Monday, June 02, 2008

Moral quandary

I have my second tennis match of the summer season tonight. (I won the first one, thanks for asking. But it was ugly, ugly tennis. I am hoping tonight's match looks a little more like real tennis.)

Last time we were the away team. Tonight we are the home team. That means that we bring the snacks. I am an excellent snack bringer. Besides my wicked backhand return, I think my team keeps me around because I bake. And I never bring the same thing twice. (Though I did make excellent peanut butter fudge oatmeal bars last season that I may bring back for a repeat performance at some point.)

But as I thought ahead to buying jam for oatmeal raspberry bars, I came across some information about women's sports--their origins and some of the continued practices. I was reading Playing with the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal in Sport--because yes, I finally got past page 20.* And I read about how in the early days of competition in women's sports--mostly at women's colleges, the home team served refreshments afterwards to, the authors contend, deemphasize the competitive aspect of the activity. This was not necessarily surprising news to me. I knew the social aspects of sport were very much stressed.

But my cognitive dissonance suddenly became less dissonant when I moaned after reading that the practice can still be seen in, for example, recreational league tennis where the home team is responsible for providing snacks and beverages after a match. This is not a practice, the authors claim, in men's league tennis. [I don't think this is universally true. My father plays league tennis and I know post-match refreshment is often present--sometimes it's just beer and chips and salsa but I consider it snacks and beverages.]

But the long of the short of it is that I make snacks to feed the visiting ladies. But here's the thing: I could stop and say "this is a vestige of patriarchal pressure to keep women's sports inferior and I'm just not going to do it." But I happen to believe that the social aspects of sport should be stressed. Stressed over competition? No--but stressed equally. I like competing but I like socializing too. Sports are how I meet people. When my girlfriend and I moved a few years ago to a place where we knew very few people--one actually--we got involved in sports. (We had always been involved in sports but we knew here we would be doing so to meet people.) So now between us we play tennis, hockey, softball. We cycle, we go to the gym, we tried crew but stopped not because of the sport, which we enjoyed, but because we didn't like the people. And most of our friends are from those activities. We're even in the process of taking up golf--largely for the social aspects of it--but also for the challenge of learning a new sport.

So I guess there really isn't much of a quandary.

I have to go bake now.

* I will be writing a more thorough post on it later this week hopefully. It will not be pretty. It is a very flawed book.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Well, shoot. My dad gets the Wellesley Center For Research on Women magazine (I love my dad), and they had a big piece on the book and I was looking forward to reading it.

Many of us have this double consciousness when it comes to wanting women's sports to be just as tough as men's but also liking the part where we acknowledge the companionable aspects. It's a tightrope for sure, and it has a lot to do with women's sports constantly being judged by hostile outsiders. It also plays into a broader feminist debates over difference v. equality feminism, as well you know. There's a thesis in there somewhere.

Oh, and can you please stop kicking my ass in blog quality? It's getting embarrassing.