby, pastime, and trivial, is to dismiss a great deal of men. Whether that's in reaction to women being excluded or otherwise, I don't know; what I do think is that it's not positive or healthy for relationships and understanding between the sexes. Two, I was good at sport, loved it, and I went to an all-girls' school, so the pressures of running my newly-developed body in front of boys didn't happen. Plus, I know that schools didn't talk to us about the need for DECENT sports bras that might protect you.

I think one of the things I like about sport is its giving me an excuse to be combative, and I don't mean in the usual sense of competition. Every time I meet new people, particularly men, I have to "prove myself." There are assumptions made, presumptions spoken, and prejudices revealed about women and sport, be it our knowledge of it, or even ability to know about it. Every time I hear the words "play like a girl," yes, I'm dismayed, disappointed, but I also know that I get to challenge a lazy assumption, even from the most educated and intelligent men.

So many men seem to think we do not belong in sport, be it playing, in front of the tv or at the game itself. It's a last bastion of hypermasculinity, heterorthodoxy. It's interesting that, in lots of ways, I thought that American crowds are more accepting of women and "others" than in the UK - because there are tons who watch their colleges in the bars, who sit at the baseball and yell along with the blokes. However, a couple of things have come to my attention this week that show that this is a veneer; underneath, there is an underbelly of loathing, hatred and fear of the other, that expresses itself through bigotry and violence.

Jill at Feministe has a wonderful (although awfully sad) piece about the brave little college kid fighting for his right to spew homophobia at a game. If you scrape the surface, as she does thoroughly and carefully here, the bloke reveals himself to be a typical rightwing victim of the liberal elites, who hates the gays, thinks they shouldn't be allowed, wants to shout offensive stuff about them BUT is somehow a victim for being suppressed. Hmm. Funny how people do NOT understand the First Amendment at all - it's that Congress - and so government actors - cannot dictate your speech for you, not that I per se can't ban it, as a private actor, in my home, or as a private college in my sports ground. You don't have an unadulterated right to say whatever the fuck you want, unfortunately for these misguided souls. I really, really cannot wait to take First Amendment next semester; I will be reporting back on what I learn. It's going to be interesting.

Anyway, then I open the NY Times sports page this morning and this greets me: yes, apparently the Jets fans are demanding that women flash their tits for them as half-time entertainment. They even boo when they don't get to see enough. And even better - women DO IT for them; of course, they're the ones who are warned about indecency laws when they expose themselves. I don't know what makes me madder - but it's all pretty good for stoking up the rage before 9 in the morning.

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