Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The intersection of sports and gender

For those of you who didn't know, this weekend was the Indianapolis 500 and Danica Patrick was trying to become the first women racer to win this big race. Now I didn't watch the race, but from what I have read she was having a great race. But this is not really the big news from this event concerning her, Danica's car was hit as she was pulling out of her pit stall with only a few laps to go in the race. But what happened next is really what I want to talk about, the video shows Danica getting out of her car and then purposely heading toward the other driver's car and looking like she might tell this guy off and possibly throw a few punches or push the other driver around. (I apologize for the video, but it was the best I could find and if you go about 2 minutes into the video you can see what I am talking about.)

This is apparently not the first time that Danica has gotten angry at another driver for wrecking her and the last time she did push the other driver around a bit. It is also not uncommon for racers to have verbal fights and even at times a little bit of pushing after one driver is seen as costing another driver a race by wrecking them. So the fact that Danica was going out of her way to get into a confrontation with another driver is not that unusual and not really why I am bringing this up. The reason I bring this up is that as I was listening to sports talk radio one of the people who emailed the show (just to note, not one of the sports talk anchors, but they did read the email and they did not make a point to disagree) made the comments that would be expected at this point. "See this is why women should not be in men's sports. They can hit a guy and guys can't do anything back. Guys can't hit them or push them. They just have to take the abuse and then they become embarrassed and no man wants to be embarrassed by a girl." I paraphrased a bit there, but you get the gist. Of course, this is misogynistic and this should not be acceptable for us to think that women cannot and should not compete with men in any sport they want to, but also then what should be the response if a women comes up and starts hitting or pushing one of the male competitors? Sure there should be no violence in these sports and we should not accept any hitting or physical confrontations of any kind in sports, but this is the real world and hitting and pushing happen as emotions get out of control. And if this was two guys there might be a punch thrown or just yelling, but should we expect the same if a male and female get into a brawl? Should a male hit a women if the situation calls for it? Can he hit her is she hits him first?

This is a more complex issue, for me, than the initial glance. There is something deep down in my soul that says a man should not hit a women. I know this is probably sexist as I am thinking of women as fragile or that that men would just overpower them and yet this not what I am consciously thinking. I am thinking I was taught whether explicitly, like being told, don't hit girls, or implicitly, like the whole idea that this is a social no no for a guy to hit a girl, that as a male I should not strike a female for any reason. I think it also has to do with when I think of men hitting women it is in the context of physical abuse and that is obviously not right. Abuse should not be tolerated ever whether it is the male who is the abuser or the female. And the prevalence of the male as the abuser is also prevalent in our society which also adds to my own issues with men hitting women even in a fight. But on the other hand, if we are truly in a society where women can and do compete in sports that are traditionally male and if we think that it is stupid that men would feel like they cannot compete as hard against women. That they cannot wrestle a women in Greco-Roman wrestling or play football with a female or even play basketball against a girl cause she might get hurt, then where does this leave us when in the course of a sport emotions get the best of us and a girl punches or pushes a male? Would it be acceptable for the guy to retaliate? Would it be OK for another racer (I am using racing here as it is the easy example right now) to go over to Danica and start yelling at her if they felt like she had cost them the race just like the male racer would do to another male racer? Can we truly separate gender and sports as much as we would like?

Give your thoughts in comments if you want as I really have no answers to this one.


Brave Sir Robin said...

Call me sexist if you want to, (and Red Queen probably will), but no, I don't think it is right to hit a woman, even if she hits first.

That is just ingrained into my DNA I guess.

I'm all for girls competing with boys if they choose to, but hitting a girl is wrong. But then, so is hitting a man.

I'm pretty much a turn the other cheek guy.

Boxer rebel said...

BSR- I agree with you totally on this, I am starting to think. This may make me sexist to think that men should not hit a women even if she hits him first, but as you said it seems to be ingrained into my DNA.

Anonymous said...

I sure do expect that it is in your DNA! I dare say that you were influenced by Mom and Dad Boxer, e.g. me- Mom Boxer, and we always promoted non violence as the means to resolve conflict(s). Having said that I think that since Danica is participating in a male dominated sport she needs to play with the big boys, fair and square. Yelling at each other sounds ok, but why does anyone need to be physical to resolve an issue!

mom boxer