Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Is Nancy Lieberman the big lavender elephant?

I have previously blogged about the problems I have with Nancy Lieberman. And when I saw that the Women's Sports Foundation newsletter this month was running a feature on her, I was a little disappointed. It is nothing especially new. She hasn't done something notable of late. The WSF wants to keep lauding women's sports advocates like Lieberman who is a former WSF president.

During the feature Lieberman re-states her complaint (that I initially heard at the Title IX conference at Harvard in April) that women are spending their money on Coach and Prada purses and not on season tickets to local women's intercollegiate or professional sports. Apparently this is a line she uses at most of her public speaking gigs. She also seeks to mention her teenage son whenever possible. My diagnosis: Lieberman has an acute case of apologetic behavior. Apologetic behavior is when female athletes essentially compensate for their presence in sports, a traditionally masculine endeavor, through their behavior, appearance, and discourse.
It may seem like Lieberman is not engaging in apologetic behavior when she speaks of her strength and her very physical style of play or in being quite forthright in her commentary and analysis.
But remember her history. It's no secret that she was Martina Navratilova's lover while she was her trainer in the 80s. But she got married and had a kid. [Marriage and talking about marriage as a goal is a classic sign of apologetic behavior--a la Babe Didrickson.] Of course now she is divorced and rumors about her affair with a Shock player while she was coaching her seem to be not far from reality.
But those things don't get discussed. Lesbianism in women's sports has been called, by Pat Griffin, director of WSF's It Takes a Team program, the big lavender elephant in the room. And Donna Lopiano, WSF CEO, has written, in The Advocate no less, about the problems with homophobia in women's sport. Yet everyone at WSF seems to adore Lieberman despite the many ways in which she seems to cover her (current or past) identity and pretend it is not a big deal. I don't doubt that WSF is committed to combating homophobia in sports, I just wish they would not hold out as one of their stars a woman who does not seem as on board with the mission.


Diane said...

Amen. Lieberman as elephant seems pretty obvious. I have never had much regard for her; it was she who drove Renee Richards (a truly great tennis coach) away, and it was she who almost destroyed Navratilova's friendship with Evert.

e jerry said...

Nah. She's the little lavender elephant. Point guards don't get to be big elephants. Little pygmy elephants.