For the First Time in Ten Years

26 Nov 2014

The following was originally posted on Uncommon Dissent.

Playing football on Thanksgiving morning is a tradition I’ve enjoyed every year since 2003. No matter where I’ve been, I have sought out or organized a football game. I have played in rain, snow, mud, and ice. Every time I’ve come home with a massive headache, extreme soreness, and fatigued enough to require a nap. I’ve loved it (although Janelle is generally less enthused by the time I spend napping instead of helping prepare the house for company).

It won’t happen this year, though. My streak is over. There is a game happening. I just won’t go.

I’m not going because the email invitation sent to my congregation’s men’s group read, “Be there… or consider attending the relief society [the women’s group] next Sunday.”

I’m not going because the use of this stereotype is inappropriate and offensive.

Don’t get me wrong–my feelings aren’t particularly hurt. I’m not having a tantrum about this. But I don’t feel it would be right to quietly boycott the game.

So let me tell you a little about me and explain how I came to learn why this stereotype is offensive.

I have a long history of making sexist jokes. It’s a miracle my high school advisor never slapped me. I used to making all sorts of chauvinist remarks just to get a reaction out of her. Ms. Stanton was wise enough never to give me a reaction and I justified my attempts at humor by saying that it was obvious I didn’t believe what I was saying.

Part of me wishes Ms Stanton had called me on it and taught me why I was in the wrong (the other part if me thinks she might have known me well enough to know that I was too arrogant to be taught at the time). But what I did was shameful, because I was inflicting pain on someone for my own enjoyment. Even if she knew that I didn’t believe what I was saying, it is wrong to toy with someone’s emotions like that. It is wholly inexcusable.

I see the same action in the wording of the football invitation; I don’t believe there is any malice behind the joke. I don’t believe that the person who said it believes the stereotype. And that’s precisely why we need to stop using these stereotypes as comic material.

It is never funny to imply that women are frail just because they are women. It is never funny to imply that men aren’t tough because they don’t desire to participate in a ritual of aggression or competition. It is never amusing to suggest that any person should participate in any activity for any reason other than they want to, are interested, and their company is desirable.

And if we don’t believe these stereotypes that we use for humor, then it is imperative that we stop perpetuating them. Stereotypes will never, ever die so long as we continue to repeat them. This is true regardless of what we believe about their validity.

So for the live of all that is holy, stop repeating them. Stop thinking them. Stop laughing about them.

And for the record, even if I did play football tomorrow, I would love to attend the women’s meeting on Sunday. Show me a men’s group that is more friendly to sharing our deepest emotions; show me a men’s group that will cry with me, laugh with me, hear my goals and ambitions, and stand by me even in disagreement; show me a men’s group that is a little more like the women’s groups you mock and dammit! That’s the men’s group I want to attend.

So, I will proudly say that I will not be playing football with my men’s group tomorrow. I’ll stay home and do something that doesn’t imply any person should fit into any box not of their choosing.

And if there are any women reading this who enjoy playing football, please go to Laurel School on Thanksgiving at 8:30 AM and knock a few guys on their asses. And if they say anything about playing soft against the woman, knock them on their asses again. Keep doing it until they knock you on your ass. Maybe then they’ll start to understand.