Regarding the Haters

13 10 2009

It seems like only yesterday when I wrote,

Finally, my hope for 2010 is that we (the Grand We) are much less defensive about the WNBA and more – for lack of a better word – evangelical.

I’m not into romance novels, but I keep the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog in my reading rotation because one never knows when either of the authors will post something like this:

I’ve read some truly hilarious “Science fiction has become nothing more than romance novels in outer space!” arguments in my time, but I don’t think I’ve read one quite as poorly-written and outright hysterical (word used with all due irony) as the article on The Spearhead about “The War on Science Fiction and Marvin Minsky.”

[…]

Beneath the anger in the article is a true undertone of fear. This was written by a deeply insecure person, one who sees the world changing around him and is frantic to keep the world static as opposed to adapting to the new realities. This fear is based on a foundation of outraged privilege.

(Click either of the links above to get the link to the article in question, and read the rest of the SBTB retort.)

Now: As the above applies to the advancement and appreciation of women’s athletics, and its detractors (usually called “the haters” by myself and others), I find myself focusing on the final quoted line: “[A] foundation of outraged privilege.”

For years (decades), fans of male athletics have been catered to via every communications medium. Not only were games broadcast live, and in color, hours of airtime and miles of print were devoted to all aspects of the various sports, down to the granular level of the players themselves.

As women’s athletics began to take root and develop a fan base, the “haters” decried these developments with some or all of the following dismissals: Women aren’t any good at sports, shouldn’t be playing sports, and nobody wants to watch that stuff except their mothers (because Mom will support you, even if nobody else will) and lesbians.

While I will not wag a shaming finger at the “haters” for not liking women’s athletics in and of itself, what concerns me is the attitude that no woman should play sports, and no league or organization should exist to encourage these activities.

I hadn’t really given the motivation of the “haters” much in the way of deep consideration before tonight, but Candy’s summation at SBTB had me nodding in agreement that what’s really at issue is the reluctance (and perhaps inability) to accept and adapt to change. I wrote an article at my old site about progressive versus regressive attitudes, and indeed, the “haters” are inclined to regressive language. “Women should go back to…” “[Network] needs to stop giving them airtime and go back to showing [program].” “I miss the 1950s.” And so on.

To clarify, as these are terms that have a decidedly political flavor nowadays, “progressive” is not meant as a synonym for “liberal”.

If we who support women’s athletics are to adopt a progressive stance, rather than crouch defensively and strike back at the regressive attitudes of the “haters”, we must articulate and strive to implement a vision for a future that has room for all athletics. All academics. All opportunities.

I think when “haters” flare up at sites like Facebook and take pot shots, what they’re really saying is that they cannot engage in a conversation about sports with or about women. They use negative attention to sap away resources that could be better served to articulate and realize that vision.

Can we foresee a future where it’s okay to be a female athlete? Where it is okay to be a fan of women’s athletics, regardless of gender? Where it’s okay to be a successful woman, in sports or in life?

If so, how do we get there from here?

Can we get there together?

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