16 February 2006

Women in Sports

Today I read an excellent article in the SF Chronicle about the lingering inequality in women's sports. I don't want to sound like a uber-feminist or anything of those sorts, but, as a female athlete, this article spoke to me.

In her article, Gwen Knapp discusses how even in the "same" sports, the rules are different. In hockey, there is no checking allowed, even though the women are in full protective gear. In speed skating, the distances are different. And the list goes on.

In my own experience, I know there are different expectations put on women then on men when playing sports. A few years back, I played soccer for an adult club team. In addition to playing in my own games, I went to quite of few other games, including those of our male practice mates. At their games, it was rare for a fight not to break out, and they swore like it was going out of style. All of this with very few repercussions (perhaps a yellow card for a fight, but never for playing aggressively or swearing).

During this time, we had a game. And at this game, we had a referee. And said referee had rules and expectations of the little ladies he was officiating. There would be no rough play, after all, soccer was not a contact sport! There would be no swearing, women don't swear. And don't even think of running fast, it might destroy your ovaries! (just kidding on the last one) We rolled our eyes, and began to play.

Anyone who has ever played a women's sport knows that women are dirty. Perhaps because it is not expected, we tend to be sneakier than the men. My favorite move was always the hip-to-hip run, and the elbow to the tummy to get ahead. And I was a rather clean player. So to be told to reign it in because it was unhealthily, well, that was like telling us not to even play the game!

Back to the game. It was an intense game, with two teams that were good and probably both slightly hungover, so hoping to get the game over with. Both teams wanted to win. The ball went to one player, who promptly kicked it out of bounds, causing the ball to fall over the edge of the hill. "F*ck Me," she said. The whistle blew, and a yellow card emerged from the ref's pocket. What the!? She wasn't even swearing AT anyone, just herself. We all stared in disbelief, wondering how we suddenly landed back in the early 70's. She had to go out of the game, and we all had to watch our mouths, lest they get washed out with soap.

This would have never happened if we were men.

This is just one instance. I played lacrosse throughout college and the men's and women's game are like two different sports. The only reason the limitations on the women made sense was that we wore no pads. But to imply, in lacrosse, hockey, soccer, anything, that a women is more delicate and thus can't handle being pushed around by another athlete, to me this is ridiculous. You don't reach an elite level of your sport by being careful. And, at least to me, sports are a great building block for life; you don't learn how to push back until you've been pushed around a bit*.

*not advocating violence. In the context of this essay, I am talking about fighting back in sports, but also fighting back, not necessarily in a physical way, to adversity that one may encounter in life.

14 February 2006


This weekend I had the great pleasure of joining some friends up in Seattle. I booked the tickets on a whim and a rumor that a bunch of people were going to be there, and we would party. (I use whim loosely...for me that means about 2 weeks in advance. I am not really the spontaneous sort) Rarely one who misses a chance to travel somewhere, especially when United is running a deal, I was relishing the chance to get out of town and up to the Pacific Northwest.

I had been to Seattle only twice before...once with my friend when we were seniors in high school. If I recall correctly, our excuse was we wanted to go somewhere for spring break, and her grandma and aunt lived there, and we thought it would be fun. The real reason being there were some boys up there that we had met during Close Up in Washington, D.C. and we wanted to see them. They must have been cute. (incidentally, we were there the day Kurt Cobain committed suicide, and because of this, and the affect this had on the pop culture world at that time, I remember that more than anything else that happened on that trip) The second time was in 2004, 10 years later, when we had a sales meeting. Still the most fun sales meeting I have attended, our big night out coincided with Cinco de Mayo, so after spending our ballpark dollars on beer rather than food, we headed to some bar and salsa danced the night away (along with Don Julio).

This time, there were no rules. I was picked up at the airport, a treat for me, and taken to my weekend living establishment. I stayed with a few friends in the HI Hostel...I haven't stayed in a real hostel in quite some time and was somewhat apprehensive, having been completely and utterly spoiled by the posh digs I usually get put up in for work, and was pleasantly surprised. 60$ for two nights, I got my own bed with clean (or so they say) linens and a towel. And the bed was comfortable, even if it was in a bunk. It was also right under Pike's Market, and pretty central to everything.

I was greeted with the most beautiful weather, and counted my blessings as I had heard that up until that week, it had been raining nonstop. It was cold, but the skies were clear and the sun was up. We walked around for quite a while, ran into other folks from the group, and eventually headed down to a bookstore in the same area where I had partied for Cinco de Mayo. My theme for the weekend started there, that I always seemed to be hungry. I am sure I caused many eyerolls with my apparently insatiable appetite.

I should point out that this is really the first time I have traveled with much of a group. I did go to Ireland with my family in 2000, but beyond that, my travel has been solo. Luckily, I was with a group of other independent travelers, and I think this common thread helped us all get along well, even when we got frustrated with trying to get everyone together.

The big shindig was Saturday night, and it was a fun time. We all converged on a restaurant for grub and drinks. When that got a little too quiet for us, we headed across the street for a fun looking Irish pub. But this place wasn't having any of our kind, and basically told us to get lost (even though there were maybe 5 other people in the place). Undetered, we headed down the street to another bar, which was where the action was! There was karaoke in the front of the bar, jukebox random music in the back near the pool tables, more karaoke upstairs (in perhaps a private room) and other music in another part of the upstairs area. It was a nuthouse.

After consuming a few drinks there (and for me, staring at the TV at speedskater Chad Hedrick), we headed to a mellower place. I am not sure if that bar knew what hit them. Thankfully, we were the only ones there, and we were noisy and drunk. It was great fun. The phone calls to our friends back east, also having a party, began, and there was much taking of someone's phone, yelling into it, and passing it to someone else. I think the staff at the bar may have gotten a little fed up, and we just wanted to dance and party. So we left.

Back over to the first bar we went, and decided to karaoke. As we were waiting, someone looked outside and noticed the police, a cab and a very drunk young man. Turns out, he wasn't sure where he lived, and the police had to come take him out of the cab and try to sober him up. This guy couldn't string two words together, and the police couldn't contain their laughter. They went through the guy's cell phone and found his wife's number...I bet she was happy to get that call! As they waited for her to come (I am not sure where she lived...but she took forever to get there), the guy kept mumbling and the officers kept giggling. As did we. We ended up talking to the officers for a while, and they told me things are a little mellower in Seattle.

We never did karaoke.

Sunday was a recovery day. A local friend drove us around Seattle, trying desperately to get us to say where we wanted to go, with us not caring whatsoever. We finally settled on a cupcake place with Ben & Jerry's next door. Perfect.

As we stepped outside very early Monday morning to leave, I was a little sad to go back to work and stop having fun. Our room had been a little like sleep away camp, but with older kids and alcohol. It was fun to hang out and bond with people I didn't know so well, but had a great time with. I didn't want to head back to the reality of life, but, so it goes.

I think Seattle was a little sad as we were leaving, too, because as we stepped out to get into the cab, the clouds were crying a bit.

01 February 2006

Girls' Rights

On my drive home from work today, I decided that, rather than listen to music, I would listen to NPR. Many times, the reporters rehash things I had heard earlier in the day, maybe with a new item or two. (drive-time programming...they want to hit the highlights while people are listening, and perhaps appeal for some dough) Today, there was a discussion of girls in Zanzibar, and their rights if they should get pregnant while in high school.

Apparently, until now, if a young woman was to get pregnant while still in school, she was expelled from school and not allowed to return, even once the baby is born. Recently, the rules changed, and she is allowed to return two years after the baby is born. And, here is the kicker, only if she has shown herself to be morally above getting pregnant again (unless she gets married, which is a whole different story). The man presenting this acted as though this were a huge thing, and that the girls should be so lucky that this type of legislation had passed.

It struck me that no mention of the man/boy who was also involved in creating the pregnancy
I listened hard for this one, and never heard a peep. All responsibility is put on the girl. Last I checked, it took two people to create a pregnancy; if something has changed I do hope someone will clue me in.

I don't know much about Zanzibar, but if this is one step in the direction of better civil rights, then I commend them on it.

What made me particularly sad while listening to this clip wasn't that it took so long for Zanzibar to move in this direction, but that here in the States things aren't so much different. Teenage girls get pregnant, and still the real responsibilities fall to them. Many times they are the "sluts," the girls of loose morals, "easy." They gave it up, couldn't they have said no? They are sent to continuation schools or are urged to drop out, stay home until they are no longer pregnant.

And amid all this, often time the boy involved gets off (no pun intended) with a mere slap on his wrist, or perhaps a court order to pay child support. There is still a "boys will be boys" way of thinking that lets them out of their responsibilities as a sexually active person. They aren't urged to leave school, they aren't sent to continuation schools, and they aren't forced to defend their morals or up bringing.

I am not trying to go off on some feminist rant by any means. I just found it ironic that the whole reason this gentleman of Zanzibar was on NPR was to show how seemingly backwards things are elsewhere, when in fact the same shit is going on right here in our own backyard.