Knapsacking Up: Athletic Objectification

I Am Male… I do not need to worry about being objectified during athletic competition.

Homecoming is usually an exciting time at any high school. Although my school substitutes a sense of school pride with class rivalries, there remains a general buzz of excitement throughout the week. Homecoming always culminates in a pepfest on Friday which serves to crown Homecoming royalty and promote that evening’s football game.

Two years ago, one of the student emcees was tasked with introducing the school dance team. With a booming voice, he declared, “Hope you’re not wearing sweatpants, guys! Here comes the dance team!”

Project1Rejected introductions presumably included “Try to keep your boners in check! Here’s a bunch of women in tight clothes!” and “Don’t jerk off until you get home, boys! Here’s some things that exist only for your sexual gratification! Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat!”

I never had to worry about this when I was in high school, and not just because I had yet to develop my glorious beard. No matter the game, men can play sports without the fear of objectification.

For women, it’s clearly not the case, regardless of level of competition. High school dance teams are obvious. Beach volleyball players play in bikinis. Indoor volleyball players have those volleyball shorts (It would be inappropriate and hypocritical for me to shout “Damn!” right now, right?). Even female mixed-martial artists have no chance for national exposure unless they possess Gina Carano levels of attractiveness. Bertha the Destroyer doesn’t sell pay-per-views.

Let’s talk about football.

Football players wear giant pads that accentuate strong chests and broad shoulders. Football players wear skin-tight pants. Football players wear a protective cup that transforms any dude into Protruding Junk Man; athlete by day, crotch bulging vigilante by night.

This is not only the most homoerotic description of football ever, but great evidence that football players should be very easy to sexually objectify. I’m a straight dude and I’m flying half-mast right now.

What do you think I meant?

What do you think I meant?

Still, it doesn’t happen. Can you picture a woman saying, “HOLD ON TO YOUR VAGINAS, LADIES! HERE COMES THE FOOTBALL TEAM!”

I can’t. It’s unimaginable to me. And that’s the point. It’s my privilege as an American male to not have to worry about it.

Knapsacking Up Introduction

I remember the exact moment I became a feminist.

I was a junior in college, taking Human Relations a year early because the terrible professor who usually taught the course was on a sabbatical. The professor brought in several excellent speakers who told their story, and in doing so, shared with a bunch of White college kids what it was like to be Black or female or homosexual or Native-American or Asian-American in our society.

In preparation for one speaker, we were asked to read Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Although the version we read for our Human Relations course dealt specifically with race, the connection with sex and gender was not difficult to make.

From that day(ish) forward, I have been a self-described feminist. As a high school educator and coach, I deal with high school students every day, teaching American History and American Government. Most of them think that feminists burn bras and seek to set up a matriarchy in America.

Me? I like bras. They’re fun to take off and keep boobs from getting droopy later in life. (Is that science or am I just making that up?) I really just want two things. First, I want American society to perceive women as worthy of the same basic respect as men. Second, I want women to receive the same opportunities as men.

See? That’s not so much, right?

Once upon a time, a friend of mine set up a feminist website and I was set to contribute. My plan was to provide a male perspective on the inherent advantages we have in America solely because we are men. I would have “unpacked” items in that knapsack through my experiences deep in the heart of BachmannLand, the most terrifying place on earth.

Unfortunately, life happened and the website collapsed after I worked ahead and finished several posts. So, over the next eight weekdays, I’ll be burning through my planned series “Knapsacking Up.”