Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Disappointed in the Daily Princetonian

by Jared Aldwin Crooks

The last time that I checked, I go to Princeton University. Princeton is consistently ranked among the top universities in the nation and world – we’re lauded for our progressive thinkers and outstanding researchers, and we supposedly possess some of the country’s brightest young minds, waiting to soak up knowledge. So you’ll understand my surprise when I picked up the April 8th issue of the Daily Princetonian, looked at the sports section and saw the most blatantly sexist comment I have seen in a while. It wasn’t even an article – it was a headline: “Honestly, I’d rather see the women’s final.” The article’s author, Eben Novy-Williams, was writing about the lack of competition in the Men’s NCAA basketball championship, but the headline took all of women’s pioneering work and threw it in the trash with a swish. Essentially, the headline was saying that women’s basketball is so much of a joke that no one would consider watching the women’s final – unless the men’s final was absolutely unwatchable.

How could the management of the Daily Princetonian have allowed such a headline to be published? Some may think that this is an overreaction, but I cannot idly sit back and allow this seemingly minor issue to slip by without pointing out it out to those responsible. I can only hope that they were not aware of the offensiveness of their actions. The headline may seem flippant, or even funny, but it reflects a greater unconcern for women’s accomplishments in sports and in the wider world. Princeton has a female president, and our student body is nearly half female. The Princeton I thought I attended does not reflect the all-white, all-male values of the past, and I expect students writing for the student newspaper to act accordingly.


At April 16, 2009 at 5:54 PM , Anonymous Real Sports Fan said...

"Essentially, the headline was saying that women’s basketball is so much of a joke that no one would consider watching the women’s final – unless the men’s final was absolutely unwatchable."

Yes, I believe that is exactly what the headline is saying. And for good measure too.

The quality of play in women's basketball is just not on par with the men's game. That's not an opinion, it's a readily observable fact. What do you think would happen if this year's UConn women's team (which dominated every other team in the country) faced off against a men's team? And it's not just a matter of height; a team of 6'1" UNC point guards would make quick work of the WNBA all-stars.

If you don't like my hypothetical Battle of the Sexes, remember what happened when Annika Sorenstam tried to play on the men's PGA tour. And don't talk to me about Billy Jean King, she was in her prime at age 30 when she played against the 55-year-old Bobby Riggs.

The idea of gender equality in sports is in general absurd. When I watch sporting events, I want to see the best athletes in the world compete. And in almost every sport, those athletes are uniformly male. I don't watch women's basketball for the same reason that I don't watch middle school basketball. Nothing sexist about that.

As a final note, I think Title IX is an abomination. Spending millions of dollars on a field hockey team that nobody watches to balance out the effects of a football team that draws 100,000 people a game doesn't accomplish anything.

At April 17, 2009 at 3:23 AM , Blogger LSG said...

Since I'm making an effort to tone down my snarkiness, I will respond to your points as if you are someone willing to engage -- I hope you are, and aren't just attempting to bait the feminists.

I'm not well-versed in all the gender issues involved in sports culture, and gladly welcome discussion from those who know more than me.

Even as a relative sports outsider, though, there are several problems with what you're saying, RSF, that I think I can comment on. Most obviously, objecting to gender inequality in sports doesn't mean that the objector thinks men and women are "equal" (in a purely competitive sense) in all sports. Given the realities of biology, it makes sense for a group of athletes running a mile race to be divided into "male" and "female" categories. If you want to see "the best athletes in the world" compete in a footrace or javelin toss you are correct in saying that the competitors will be almost uniformly male.

Your argument goes beyond that, though. You're saying that women are inherently bad at sports, be they team sports or individual sports -- or at any rate, they're worse than men. You also note, in a final sneer, that nobody watches women play sports, and therefore Title IX is an abomination.

Your comment illustrates very clearly the need for gender equality in sports: the quality of play is better in men's professional basketball than women's. Men are better at sports. What you don't see is that this fact is not the cause of the enormous cultural preference for men's sports, but the result. I'm tired, so I'm not going to pick this apart too thoroughly now, but I think it should be fairly obvious: for generation after generation after generation, American men have been brought up playing sports, watching sports, idolizing athletes, being adored for excelling at sports, and being tortured for failing at sports. For generations, colleges and high schools and middle schools and elementary schools have poured time, energy, and money into sports programs for boys. Females, on the other hand, have been actively discouraged from taking part in sports -- it's only in the past few decades that women and girls playing sports has been even marginally acceptable. Women don't have the incentives men do to play sports, and they also don't have the disincentives men do to not play sports. Good God, you get to the college basketball finals and there's some idiot calling you nappy-headed hoes!

Finally, as far as spending money on teams no one sees play goes -- this may be shocking, so brace yourself -- sports don't exist merely for your visual enjoyment (much like women!). While sports teams that everyone loves and comes to see can be great for school spirit, inspiring alumni donations, having social events, and so on, sports also benefit those who participate in them, contributing to their health, work ethic, comradery, leadership skills, personal discipline, and lots of other great things. It's entirely reasonable to ask a school to invest in its female students as its male students and to provide them with equal opportunities to be involved in sports, even if the women's field hockey team doesn't benefit the school in the same ways the men's football team does.

At April 17, 2009 at 6:27 AM , Blogger Roscoe said...

Ah, and here we notice where the trouble begins.

To be frank, I agree with the above 100% until the last paragraph. That people don't watch women sports because they aren't as good does not mean women shouldn't have the same opportunities and facilities as mean's team. We can't expect people to change their preferences to ENJOY watching woman's basketball, but you can make sure everyone gets a chance to play the game, regardless of sex. But again, giving women the opportunity and equality to play doesn't mean I have to like it or think women are "just as good" as men at sports, because they aren't.


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