Monday, February 15, 2010

The European Male has not wanted this to happen

Vic Method, Vice President, Ski Jumping USA:   "The European Male has not wanted this to happen.  We've been told that to our face.  Think about this.  I go down an icy run at 55 mph, and I propel myself the length of a football field through the air.  That makes the European Male kinda look bad because this little girl just flew as far as I did?"

Anna Bloom, Producer, MSNBC News:  "And sometimes even farther.  In fact, not so long ago, one little girl set the men's record for jumping on the course where the Olympics will be held."

Method:  "The men and women both started from the same starting point.  And I'll be darned, Lindsey Van sets the record for the hill.  That record still stands [from one year ago].  This coming February when the Olympics are held the television announcers will be talking about the hill record, held on the normal hill, as held by world champion Lindsey Van, and she can't be here because she's a girl."

"It's like jumping down two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view." -- Gian-Franco Kasper, President, International Ski Federation, and Member, International Olympic Committee

Why Can't Women Ski Jump in the Olympics?

ht Don 


Anonymous said...

The way the different genders are labeled in these excerpts is interesting. And by interesting I mean frustrating but sigh-inducingly familiar. When they kept talking about a girl holding the world record, I was racking my brain and looking around and trying to figure out who this child prodigy was. Oh wait, by girl they mean someone who isn’t even a year younger than me; an adult human otherwise known as a woman. She’s a quarter-century old but is repeatedly called a girl, and it has this man-shaming flavor to it: all you men got beat out by a GIRL!!!

Then there’s the IOC member talking about what’s inappropriate for the ladies. I’ve gotten to where I almost always bristle when someone refers to me (or other fellow women) as a lady, because it’s often not just addressing me as female rather than male, but there’s this current of “should” and “ought” and “do what you’re told” and condescension running through it. It’s like this seemingly honoring compensation for being condescending: you’re not just a woman, you’re a lady, but please now shut up and do what we say, OK? Also, it’s almost as if the word “woman” itself is too dirty and unseemly: we can’t just call them women, eek, no, they aren’t WOMEN they’re ladies. Or girls. Infantilized or patronized. Blech. “And ain’t I a woman?”

The first quote from Vic Method is interesting, too (but I actually mean interesting this time!). He repeats the phrase “European Male” and it has almost a clinical, scientific feel to it. Like a species name. It makes it sound like European males are a separate species competing for their existence and territory in an evolutionary battle against the encroaching Lady-girls.

I do have to say it’s not as though I unequivocally and absolutely reject the words lady and girl for myself and others—I sometimes use the language—but they are used so often and in the ways I describe that it bothers me more and more (and more and more).


J. K. Gayle said...

Katherine, Wonderful analysis of the gendered rhetoric here! You make me focus also on something else: there's definitely some hyperbolic contrast, ironic contrasts, in Anna Bloom's "one little girl set the men's record." As a woman, she's being rhetorical with "men phrasing" and she's reporting the men speaking about women (as "girls" and "ladies"). Whereas Method and Kasper seem naive on the one hand and blatantly sexist on the other, Bloom comes across as the "objective" reporter as more intentional, more rhetorical. In any case, you've got us thinking about the power of "little" and disparaging words with respect to females! Have you heard tv announcers on any of this recently?