Touching the cultural third rail of sports and gender

My “Outside the Lines” appearance Sunday prompted the understandable and passionate response from gay and transgender sports advocate Pat Griffin that I thought it would, although that was never my purpose in saying what I did. I responded on her blog, and I do appreciate Pat being a rare sports-and-gender blogger who opens up her site for commenting. I had my reply, and a few other readers were in my corner to some degree, at least for raising issues that are largely uncomfortable to question.

What did surprise me was the feedback I got from a few coaches and others in Indianapolis at the Women’s Final Four who had seen the program and thought I made some valid points. I do appreciate those comments as well, and I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here.

While I’m not obsessed with this, I do feel it’s important to engage in more than one point of view when it comes to the dicey mix of culture, gender and sports. Far beyond the scope of Title IX (which has made me enough of a bête noire in some women’s sports circles), what I regard as the wasted cultural obsessions of women’s sports (delving mostly into the Kye Allums matter) have not had an adequate public hearing.

Most of this centers on issues of sexuality, of course, and the recent piece in ESPN The Magazine on homophobia in recruiting (always a media favorite, regenerated with a big splash every few years) illustrates this.

But a recent acquaintance sympathetic to sexual minorities in sports put it best to me: It’s understandable that Pat Griffin and Helen Carroll of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (and a former college basketball coach) go to the lengths they do to work on behalf of, and give a voice, to athletes who feel without a place to go. But if all you do is focus on these issues, then it does give knuckleheads further ammunition to bash women’s sports.

I would add only that women’s sports advocates also tend to marginalize themselves because some assume their views are more mainstream than they really are, and that everyone else “should” believe what they do. And some who may not follow the party line, especially on a touchy cultural subject, are reluctant to say anything at all for fear of being viewed as intolerant.

However, this acquaintance, as well as other women with whom I discussed some of these issues in Indy, are part of a younger generation that’s not as hung up on these matters to the degree that we geezers seem to be.

So this was all a more intriguing and encouraging experience than I imagined.

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  1. Posted April 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Wendy, I really appreciate the “conversation” we are having about these complicated issues. I respect your thoughtfulness and willingness to hear other points of view. I am, in turn, listening to you too.

  2. Posted April 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Pat. We’re probably not going to agree on much about topics like this, but it is important to hash them out openly and with civility. Otherwise we do nothing but breed anger, resentment and misunderstanding.