Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Keep Up With the Boys...But Don't Be Better

From the incomparable Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville comes this post from which one cannot help but draw parallels to the Democratic Party nomination disaster ....
Jamie Nared, a 12-year-old girl who is six feet tall and an extremely talented basketball player, has been playing on a mixed-sex team since the second grade—but has suddenly been banned from playing with boys after parents complained. Her coach, Michael Abraham, and her parents (and, frankly, video of her game) suggest that the complaints arose because Jamie is so good and makes the boys on opposing teams look bad.

Jaime's mom, Reiko Williams, said the issue boiled over after a particular game. "She scored 30 points," Williams said. "I remember one play. She stole the ball, dribbled up court and made a behind-the-back pass to a teammate. He missed the lay-in, and she grabbed the rebound and put it in. I think it was just too much for some of those parents."

Abraham put Jaime on the boys team to match her skills and keep her with peers. He has had her play on high-school girls teams, but many travel and "her parents want her to be around kids her own age," Abraham said.

Neal Franzer, The Hoop's director of operations, said Thursday that parents were "adamant" that their complaints have nothing to do with Jaime's skills.

"They said the problem was the boys were playing differently against her because she was a girl," he said. "They'd been taught to not push a girl, so they weren't fouling her hard, and the focus had shifted from playing basketball to noticing a girl was on the floor with them."

To which Melissa keenly observes:
You'll note there are two little bits of victim-blaming there: 1. Jamie is a girl—so the boys can't help but be too easy on her; and 2. Jamie is a girl—so the boys can't help but be distracted by her. Either way: It's her fault.
And here's where I can't help but think about all of the asshats pundits who are calling for Hillary Clinton to quit the race:
There's a solution to this problem, naturally: Let Jamie play with the boys her own age, as she's been doing. But it's better to make her, and all the rest of the girls in her age group, suffer than risk emasculating boys who her team may beat. And forget about the boys on her team who are challenged and inspired by Jamie, like her teammate Joey Alfieri, who adorably says, "Her greatness, like, it, like, sprinkles off and goes onto us, and it kinda makes us better as a player, too."

Instead, it's the same old shit: Protect the boys most indoctrinated into the patriarchy (and/or their parents) and fiercely defend their privilege. Maude forbid they actually have to face the possibility that there might be a girl on the planet who's better at something than they are, or learn how to treat girls as their equals.

Meanwhile, the girls are taught one of the most important lessons of the patriarchy: The promise that if you work hard and do as well as the boys you'll be treated equally is a lie. If you do as well or—gasp!—better than the boys, you'll just be barred from competing, or segregated, or stopped however the rules allow, or demeaned until you quit.
My emphasis there, but please read the rest of the post here.


BAC said...

I saw this on the news earlier, but have been in and out all day so haven't posted about it.

A number of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mariah Burton Nelson, a former basketball player. She's written a number of books on women and sports, and she mentioned that at one time boys and girls always played team sports together. They were only separated after it became apparent that girls mature faster than boys, and were therefore more coordinated, and better able to play the sport (whatever that sport might be). As they started beating the boys it was determined that the two sexes should be separated, so as not to give the little boys a complex.

This young girls should have every right to continue to compete on the "boys" team.


Suzi Riot said...

This was the topic of conversation in the lunch room at work today. (I work for a nonprofit with an all female staff.) We were discussing one employee's son's choice to quit the high school wrestling team since the district now allows co-ed teams. His reason? He doesn't want to get beaten by the girls. Apparently there are some very good female wrestlers in the conference and boys are quitting in droves after losing to them. His mom called him an idiot and said that if he didn't want to lose, he should train harder.

Isn't that what sports and games are about? If you want to win, you'll have to be better than the other guy OR gal.

Mary Ellen said...

You've probably heard me say this before, but women will never be accepted as equals in this country until women accept that they are equal. Those mothers who fought to keep this talented girl off the basketball court are the ones who are hurting all future women from experiencing equality. I see the same thing in women in the media, who laughed at the sexist jokes about Hillary made by fellow male colleagues, or called for her to get out of the race to make room for the man who is less experienced, and less intelligent about the issues --i.e. his lack understanding of economics, national security, and lack of interest in women's and LGBT issues.

donald said...

i hope she sticks it out and stays on the team. she deserves to play on a team equal to her talent, whether it is boys or girls or both.

i am so sick of some of my gender that feel if they lose to a woman in sports or the work place, they are less of a man, when all it really means is that they are less talented, less prepared, or god forbid, not as good! suzi has it right, if you don't want to lose, train harder! and, if you do lose, lose gracefully.

Sue J said...

Thanks, all. I think the saddest aspect of this story is that it's the parents who are afraid their sons will "lose to a girl."

I love what her teammate (a boy) said:

"Her greatness, like, it, like, sprinkles off and goes onto us, and it kinda makes us better as a player, too."

Shame on those parents!