Leave Brittney Alone!

Griner blocks UConn guard Bria Hartley

( John Woike, Hartford Courant / November 16, 2010 )

UConn fans have been waiting for tonight’s game against Baylor – the last time that dominant center Brittney Griner will be coming to Connecticut.  Today’s article by John Altavilla in the Hartford Courant touches upon something that has been bothering me for some time.  There have been more than a few cruel comments on social media about Ms. Griner, and I wish the assholes doing this would knock it off.  I came across an excellent blog post in Fit and Feminist: The Misgendering of Brittney Griner.  The blogger, who is identified as “Caitlin”, writes:

I’m not going to repeat the things I saw about Brittney Griner; I’ll leave that to your imagination.  I will say that I find our culture’s ongoing obsession with policing gender completely baffling, and the misgendering of Griner is no exception.

In case you are not familiar with Griner, she’s the totally sensational junior who plays for the Baylor Bears.  She’s 6’8″, has a wingspan that is wider than most people are tall, she dunks hard and blocks like a wall, and has been noted for her androgynous looks.  She also happens to have a pretty deep voice.

Thus, her detractors say, she must be a man!

Of course, you don’t have to have a long memory to recall just how many times a similar criticism – that a woman is a man, is a lesbian or is a doper or is just a plain freak – has been leveled at a woman who dominates her sport.

It is a shame that society scores masculinity and femininity by how far an individual’s physical traits differ from the typical traits of the opposite sex.  Most women athletes don’t look to be judged for their femininity, and no civil society should countenance this crap.  Griner is a spectacular athlete who is changing the way the woman’s game is played.

I just hope she doesn’t change it too much tonight!

Boy Scouts of America in Identity Crisis

The Boy Scouts of America have decided to defer a decision on whether to change their longstanding ban on gays. Seems that pressure from troops sponsored by conservative religious groups has had the desired effect.  The Supreme Court has held that, as a private organization, BSA is free to exclude gays from its ranks. Yet, BSA continues to receive special government benefits in terms of access to public land and buildings, transportation by military, and Eagle Scouts who enter the military service start out at a higher compensation level.  So, the government is complicit in this discrimination.

Public opinion has shifted against the ban, with a solid majority favoring the inclusion of gays and minorities.  BSA was feeling the economic impact of that shift, as benefactors are starting to withhold support in protest.  So, BSA leadership tried to walk the tightrope and implement a new policy that permitted troops to exclude gays without requiring them to do so.  It wasn’t enough for many troops sponsored by conservative Christian churches, that they could continue to discriminate; they want all gays out of all troops   Some have threatened to leave BSA to form a Christian scouting organization.

And, as usual, practically nobody even mentions that BSA continues to ban atheists and agnostics who refuse to swear an oath to do their duty to God, denying many the benefits of scouting.

I’ve said before that BSA is, overall, a wonderful program that teaches wonderful values to boys.  I have coached kids who have been involved in scouting, some of whom have become Eagle Scouts, and they are without exception outstanding young men with whom I have been proud to associate.  I also have good friends who were scouts as kids and who have remained active volunteers, and I know that they are doing wonderful work and are improving our community as a result.

But, I am saddened when I see children dragged into protests that espouse hateful messages.  BSA is facing an identity crisis, and it may not survive as a unified organization.  The tragedy is that children and young men are the primary victims of the inability of “adults” to adjust to a pluralistic society.

photo from NY Times