The Gender Wars Just Got Real: or Sociology is Not Social Work

So my youngest had the choice this week (well I had the choice this week) of having my son participate in a musical, for which FINALLY boys had actual speaking roles OR he could continue playing in a football tournament that he was asked to play in for a week.  I basically realized that either choice brought with it some “ism” that I was not happy with and made me look like someone who took issue with EVERYTHING.  It was either the musical with matriarchy and cronyism or football with patriarchy and cronyism.  Since I could no longer complain about the lack of opportunities for boys to have roles in the arts (last year it was Choir and solos I was angry about), I could and did complain, well I pointed out with video evidence that my 10 year old with a flair for the dramatic deserved the lead role.  He was given some token role with 5 lines… I have warned people that I am just as competitive in scholarly and artistic pursuits as athletics and I probably lean more toward athletics, because it seems more normal there.  Yelling at a spelling bee is frowned upon, I found out and challenging a ruling to see if UK English was actually more acceptable, since it was the “King’s English” was almost as embarrassing in hindsight as blaming Dan Quayle for spelling errors.  Although I would much rather dress up and stay inside a warm gymnasium Thursday evening, I am not going to participate in the matriarchy, whiny, cronyism that led to someone, who is a SOMEONE in this town to get the lead even though he can’t string together a coherent sentence.  Of course that is “mean” and someone might literally cry about it, that isn’t fair.  Telling me I hurt your feelings, when you support all that is wrong with America is a total cop-out and a testament to why we have such an “entitlement” problem…let the best man win (or woman or random person who isn’t related to a “somebody”).  I told my son he should he should be allowed to give his spot to a kid that never gets picked to do things, but of course the part went to the head of the PTA’s kid, who is also a doctor’s son….

Then there is football, which as a sport and a culture, has come under fire because of this Richie Incognito fiasco.  Ironically my son is also an offensive lineman and I have been formulating theories on how to coach the O-line lately on my spare time, because it is hard to do all the hard work and get none of the credit.  Enter in the “Incognito” joke, literally.  I think that O-lineman either fall into one of two camps; the protector types that will block to save their QB and running backs and then there are the Richie Incognitos, who are mean enough to play defense, but too slow, and well just mean.  My son isn’t mean and he doesn’t need to be, so enter in patriarchy and the idea that you have be a mean person to play football.  Yeah, ok only if you want to reinforce tired old stereotypes about “jocks” being unintelligent and all the other negative connotations.  On the other hand, if my son, who is a good actor, wanted to continue to be in musicals and such, he would be called something equally stereotypical…  This does actually make me cry and then I see the possibility that my son is likely going to be called a “mama’s boy” and I get angry, because what I am looking for is a meritocracy not a matriarchal society…because I haven’t even thought through what the latter might look like.  Although if there is excessive crying, I don’t want any part of it.  However I am not saying that emotion is bad, I am just saying that using emotion as a weapon can be bad- anger/yelling or sadness/crying… and I am more comfortable with constructive yelling than I am with crying about how I am being “unfair”- when you are being unreasonable, because I said YOU were being unfair… UGHHH this is exhausting.

I have always been for gender equity (equality is not the same as equity people)! I didn’t always know what it was called, but I have seen the effects of trying to force a tomboy to be girly (I have experienced that) or trying to force a boy of any type to be a “machine” without feelings or a working brain, because you know being smart and stuff is stoooopid!- There is an ism for that, but I don’t have the energy to get into it…. Caring about art, music, or (gasp) dance and you may get bullied by an Incognito type person.  Sadly you don’t even have to be a kid, so these campaigns of “it gets better” and so on, well- sorry kids, but the truth just came out.  Sometimes it is worse and it is worse BECAUSE you are an adult and you think to yourself “I am a grownup, what is really going on here?”  I for one am glad that this is coming out, because life should get better when you grow up and the prom queens from the 80’s can stop being so bitchy to everyone and I can (although I don’t want to) discontinue being the person that alternates from yelling at someone when I see an “ism”- to an Emo person that just sees that life is pointless and why not just listen to Nirvana and to heck with those prom queens and WHY is marijuana not legal- like DUDE!?! (to be clear here this is SARCASM and a flashback to my high school self).  Of course there is a race and class element to all of this first…but class is so much easier to understand and even dismiss…oh really?>> you may ask- yes…. I am going to buy my middle son, in the midst of teenage angst the new “Ghost” game that came out today…all his friends have it.  I am not going to be THAT parent that says oh, you don’t have to have everything your friends have, because you DO or they wouldn’t be your friends…they wouldn’t be your friends because you would have nothing in common NOT because they think they are better than you BUT because it is a “bummer” when little Johnny can’t play games with you because they are poor… Do we expect to deal with “bummer” situations all the time? I am not wealthy by any means, but my neighbor or some other person who has to have back surgery every month or so is a bummer to me, because we aren’t in a Back Surgery Support Group and I can probably one-up you with the back problems- because I am competitive and I DO NOT care if I am in my 30’s I can one-up your Dementia too… and this children is why Sociology is not Social Work…. well this is why those of us that are consumed with the Sociology of Sport, who love competition and can spot class/race/gender conflict a mile away because conflict is not a whole lot unlike competition act as we do… Well this is why I act as I do, but after all I am only one representation of my non-Waspy, female, working class, educated, type-A, MBTI ENTJ, and so on and so on- so I can only speak for myself.  Maybe we are all unique snowflakes… Palahniuk.

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A Team Player? How Does THAT Happen?

Having a “team player” attitude is what most work organizations want and obviously what sports coaches want.  After doing this sports parenting thing for over a decade and deciding to grow up personally and actually have a career and not just a job has led me to the conclusion that I probably am not the best role model for a team player.  As a person who has always been drawn to Sociology and who teaches it, dealing with groups is difficult, because the idea is that we study them; obviously.  When we are part of them (whatever group) terms like “group-think” and “norms”, and “social control” are always there.  More disturbing is the reminder of Zimbardo’s study or the Milgram experiment; i.e. our human capability to just “go along” and become Nazis.  Absolute obedience is something to be feared, maybe not all Sociologists feel this way, but I do….
I remember my first Sociology course and the only college course, where there was a “bell curve”…actually there was no bell curve, because I kept getting 100% on tests  therefore taking away the curve and also giving the Professor an experiment to work with.  He told the entire class what grade they MIGHT have gotten had I not gotten that 100%, yes he used my name so everyone knew who was to blame.  He referenced the “prisoner’s dilemma” in this case and I understood I could either continue doing well or do less well for the good of the rest of the class.  I chose to continue acing tests, because I am competitive and what I found pointless to do in sports (after the time I broke a 3rd baseman’s leg sliding into the base and realizing that even though I did exactly what I was supposed to do to get on base, leg-breaking was not the best skill to hone unless I joined a mafia), I did however find the competitive spirit in getting better grades than others.  Actually, knowing how to run fast and slide did turn into a good skill set when I had to run from a certain classmate, who decided that I was the reason she would fail the Sociology “bell curve” class since I continued to get 100%.
The valuable lesson I learned too is that the class became split, between those who were passing and admired me and those who were failing and hated me.  I could deal with both those things.  Is it better to be loved or feared?- that question has never really been answered, but if you want to be a team-player, you better be loved instead.  You sometimes have to downplay your abilities and you can’t go around breaking your teammates legs (did I mention this was in a scrimmage game Varsity V. Reserves and not against a rival team?)- even if I used perfect form when I slid into base and did just what my dad told me and my brother to do in baseball/softball and obviously he knew what he was talking about since my brother’s picture hangs on the wall at the High School for being a superstar player.  My dad and his dad were also Letterman in sports and evidently so was my uncle until he ran away to New York and finally Florida where he currently lives under an overpass.  My cousin though from the same side of the family is also on the wall of fame for wrestling.  I have obviously surmised that genetics play a big part in this too.  It is split between wondering who will become homeless and live under a bridge in Tampa or who will be a superstar in life.
So having three boys is not some misguided Feminist attempt to allow myself to live vicariously through them in all the things I could not to (or at least play with teammates with sturdier legs) or to prove that a single mom can guide kids just as well as a father could do – well I am competitive, so I do want to prove I can at least teach them some things.  Teaching them to be team players has proven the hardest.  I made that mistake with my oldest, but granted I was still in Graduate School when he started sports and being a younger parent and being confused as my oldest son’s sister led me to begin randomly yelling things out, because no one’s sister actually cares enough to do so.  More education in Sociology and my fear that if my son just went along” with everything, he could become a Nazi, led me to even more sideline yelling and coach confrontations.  That fact that he is an “all about me” teen at this point, should be no surprise, but he should do alright, considering his father owns a business and business-owners don’t have to be team players anyway.
Enter in the middle kid and my sudden understanding that people with grown children, no children, or men did better in their careers, because they had the time to put into them…basically work was their life.  The “women can have it all” myth was shattered and I dealt with it by appointing myself the boss of absolutely everything I was doing, including “coaching” kid 2.  Unlike kid 1, who I put upon a pedestal (and he was a good athlete), kid 2 was not put upon the same pedestal, instead I became obsessed with things like his technique or even worse his coaches choices for plays.  There were times I flat-out told coaches that he would not do “x” play, because “x” play was not working and even hand out a PDF of what plays would work better.  Inadvertently he has become a team player, since his teammates and coaches were obviously more normal than I was at the time and they were an escape from my insanity.  It is also important to mention that this son is from a second and also short marriage and his father also ended up in Florida.  I once thought after not hearing from him in years that he was in the Witness Protection Program, but then he popped up on Facebook and I had to tell kids 2 and 3 that he was not in fact working to build homes for orphans in Africa, but he was in Florida and….changed the subject.  So kid 2 cares about his coaches even more because they are father figures and at least is no longer jealous of those imaginary orphans with new imaginary homes, which is ridiculous anyway.
Kid 3 came as a surprise from the second he was born, firstly I was advised that I was now the parent of a redhead (how is this genetically possible?), secondly the moment I held him, he had a deathgrip on my finger from which I had to literally peel his tiny fingers away to give him to the nurse thinking this one will be the football player and not ever changing my mind because thirdly, he was not a natural athlete at every sport he played (how is this genetically possible?), but the first time he ever got to tackle a kid, it looked like he had been doing it for years.  Therefore, kid 3 became about intensity.  I was at a point in my life where Recession and the knowledge that my CV just-sucked- made it easy to want to give up. I also realized that I was such a competitive student that I actually married “case studies” to have something to do outside of school, because just being married for the sake of being married never actually made any sense to me.  Of course, I can say that my kids are all legitimate and that was important, I suppose.  So, I watched motivational videos and began being a huge Ray Lewis fan (wondering what sorts of things I might have learned from him if I would have picked better case studies).  I didn’t try to overanalyze every thing with kid 3 or put him up on a pedestal, but instead saw that his lack of fear and genetically unexplainable toughness and the rest made him into a natural leader.  Every team needs one, but a leader is still a good team player…because they care enough about their teammates to bring out the best in them by example and from a parenting aspect; quite by accident.  I also realized that as long as they didn’t end up in Florida (which I always say with the same unsubtle distaste as I do when I say “Nazi” or “soccer”) then it can’t be THAT bad.