Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A rose by any other name---stinks!

As I mentioned below, I caught some of the women's AVP final at Manahattan Beach this weekend where Kerri Walsh and Misty May won something like their 7th title of the year. Congrats are in order of course. But I just wouldn't be my analytical/critical self if I didn't find something about gender/cultural norms that arose to blog about.
There seems to be some confusion about what Misty's name is. She did get married and is apparently going by May Treanor. The commentators called her Misty May and the graphics lacked consistency showing her as May Treanor as well as just May.
I could go on and on (and on) about women changing their names when they marry and the huge problems with that practice but that's not really what this blog about. So instead I will just focus on the huge problems I have when famous female athletes change their names. Sure there's the cultural reasons all marrying women face but because these athletes have already established themselves in the public it makes it even more egregious. May is internationally known, respected, admired, etc. Famous female celebs rarely change their names after marriage. Courtney Cox added Arquette when she married but then subtracted it again. And sure Britney says she is Britney Spears Federline now but is that name that is really going to headline her next tour or record? No--because you don't mess with a good thing--which in this case is name recognition.
In sports, it's slightly different. Making it clear that a female athlete is married by adding the husband's name constitutes the "apologetic behavior" that so many female athletes engage in (no pun intended). May's case seems a little different though given her chosen sport. Beach volleyball seems to strike the required cultural balance between appropriate femininity and aggressive play. How unfeminine can you be playing in barely-there bikinis? There also doesn't seem to be the lesbian stigma that surrounds other sports. So there appears to be less reason for May to show the world that she now belongs to a man. Of course she could just be like so many other women and just think it's the right thing to do, tradition and all that. I don't know which is more disappointing.
Well this next incident is--for me anyway. Though it happened last year, it's relevant to this discussion. When Mia Hamm played her last game for the US National Team, she came out in the second half wearing a jersey that said Garciaparra on the back, having switched out of her Hamm jersey. I nearly gagged. "Look at me! Look at me! I am married. I am not one of those lesbians that play soccer. I am straight and I scored me a baseball player." She was even announced as Mia Garciaparra. Granted it was not a permanent switch. Her sponsors would have killed her had she done that. She said it was to honor Nomar and his family and their support. Aww...how sweet. Yet odd given that she was (and remains) so private about her relationship with him. But she makes this very public proclamation. Of course in Nomar's next game he went out with Hamm on the back of his jersey and the sportscasters announced him as Nomar Hamm in a public gesture of his love and gratitude for Mia.
Yeah, right.

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