Thursday, January 14, 2010

Not a pretty girl*

And thank goodness for that because then I might have been recruited as a hostess. You're thinking sex work, right? Nope. Well, maybe, kind of.
According to this article from a December issue of Inside Higher Ed, the sketchy practice of pretty girls hosting a university's football (and basketball too I believe though this article focuses on football) recruits continues.
In 2004 the NCAA cracked down on hostessing, instituting specific rules, etc. But it seems that mostly that has meant that there is a lot more winking and nodding and turning of heads, like that being done by University of Tennessee's head football coach after two hostesses went to a high school football game to cheer on two recruits.
Sounds innocuous but not so much. I have heard countless stories about what happens between recruits and hostesses. Let's not forget that the lawsuit brought against University of Colorado by former female students stemmed from sexual violence that occurred at a recruiting party. These women weren't even official hostesses.
Because, yes, there are official hostesses. They are part of a student organization funded usually by university admissions offices. And they are most often comprised of women even though most claim to be co-ed. Though they are not officially there to cater to athletics' recruits--that's pretty much what they do. And even though they are not officially there to flirt and be objectified, that's pretty much what they do--and more according to both anecdotal and scholarly evidence.
And not surprising most of these hostess organizations and/or the most intense hostessing occurs in the south, according to the article. But formally or informally, using pretty women to get recruits is happening everywhere. Sometimes the athletic department uses some of their own, sometimes they outsource.
It's a disgusting practice regardless of the level of institutionalization and some, based on the comments I read that accompany the article, do indeed blame the institution. Some, of course, blame the women. Typical. Because they are of the age of consent and because they volunteer for the job, it's all on them, say some.
If you're volunteering to be a hostess, you are indeed participating in your own oppression. If you sleep or hook up with one of those recruits--consensually--you are still participating in your own oppression. But there is clearly a greater motivation for doing so and my guess is that one of those reasons is an attempt to gain some power, some social capital. A lot of these women are participating in a pretty effed up system. Do I think they need some consciousness-raising? Yep. Do I hold them accountable for helping perpetuate the system? Yes, I do. Do I feel any sympathy for the pain they are likely to encounter because they have put so much stock in their looks? Not a lot. But I do not think they deserve to be raped or sexually assaulted. And I don't think the university should be teaching them that this is the way to show school spirit. Whatever happened to in loco parentis?

* So I stole this title from Ani Difranco. I think the first verse should be the anti-hostess anthem.
I am not a pretty girl
that is not what I do
I ain't no damsel in distress
and I don't need to be rescued
so put me down punk
maybe you'd prefer a maiden fair
isn't there a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere?


Diane said...

Perhaps we're actually getting in loco parentis. The young women certainly aren't learning from their parents that volunteering to be objectified--and more--is self-oppression--and worse.

ken said...

Good point, Diane. I guess I was operating under the paradigm that the university should be offering better, more enlightened parenting. Too naive, I suppose.