Saturday, February 23, 2008

This is our country

If you regularly read atheist blogs, you probably heard about this story: A religious high school in Kansas refused to let Michelle Campbell ref a basketball game because she does not have a Y chromosome. The story broke about a week ago, and atheist blogs were quick to bring it to light, and the responses on those sites were understandably disgusted.

Well yesterday, the story made it into the biggest sports spotlight, Unlike atheist blogs, which are largely read by free thinkers who are more likely to see the prejudice in this story, ESPN's "Sports Nation" is a good representative of the average American.

So I couldn't resist checking the comments, and the results were saddening but not surprising. There was only one "woman, get back in the kitchen!" post, which was most likely a poor attempt at humor. But what was more off-putting was the more subtle sexism that several people saw as reasonable.

The common arguments were as follows:

"Well I'm a democrat (loath the clown in charge) and I'm from a blue state, but I would be irritated if a female official showed up to call a game in which I was playing. I would also think a fair number of male players would not take the female official seriously. The men's game at all levels is much faster and more physical than the corresponding female version. Most officials played the game at one point in their lives and it stands to reason that very few, if any, female officials would have an accurate point of reference to judge the men's game (especially the physicality)."

This was a sentiment that was echoed by a few people, but look at the way this guy opens his comment. He's a democrat, hates Bush and is from a blue state. Okay, there's no way he can be sexist. Now let's move on to his reasonable argument: Women shouldn't officiate because (a) guys aren't comfortable with it, and (b) they are inferior refs. Just like men aren't comfortable having a female boss, and besides, females don't make good leaders. Just like white students weren't comfortable having classes with black students, and besides, black students don't make good students. Just like heterosexuals aren't comfortable with homosexuals getting married, and besides, homosexuals don't make good parents.
And the argument that females aren't familiar with the men's game because the game they played was different ignores the fact that most refs--especially at high levels of play--never played high level basketball, if they played at all. This is a clear case of males trying to justify their prejudice, even though this guy admits that he's just not comfortable with women being refs.

Another version of this argument:

"i'm not saying a woman refereeing a boys game would change the outcome, but it would be on the mind of every person in the gym and it's not something you want to think of anymore than americans think about already. you can't win if you're a woman ref in this situation. so let me reiterate that i am not sexist, but i can understand where people would have a reasonable case not wanting the lady to ref, and i can completely understand how the lady ref and others would be offended."

If you're like me, you just about jumped out of your skin when you read "it's not something you want to think of anymore than americans think about already." We don't want to face our prejudices (and we all have prejudices) because it makes us feel icky. So let's just ignore this whole thing.

The other most common argument was summed up by this commentator:

"A private school should be able to make any rule they want concerning their students if they believe its' in the kids' best interest. It is a private entity and if parents, would-be refs, teachers or any other potiental employee does not agree with the schools' ideology, then, by all means, have nothing to do with the's a free enterprise."

The first thing that gets to me about this position is that it is disguised as tolerence. I'm sure this guy (I'm assuming all these commentators are guys for obvious reasons) would claim to live by the "Live and let live" philosophy, but this is a horrible philosophy to take when it comes to a "private entity" practicing blatant discrimination or any other form of injustice.
But what really, really gets under my skin about this particular claim is that it fuels the ideology that parents have free reign to teach their kids anything they want. This is a touchy issue, and I want to post on it in depth in the near future, but it makes me want to scream whenever anyone says anything to the effect of "The parents can do what they want. It's their kids, and none of our business." It bugs me because it treats kids like possessions instead of individual persons...but that rant is for another day.

One more guy that thinks he's being tolerent:

"We are SO OVERLY SENSITIVE in this country it's sickening. No one can have opinions or beliefs without them coming into question from some jack### with an agenda. Spare me your phony outrage and moral high ground about equality, people. Many of those who preach tolerance need to learn what the word means and practice it themselves."

This is an all too common misstep in logic from tolerating someone's personal beliefs to tolerating their outward actions based on those beliefs. If you want to believe that your toaster talks to you, fine. That's your business. But if your toaster tells you to blow up a school, or even to steal a candy bar, then it's someone else's business. And that someone else has a right to react to your actions.
And when your beliefs result in continual unjust actions or inactions(this same school was in the news before when they refused to play a football team that had a girl on its roster) you're damn right we have a right to question those beliefs.

A lot of Americans point proudly to the fact that we've come a long way in equal treatment of all people. But the process is painstakingly slow simply because people are unwilling to question long-held beliefs.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I love your responses to the comments that you cited. The thing that's sad is that some of these people really are blind to the implicit biases they've expressed. They really think they're bias-free and objective. (To be fair, nobody is bias-free, but some are more willing to examine their hearts and minds than others are).

I'm adding you to my blogroll. Feel free to stop in and comment often.

The Exterminator said...

Hey, this is a great post.

I found you through chappy's Chapel Choir. Now, I'm adding you to my Godforsaken Blogs roll, too.

vjack said...

Quick blogging tip: enabling backlinks will encourage others to link to your posts.

Nathan said...

Thanks vjack. I was never exactly sure what backlinks did.

PhillyChief said...

Very nice. You should see the Chiefs forum. Ugh. I spend hours correcting people.

Johnny said...

wow, I didn't not realize that there are still SO many people out there who are that sexest. I know there are so many that harshly judge and discriminate based on homosexuality, and of course their are all those "wonderful" racists amongst us, but damn, who knew so many people though les of women.