Thursday, May 06, 2010

Race, gender, class, misogyny and lacrosse and student-athletes behaving badly

Alternate title: Why I shouldn't turn on the TODAY show while still in bed.
Not just because I hate the TODAY show, but because I hear more about stories I had kind of been avoiding, like the murder of University of Virginia lacrosse player, Yeardley Love by her (ex?) boyfriend, George Huguely, also a lacrosse player. Not avoiding because I am indifferent to the murder of a young woman, but because the more I listen to and read the coverage, the more irate I become.
This column was particularly bad. I do believe writer Les Carpenter had the best of intentions in trying to both memorialize Yeardley Love and bring attention to the issue of bad behavior by student-athletes. But in attempting both, he succeeded in neither.
First, I found it highly problematic that in describing the vigil for Love held on UVA's campus, he wrote only of women holding candles in their "flowing summer dresses" and sandals coming to the vigil site from all over campus. It was kind of Greek tragedy, chorus-like. Plus the fact that there were not only women in attendance. But the picture Carpenter paints is that this chorus of women emerge from all over to honor their fallen sister reifying ideas that 1) only women mourn and 2) that only women are victims. It was how he opened the column, and it was very off-putting and not, in my mind, a tribute to Love.
Second, in his desire to point out the issues of violence and crime among college athletes he--and others are and will be guilty of this as well I am sure--neglects to fully examine the issues. I don't know. Maybe it's not his job. But in an article about a lacrosse player from a prominent lacrosse school who is accused of committing violence against a woman, I am pretty sure not mentioning the Duke case is a big oversight. And it makes me wonder how this case will be portrayed differently. Because the Duke case is also about violence against women perpetrated by privileged white athletes. But the victim in the UVA case was a matriculated white female who was also a student-athlete.
I am not comparing the level of crime or the facts, such as they are, but I am worried about the lack of critical analysis that takes into account not just the male on female violence, but issues of race and class as well. And not just on an individual level but looking at it from a sport-by-sport issue. We frequently hear about the misdeeds of male basketball and football players, but clearly lacrosse players are no angels either. (And neither are hockey players if you read Crossing the Line about sexual violence in Canadian hockey.) Maybe we should be looking a little closer at who gets away with what and in what situations. It seems wrong to treat every male student-athlete as a suspect, but it is equally wrong to suspect some over others. And it might even be deadly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's not only that. It's violence against student female athletes from male student athletes (not only male coaches) more often than female pro athletes. By no offense, Yeardley Love was cheating on George Huguely with one of his teammates and he eventually killed her, which is idiotic. If a girl is cheating on her boyfriend or husband with one or more other guys, her boyfriend or husband doesn't have the right to ridicule or even kill her. He should forgive her. Guys take it extremely hard when girls cheat them with other guys, resorting to useless things, like violence and verbal insults, for example, or even suicide.

In addition to that, there was a UIowa football player who sexually assaulted a student female athlete this year. Pathetic. The more stronger, confident, and fitter, girls and women become in our society, the more boys and men will resort to violence and ridicule against them.