Inkwell: Authors and Artists
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Sat 15 Dec 07 10:05
My sister, pre title nine went to Stanford and excelled as the team captain and starting guard on the basketball team for four years. Pre-title nine my family ended up paying for every second of Kelly's college time. My 20 year old niece, also a fne basketball player got a full four year ride to UC Riverside on an athletic scholarship. That is positive progress, I would think. In her San Diego high school girls league she was one of the top three scorers and top rebounder for a championship team. If she'd played on the boys team, which we likely could have made, she may not have put up such impressive stats nor had as much playing time and perhaps wouldn't now be getting her college paid for.
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Sat 15 Dec 07 14:25
When we talk about the need to look at sex-segregation in sports, we are -- at heart -- talking about the habit of valuing women's athletes differently than we value male athletes, something that is reinforced through sex-segregation. What's key to remember is that sex-segregation as it now exists in sports doesn't correlate with the actual physical differences between males and females. Absolutely at some ages, some levels of play -- TODAY -- we may need to have separate male and female teams (Div. I college basketball sure seems like a good example to me). But the issue is that across the board -- whether we are talking 5-year-olds or 50-year-olds, whether we are talking high school or recreational leagues, the go-to, bottom line approach is to divide FIRST by sex. And it's not only in actual play, but in rules. My 12-year-old daughter is a very good all around athlete who happens to be a talented golfer. She wanted to play in a golf tournament last summer. (We missed the sign-up deadline) BUT the rules struck me: As a girl, she's play 9 holes. A boy her age would play 18. The drumbeat of lesser competitions, shorter play, fewer points (in badminton men play to 15 and women to 11), the dividing and sorting by sex first (not every male should have the pressure of being presumed to be a better athlete than every girl) -- we argue -- IS a problem (for both sexes!) Why does it matter when girls seem to have a perfectly good time on their "own" teams? Well, girls once seemed better off not being admitted to colleges like Harvard and Yale; they seemed well off enough when they didn't have to "worry" about voting, or when they (for their own "protection") weren't allowed to work overtime (never mind that also meant they couldn't get time and a half). Women seemed ok with sex-segregated classified ads in newspapers (until 1968) that let employers choose which sex they wanted to hire for a particular job. Funny thing is, the same arguments that are used today in sports (that women are physically inferior) are the same ones used in the past to bar women from higher education (the blood required for high-level studies would go to the brain and leave women barren), limit work hours (women's bodies couldn't handle extended workdays), and voting rights(women belong in the protected site of the home and couldn't handle engaging in the public sphere of voting). Women HAVE come a long way. But it seems to me that to be grateful for progress and end it there is an apologetic stance. Females are 52 percent of the population and 15 percent of Congress; there are 8 female CEOs in the Fortune 500; i just read the other day that only 7 percent of the directors of the 250 top grossing US films are female. I have trouble believing that women are less capable of governing, leading, or creating movies than their male colleagues. There is more at play...
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Sun 16 Dec 07 15:08
Scott made the point < There may be a healthy benefit in having more interscholastic co-ed leagues, but not as a substitute for single gender sports.> I appreciate that you see the benefit in more interscholastic co-ed leagues -- and even not just connected with schools, but out in the world. (I mean, I'm not a superstar and yet in a neighborhood pick-up game I did beat guys my own age to score two TD's and make some catches in traffic -- but it was probably the eye black I put on that did it...) At this point -- sure -- we're not ready to have ONLY co-ed teams. But feeding into the "healthy benefit" you mention is that working toward normalizing co-ed play is good for social relations on and off the field. This is less a pitched gender battle than a call for reasonable-ness (is that a word?) Let's disarm the hyper-masculinity that drives the way we talk about and treat sports.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 16 Dec 07 16:41
In the late '70s there was a professional co-ed volleyball league that featured, as I recall, three men and three women on each team. It was fun. There were set positions, and the "spikers" were males, the server was usually a woman, and the "diggers" were women. Unfortunately, despite a good product, the league was short-lived, not supported by the marketplace. There is no reason a high school track squad can't combine the scores of the girls AND boys teams. Or cross-country. Or swimming. But in an individual sports environment that offers equal opportunity for all, it's biologically not fair to the girls if they don't compete in separate events. In the Olympics, a nation's medal total isn't differentiated by gender. Why not treat a school's best "team" in such sports the same way, with the accomplishments of both genders combined? We have a "competitive" society that creates inequalities-- financially, politically, socially. Sports partially mirror this same society. However, I would never argue that a woman can't be President, CEO, etc. because of the sex differences we are discussing that DO apply to sports. I think that Title IX went a good ways in allowing the same competitive/socializing benefits for girls that boys derived from the experience. The world of Sports, with its legitimate differentiations shouldn't be conflated with the larger societal goals where equality of opportunity IS the laudable goal and where the "playing field" should be level. For example, tackle football will be overwhelmingly a boys game because of obvious sex differences. Why not honor this in the same way we should honor the principle of equal pay for equal work? Of course this complicates the (erroneous) notion that we're all born equal, but so what? What can agree wholeheartedly on the idea of equal opportunity, but even this needs to fairly accommodate certain differences. Again, when you state unequivocally that sports are a tool for equality, you are not acknowledging that we are NOT all born equal in our athletic potential. Certainly, in some team sports, the distinctions between the sexes are not nearly as differentiated as in tackle football or wrestling. I have no problem with coed team sports, such as mixed volleyball, and mixed soccer. This makes sense, especially, when schools face tight budgets. But how do you reconcile the principle of "integrated sports first" with the benefits that derive to girls and boys from the respective female bonding or male bonding that same-sex sports provide?
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Mon 17 Dec 07 12:16
Some of the time, Laura and Eileen, your book seems to recognize the tremendous variety of both skill and interest we find in men and women. But other times, its argument seems to be framed only in terms of competitive athletes at the highest levels. Do the same principles apply for men and women competing at top-tier, NCAA Division I schools as for Division III schools, intramurals, games in the backyard or driveway? Don't we have and expect the participants to have very different goals?
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Mon 17 Dec 07 14:31
Aha! That's right -- you've got it. Most of the time when we raise the issue of sex integration, everybody races to talk top-tier sports, especially football. In fact, if we want to have the greatest social impact, we should look across the board because -- truth is -- those top tiers represent a small percentage of people who play sports. (They're still important same as having even one woman -- Ruth Bader Ginsberg -- on the Supreme Court is important). Also, Scott's right -- we're not all born equally talented or able at sports. I'd argue those different abilities we possess as individuals don't necessarily break along gender lines. There may be few girls in high school football, but what's really interesting is that more and more girls ARE playing football -- Holly Mangold in Ohio plays on the offensive and defensive line. She's big, strong -- and skilled. Do the same -- should the same -- principles apply at NCAA I and youth or adult rec leagues? Today, that may be a tad unrealistic. I think we will see a change, though. Girls and women just haven't been training to play at top levels of sports for that long -- plus many girls still think of sports as a "guy thing." Large girls now are showing up in Div. I college b-ball. A generation ago, they were the ones who came up with excuses to avoid gym class because they felt so self- conscious (we have a ways to go on the body image thing, too...) But Scott's other point about creating co-ed leagues allows (including at competitive levels of play) the opportunity to normalize male-female teams. And the success or failure of a sports enterprise often has less to do with the actual play than with the business mode, marketing & promotion (who would have ever thought years ago that a whole channel could be devoted to televised golf?)
Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 17 Dec 07 16:59
<scribbled by lrph Tue 18 Dec 07 04:02>
uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Mon 17 Dec 07 17:15
I almost went out just reading that.
Janet Hess (gertiestn) Mon 17 Dec 07 21:14
You tryin ta get us ta play with the boys, Lisa? <ducking...i strongly suspect this was intended for another topic, but Lisa and Ken are full of surprises, so who knows?>
Lisa Harris (lrph) Tue 18 Dec 07 04:02
oops, wrong topic. I apologize and will move to the correct one.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 18 Dec 07 04:29
Laura and Eileen, thank you for joining us here and thank you for a provocative, compelling book. I'm both enjoying it and arguing with it, which is my definition of a good book indeed. You made some comments in the book about the "throws like a girl" issue. When I coached high school girls JV softball for a couple of seasons, I had several players who did, in fact, throw like girls, which is to say, they led with their elbows rather than threw from their shoulders. We worked on it for a long time, but I found that the old style was difficult for them to shed. Throwing from the shoulder seems so natural to me, as a guy. At first I wondered if there was some physical reason why so many girls lead with their elbows, then I wondered if it might be cultural, because I don't see girls from, say, Africa or Asia "throwing like a girl." Finally it occurred to me that many, perhaps even most, American girls simply aren't taught to throw correctly when they're young. Like most American boys, I was taught how to throw a baseball by my dad when I was very young. Girls still don't seem to have that experience, not much. The question becomes, then, why aren't parents more involved in athletic play with their daughters when their daughters are young?
Ludo, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Tue 18 Dec 07 07:30
I think that scale may be part of the issue here as it is in other aspects of human organization. When we are dealing with a local pick up game played for fun, social contact and exercise we tend to welcome all comers. BTW, such scale may be the most fundamental and valuable to society long term. At the other end we have "top tier" national and international competition which could well be considered as "derivative" rather than "the best". This "large scale" sport requires such concentration and specialization as to often render the participants "uni-dimensional". It takes little imagination to see this resulting, among other things, in selection of participants by gender. It may be that the attention and praise of those specialized people that compete at the national and international level is one of the roots of the desire for equality. As an old guy, I find it gratifying when I hear of professional ball players keep in their hands in at 40. It would be even more gratifying if they were 60.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 18 Dec 07 07:31
I had read once that there was, indeed, some physiological difference in the elbows or shoulders that made girls 'throw like girls.'
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 18 Dec 07 08:21
If that's true, it's an argument favoring the play of girls on a smaller diamond than boys. Right now, high-school boys play baseball on a major-league-size diamond, 90 feet separating the bases. High school girls play softball with 60 feet between bases. Anyone, boy or girl, throwing the ball with an elbow-out toss will have great difficulty moving the ball, without a bounce, from third base or deep short to first on a 90-foot regulation infield.
put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Tue 18 Dec 07 13:08
I think it's mostly parents encouraging and teaching. Most little boys throw from the elbow from day one but after throwing countless ball against the house, to dad's mitt, etc... they learn their way out of it. My boy is very ambidextrous and he taught himself to throw both ways. And each way had that stiff, gawky, elbow first tone to it for a week or two. In his little league experience he actually carried two mitts to practice so he could throw how it felt good to him that day --until a coach told him to make a decision. he still throws leftie, bats right, kicks left. He's all messed up. it's great for his basketball as he can dribble with either hand and no one knows where hes going to go next. Too often little girls aren't encouraged to keep trying, over and over until that throwing motion or kicking motion feels smooth and easy and natual. I really believe the fault here -- until evidenced proves otherwise -- that the fault lies with parental encouragement. Believe me, my older sister, a bigger jock than me sure as hell never "threw like a girl" to my memory. when my dad wasn't around she and i would spend hours winging baseballs at each other. Nobody ever told her, "you can't throw a baseball or shoot a basketball because you're a girl and girls just can't do things like that."
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Tue 18 Dec 07 15:57
The effect of socialization/conditioning on athletic performance is huge -- as you point out. In fact, researchers took on the whole "throw like a girl" question a few years back and had boys and girls divided into three different age groups throw with their NON-Dominant arm. Guess what? There were no gender differences, just age differences. Older kids hurled the ball with more force. I learned to throw a baseball as a kid in the back yard with my dad. He was plenty sexist, but I was a good enough fill-in for the first born son he didn't have (my brother is 4 years younger and was awful at baseball-- sorry Dante, but those Little League games WERE painful!) Practice -- not biology -- makes you better. A lot of this has to do with expectations and presumptions about what girls can (and can't) or should (and shouldn't) do. This isn't in the book, but I came across a study on the Presidential Physical Fitness tests that schools do. Well, until just a few years ago, the study showed that girls and boys performed similarly at all the test events, from sit-ups to the 1 mile walk/run. The only difference? The bar for the girls in each of the events was set much lower -- they had to do less to "pass" the test.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Wed 19 Dec 07 11:43
If there's truly no physiological difference in the arms and shoulders and boys and girls, and girls who "throw like girls" do so simply because they didn't get the time with parents or older siblings to learn how to throw properly, I think the question then becomes: Why? Much of what you discuss in the book, Laura and Eileen, m ay grow from no more than a base lack of interest in American parents to give their daughters the same access to an athletic foundation they give their sons. These years after the women's liberation movement, not to mention the end of sex discrimination in Little League and the flowering of Title IX, I'm surprised this might be the case. What happened?
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Wed 19 Dec 07 12:56
Came across this post elseWeb today, and thought of the conversation here. Some Oglethorpe hoops players are among those posting from time to time on D3Hoops, a site following, um, Division III basketball. They write, in part: This season we have noticed that the amounts of charges called have significantly increased since last season. We find ourselves asking each other why is this happening? Charges used be to something a player would take pride in, seeing as there would be only a few charges called every few games. Now there are charges being called, at least for our games, every game, multiple times a game. This also makes us ask ourselves is this trend the same for menâs games? We think not! Why is it that when a girl makes an athletic move to the basket she must be out of control, yet men can do it all the time? If refs think this, then an out of position player can take a charge, or flop, which can change the whole momentum of the game. NEWS FLASH: GIRLS CAN MAKE ATHLETIC MOVES TO THE BASKET TOO! http://www.d3hoops.com/dailydose/2007/12/16/one-charge-too-many/
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 19 Dec 07 14:38
Or the refs simply stink. The NBA, for the first 8 years Shaquille O'Neill was in the league was ridiculous in NOT calling offensive charges by him. He perfected the non-athletic bulldozer move- back in, back in, back in and dunk. In the NBA championship series between Philadelphia and the Lakers, Shaq backed in like a bulldozer, knocked the wind out of the second biggest player in the league Dikembe Mutumbo (sp), yet no charging call was made. After that year they started calling charging on Shaq and he was forced to actually develop his shooting touch and his athleticism. Maybe this proves that referee conspiracy theories can prove whatever we want.
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Wed 19 Dec 07 18:55
I think we're hearing an argument here for more gender equality in the refereeing ranks!! Thanks for the post from the women playing D3 -- good stuff... While we're there -- why is Violet Palmer the only female ref in the NBA? As for the parenting piece --- I think Steve is right on. The gender segregation in sports and gender stereotyping is so pervasive as to feel totally normal and comfortable. And yet -- we are having a profound effect on the choices our kids make and the competencies they have (and don't have). I know discussions often focus on innate abilities and characteristics -- and yes, some kids are born faster and more athletically-oriented than others. But as the mother of three kids, I see everyday that it's the stuff that is "normal" in your house, the things you do without making a special effort, the stuff kids breathe and do every day that has a profound influence on what they're good at. I suppose it's the ole apprentice concept, but you become good at what you practice. When we tell girls that balls are for boys. When we expect them to be princesses instead of players because (and some of this is beyond our immediate control) all the other friends at pre-school are being princesses, how can we expect that they become good at throwing a ball? The problem is that women and men - people/parents -- need to appreciate that sports are not just about -- well -- sports. If we care about gender equality, about sharing power, we must not create a dichotomy starting at a young age in which sports are coded as masculine. Playing, being fit, competing at whatever level is appropriate, is relevant and important for each of us, regardless of our sex.
Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Wed 19 Dec 07 20:21
Could there be a culturally subconscious need for both players and princesses? If so, would it help to have some sort of gender-free lottery that would slot new-borns into these and other roles regardless of sex? Perhaps parents could be given incentives. Schools could also do their part. A program in the media to equalize the attention given to the various roles would help. This would tend to lower public adulation of those currently holding prestige roles.
Janet Hess (gertiestn) Thu 20 Dec 07 02:18
I remember a conversation I had with a young friend about 25 years ago. We were leaving his Little League game, and I noticed that M, a boy who was probably about 11, was looking at me with an unusual expression. "What is it?" I asked him. "I bet you used to play ball, didn't you?" he said. Yup, I did, I said. "And I'll bet you were good, too," he said. "Yeah," I said, "But it was really frustrating, because after sixth grade I couldn't really play anymore." I explained that there were no programs for girls to play in. "But you could have played in Little League," M said. Nope, I told him; girls couldn't play in Little League back then. "But that's not fair!" M said. I told him I knew that, but that was the way things were back then. "That's just NOT FAIR!" he said. "You should have done something. THAT'S NOT FAIR!!" I was blown away back then, and continue to be even now, by how much things had changed for kids in just a few years. There were girls on M's Little League team, and some of them (not all, but some) were terrific. Just like some of the boys (not all, but some) were terrific. And for him, the idea of boys and girls playing baseball together was entirely normal. So I was especially happy, in the photo gallery in "Playing with the Boys," to see 12-year-old Maria Pepe in her highly nonwussy batting stance. When she was kicked off her Little League team in Hoboken, NJ, NOW successfully challenged the "no girls" rule on her behalf. She's the person who, in M's words, DID SOMETHING, and who made it possible for a completely different mindset to take hold in Little League within ten or so years. Maria Pepe is now on my list of heros. She's right up there with Jackie Mitchell, the 17-year-old girl who struck out Babe Ruth. One of the nice things about the book is that it tells the stories of girls and women who DID SOMETHING.
Laura Pappano (laurapappano) Thu 20 Dec 07 05:47
I, too, admire Maria Pepe and actually e-mailed with her as I was researching the book. Women like Maria Pepe and Bobbie Gibbs (first woman to run the Boston Marathon -- disguised in her brother's hoodie -- Kay Switzer who was the first woman to run Boston & register) really do push the boundaries some. Since Anika played in the Colonial in 2003, more young female golfers are getting the idea that, "Hey, I could do that." Change has to come from individuals, but we can't lean on these few to carry the whole load. Robert's point about fairer media coverage (why even in high school sports are the boy's scores/results always reported at the top of the page and the girls underneath, often in an abbreviated form?) is right on. A major goal of the book was to raise awareness of an institutionalized inequality that is all but invisible. So many people believe Title IX "fixed" the problem. It opened doors. It enabled progress, but it has effectively codified an inequality. Robert is also right about role of parents -- we should encourage our kids to stretch their gender assignments!!! At a book signing a few weeks ago, a mom told me about her 8-year-old daughter who plays football in the yard with boys and LOVEs it and is really good. As a mom, she was worried about the tensions/struggles/problems this would create in a few years when her daughter wanted to keep playing. It's that sort of worry that is deeply problematic and revealing of the limitations and biases that dominate today. Anyone who wants to play and can play at the level of the team/league they are seeking to join should be able and encouraged to play. It feels risky to reach outside of what's comfortable. But we've got to do it -- and support those who do it. Plus, we've really got to look at Title IX. We're heading into BCS football season. How does this system -- with the millions of dollars flowing to participants and the ad hoc manner in which teams are selected to play -- how does this fall under Title IX? How does lopsided promotion of male so-called revenue-producing sports (they may bring in cash, but most lose money because they spend more than they make) fit in with Title IX? And in non-revenue producing sports, how can colleges charge different amounts in some cases to see male and female play? How can Rutgers charge $4 to attend women's soccer and $7 to attend men's soccer. That stuff is only about placing a higher value on male play -- it's certainly not about revenue.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 20 Dec 07 06:02
Thanks, Laura. That's an interesting post. I think you're quite right that many, and perhaps most, Americans believe Title IX solved all the inequality issues. "Playing With the Boys" also discusses at length the matter of gender-specific teaming versus co-ed programs. My daughter is now 25 years old, a career woman in Los Angeles. As a kid she swam, and then in high school she got into basketball, softball and water polo -- she especially loved water polo and was very good at it. She was a big girl and took a lot of grief for her size from her peers; body image was a real issue for her for several years. To a degree athletics compensated for it, especially the water sports where size can be an advantage. I asked her to comment on her experiences for this discussion, particularly on her experiences and preferences with regard to co-ed and gender-specific teams. Here's what she wrote in an email: "In some sports, like softball, I would've rather played with boys. This might sound a little strange, but girls who play softball tend to be "sports" type girls who are very very competitive. With that competitive female attitude of, not just one player, but 75% of the players, means that the social tension in general had a tendency to be hard to deal with. What you must remember is that girls are mean to each other, especially in high school sports. "However, when it comes to water sports, polo and racing, I preferred playing with girls. Girls play water polo differently than guys do, it's almost a different sport. And when you're that close to being naked, things just aren't even between the sexes. In general, male swimmers are faster than female swimmers. We all practiced together, but I would hate to race against boys. Something about their muscle structure, something I learned in Physiology but can't remember now, they are just faster swimmers. Not sure if this applies or not to the issue because of course we all practiced together. And we practiced together in water polo as well. "As you might recall, I did play on the freshman basketball team in high school, and I have to say that I feel like I would've learned a lot more if I had been playing with guys. This might be because I was the tallest and didn't have any girls to watch that were similar in structure to me to learn from."
Janet Hess (gertiestn) Thu 20 Dec 07 09:49
Hey, thanks for posting that, Steve. Really interesting.
Members: Enter the conference to participate