Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sports(wo)manship, Gender Roles, and Double Standards

Two months ago, sports fans went crazy over Serena Williams’ outburst at the U.S. Open over a foot fault. Comments were made about how she was ‘un-lady like’ and that this was not the way a female should act. New York Daily News said she “unraveled….like a man,” and that she was “inexplicably boorish [and] temporarily insane.” Unless I missed it, this was not occurring at the dinner table, it was occurring during a sports competition, no one is ever polite in sports. New York Daily News also said that after Serena's outburst, “fans have become comfortably uncomfortable with these displays of testosterone.”

Well get used to it because, surprise! Women get competitive too. We fight to the end. We get aggressive. And sometimes, yeah, this means playing dirty and breaking the rules. There may be more cat scratching and hair pulling than in the NFL (where, it is rumored, they pee on each other in the pile...mature) but it all comes from the same aggressive, competitive nature that all athletes share. In September, it was Serena Williams, now, it’s University of New Mexico’s soccer star Elizabeth Lambert.

Video has recently surfaced of her delivering a punch to the back, a pony-tail pull that sent her opponent to the ground, kicking a short-range banger into the head of an opponent on the ground, and what looks to be some sort of judo-chop to the throat—all in one game against Brigham Young University. There weren’t as many "un-lady like” comments on this one.

There were, instead, the question of “why isn’t she being charged for assault?” but also comments made by sexually deprived sports writers who say they “fell in love” with Lambert and that any girl that can “play dirty” like that are welcome to hang out. Presh. There were even comments made on a facebook group that expressed their (men’s) utter disappointment that the girl fights didn’t turn into make-out sessions. Sorry to burst your bubble but after dark Cinemax is not real life.

So now I’m confused. Are girls fighting too masculine and “boorish”, a la Serena Williams commentary, or are they sexy? O wait, I know: it’s normal.

Fighting isn't a guys thing or a girls thing, it's an athlete thing. People who play sports, at any level, are extremely competitive and want to win. And when they don't win, or a game doesn't go their way, or an opponent makes some snarky comment, they get pissed off. USA Today sports writer Mike Lopreseti summed it all up when he said that " [women] play as hard as the men, compete as hard as the men, like to mix it up as much as the men. So it shouldn't be surprising that there come times when they may be knuckleheads just like the men." A competitive athlete is a competitive athlete, regardless of gender. But, per usual, again as stated by North Carolina's women soccer coach Anson Dorrance, “women are held to a different standard.” Surprise! When aren’t we held to a different standard, but that’s for another day, another blog..or maybe a book.

video credit for Serena Williams: Eliteballer on Youtube
video credit for Elizabeth Lambert:POCHOLOXD

1 comment:

Sardonic Feminist said...

I'm sure race had a play in the reactions to what the women did. Serena's attack was limited to verbal tirades (and how many other famous male tennis players did the same with no "backlash" ?). Yet the other player did things that made me exclaim outloud. I would say what she did was much more serious, but she's a young white woman with a body that isnt as "intimidating" as Serena's.