Monday, October 29, 2007

To be the same or to be different?

Are these the only choices for women's sports? It seems so. columnist Bonnie Ford has a piece from last week about the firing (or non-renewal of contract) of US national team soccer coach Greg Ryan and all the hoopla over the Hope Solo controversy entitled: Would a Hope Solo situation happen to a men's team? Her conclusion--which you can probably guess from just reading the title--is that, no, men's teams don't deal with intrateam controversy by benching a player. One, I am not sure this is exactly the case. I seem to recall various clubhouse tensions with certain players over the years. Perhaps it is not that men handle it differently but that the media treats such situations differently when women are involved; relying on stereotypes of women's group behavior (Ford calls the situation a "slumber party gone bad") and conflicts (i.e. catfights).
Essentialist beliefs about women as inherently nurturing or conciliatory and forgiving have framed this controversy in ways no one is discussing as far as I can tell. Commentators and writers call on the women's national team to toughen up and deal with the adversity yet at the same time we want them to act like "normal" women; we question their sexuality (the countless hits I get from "abby wambach gay" searches), and place other demands on them to be feminine and otherwise normative.
In other words: act like men, but wait--don't act like men.

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