It appears as though I picked the perfect time to do some heavy researching, writing and editing. As the LeBron/Favre/Pitino/Guillen/A-Rod phase of the sports dog days of summer deepens, it’s been refreshing to get offline and away from the wearying headlines. I expected to go through some post-World Cup withdrawal, but this year is really the pits.
A popular sports headline aggregator I do like has taken upon itself to to compile a “Top 10 Most Hated People in Sports” list. I won’t link to it here, but there’s your keyword phrase if you want to look it up. I understand the need to collect pageviews but this is the kind of traffic-driving stunt I loathe about online media.
What I’m aiming for revolves around finding a compelling, intelligent way to write about women and sports without engendering the usual tripe. I want to get beyond the “guy” sites where the only women pictured are babes in bikinis. Even more, I want to counter the women’s sports blogs where any mention of sex prompts a fulmination equating long hair and ribbons with homophobia. I’ve written about this before, but I’m just not wild about linking to any of that now.
One of the many conflicted characters in James Baldwin’s experimental novel Another Country is a social outcast because of his sexuality, but the sentiments ascribed to him below resonate with anyone treading into uncharted, uncertain terrain:
“There were no standards for him except those he could make for himself. There were no standards for him because he could not accept the definitions, the hideously mechanical jargon of the age. He saw no one around him worth his envy, did not believe in the vast, gray sleep called security, did not believe in the cures, panaceas, and slogans which afflicted the world he knew; and this meant that he had to create his standards and make up his definitions as he went along. It was up to him to find out who he was, and it was his necessity to do this, so far as the witchdoctors of the time were concerned, alone.”
The polar opposites that rack my brain these days typify the dreary, stagnant state of discourse in American society about men and women. (Camille Paglia sighs about it in her own inimitable way.)
The sports world has its own unfortunate dynamic: Juvenile males on the one hand and sourpuss women on the other. There’s got to be something else, something different, something better than this.
A male friend who agrees with me once asked, only half-jokingly, “Don’t you sometimes wish there was a third sex?”
Well, I do like being a woman, even if I’m becoming an even stronger dissident feminist as I delve deeper into this project.
What I don’t like is being expected to hold a certain point of view because of my gender.
At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tackle this idea. It’s hard to dig into something that stirs deep passions while not letting emotions derail the task at hand. But as I have proceeded I’ve realized how much this needs to be done. And not just because no one else is doing it like this.
Forgive me if this post seems rambling, self-serving and incoherent; it feels as experimental as what Baldwin was attempting in writing about human emotions across the hardened lines of race and gender. Thinking out loud like this isn’t something I do often, but I needed to unpack some of the clutter rolling around in my head.