The Soft Bigotry of High Expectations

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Being a member of the better sex is exhausting. The double duty of upholding the moral standards of both women and men wears on a girl. Being a bastion of such rectitude, I take it a little personally when someone like Newsweek's Mark Starr bemoans the failings of my sisters to loft society into a higher stage of evolution.

Starr rhapsodizes:

Once upon a time, the dream of the feminist movement was one of equal opportunity. They didn't want to be like men, just to have the same chances. There was an implication, a faith inherent in that aspiration, that not only could they perform the same jobs, master the same subjects and play the same games but that they would do it in a fashion that might be better for our society. The conceit was that they would imbue all they touched with a women's sensibility, which would be more nuanced, more empathetic and, ultimately, more humane.

It falls to women to create this utopia because men are our lessers. Starr shares a bit of his thinly-veiled, masculine self-loathing:

I grew up in an extended family dominated by males and one didn't have to be an Einstein to recognize our multitude of emotional shortcomings. Fortunately, the Starr men were just smart enough to marry up and improve the family gene pool. Still, trust me on this: by virtually any standard other than sports trivia, Scrabble and the ability to grill medium rare, I don't measure up to any of the following people—my mother, my wife, my daughter.

But Starr has learned to his chagrin that women can be jerks too. And now, even that glorious symbol, the female athlete, has been tarnished by the behavior of the Northwestern University women's soccer team, revealed for all the world on badjocks.com. The debauched, hazing ritual was indeed un-lady-like.

Perhaps women's athletics remained one of my last illusions. I certainly have none about big-time men's collegiate sports. While I don't pretend to be immune to their entertainment value, I am convinced they corrupt the entire system. But I hoped that women's collegiate sports might prove to be something better, something that perhaps reflected the legacy of the 1999 Women's World Cup.

What people like Starr don't seem to understand is that casting women as superior is as objectifying as casting us as inferior. It also gives men interminable latitude to drag their knuckles across the floor, revel in sexually degrading behavior, and generally behave like animals.

So when young men like the members of the Duke lacrosse team hire strippers, hurl racist epithets at them, and otherwise engage in drunken and disorderly conduct, they're just boys being boys. So typical is this behavior, apparently, that their counterparts on the Duke women's lacrosse team have seen fit to wear armbands proclaiming their innocence. As Salon's Kevin Sweeney points out, whether or not they are guilty of rape is for a jury to decide, but to call them "innocent" is a stretch. Says Sweeney:

For women who step forward to file an accusation of rape, it is often the hardest thing they will ever do in their lives. By making such a public stand of unity before the facts come out, by saying so clearly that the accused is a liar, the women of Duke's lacrosse team won't make it any easier for other women to step forward.

Yep. Sometimes women are jerks.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen sister.

rubyjantz said...

Thanks for posting this! You totally put my thoughts into words. I can't believe that Newsweek would print something so archaic! The most ridiculous thing is that Starr is claiming to have a feminist perspective. Yikes! He has about 80 years of feminist literature to catch up on!

Anonymous said...

"So when young men like the members of the Duke lacrosse team hire strippers, hurl racist epithets at them, and otherwise engage in drunken and disorderly conduct, they're just boys being boys."
While you're talking about leaving the innocence and/or guilt of the Men's Lacrosse team for a court of law to decide, I think it would be best if you didn't make statements like 'hire strippers', 'hurl racist epithets', 'engage in drunken and disorderly conduct'. To use your own words nothing has been proven in a court of law yet. Why are you pronouncing the young men as guilty while saying others shouldn't claim they are innocent?
Oh, I forgot, you're a woman. That makes it okay, right?

Anonymous said...

Although I agree with your thoughts on this article to some extent, I, as a female and a lesbian, feel that there is no excuse for bad behaviour period. Granted, these young women (I cringe to use the term 'ladies' for they have not earned the right to that title) were acting immature and just plain loutish. But I firmly believe that a person's behaviour (most especially women's as we have been disparaged long throughout history as the weaker, less intelligent and more emotional sex) should be in top form. Athletes in our society are considered heroes, pillars of the community and all of that rot. Well, they should realise that, whether or not they want that responsibility, they've got it. Thus, they should be on their best behaviour, controlled, mature and for bloody hell's sake respecting of others.

Meh, Mark Starr gave voice to a good many things that I was thinking when I heard of this incident, though he does not speak for me entirely. Let's not put down all of his commentary. He's made some very valid points.

Anonymous said...

My apologies for not signing my name to the above post...Kieli is the name, ranting is my game. Cheers!

Curmudgette said...

Anonymous said:

While you're talking about leaving the innocence and/or guilt of the Men's Lacrosse team for a court of law to decide, I think it would be best if you didn't make statements like 'hire strippers', 'hurl racist epithets', 'engage in drunken and disorderly conduct'. To use your own words nothing has been proven in a court of law yet.

None of the elements I listed are really in dispute. These young men are facing charges for rape, not for hiring strippers or for their loutish behavior.

Oh, I forgot, you're a woman. That makes it okay, right?

You really didn't get the point of what I wrote at all did you? Oh well. Reading is fun for mentals.

Anonymous said...

The items are too in dispute. Who hired the 'strippers'? All the Lacrosse team? The coach? A parent? We DON'T know. Have the young said they 'hurled racial epithats'? No, they have not. Were all the Lacrosse team members stated they were 'drunk and disorderly'? No, they have not.
You read news accounts, statements by the 'stripper', and have concluded the ALL the men's lacrosse team members were drunk and disorderly, hired strippers, and then all of them cursed at the strippers ... You really don't see your bias? You are a mental midget then.

Anonymous said...

And, no I don't get your point. Many people have taken sides, for and against the players, for and against the 'strippers'. Why are you just 'complaining' about the women's lacrosse team supporting their 'fellow' athletes?
What is your point?

Anonymous said...

Rape is a horrendous crime and I feel for anyone that has been raped. But the comment, 'Why would anyone claim they were raped when they weren't'? Try revenge. Try money. There have been many women in the past that cried rape and it was later found that there had been a reason they lied. It isn't like it would be something new for a 'stripper' to be dishonest would it? This lady, being referred to by all of us as a 'stripper', may have a lot of reasons to not tell the truth.
If you were raped, I'm sorry and yes, you are right that the victims of rapists are often victimized again if/when they report the crime. We are lacking as a society when it comes to support for rape victims.
However, that doesn't mean that every lady that cries 'rape' was actually raped.

blinded by insight said...

I just chose an identity and user name. My 'anonymous' posts are May 31 @ 1:39pm, 5:21pm, 5:28pm, and 5:40pm.

Curmudgette said...

blinded by insight said:

I just chose an identity and user name. My 'anonymous' posts are May 31 @ 1:39pm, 5:21pm, 5:28pm, and 5:40pm.

Blinded by something, certainly. Whatever it is that has impaired your vision seems to have taken with it your reading comprehension skills and ability to grasp details in context. That's very sad but it's not my problem. I have neither the time nor the inclination to clarify your gross distortions of what I wrote, correct your misspellings, or explain meaning which should be obvious to anyone who can read above the fifth grade level.

Kieli said...

The items are too in dispute. Who hired the 'strippers'? All the Lacrosse team? The coach? A parent? We DON'T know. Have the young said they 'hurled racial epithats'? No, they have not. Were all the Lacrosse team members stated they were 'drunk and disorderly'? No, they have not.

Ahem, I feel compelled to point out that anyone in their right mind, while faced with possible criminal charges and lengthy jail time, would NOT even remotely admit to anything of the sort. That would be incriminating themselves, their lawyers would strongly advise against it, and thus it would not happen. So really, your logic is flawed insofar as you're missing a few key elements that would make your argument tenable.

You read news accounts, statements by the 'stripper', and have concluded the ALL the men's lacrosse team members were drunk and disorderly, hired strippers, and then all of them cursed at the strippers ... You really don't see your bias? You are a mental midget then.

And this is better how? What bias do you see that she has? If anything, I can see a bias in your statement in that it seems you honestly believe that their behaviour is still excusable despite the accusations of rape. News flash! What they did was still wrong. Period. That is a non-issue.

Why are you just 'complaining' about the women's lacrosse team supporting their 'fellow' athletes?
What is your point?


I think her point is that (and do correct me if I'm wrong, C), as females, the Duke women's lacrosse team should know better than to even remotely condone their male counterparts behaviour. It's rather sad that they did actually....it makes it look like they're trying too hard to be seen as "one of the guys".

However, that doesn't mean that every lady that cries 'rape' was actually raped.

True. However, there seems to be evidence to the contrary so really it would be best to see how this plays out in the US court system, deeply flawed though it is.

blinded by insight said...

I think you do understand that you exhibited bias in your statements when stating that the Duke women's lacrosse team should have kept quiet. You made statements based on news accounts and acted like the statements were the truth.
You were wrong and you know it. That's why you didn't comment. You're just not going to admit it. That's fine.
Whomever 'hired the strippers', and that appears to be true or else this would not be in the news, was definitely not behaving morally (my opinion). Whatever young men stayed at the location after the strippers arrived, were morally wrong (my opinion). If they hurled racial epithats, that's ignorance (my opinion). If sexual 'activity' occurred between the 'ladies' and the young men, that's either prostitution, sodomy, rape, or consensual sex (by law). And ALL of that and more will be part of the court proceedings - not just the alleged 'rape'. That is why I took exception to your "so when ..." statement.
I don't condone anyone's behavior in this event, regardless of whether the rape occurred or not. Everyone involved in this event should be re-thinking their behavior.
Curm: I like your writing and I agree with almost all of your comments.
Too many 'men' in the USA are morally deficient (my opinion). But too many women are empowering these men by 'laying down' for them (my opinion). You want 'upstanding' men? Well, you can help by informing your 'sisters' to stop treating these 'morally deficient' men as 'sex machines' and value the men that are truly attempting to be 'gentlemen'.
My spelling? I got a little too excited when replying the first time and my mind didn't wait for my fingers to catch up.

Kieli said...

I think you do understand that you exhibited bias in your statements when stating that the Duke women's lacrosse team should have kept quiet. You made statements based on news accounts and acted like the statements were the truth.
You were wrong and you know it. That's why you didn't comment. You're just not going to admit it. That's fine.
Whomever 'hired the strippers', and that appears to be true or else this would not be in the news, was definitely not behaving morally (my opinion). Whatever young men stayed at the location after the strippers arrived, were morally wrong (my opinion). If they hurled racial epithats, that's ignorance (my opinion). If sexual 'activity' occurred between the 'ladies' and the young men, that's either prostitution, sodomy, rape, or consensual sex (by law). And ALL of that and more will be part of the court proceedings - not just the alleged 'rape'. That is why I took exception to your "so when ..." statement.
I don't condone anyone's behavior in this event, regardless of whether the rape occurred or not. Everyone involved in this event should be re-thinking their behavior.
Curm: I like your writing and I agree with almost all of your comments.


Pardon me, but I'm confused as to whom you are addressing. You say Curm in this last part but I'm not sure that you're really addressing her because you disagree with almost everything she's said thus far. Was this a typographical error?

Kieli said...

Too many 'men' in the USA are morally deficient (my opinion). But too many women are empowering these men by 'laying down' for them (my opinion). You want 'upstanding' men? Well, you can help by informing your 'sisters' to stop treating these 'morally deficient' men as 'sex machines' and value the men that are truly attempting to be 'gentlemen'.

This part I agree with to some extent. There needs to be some accountability on both sides. Women treat men as "meat" and vice versa (well unless you're queer like me *chuckle*). It seems to be less common for people to have simple respect and decency for each other and for themselves. One wonders why this is and how it can change (and I don't posit religion as a solution...that institution is more deeply flawed and has its own biases, strict gender roles and sexual (or rather non-sexual) mores that are not grounded in the real world IMHO).

Curmudgette said...

Alright Blinded by Insight, your last comment is almost cogent so I'll address it. First off, I need to tell that I take deep exception to assertions about what I think or know. It's rude. You have no idea what goes on between my two ears but for what I state. Nor do you know what I've read or how I've formed my opinions unless I state it. In my post I laid claim to reading two articles, one in Newsweek and one in Salon. All else is speculation on your part.

As to the rest of it: We do know who hired the strippers, the co-captains of the team, because they have acknowledged doing so. There is also a longstanding pattern of drunken, disorderly behavior on the part of the Lacrosse team. I'll pick an article at random, but there are many to choose from. Racial slurs were overheard by neighbors.

I realize this may have been too subtle for you but the Salon writer I was affirming was not referring to the legal innocence of the accused, but questioning the moral innocence of the team. The legal case is over rape, not over whether or not the team is a bastion of loutishness. The loutishness is well-established. And by affirming their solidarity with their male counterparts, the women's lacrosse team has taken on all that baggage in addition to their public statement about something they could not possibly know; a case that should be left to the courts to determine.

I will make no apologies for being biased about the debasing behavior of the Duke lacrosse team and there is much there, including an email about skinning strippers while masturbating, that is not a matter of dispute. If I were a member of the women's lacrosse team I would be distancing myself at light speed from such depravity. (For the record your bias is very much on display with statements like: It isn't like it would be something new for a 'stripper' to be dishonest would it?)

Too many 'men' in the USA are morally deficient (my opinion). But too many women are empowering these men by 'laying down' for them (my opinion). You want 'upstanding' men? Well, you can help by informing your 'sisters' to stop treating these 'morally deficient' men as 'sex machines' and value the men that are truly attempting to be 'gentlemen'.

This, by the way, is what I mean when I say that you do not understand what I wrote at all. This statement is an illustration of exactly the kind of bizarre double-standard that I think serves neither men nor women. It is not my responsiblity to train my "sisters" in how to be better gate-keepers for male behavior. Who the hell appointed women as arbiters of morality? I don't want the job. I think it insults men to assume that they cannot find their own moral compass without female affirmation. I think it's setting the bar for women ridiculously high to assume that we are always the finer creatures. Clearly we are not.

blinded by insight said...

Thank you. I have not read the articles you referred to and now I better understand how you came to your opinions/conclusions.



I really don't expect you to be able to affect the behavior of your 'sisters' any more than I have been able to influence the behavior of my 'brothers'. All I can do is use my behavior to set an example and to instruct those that seek my guidance. I don't mean to sound 'superior' to anyone else because all I really am is just a man that cares about people. I have been concerned about the 'State of Man' since I was in my teens.
I grew complacent and wasn't that concerned about the behavior of my 'fellow man' for quite a few years. But I have a son that is now twelve-years-old and 'his world' has become very important to me. So my involvement is admittedly selfish.
I now attempt to set a good example in my daily life. I try to find time to listen to those that are looking for someone to listen, and to speak with those that I think will take the time to hear. Earlier in my life, I used to do this because I thought I could help 'save' mankind. Now I do it for my son, his world, and also for my sanity.
Thank you for listening.

Curmudgette said...

blinded by insight said:

Thank you for listening.

You're welcome. Anytime.