Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sports and Womanhood

This post is a response to a recent Sports Illustrated article detailing how female sports reporters are still bullied and abused online by a minority of men that just can't handle women in the sports world. I do not agree with every point the author makes, but I agree with enough to write this post. One of my favorite quotes from the article is below. You can read the whole thing here (caution: awful language due to the tweets/comments the author has received). 

"Those of us [women] who dare invade this mostly male space [sports] are generally accepted, but there remains a vocal minority committed to forcing women out and rolling things back to the good ol' days, when women talked about recipes and PTA meetings and shoes. (Is that what they talked about? I’m guessing here.)
Unfortunately for these “meninists,” an entire generation grew up as the daughters of Title IX, with progressive fathers and kick-ass mothers who took us to football games, played one-on-one with us in the driveway, and taught us how to throw a fastball. With more and more women brought up to believe that sports can be their space, too, it’s natural for them to expect a seat at the table when sports come up in conversation."

I am by no means a radical feminist, but this article is heart-breaking and important. I wouldn't call my dad "progressive," but he, along w/ my "kick-ass mom" took me to football games, played one-on-one with me in our driveway, and taught me how to slide into second (I wasn't a pitcher so there was no need for fastball lessons). 

I love sports. I love everything about them. I also believe men and women were created by God with unique gifts and strengths. I don't agree that women can do everything men can do. I don't think men can do everything women can do. Men and women are different. That's why I think it's important to have men and women represented in sports and sports media. They bring different, yet equally valuable, perspectives to the arena. 

I was reminded this weekend of how women are made to appreciate beauty. This is absolutely true, and a role I relish as a woman. However, I don't think beauty is limited to a perfectly decorated home or chic new fashion trend. It certainly involves those things, but there are other types of beauty. A Tom Rinaldi College Gameday piece highlighting walk-on athletes who receive scholarship offers from their coaches is beautiful. Pat Summitt coaching a championship game in the prime of her career was beautiful. A pitcher throwing a perfect game is beautiful. Watching Jordan Spieth play golf this year was beautiful. And of course, watching a young man from Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama return a missed field goal 109 yards to complete the upset of his in-state rival is absolutely gorgeous.

Those who know me well know I often use the refrain "sports tell good stories."  They do.  These stories range from the events happening on the field to the human interest backstories of the athletes and coaches involved. They display redemption and disappointment, victory and defeat, heroes and villains. They remind us that we are simultaneously the image-bearers of God and sinful humans who have a hard time getting out of our own way. Sports offer us a lens into the state of the human condition.

That is why I am thankful for a father who, after having two daughters, did not retreat to a nightly cigar and whiskey while watching old football films and wishing he had a son. Rather, he coached those two daughters in rec-league softball and basketball. He turned down promotions at work so he could be there to watch our games. I am thankful for a mother who cheered in high school and also played flag football in college.  She was Miss Auburn and is also a state-champion tennis player. She taught me how to throw a spiral then would make me come in and help set the table for dinner. My mom showed me that loving sports and being a woman are nowhere near mutually exclusive.

Most recently, I am thankful for a husband who is not threatened by my love for sports, but instead finds it attractive.  He doesn't care if I beat him in H-O-R-S-E every now and then. He always welcomes me to tag along with him to the driving range even if I whiff 50% of my swings, get frustrated, and interrupt what would have been his relaxing afternoon. I am beyond thankful that his confidence in himself allows him to encourage me to be myself. Last night "myself" looked like cooking us our first homemade chili of the season then eating it with him as we watched Monday Night Football and discussed our fantasy rosters. On commercial breaks, he washed the dishes so that I could switch out the laundry. By the end of the night we had full bellies, a clean kitchen, 4 fresh loads of clean clothes, and a celebration over Aaron Rodgers' 5 touchdown passes.          

I don't know the author of this article or the men who made those atrocious comments towards her. I don't know how they spend Monday nights or how they treat their daughters. However, I do know that being a woman has shaped the way I view sports, and sports have shaped the way I view womanhood. I know that one day I want my children to understand that "sports tell good stories," and I look forward to attending the PTA meeting at their school then coming home to play catch with them in the front yard.

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