‘Beyond Title IX’ excerpt: ‘Tales From the Pink Locker Room’

Today’s excerpt from my new book: “Beyond Title IX: The Cultural Laments of Women’s Sports,” details a prominent Title IX blogger’s first bout with media attention not that many years ago. But the national notoriety surrounding the Pink Locker Room at the University of Iowa is something that Erin Buzuvis does not mention these days, and it’s easy to understand why: Beyond Title IX Cover Final

In 2005, while serving as a visiting law professor at the University of Iowa, Erin Buzuvis was horrified to discover that the visitors’ locker room at Kinnick Stadium was awash in light pink paint. Indeed, it was a very calming shade ordered up in the 1980s by former football coach Hayden Fry as a psychological ploy. It worked very, very well.

The late Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler hated the locker room for competitive reasons. Buzuvis hated it for cultural reasons, and on a blog furnished for her by the Iowa law school, she denounced it as a symbol of misogyny and homophobia (the post was soon deleted). As she later explained to an Associated Press reporter in Cedar Rapids:

“With a pink locker room, you’re saying that ‘You are a girlie man. You are weak like a girl.’ That implies that girls are non-dominant, therefore, lesser. And that is offensive.”

Hawkeye Nation went berserk, as Iowa football fans vigorously attacked her on message boards and blogs, with some regrettably making death threats and posting other vulgarities.

The story went nationwide, as the protests of Buzuvis and Jill Gaulding, another Iowa law professor, became a laughingstock. “Research shows brains pick up stereotypes like sponges soak up water,” insisted Gaulding. “One solution to reducing stereotypes, especially negative ones, is to not have them around.”

Buzuvis continued to insist that the pink locker room “belittles every female athlete out there,” although it’s doubtful she polled even one to reach her conclusion.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz was at a loss for words: “I wish I had enough time to think about it. . . . But I really haven’t burned a lot of brain cells on it.”

This section of the book details the origins of the “football as the enemy” complaints by some women’s sports advocates that later led to a more general broadside against the “hegemonic masculinity” that rules American sports culture. Another Title IX legal expert, Deborah Brake, has alleged that the law is about more than “the place of women in sports” but also “the meaning of gender.”

Title IX is not what really gets her cracking in the morning, but a means toward a narrow cultural ideal.

Buzuvis, who now professes law on the East Coast, has ditched the worst of her academic verbiage on her blog. On Monday, her sidekick posted this about regarding calls to drop football from the Title IX calculations:

“Judy Dixon has said she’s tired of fighting football. A lot of us are tired of fighting football — or heck patriarchy in general — but it doesn’t mean we just capitulate.”

This a classic example of a sports feminist establishment whose ideas are hoisted as mainstream and are therefore considered unassailable. Peel away a layer or two, and you will find something very different.

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