Thursday, May 8, 2008

Asinine Doods and Female Athletes

I found this story to be uplifting.

"With two runners on base and a strike against her, Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University uncorked her best swing and did something she had never done, in high school or college. Her first home run cleared the center-field fence.

But it appeared to be the shortest of dreams come true when she missed first base, started back to tag it and collapsed with a knee injury.

She crawled back to first but could do no more. The first-base coach said she would be called out if her teammates tried to help her. Or, the umpire said, a pinch runner could be called in, and the homer would count as a single. Then, members of the Central Washington University softball team stunned spectators by carrying Tucholsky around the bases Saturday so the three-run homer would count - an act that contributed to their own elimination from the playoffs."

Just don't read the comments afterwards. Or, better yet, read them and tell me again how much "female athletes have it made."

It's impossible to know how readers would have reacted to a similar story involving male athletes, but, one thing I'm pretty damn sure of is that a bunch of asinine guys would not have left comments of a gendered nature. See, usually when a sports' story is about male athletes, the athletes' gender goes unacknowledged. The story is taken for what it is. Stories about female athletes, perhaps in part because such stories are still so relatively rare, always inspire gendered comments of the following type:

1. Comparisons to male athletes.

One commenter (links to particular comments are unavailable), acknowledged that it was "great sportsmanship" but still "a man would've definitely limped or crawled around the bases." As though, yeah, women are nice, but men are still tougher/stronger/(more stupid?).

Another gender expert who knows everything said: "This definitely highlights the difference between men and women. Had this been a man in this situation I GUARANTEE you he would have crawled and scratched his way around those bases."

Totally, dood.

In all honestly, it is unclear what these readers were getting at with their comments. I'm not psychic, after all. Were they attempting to imply that men and male athletes are somehow "better" than women and female athletes because men would have (supposedly) found some way to independently reach home plate?

What I find most interesting about these comments is that people believe they can make huge, sweeping generalizations about the "difference between men and women" based on this story. I can conceive of female athletes who would not have helped an injured opposing player round the bases as well as I can conceive of male athletes who would have done so. In fact, I always find it unsettling when people enlighten us as to the "differences between men and women," because most of the time these "differences" are greatly exaggerated with some anti-female agenda in mind.

Which, of course, brings us to the next observation.

2. Off-topic Rants About Women's Athletics

Another predictable pattern following stories about female athletics is the off-topic rant about how even though men and women sometimes play the same sports, men are still always better then women.

For instance, one dood jealous of and threatened by strong women said,

"Come on people THIS IS WOMEN'S SOFTBALL. Who watches women play sports anyways [sic]? If you do you must be pretty bored. GETA [sic] LIFE!"

While another boy said,

"Since when were girls allowed to play college sports? Zzzzzzzz...."

Clearly, these guys are just internet fuckwads looking to get a rise out of people, and they did. Many commenters called them out on their trollish behavior, but the comments are disturbing nonetheless. Apparently, any story about female athletes gives some people free license to rant about gender and the "suckiness" of women's sports in general.

I have several theories on this. One could argue that men who, in any discussion about women's sports, must consistently remind us that Men Are Better At Sports Than Women are threatened by the imposition of women and girls into the previously-male-only turf of sports and sports' media. Perhaps the very most threatening part of this story was that these softball players displayed extraordinary sportsmanship- something that is not dependent on strength, body size, or any other characteristic where men on average have advantages over women. Even though some men would not like to admit it, female athletes can be as or more sportsmanlike than male athletes. Perhaps that's why sportsmanlike conduct is something they mock as unimportant:

"This story is just another example of the 'sissy-fication of America'... Kids don't know how to compete anymore; they all just wanna 'feel good' about what they do."

Yeah dood, sportsmanship is stupid and girly.

It's men like these classless commenters who make all sports fans look bad.

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