Culture vultures and violent male athletes

Sexual assault charges against two members of Boston University’s wildly successful ice hockey team have prompted the usual media hand-wringing on the meaning of it all in a societal context.

So naturally, we must have a quote like this one in The New York Times today, from Dan Lebowitz of the Center for Sport in Society at nearby Northeastern University:

“This is about a male culture and how we have a construct that’s wrong. It transcends sport. It’s about how are men going to be held responsible for the way they treat women. We focus almost entirely on how tough they are. We don’t pay nearly enough attention to compassion, to kindness, to respect for women.”

No, it’s not about “a male culture.” It’s about two individuals who have been charged — not convicted — of crimes against women. The defendants were college athletes at the time of their arrests.

It’s one thing for BU to set up a task force to examine the “hockey culture” of the men’s progam — universities are notoriously sheepish about doing this in the wake of such events.

What’s paramount is that this is matter for law enforcement and the judicial system, not academics and pundits grinding out their tiresome sociological axe before the guilt or innocence of the accused men is proven.

Should the charges against them get to court, none of the claptrap that Lebowitz and other sports sociologists like to peddle should be uttered in the official proceedings.

Prosecutors must prove that the two defendants, who’ve been kicked off the team and have pleaded not guilty, did sexually assault women. That is all.

But Lebowitz’s assertions might come in handy for the defense, should the evidence be so overwhelming that absolute guilt must be admitted. A hypothetical argument that could be made, based on Lebowitz’ claims:

“Well, yes, they did do it, but a socially constructed male athletic culture made them do it. Otherwise, these are great kids who never got into any trouble with the law.

“When they first laced up their skates to play for one of the top hockey programs in the country, they had no way of knowing that they too would become victims of this malignant cultural construct.

“Yes, they’ve been cocooned in a hegemonic masculinist sports team setting that ignores respect for women and awards macho toughness. On and off the ice. If only we could change this culture, we wouldn’t have more tragedies like this one.

“They are guilty as charged, but the male sports culture is the real culprit. We can’t put that on trial here, so we must reconstruct it. Because culture, as we all know, should be as easy to change as underwear. I know, I know, this isn’t a matter for the court.

“But ladies and gentlemen of the jury, these men are guilty, this we know. And as you consider their sentence, don’t forget that they are guilty by reason of the patriarchy. Show some kindness, some compassion for their plight. Please.”

In all seriousness, Lebowitz and his ideological handmaidens in the sports feminist community have been putting the male sports culture on trial for decades now, getting a free ride from major media outlets like the Times to cement unanimous convictions in the kangaroo courts of their own minds.

Most male athletes do not commit crimes — against women, men or children — and they leave their aggression behind at the rinks, fields and courts of play.

But mostly, what is being contended here absolves individuals of their actions.

Individuals charged with crimes must be prosecuted as individuals, not as members of groups accused of producing a hothouse environment for crime, misogyny and mayhem to flower.

The legal guilt or innocence of these two young men doesn’t matter to those like Lebowitz, well-schooled in the art of making sure their pronouncements get ahead of the truth, and stay there.

But what a great gig he’s got, perched in a cushy academic “research” center where he can say whatever he wants. The veracity of his claims will not be questioned, but instead amplified by the highest-profile newspaper in the land.

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  1. Bern
    Posted March 9, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Well played. You are one of a handful of female sportswriters willing to take this position in the entire country. Hard to see a reasonable way out of this trend.

  2. neoteny
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    Well said, Ms. Parker.