Monday, June 09, 2008

Minnesota Viqueens? Excuse me?

In an effort to jokingly infer that the Minnesota Vikings won’t be much of a team this year, a family member recently called them the “Viqueens”. When I immediately expressed that I didn’t think that was at all funny, I was immediately told to lighten up. Apparently I take all of this stuff too seriously and it was just a joke. We never did come to see eye to eye on this.

You see, I believe that words are really powerful. The convey tons of meaning and help all of us make sense of our world. Let’s face it. This term was a put down. The "kings" were “playing like girls” "queens" and somehow that’s okay to say? Females are inferior?

A few years ago I read a great book by Mariah Burton Nelson called “The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football”. As writer Tiffany Routon wrote:

“All men are not stronger or faster than all women. There is a great overlap in the strength and speed of men and women. Because women on average have greater flexibility, a greater percentage of body fat (useful for long-distance running), and smaller body sizes, we tend to be as good or better as men in some sports: marathon swimming, very long-distance running, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, and horse racing. Nevertheless, many men take great comfort in the fact that most women are not big enough, strong enough or fast enough to play such sports as football or rugby. Of course the majority of men are not either. “Because women could never play football, (men imply), men are physically and naturally superior,” says Mariah Burton Nelson, author of The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football. “When women demonstrate excellence in sports like running, tennis, and golf, men take great pains to describe that excellence as less important, and less worthy of an achievement than male excellence. These same people would never dare to compare Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali. One weighed 60 more pounds than the other. Clearly they deserve to box in different classes. Yet the top female tennis player is often compared to the top male tennis player…..who usually outweighs her by 60 pounds!!!”

Think about that? Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali are both undisputed champions because they excel in their weight class, but a woman who excels is deemed second class. Why is that?

I think as a society we are improving. I don’t hear college women athletes referred to as girls nearly as much as I used to (the men were never called boys once they reached college age). But if a professional woman golfer stepped out on a driving range and hit a ball longer then every man there, the response would still be to vilify her. She must be an amazon/lesbian/she-man/transgender/ get the picture. Oh and believe me, these are all pejoratives in our society.

So in closing, I’m always going to get defensive when I hear names that to me seem to denigrate women or any group of people that are marginalized. There is too much power in words.

Thus ends my sermon for the day. –Monica

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