Every morning I receive in my inbox a google alert for women's sports (along with offers for Viagra, Christian dating sites, and a chance to help out some former royal from Malawi). I scan the headlines and pass over things like BGSU women's lacrosse MVP banquet and most of the stuff published by the Bleacher Report (unless I am feeling ornery and in need of pointing out some ridiculousness).
This morning, reading the headlines in my alert, I had a pang of blogger jealousy. Someone had come up with a title that was very After Atalanta-esque--and it wasn't me! And it was about softball--and lesbians. How could this be?
Well because it was Dr. Pat Griffin who wrote the piece "Can Jennie Finch Even Say Lesbian?" and so I feel much better now. And especially so after reading it. Griffin calls out all (or most) of the people who have been speaking up in the wake of the astounding revelation that Elena Kagan once played softball--and the messages that sends. And Griffin's critique of the women's softball spokespeople is right on. Everyone is dancing around the l-word and being generally vague about the presence of said l-worders in the sport and how that affects the image of women's softball. And like I was earlier, Griffin is pretty unapologetic in her messages: 1) get over it, and 2) educate yourself about how to talk about these issues. While some preach acceptance, the level of discomfort belies their fear of (even more?) lesbian visibility. Softball player, commentator and current Women's Sports Foundation president Jessica Mendoza's comments were particularly disappointing. "We've come so far" she said. We who? And far from what? As in we women who play sports have come so far because we have more opportunities now? Well women is a broad category and some of us have come farther than others clearly and some of us owe a lot to those who came before us. And a lot of those women were/are lesbians. And I know they/we weren't always perfect in the handling of homosexuality in sport, but I don't think we can even quantify the numbers and the ways lesbian women have taken us "so far."
The column made me think about the blame cycle. We could blame Elena Kagan for not coming out (or for being out and going back in?). We can blame the media for their suggestive photos and their suggestive questions. Even the writers who are asking Mendoza, Jennie Finch, softball spokesfemme extraordinaire, and International Softball Association president Don Porter have a role in this. No one had to report on this angle.
But you know what? There wouldn't be a story about how Kagan's softball-playing days reflect on the current state of women's softball if the people who are responsible for the current state of women's softball weren't so damn scared and homophobic themselves. We can certainly blame the media for asking the questions. But we should definitely be blaming softball for kowtowing and for not standing up and supporting the thousands of lesbian who have built and supported the sport.