Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Feminism and Sports

I’ve been so busy writing about the Dover trial that I feel I may be failing at my job of irritating both sides of the living false dichotomy that is the American political system. Let’s fix that. We seem to be in an outbreak of feminist concern over sports issues. Eric Buzuvis, a law professor at the University of Iowa, is upset that the visiting locker rooms at the Iowa football stadium are painted pink, something that legendary coach Hayden Fry started decades ago. Buzuvis sees this as reinforcing sexist and homophobic stereotypes:

“With a pink locker room, you’re saying that ‘You are a girlie man. You are weak, like a girl,’ “Buzuvis said. “That implies that girls are nondominant, therefore, lesser. And that is offensive.”

The response to Buzuvis raising this issue has been pretty vile. She’s received a mountain of disgusting email, including death threats. One person said they hope she gets AIDS, another said, “The world will be a better place when you die.” Those people, frankly, should be exposed, publicly humiliated and, in some cases, charged with making threats. But that doesn’t mean that she’s right, and I would argue that she is not.

More importantly, I think she is damaging the cause of feminism by focusing on trivial and irrelevant matters. Just as the loony right makes themselves look absurd when they go after Tinky Winky or Spongebob Squarepants, the left only gives ammunition to their enemies when they raise a stink over such trivial things that don’t really mean anything.

In another example, Martha Burk has changed her focus from protesting Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters to protesting a new ad campaign by the NHL. The NHL, just off a lost season due to a lockout, are trying anything they can to bring fans back to the game for the upcoming season, including a sexy TV commercial with a beautiful woman helping a young stud player to get dressed for the game. It’s a clear takeoff on The Last Samurai, where the women prepares the warriors for battle. Says Martha Burk:

“It’s appealing to adult men while trying to masquerade as something for kids. That’s deeply offensive to me. As a mother of two sons, they see enough sex and violence anyway. Why put it in warrior terms? That’s offensive, let alone the sexism.”

I think this is an excellent example of how left and right often mirror one another. Just as there are some feminists who are in league with the religious right in wanting to outlaw pornography, here we see how the rhetoric of the left can mirror that of the right in its prissy puritanism. For crying out loud, if using sexy women to sell a product is going to bother you, why start with this ad? This has been going on since advertising began and there are far worse examples.

In a nation where feminism often finds itself demonized by the right, I think it’s all the more important to not give them additional ammunition by throwing a fit over such silly things. I think it’s a fundamental miscalculation, just as I think it is a miscalculation to focus on the weakest possible cases of sexual harrassment in the workplace. There is genuine sexual harrassment that goes on, quid pro quo situations that really do damage women. But by focusing so much on such vague notions as “hostile work environment”, where a man telling an off color joke is turned into intentional oppression and a ham handed come on becomes an attempt to destroy a woman’s career, the feminist movement has turned the attention away from real instances of sexual harrassment and real issues that keep women in inferior positions in business and government.

This is a country in which women are beaten and raped at an alarming rate, a rate that far exceeds that of any other free nation. I maintain that not only is the incidence of violence toward women much higher in America than the official statistics show, I think it’s much higher than most of us would dare to believe. There is real victimization going on in every neighborhood in every city, every day. It only trivializes this real suffering to focus so obsessively on the color of locker rooms or whether a private club of millionaires has any female members.