Sexism in Hockey and the Church

So recently this one came across my plate since the Stanley Cup playoffs have started. It’s a show called “While the Men Watch” about women whose husbands, boyfriends, etc. watch sports but they’re not too eager to join in the festivities. So they created a show around the minutia that they discuss while their men watch the game. Take a preview and I hope you are as bothered by this as I am.

OK, let me just say, my darling wife, puts up with my sports watching and I don’t abuse the privilege. She’s certainly more interested in watching, say the Bachelorette, than any ballgame. I actually watch with her and play what I call “Mystery Science Bachelorette.” Example: “Dude should be voted off for wearing that ugly shirt and horrid tie.”

OK, so I don’t actually use the word “horrid” but other than that, I’m quite a hit with the girlfriends who get together and watch the show together on Mondays. See, we can co-exist. We all have gifts to share!

But while my wife isn’t a sports fan, she’s not like these ladies either. She doesn’t perpetuate sexist myths and I hope I don’t either. I don’t think she’d appreciate this show which panders to the lowest common denominator and makes women look stupid in my opinion as if they had nothing to contribute, learn, or enjoy about the game.

Ellen Ethcinham over at the Score had this excellent take on just how the show perpetuates sexism.

While the Men Watch participates in an astounding collection of stereotypes about women. Women don’t understand sports. Women don’t care about sports. If women watch sports, they only do so because a man pushes it on them. Women are interested in fashion, cleaning, shopping, and men. The show is essentially the traditional four Fs of pink ghetto journalism- food, family, fashion, and furniture- tangentially tied in to hockey. It is Cosmo with a game in the background.

To understand why this show is so dispiriting and depressing for a certain segment of female fans, you have to understand the role that sports play in many of our lives. For all the substantial progress of feminism, the larger culture is still awash in portrayals of women that hew closely to the long-standing stereotypes, that push us to think about ourselves in terms of our attractiveness, our sexual appeal, our fashion sense, our youth, etc etc. These issues intrude, one way or another, into almost every facet of life- into our work and the beers after, into our family life and our relationships, into our education. There is always someone critiquing our bodies or our style. There is always someone trying to sell us a miracle skin cream or a pair of shoes or f**king yogurt or whatever on the grounds that it will make us more acceptably and attractively feminine. Now, we’re adults and we can handle it, but sometimes, frankly, the cultural stereotypes of heteronormative femininity are a pain in the ass. Sometimes one gets pretty f**king tired of being appreciated, shamed, warned, and appealed to ‘as a woman’.

Now that’s a first-class rant! The rest is pure gold, albeit a bit potty-mouthed, be forewarned.

A question: Do we treat women in the church in the same way?

There seems to be no need to dialogue or even FIGHT with women when problems or disagreements come up (see, LCWR or Elizabeth Johnson) because women aren’t supposed to fight, after all. That’s a man’s role. Beth Johnson rightly said if the Bishops who had a problem with her book had called she could’ve happily cleared up their misunderstanding. I wonder if the LCWR and Cardinal Levada can even have a civil conversation without some backbiting later on at this point?

Some may just want women to be a kind of Stepford Wife. Sure they have a snarky comment or two and they can reduce hockey players to objectified sexual beings (because Men never do that!), but some women have a lot more to offer both sports and the theological world than that! They might actually know a thing or two about both hockey strategy or theology– and it’s insulting for any of us not to consider that.

That said, the attitude that this show presents is also damaging to the way we look at MEN in our society. The message is that men are too dumb to consider anything beyond the sports scores or in the church we often hear that the women really run things and our work is somehow incomplete. Or that much of our attitude toward women is misogynistic machismo that many have had to put up with over the years but that many men find just as offensive, even if they will never feel the hurt in the same way.

A second question: Do women in the church who long for a more inclusive church treat men this way as well?

At times I fear they do. “Oh those men just don’t know what they’re doing. If a woman were in charge…things would be different.”

Well…maybe not. Some women are just as power hungry, pig headed and nasty as their male counterparts.

And all of this seems, well…sinful.

It seems to dishonor the gifts that God has made, both male and female, complimentary to one another to be sure, but also individuals in their own right. Both are capable of autonomy without the other and can and should appreciate the other’s gifts in moments of collaboration.

It seems to dishonor that we all may have different interests, none bad or good, just different. And that when we come together these interests can’t co-exist simply because we say they can’t.

It seems to dishonor, that gifts are not categorized by gender, rather they are the expression of each individual and not owned by any particular collective, nor should it be assumed that a collective male or female gender should correspond to either gender stereotype. Nor does it make anyone who bucks the usual trend “gay” unless they actually are.

Perhaps there’s a lesson there for those at the sports network as well as for those of us who find ourselves mired in gender wars within the church, men, as well as women.

That lesson is simply to believe that we have different gifts but the same spirit, no matter who we are, male or female. And these gifts need to come together for the good of the church, nay humankind.

For we all have gifts to share. And it’s time to stop looking at those gifts and each other as purely male or female.

And time to start looking at one another as Christians.

And when we do, marvelous things will happen. We might just experience who God calls us all to become.

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