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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The Emotional Component of Intellectual Work

As a Feminist, I am acutely attuned to the emotions or lack thereof when dealing with others.  I have researched gender roles and am continuing this work, I may even begin a new blog on this topic, considering it is not about my more Civic Engagement type of work that I am planning to do.  Point being Civic Engagement= nice, calm, sort of “girly” and Research= not pretty, sort of “masculine”, not calm in the least.  Now I am not talking about research in the sense of circulating surveys and grinding out numbers and graphs, etc… I am talking about qualitative, on the “streets” work that led me to opening doors that many would prefer to keep closed and locked and preferably moved to Cuba.  Now this is not the stuff of superheroes, it is the stuff of Sociologists.  We are supposed to go to the “other side of the tracks”, to understand subcultures even the violent ones, we are just well…we should do it although not all us have taken this road.

So cue in the everyday life of someone (A Sociologist or other research person); we have an idea in our heads, but have realized we have no pen and paper to write down said ideas.  In comes a jovial, bouncing neighbor or fellow parent or anyone who leaves their job at the job.  I am sure we seem aloof and sometimes even rude when we are contemplating such things as terrorism or violent gangs and we are asked about a bake sale.  Similarly confusing to “normal” people are the times I have claimed to be “too busy” to do X or Y and I am spotted in the bleachers watching one of my sons doing athletic training, practicing, game playing, etc… and going to games is important, sure but going to practices and other events, no not even necessary.  To me it is however, as I watch their male coaches and trainers coach and train.  Their lack of emotion (except sometimes anger), use of metaphors such as “you are athletes, not horses!” when they are stomping around, and all around command of respect and space is something to learn from if you have a penchant for sports, leadership, and gender in no particular order or possibly one but not all.

One may have an erroneous idea that coaching sports (especially ones considered more violent and less aesthetic such as football and martial arts) requires no intellectual work and that it is all yelling and throwing chairs and such.  This is quite untrue as these sports are a science and an art, respectively and emotion is expected as a motivator; simply put it is a role and a necessary one.  Enter in female teacher and the opposite is expected by most Feminists; intellectual work is supposed to be all that is on display while emotions are not supposed to be added at all. Now not all Feminist teachers believe this to be true, but they do (rightly so) realize that women are viewed as being “overly emotional” i.e. hysterical or teary-eyed or more concerned with making people “happy” rather than successful.

Stereotypes do nothing positive for either men or women. But it is quite possible to use emotion as a woman in intellectual work, as well.  This emotion does not have to be of the “chair throwing” origin, but it is what I call “fake anger’…I see coaches using it quite a bit.  Now sometimes they are legitimately angry, but in the “pre preseason” as it is now for football; I see that fake anger used for two objectives (1) expect some actual anger later in the preseason and (2) I am trying to motivate you and being nice is not a motivator when push-ups, running, and other not fun activities are involved. So yes this can be translated to women in teaching or any leadership role sans the actual angry which is always counterproductive.  (A) fake anger is good in that it prepares students for the “real world” where people are not going to always be nice and (b) it motivates students to do some work that they may have to do to fulfill prereqs that they may have no interest in doing.  Of course, you have to still “coach” by praising outstanding performance and have some fun here and there.  But the point is when we think of women as emotional, the angry side is often looked at as a transient “she must have PMS this week” type of thing.  Consistency is key and I will attest to this in my classes and in my parenting of 3 boys as a single parent.

I can and will be nice, step out of bounds and I won’t be, it really is that simple.  When I feel legitimately angry, I pull out pen and paper and write, literally write “do not freak out on Jordan for being disruptive in class, count to 10…oh still mad at him? count to 20”, then I shoot “Jordan” a look and move on… same thing at home. Stay in the bounds of acceptable behavior and all will be well, step out and it will be a boot camp situation.  In hindsight, dealing with all the myriad issues of having my oldest son start high school and the middle son start junior high, has been a trial.  The oldest has went from being disruptive and failing to honor roll at this point, the middle one; well his angry outbursts ended when I got radical and took him to the ER, knowing the charge nurse was a fellow parent of kids his age.  After getting a counseling referral and telling him in no uncertain terms “if you want to go to counseling to have people feel sorry for you, you will never be an adult that can function on your own- stop feeling sorry for yourself”. It has worked.  He is also honor roll and doing great.

One final statement on this, Feminists stop, just STOP acting as if parenting is something that is taboo in your world.  Yes, I get it believe me, it sets up back 50 years if all we talk about is our kids, and swap recipes, and read People magazine.  But don’t deny the fact that if you can’t run a “tight ship” at home, don’t expect anyone to think you can run anything else.  Also some might assume that your husband (even if you hyphenated your name or kept your maiden name and the rest of us are confused as to whether you even believe in having children) is doing all the discipline at home then.  No, we can’t have it all, but we can do emotional and intellectual work simultaneously and be better people for it.