I have mixed thoughts about Slate's relatively new "double X" site for ladies. Whenever "women's issues" are ghetto-ized in this way, it lends the impression that issues affecting women are somehow separate from and less important than Real Concerns That Affect Everyone. Yet, because "everyone" has a funny way of really meaning "men," special lady forums are often necessary so that the experiences of women are even reflected at all in the media.
Nonetheless, an article posted there a while back was interesting. While men can often be found coaching and managing women's sports teams and umpiring and refereeing their games, it is quite rare for women to coach, manage, umpire, or ref male sports. Double X posted an interview with female umpire Perry Barber, where she speculates why this is so, at least with respect to baseball umpiring.
For one, she acknowledges, baseball is a game that boys are channeled into:
"They grow up in the baseball culture. Women are deliberately excluded from that. Even girls who want to play baseball are directed to softball, because baseball is a game that boys play."
That there was a separate-but-similar baseball-like game called softball, which was supposed to be for girls, never made sense to me growing up. What is intrinsically "female" about softball that would exclude males from it; and, likewise, what is intrinsically "male" about baseball that would exclude females from it?
Furthermore, although softball is considered a "female" game, which might suggest that men would be excluded from softball umpiring in the way that women are from baseball, Barber notes:
"I very seldom do softball because I’m baseball-trained, but I umpired a softball game a few weekends ago and two of the girls walked up to me and said, 'You’re the first woman umpire we’ve ever had.' I was shocked."
Anyway, it's an interesting read about a rarely-discussed aspect of our All-American (Boy) Game.
2) Lady Writer Writes As Man
I came across the following interesting anecdote from a writer who goes by the pen name James Chartrand. James Chartrand, in reality, is a formerly unemployed single mother, who first began writing from home under her real name. She recalls:
"I was treated like crap, too. Bossed around, degraded, condescended to, with jibes made about my having to work from home. I quickly learned not to mention I had kids. I quickly learned not to mention I worked from my kitchen table....
I really, really wanted to make this work.
But I was still having a hard time landing jobs. I was being turned down for gigs I should’ve gotten, for reasons I couldn’t put a finger on.
My pay rate had hit a plateau, too. I knew I should be earning more. Others were, and I soaked up everything they could teach me, but still, there was something strange about it . . .
It wasn’t my skills, it wasn’t my work. So what were those others doing that I wasn’t?"
She then decided to start writing under a pen name. One that would "command respect." She chose James Chartrand. She recounts:
"Instantly, jobs became easier to get.
There was no haggling. There were compliments, there was respect. Clients hired me quickly, and when they received their work, they liked it just as quickly. There were fewer requests for revisions — often none at all.
Customer satisfaction shot through the roof. So did my pay rate....
I landed clients and got work under both names. But it was much easier to do when I used my pen name.
Understand, I hadn’t advertised more effectively or used social media — I hadn’t figured that part out yet. I was applying in the same places. I was using the same methods. Even the work was the same.
In fact, everything was the same.
Except for the name."
Shit. Maybe I should try that.
To end, Chartrand acknowledges her hard work and says "No one handed me anything." On the first point, I will agree. She did work hard and she should be applauded for raising two kids as a single mother. Yet, with all due respect to the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps narrative, people most certainly did hand her something. When she left her womanhood behind, she was given the gift of respect and assumed competence. That inconvenient fact of our still sexist society should not go unacknowledged. And I think, perhaps, James Chartrand would agree.
3) Victory in Houston
In other news, perhaps you've already heard by now, but the fourth-largest city in the US just elected its first lesbian mayor, despite the gay-baiting that some of her opponent's supporters engaged in.