2.12.2012

this week in sexism, or why feminism still matters

In celebration of African American history month, thousands of Texas schoolchildren attended a screening of the film "Red Tails," about the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the first black aviators to serve in the US military. Well, thousands of boys did, anyway. Girls were brought to a screening of "Akeelah and the Bee," about an 11-year-old girl who competes in a national spelling bee. A spokesperson for the Dallas Independent School District said the arrangement was made because seating at "Red Tails" was limited, and they thought boys would enjoy the movie more than girls.

Reporters caught up with one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, a 94-year-old gentleman named Herbert Carter, for his thoughts on this boys-only screening. Turns out that Herbert Carter's late wife Mildred Carter was also an aviator, and the first black woman to hold a pilot's license in Alabama. Mildred, who died not long ago, wasn't allowed to fly for the military. Good things times have changed. But not too much. When told about the slight to Texas girls, Herbert Carter was "almost speechless".

Read more here.

* * * *

Although the sports world itself has made huge strides against sexism, the world of sports advertising and marketing seems stuck in a Cosmo magazine. A company promoting fantasy baseball - a game where you create your a fictional team from exisiting players, and use real-time stats to match them against other fictional teams - feels female players require a different type of fantasy. This excellent post by Craig Calcaterra explains it so much better than I can.
But a company called A View From My Seat – “In cooperation with CBS Sports Interactive” according to their website — has decided that the reason women don’t play fantasy baseball is because there isn’t enough romance in it. So they’ve decided to change that. By allowing girls — and they specifically say “girls” — to choose their “Baseball Boyfriend”. . . .

The website asks “girls” to go through their “little black book” and pick the handsomest player. Oh, I’m sorry, it asks you to “choose your stud.” How long have you kept a player on your roster? No: it’s “how long you’ve dated him.” If “one man is not enough” it encourages you to play in multiple leagues. The pics from the site have little hearts and stuff around pictures of, um, handsome players like Lance Berkman and Matt Cain. . . .

Guess what: women like baseball. They watch a lot of it. They write about it. They are, increasingly, executives in the game. Every fantasy league I’ve ever played in has had women in it, and they invariably beat the crap out of me (not that that’s hard). Are the numbers where we’d like them? No, because ideally everyone on the planet is doing basebally things. But the disparity between male and female fans is not because baseball is too hard for “girls” to understand or two manly for them to enjoy.

I get what they’re trying to do here. They want to expand the number of people who click where they’d like them to click and are trying a unique approach to get there. But there are certainly better ways to do so than by misguidedly attempting to girly-fy fantasy baseball or to dumb it down. Women do not need to be treated like love-struck teenagers to be drawn in.
This post made me click around to read more by the same writer, and he's a great find.

It's worth reading: Great Moments in Sexism: Who’s your “Baseball Boyfriend?”

22 comments:

laura k said...

Thanks to Allan for both items.

Amy said...

Wow, that reminds me of junior high, when the girls took "home economics," i.e., sewing and cooking, while the boys took "shop," i.e., metal and woodworking. I resented it back then (1965-67), though I didn't have the word sexism to describe it. It may be one of the reasons I can't sew and hate to cook.

James Redekop said...

I can't remember where I first saw it, but I've always liked the comment that "Fantasy sports is Dungeons & Dragons for people with limited imaginations." But then, I was one of those guys who'd play D&D and get harassed by the type of guys who'd be into fantasy sports, had they been around at the time. :)

When I was in the enrichment program at St. George's in London, everyone took one term of home ec, and one term of shop. That worked out pretty well.

I think my mother still has the pillow and the key chain I made, somewhere.

John F said...

Amy, you beat me to it. The gender division between home ec and shop existed in my junior high school as well, though you could take the other class as an option (I took both shop and home ec, for instance). That was 1981. By 1983, when I was in 9th grade, they had removed the restrictions and made both classes options for both genders.

I was told by an American that there was still a shop/home ec gender division in her school (in the South somewhere).

laura k said...

Yup, same here, segregated by gender, somewhere between Amy's experience and John F's. I would have enjoyed doing both, the way James did.

As it was, I loathed sewing, did very badly it, and seriously resented being made to do it. There was one girl in our school who took shop. She had to apply for the right to do it, and she was given it. I was envious of her, not of the shop class itself, but of her courage, and how she got to hang out with all the guys.

I would think in some areas (as John F's friend said) the gender segregation is more intense than ever, since many school districts are on the lookout for The Gay Agenda(TM).

laura k said...

Fantasy sports is Dungeons & Dragons for people with limited imaginations.

:>)

I don't do either, but I love games, an find almost any game addictive. I'd probably really enjoy D&D. OTOH, I would never do fantasy sports under any circumstances.

Amy said...

On shop and home ec---by the time my daughters were in middle school (no longer called junior high for some reason), everyone took everything. Girls and boys together took shop AND home ec. So girls got to do metal shop and woodworking (somewhere I have a really strange spatula one of them made), boys learned to sew and cook (at least in theory). So some things really have changed for the better.

And, Laura, I also love games, and I also have never been tempted by fantasy leagues, but I am not sure why. My son-in-law is big into both a football and baseball league and takes both very seriously. I think I just find the idea of creating a fake team based on numbers sort of....dumb? boring? complicated? Whatever. Why are you not interested?

laura k said...

So some things really have changed for the better.

In Massachusetts, anyway...

Why am I not interested in fantasy baseball? Dunno. The same reason I'm not interested in half a million other things. If I had any spare time to work in another interest, which I don't, this just wouldn't be it.

laura k said...

Good piece on this in the Independent, sent to me a while back by deang: It's up to parents to resist the tyranny of pink princesses

John F said...

The "pink princess" article reminded me of something. When I was about seven, I got a chance to play with a pink Barbie camper. Our neighbour was assembling it for his daughter's birthday, and I happened to be at their place with my grandparents.

I thought it was the coolest thing ever! I happily examined and messed around with it until an adult asked me if I really wanted to be playing with a girl's toy. I was, in a small way, made to feel embarrassed for playing with a toy that didn't fit the stereotype of my gender.

laura k said...

That's one area where boys have it worse than girls, IMO. Girls can play with trucks and building stuff more freely these days, but rare is the parent who will allow - never mind encourage - their son to play with dolls or other girl-approved toys. Masculinity is such an issue.

James Redekop said...

Girls can play with trucks and building stuff more freely these days, but rare is the parent who will allow - never mind encourage - their son to play with dolls or other girl-approved toys.

And even if the parents did allow it, if other kids (especially other boys) were to hear of it, they'd make life miserable for that boy.

laura k said...

And even if the parents did allow it, if other kids (especially other boys) were to hear of it, they'd make life miserable for that boy.

Oh so true. I'm sure many a progressive, feminist parent has encouraged boys to play with all kinds of toys, only to have the boy peer-pressured (bullied, beat-up, ridiculed, etc.) into gender-sanctioned play.

* * * *

At the library last night, I heard a parent refer to her daughter as a "tomboy". It wasn't a criticism, but she was explaining to another mom that her daughter wasn't a real "girly-girl, she was more of a tomboy". Amazing that people are still using such an ridiculous and antiquated expression.

James Redekop said...

Amazing that people are still using such an ridiculous and antiquated expression.

And, to your earlier point, consider the type of baggage associated with "tomboy" and compare it to the baggage associated with the perception of femininity in boys...

Amy said...

It has been interesting to watch my daughter raise her son. I can't help but notice how "male" behavior is encouraged in subtle ways, probably unconsciously. We hear the phrase, "He is such a boy," all the time. I don't say anything because it's not my place, and whatever I say would make no difference anyway, but it all makes me realize how we embed these ideas and expectations in children from such early ages.

I do remember, OTOH, that when my daughter herself turned a year old, we bought her a doll and a truck for her birthday. She immediately bonded with the doll and had no interest at all in the truck, except as a bed for the doll. Was that innate? Or had we also somehow without realizing it taught her that girls play with dolls, not trucks?

It is hard to know how much is nature and how much is nurture.

laura k said...

to your earlier point, consider the type of baggage associated with "tomboy" and compare it to the baggage associated with the perception of femininity in boys...

Absolutely. It's frightening, really.

We hear the phrase, "He is such a boy," all the time.

I hear "Boys are different" all the time, from co-workers and at the library. Boys are different... so of course they have to be treated differently. Hmm, could it be they have it backwards?

Was that innate? Or had we also somehow without realizing it taught her that girls play with dolls, not trucks?

Or perhaps it was her personal, individual preference.

I don't believe the preference for trucks vs dolls at such a young age could be determined by XY vs XX chromosomes. I know that certain gender traits are innate, but trucks vs dolls seems to be in the category of pink vs blue - culturally determined only. Even if one were to say that dolls are somehow linked to maternal instincts, and claim that a very young female child has such a thing, there is nothing inherently male about a truck.

Amy said...

It's a mystery to me. But I would guess that since she was more familiar with babies than she was with trucks, she just knew what to do with a baby.

laura k said...

Ah, good point.

Funny how if a doll is dressed up like a comic-book character, then the doll is called an action figure, and it's safe for boys.

impudent strumpet said...

That's weird. I was in grade 5 twenty years ago, and we didn't get out of boring boy stuff by virtue of being girls. Apart from the day they showed us the movie about where babies come from, everything was co-ed.

Also:

It's up to parents to resist the tyranny of the pink princesses

I really dislike this increasingly common idea that parents should be discouraging their daughters things gendered as feminine. My parents did this when I was a kid, and it made me feel like they were saying I wasn't good enough or wasn't pretty enough to do girly things. (Which was particularly hurtful because, despite my best efforts, I was objectively less feminine in appearance and manner than my peers.)

It didn't even work either. Both my parents' children grew up to be a very high-maintenance sort of femme, far more so than anyone else in the family.

laura k said...

Interesting perspective from Imp Strump. I guess if the whole world tells you one thing (this is feminine) and your parents tell you another (this is not for you), the net result may be very different than the parents' intentions.

laura k said...

That's weird. I was in grade 5 twenty years ago, and we didn't get out of boring boy stuff by virtue of being girls.

Texas.

allan said...

Steven Goldman of Baseball Prospectus adds in his three cents about baseball and its ambivalent relationship with its female
audience.

"There will always be unserious fans among both genders, simply because the world is full of unserious people. ... There will always be women who don’t like baseball or like it for superficial reasons, just as there are men who feel the same disregard for the game. However, if recent decades have shown us anything about women and baseball, it’s that there is nothing inevitable about women not being fully invested. You don’t have to dress it in pink or undress it, and you don’t have to make it about teenage crushes. Women are just as capable of getting baseball as men are."