All I Want For Christmas Is For Sports Misogynoir to Have A Seat

I woke up this morning with every intention not to write anything today.  Recently, life for me ain’t been no kinds of a crystal stair.  For the past three weeks through a cold, stomach virus, work fatigue and life in general, I’d been reading and writing for finals in both my classes.  After confirming that I scored another 4.0 for the semester, I decided that for the next three days I was on a writing break.  I needed time for my brain to breathe and fingers to relax.  But then I got an email from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists congratulating me on my second paper abstract being accepted for this year’s conference.  Doing the “me” thing, I decided to bend my rules a little and brush up on some of the reading I did for the submission.  Given that my topic is on Black Female Sexuality and its present reception in society, a lot of my readings were based on theory as well as pop culture things like Amber Rose’s SlutWalk and Brelyn Bowman’s purity pledge.  Scouring the internet for more pop culture examples to dissect in my presentation, I happened upon the whole uproar with Gilbert talking shit about the WBNA.  Admittedly, I heard about his comments before, but that was around the time I was in a post-finals/sick fog where I couldn’t lend it the random pop culture intellect I can now (read as: I was far too tired to give a fuck).  But now that I have my second wind and while I’m in the zone of Black feminist/Womanist thought, let’s have a quick chat about how incredibly stupid comments like Gilly’s really are.  

 

While blog site after blog site can tell you numerous ways how asininely sexist the comments were, I want to take a step back for a minute and look at the framework from whence this bullshit came.  The bigger problem with Gilbert’s incredibly fucked-up, sexist comments is that they stem from the long-standing tradition and practice of undermining Black women’s sports acumen by criticizing their appearance.  This isn’t an isolated incident.  We’ve been here before.  

 

We were there in 2000 with Love and Basketball.  Aside from the constant crooning of Maxwell everytime Monica and Quincy were around each other and Zeke keeping his wife’s fine ass in Gucci and gold (such a joy of a quote), one of the subplots in the movie touched on this subject.   While there were no direct comments correlating Monica’s appearance to her basketball ability, one of her constant conflicts throughout the film was the expectation of balancing (or at times outweighing) society’s standard of “being ladylike” against her passion for the sport.  The most compelling scene in the film on this topic was the debate Monica and Quincy had in the car regarding how her “attitude” on the court could cost her being selected for a college team.  When Quincy advises that she should calm down when playing, Monica points out the double standard that women have when playing the sport,

 

Please, you jump in some guy’s face, talk smack and you get a pat on your ass.  But because I’m a female, I get told to calm down and act like a “lady”.  I’m a ballplayer, okay?  

 

While rooted in fiction, this example stems from a serious, real-life quagmire female athletes, particularly Black, find themselves in.  When their ability is top-notch, they are often the targets of ad hominem attacks with their femininity being called into question.

We were there in 2007 with Don Imus.  While most of the public outrage was directed to the fact that Imus referred to the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball Team as “nappy headed hoes,” what wasn’t discussed as much was the underlying sentiment that the University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball Team won because they were the “prettier” (and not-so-ironically fairer-skinned) team.  Such reasoning feeds into the erroneous assumption that appearance influences ability.  If that were truly the case, there should be a whole rack of people in the NBA, NFL, and whatever else 3 or 4-lettered sports organizations on unemployment because their looks don’t compare to their ability.  

 

We were there in 2012 with Gabby Douglas.  Here we had young Miss Douglas slaying the gymnastics competition in the OLYMPICS, yet there was all this controversy about how she wore her hair.  Of course some people in the pithole of opinion hell aka Twitter went just as far to say that Gabby’s hair was the missing element in her being the quintessential Black female athlete role model.

 

Seriously.  

 

For starters, she is an athlete.  Having gone to an all-girl high school, it really wasn’t an uncommon thing at all for ANY athlete regardless of the sport they played to have a ponytail.  Secondly, she was 16 at the time.  Have any of you people met 16-year-olds?  Their appearances can range from gorge to plain and everything in between.  This includes hairstyle.  When you blend together Gabby’s age and her profession (a profession that she has not even out of high school, mind you), I was neither shocked nor outraged by any of it.  In fact, I expected it.  Watching student athletes in action, who would want to invest time away from practices and working out and money into going to the hairdresser if you’re only going to sweat your hair out hours later?  What was our problem that we were far more concerned with the girl’s snatchback than we were with her snatching gold medals in the name of these United States?

 

My God, when are we NOT there with Serena?  If I listed every, single example of how her appearance undermined her sports skills, I’d most likely still be writing this “short” piece well into 2016.  Her incidents include Tomasz Wiktorowski comparing Agnieszka Radwanska to Serena stating that they keep her small “because first of all she’s a woman, and she wants to be a woman, being called arrogant and cocky, to the most bizarre recent pandering that a horse be more deserving of Sports Illustrated’s 2015 SportsPERSON of the year honor.  But again, much of the grievances against Williams harken back to the misogynoir framework that a Black female athlete can’t simply be a good athlete without her appearance being called in for critique as well.   

 

So how do we resolve this conundrum?  For starters, we can continue to serving seats for folks comments, posts, articles, and whatnot that perpetuate this kind of bullshit.  And said seats can be occupied by both men and women (believe me, there were just as many women standing by Arenas as there were men).  But in making this mass purchase order, it will take the effort for both men and women to be vocal about this.   It was great and expected that the WNBA spoke out, and yet we’ve heard next to nothing from the NBA.  Perhaps because deep down, whether they would admit it or not, there is room on the row for them to take a seat as well because they feel the exact same way Arenas does.  As I always say, folks should listen to who speaks and hear who is silent.

 

Advertisements

The Ballad of the Post-Racialism Bullshit

trying to make be believe

because OUR president is Black

that equality is here

so they can have my voting rights back

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR president is Black

that equality is here

so they can take the quota back

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR president is Black

that equality is here

so they can take King’s dream back

 

that the price of my mind

is on the struggle sakes rack

$25 mill on the tag

can’t we see through that?

that my schools have to go

yet they won’t let me in their doors

and when they do, it’s a limit

that they keep suing schools for

saying, “oh that’s not fair.

because the president is black. 

he’s done enough for those people.

he’s pulled up all their bootstraps.”

what if i straightened my hair?

what if he pulled up his pants?

we’d magically change our status

we would be given a chance

and let’s ignore the fact

riding a Benz from a hoop

as Mr. West has said

i’m still a nigger in a Coup

white women are enraged

about this unequal wage

but low-key

they’d still make more than me

depending on shade

oh the shade my shade

plays in our daily lives

since they gave us a black president

they can also give us lies

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR President is Black

playing with toy guns in Wal-Mart

means that i’m shot in the back

that a hoodie is a threat

when you’re armed with snacks

jaywalking costs your life

so does loose cigarette packs

this shit ain’t Martin’s dream

this our reality

that i’m still subjected to

police brutality

from cradles to caskets

from playpens to prisons

profits from infancy to inmatehood

the American vision

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR President is Black

there’s no need for me to fight

because i’m not under attack

but if America has changed

why do i feel chains?

not the ones on your ankles

but the ones in your brain?

we say we live in a time

where race means nothing anymore

we’ll if that’s the case

why am i still followed in the store?

if that’s the case

why am i still beaten till i’m sore?

trying to use my rights

to protest my fight

against moral double standards

my people’s daily fight

 

trying to make me believe

because OUR president is Black

we good, let’s clear the hood

and take those ghetto slums back

“let’s give them all the police

they asked about for weeks

let’s build new condo spots

let’s clean up all these streets

let’s have a whole foods here

let’s have a day spa there

let’s charge them over their checks

let’s raise up all the bus fare

let’s force them over yonder

so they’ll never bother

to come back home

they’re not welcomed back at all, Mr. Kotter”

displacement through replacement

of all our residents

 

but it’s all good

after all

WE have a Black President