Inkwell: Authors and Artists
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Tue 11 Dec 07 09:48
Our next guests are the authors of a new book on girls, boys, sports, their place in society, and, especially, the fruits of Title IX legislation, Laura Pappano and Eileen McDonagh. Their book, published by Oxford University Press, is titled, *Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports*.
Bruce Umbaugh (bumbaugh) Tue 11 Dec 07 09:51
Laura Pappano is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and many other publications. She is writer-in-residence at The Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. At 13, she was the only girl on her Danbury News-Times Carrier League baseball team and in 1978 was the only other female besides her sister (now a medievalist scholar) on the New Milford, CT town soccer team. She played varsity field hockey at Yale and has played recreational coed softball, basketball, tennis, and touch football. On Thanksgiving, she scored two touchdowns in the neighborhood football game and would have scored another if her daughters hadn't committed a holding penalty. Co-author Eileen McDonagh is a professor at Northeastern University and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Qualitative Science at Harvard University. She is the author of Breaking the Abortion Deadlock. Helping to facilitate the conversation is longtime Well member, Janet Hess. Welcome, you three! Let me start things, if I may, with a request for the big picture. What's the short-attention-span version of your thesis in *Playing With Boys*?
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Tue 11 Dec 07 14:06
Great to be here, Bruce. The brief version of our thesis is that 1) sports matter -- not just as mere entertainment but as a key path to political, social, and economic power in our society 2) that sports are the most sex-segregated institution in our society -- more sex-segregated than the military and 3) oh, by the way, the sex-typed rule differences, play differences, status differences don't reflect actual physical differences between males and females (of course there are differences!) but RATHER, CONSTRUCT sex differences. The result is that male athletics operate as the "standard" and female athletics as the lesser version. Sports, we argue, are a tool for equality. The problem is that inequities are so pervasive as to appear completely normal -- and acceptable. We think it's time to challenge the status quo (apologies for the slight HSM ref. here).
Janet Hess (gertiestn) Wed 12 Dec 07 01:44
Hi to Laura and Eileen. And you, too, Bruce, now as I think on it. What a wide ranging, interesting book! It deals with simple stuff like politics, history, gender, class, race, sexuality, economics, power. Oh, and sports, too. I think you present a compelling case that the time has come to look at and challenge the way we think about sports. I'm 59 and therefore decidedly pre-Title IX. Probably because there was so little available before Title IX for girls and women who were drawn to sports, I've thought of Title IX as a major step toward equality in sports. So I was especially taken by the chapter heading you've used in your discussion of Title IX: Old Norms in New Forms. Could you discuss how Title IX, in permitting sex segregation, really doesn't help female althletes who want to "play with the boys"?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 12 Dec 07 11:31
(NOTE: Offsite readers with comments or questions may have them added to this conversation by sending email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> )
Eileen McDonagh (e-mcdonagh) Wed 12 Dec 07 12:49
Hi, Janet, the way we look at it, there are four stages to reaching equality: (1) the subordinate group is prohibited from participating with the dominant group in education, work, sports, even voting -- this was true for women before Title IX -- there simply is no play sports at all. (2) the second stage is segregated opportunities -- sports teams segregated by race or sex, for example. Title IX was important because it set-up a system of sports for women, though on a legally coercive sex-segregated basis. (3) the third stage is integration of the subordinate group with the dominant group. In 1954, for example, in Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that "separate is not equal" in educational institutions in the context of racial segregation. This launched a social and political movement to de-segregate society in order to have more racial equality, a process that is still going on today. OUr book argues that this is the next step that needs to be taken with women and sports. Yes, Title IX was a good step in providing sports opportunities for girls, but on a sex-segregated basis. We need to continue the process by establishing sex integration in sports programs. (4) the fourth and last stage is giving the subordinate the option for voluntary, self-segregation on the grounds that this is a way to make up for a history of discrimination and perhaps a discomfort among some in the subordinate group when it comes to competing directly with the dominant group. So, for example, colleges like Wellesley and Smith give those girls who wish, on a voluntary basis, to self-segregated, to do so. However, previously male educational institutions, like Harvard, are now co-ed, and should be. so, Title IX is an important, but hardly sufficient, step in the right direction. Eileen
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Wed 12 Dec 07 17:43
Can you, for the benefit of those following along who have *not* had the good fortune to read the book yet, bit by bit unpack 1 through 4? Just starting historically, reading your book, Laura and Eileen, impressed on me the state of things for adolescent and college-age women in the days before Title IX. My mother taught P.E. for years, and her stories about her early years, teaching that mutant basketball game that was three on three on each half of the court (that none of the fragile things would wear themselves out), knocked me over. So, it's not as though there were (no* play sports for women, but they weren't readily recognizable as the sports that men played. Can you tell use more about the state of things then, either of you? (And the tale of the U Cal v. Stanford game, with the men trying to sneak in to watch, is probably worth retelling here, too.)
Janet Hess (gertiestn) Thu 13 Dec 07 01:37
(An aside: Surely I'm not the only person who read the book while thinking about how much Condoleezza Rice wants to be the NFL Commissioner when she, um, grows up.)
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Thu 13 Dec 07 05:08
Glad you brought up the history piece because it's absolutely the behind-the-scenes driver that has shaped where we are today. The short version is that organized sport -- starting post Civil War -- was a way to men to display their masculinity (there was all sorts of worry in the late 1800s that men were getting "soft" and, well, that's where football came in). At the same time, female play had to be appropriately "feminine" because at that time it was widely held that the very future of society depended on men and women occupying "separate spheres." Women could play, but only in "protected" settings -- often that could men play in country clubs or (more widely) it meant that rules were created that would limit female play and keep women from over-exerting themselves (recall that we're in the age of the frail female who was to rest during her period). That's why in 1902 the US Lawn Tennis Association voted to limit female play in tennis to 2 out of 3 sets. What is so interesting about that time is that women were performing stunning feats -- walking hundreds of miles, for example, during the pedestrian craze. But when it came to say basketball (probably the most popular sport for women at the turn of the century) there was deep concern that it was too "mannish." At a game at Smith College, females were so aggressive that observers worried that their "manly play" would -- yipes! -- make them take on male characteristics. That's why you go all those rules restricting women to regions of the court, limiting bounces, prohibiting a player from interfering with a shooter (isn't that what the NCAA or WNBA is all about now??) THe Berkeley-Stanford game was the first college game (1896) and I came across a news account of the game written a few days after the event. What struck me was -- not only the huge turnout of 700 fans plus the males who were not allowed but trying to sneak in through passageways and peak from the roof of the Paige Street Armory -- but the preparation. For weeks prior to the game, the women had to eat a special table where their nutrition could be monitored. The game, of course, was not a score-fest. Stanford won 2-1. And a footnote: the two teams split the gate receipts. Stanford built a track for women but Berkeley's money went "toward defraying the expenses of the athletic team (male) on it's approaching Eastern tour." There's an example of women's sports funding men's sports!
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Thu 13 Dec 07 05:16
Oh and glad you brought up Condi Rice...I'm glad she's put it out there that she wants the NFL commissioner's job someday. We ought to have women running the league (women are now 30 percent of NFL viewership) -- and as referees. You don't have to be built like an offensive lineman to throw a yellow flag.
Lisa Everitt (lisa) Thu 13 Dec 07 06:45
I'm 48 and my personal trainer is 36. We were talking about participation in high school sports and I mentioned Title IX. To my astonishment, she had never heard of it.
Eileen McDonagh (e-mcdonagh) Thu 13 Dec 07 06:58
yes, let's get women on the playing field as umpires and referees, at least. The referees for the Super Bowl, for example, are not necessarily former football players, and women's relatively lower weight and shorter height compared to men is not a handicap for being a referee. The public needs to see women in positions of authority in sports arenas, and what better image than a woman throwing a flag and telling a 300 lb, 6' 4+" linebacker he is offsides. Eileen
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 13 Dec 07 07:07
There are some female umpires in baseball's minor leagues, I believe. Ah, yes, here's a news story from 2006 on the MLB.com site about Ria Cortesio, who umps at the double-A level: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060709&content_id=1549670&vkey=allst ar2006&fext=.jsp My daughter would love to be a baseball umpire in the major leagues. She'd be a good one, too. Shouting men don't intimidate her at all. But right now she's in the entertainment biz. While we're discussing female participation as umps and refs, there's no reason at all why a woman couldn't be a coach or manager, either.
Lisa Everitt (lisa) Thu 13 Dec 07 11:09
How does this change come about, though? My sense from reading the book is that even though girls and women are allowed to compete against men these days, they don't generally choose to, and when you read the stories about what those rare women go through, you understand why. I thought it was interesting that you noted New Mexico kicker Katie Hnida for being the first woman to play, and later score, in Div. 1A football (pg. 73). You didn't mention that before Katie Hnida played for UNM, she played two seasons for the University of Colorado, and during the CU sex/recruitment scandals a few years back, came forward to report that she was one of many women (mostly on the athletics staff, or student trainers) who had been abused, fondled and/or harrassed by football players. In Katie Hnida's case, she was raped. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/writers/rick_reilly/02/16/hnida/ Coach Gary Barnett told the media she deserved what she got because she inserted herself into the game, "and not only was she a girl, she was terrible, OK?" He said the guys would have respected her if she had had football skills. http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/Central/02/18/colorado.football/ My response is, "Who needs that?" I would advise my daughter the same. There are plenty of other opportunities for women to play, get fit, be part of a team, earn scholarships and make a living in athletics. Why put yourself in a position to be as badly damaged, at a young age, as Katie Hnida was?
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Thu 13 Dec 07 18:34
Croquet is the one sport I know that doesn't discriminate on the basis of sex (or age, for that matter).
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Fri 14 Dec 07 05:54
Lisa -- You raise an important point. I absolutely remember the CU scandal and Barnett's comments about Hnida (which were absurdly off point) And it's true -- it can be uncomfortable for girls who play with boys and for boys who play with girls. Last week, a school athletic director pointed out that after a boy was beaten by a girl in wrestling, the other boys beat him up in the locker room and called him a sissy. Their solution: Separate the sexes. I'd say rather than separate the sexes, we need to address the behavior. It's not all right to beat up, rape, attack other players -- whatever their gender (or in some settings, sexual orientation). Enforcing fair play on and off the field among teams and teammates is of critical importance. I know your instinct as a parent is to keep your daughter from the potential negatives of co-ed play. But there is also unfortunate behavior on the field in same sex play. When it comes to girls and boys playing together, we need to normalize relations. There are more coed leagues and opportunities for play today, but in so many cases they continue to enforce sex differences (sometimes subtly sometimes baldly) rather than consider first skill differences or experience. A few weeks ago I registered my son online for youth soccer in town. At the top of the registration page in a black box there is a warning in red type: It says "If you are attempting to register a daughter, please be aware that Newton Youth Soccer is co-ed, but primarily boys." It follows up with information and a link to the girl's team. Now I don't think the people running this league truly want to keep out girls. But the message to girls is pretty clear: you really shouldn't play in this league. You don't belong. I think that sort of message hurts a whole lot.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Fri 14 Dec 07 07:08
My son plays travel youth hockey and has for 5 years. Every year except this one he's had 1 or more girls playing on his team (two years ago 25% of th team). He's a pee wee level and nearly every team we play has girls on the team; often amongst the best pleyers since as we all know middle school girls usually get their growth quicker than boys and their general coordination, i.e. skating skills are higher. That more girls don't play is largely their own choice. By bantom and midget levels 13-16 years old, the teams become segregated and girls generally go off to playing girls only leagues. Most likely because of the physical aspects of the game become more intense. I don't think any girl who could complete at a high level would be discougaged in any way (this being california and not Canada, filling rosters is always hard). There is also girls teams v. boys teams competition but the boys hate it. When they schedule a game of say pee wee boys against a girls team they'll make it a pee wee (11 and 12 year old) boys v. girs 16 and under. they alter the rules to not allow checking to supposedly protect the girls, however the girls mostly have 6" to 10" in height and 30 to 40 lpbs on most of the boys. The games are almost always won by the girls as being older and faster and checking being taking out as a strategy, the games become one-sided. Not fun for anyone. Adn yes, there are plenty of girls/women reffing in hockey. It's all about speed, experience and judgement.
Lisa Everitt (lisa) Fri 14 Dec 07 09:39
I agree we need to address "the behavior" -- i.e. the culture of macho stupidity that shows up over and over, especially in professional and upper echelon college athletics. We have come a long way, granted, but I don't expect to see the end of sexist crap in my lifetime. Some of it is "uncomfortable" and some of it is abusive and damaging. I would advise young women to pick their battles accordingly. I put in time in newsrooms beginning in the late 1970s, so I lived a version of this story -- including a newspaper environment in 1991 where the sports department interns were running roughshod, sending lewd anonymous messages to female staff. When I complained (I was the business editor), they started in on me with crap like "Your tits sag." I was management, they were interns. Guess who got told to lighten up? The most discouraging part of the whole sex/recruitment scandal at CU was how the female president of the university scrambled to protect the football program. The most infamous moment came when she told the press (or the board of regents) that she thought "cunt" was a term of endearment, based on her work as a Chaucer scholar. It was just too awful. A different president of the university settled the primary lawsuit last week for $3 million.
Janet Hess (gertiestn) Fri 14 Dec 07 10:07
You mean "cunt" _isn't_ a term of endearment?
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Fri 14 Dec 07 10:53
maybe in Glasgow or parts of Edinburgh.
Janet Hess (gertiestn) Fri 14 Dec 07 11:52
Robin has it right about croquet; Laura and Eileen include in their book an 1875 engraving showing a group of men and women playing croquet indoors. And Lisa's points about macho stupidity are good ones. I don't want to trumpet "You've come a long way, baby," but it can be easy to forget how much has changed in this country in a fairly short time. Just the other night, I found myself remembering that my own mother was born only five years after (white) women got the vote. One of the things I like most about the book is the rich historical context that Eileen and Laura give.
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Fri 14 Dec 07 13:42
Yeah, it's one of the doubly puzzling things with <old fogey voice, I guess> "young people today." </voice> My students tend both to suppose that all those nasty old problems of prejudice have been fixed now, and also to underestimate dramatically how different things were just a couple of decades before they were born. Funny, in a way, that they do both. Could one of you say a little more about the discussion in the book comparing the issue of sex segregation in youth sports with the debates about "mainstreaming" and how that concept would apply to athletics programs in the schools?
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 14 Dec 07 14:15
The term sexual dimorphism is used to delineate the size differential between the male and female of a species. For example, with baboons, the female is, on average, 50% the size of the male. The female simian ape is 100% the size of the male. With human beings the female is 90% the size of the male. The same applies roughly to strength and speed and jumping, too. This is not to say that the largest female human is not considerably bigger than the smallest male, but in the world of sports where games like basketball favor the tallest, football the biggest, fasted, etc., the idea of "equal" must inherently factor in this fact of biology. This is why womens and mens sports evolved separately. Across a competitive field, they will rarely be equal and the best males will outperform the best female athletes. This is a completely different perspective than the one that says that girls should have every opportunity to play sports with equivalent conditions and opportunities as the boys have.
Eileen McDonagh (e-mcdonagh) Fri 14 Dec 07 18:27
Mainstreaming -- the idea about mainstreaming is that it benefits the disadvantaged and the advantaged to be together in the same educational setting as much as possible. segregating students in order to deal with "special" needs is the last resort, not the first, and ideally only done in conjunction with integrated classroom settings. The application to athletics would be to have sex integration in sports as the first principle. Sex integration would be the norm, and special teams for girls would be added as the exception to meet the special needs of those girls who do not feel comfortable playing with the boys. Eventually, the goal would be to have coed teams at various levels of skill with the caveat that it would still be permissible to designate some sport experiences for girls only, for those girls who wish to segregate themselves voluntarily.
Ludo, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Fri 14 Dec 07 20:33
Any room for boys who wish to segregate themselves voluntarily? Its possible that some boys may not feel comfortable playing with girls. Would there be acceptable/unacceptable reasons for any segregation? Could there be segregation by sexual preference? BTW, I like the idea of the advantaged and the disadvantaged being together. How far can we go in combating self-segregation?
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Fri 14 Dec 07 21:02
<*Playing With the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sports*> Why, with this title, do you conflate the "separate but not equal" issue stemming from the racial prejudice in the pre-Civil Rights era with the Post-Title IX state of sports in contemporary American society? Your implication serves to unfairly sensationalize a "problem" that you suggest exists in sports today. My athletic, 50-year-old sister had few opportunities to play sports in Junior and Senior High. That was unfair and sexist. My 7th grade stepdaughter is currently flourishing on her girls volleyball team. She is learning the values of team play, and performing well. That's progress and a problem solved! I'm not convinced that she would be thriving as well on a mixed sex team, but it's great that she has the opportunity to play sports on an all-but-equal program in her middle school. Also, your suggestion for integrated sports should imply that if a high school interscholastic basketball team is allowed twelve players, and equal tryouts are opened to boys and girls, then the talent would be fairly evaluated. With post-pubescent kids (because of sexual dimorphism), it will be the exceptional girl that makes the team. What you want, though, is not this equality, but a different configuration in the sport itself. Creating coed leagues is not creating equality, but a different competitive sport. There may be a healthy benefit in having more interscholastic co-ed leagues, but not as a substitute for single gender sports. Your argument, today, that we have a "separate, but not equal" environment fails to acknowledge the fact that post-pubescent males and females, athletically, will never be equal, and, therefore, deserve separate opportunities to excel. <Sports, we argue, are a tool for equality.> Even within the same sex, competitive sports are inherently designed to create inequalities. Every game or match results in a winner and loser. Leagues generate champions. The very best athletes are rewarded with scholarships. The sporting event differentiates the participants by athletic ability. You seem to be conflating your desired social outcomes with something that, intrinsically, sports do not do. <sex integration in sports as the first principle> OK, then own up to the fact that to make such integration equal for both males and females, you favor social engineering of the sport. <(of course there are differences!)>, you state. Yet, I fail to see how you are honoring those wonderful differences for BOTH genders.
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