Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Entitlement: or, Ducks Behaving Badly

I always find it depressing when people I respect do something that destroys that respect. When it's something like this – LaMichael James' recent arrest for domestic violence – it's particularly depressing; added to my disgust and loss of respect is the plentiful ammunition it gives to my friends who object to the violence of football and the adulation so freely given to sports stars.

For context, here's what I like about the guy:

So added to the injury to Courtney Eckhart is the insult to all Duck fans: Do we really want this guy on the team?

More important, perhaps, is the question that arises: Why do so many star athletes get into this kind of trouble?

On Feb. 11, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Kim Reed, who used to be Paul McKerrow.* That's not the non sequiter it seems on first glance – check out the video clip on the link. Paul had some pretty good football highlights, too. I'm bringing her up here because of something she said on the interview: She said she was glad she was born and raised as a boy because it gave her a sense of possibility and entitlement she would not have learned as a girl, though if she had to do it over again she'd transition earlier. She wants all girls to have that sense of entitlement. I can relate; my own sense of male entitlement, inculcated even in my much more awkward boyhood, still colors every aspect of my social interaction – so much, in fact, that I think it is just as important as my non-menstrual biology in guaranteeing that I won't ever have the complete experience of womanhood in our culture. Probably more so. And believe me, that's not necessarily a bad thing - rather, perhaps it is some compensation for the positive experiences of womanhood I've been denied.

The Patriarchy creates and supports this sense of male entitlement that is, to most men, invisible and taken for granted. This entitlement manifests itself in our society in various ways: as the "dominator" model of social interaction Riane Eisler identifies in "The Chalice and the Blade;" and as Rape Culture (see also my previous post and here).

I think that male entitlement is a key to understanding why so many athletes make such poor choices, but that doesn't satisfy me. That answer leads me to another question: Is this sense of entitlement inherent and inevitable? Is there a way to have football, with all its inherent violence and encouraged aggression, without the entitlement? Or am I wrong, and it's just a guy thing?

I don't think it's a guy thing. Too many men act responsibly. I think these poor choice are connected to Rape Culture. And that begs the question: Is football itself connected to Rape Culture and male entitlement?

I don't think so.

But I'm not sure.

And that pisses me off.

(*My boss at work is Kim's cousin. He copied the interview and shared it with me. I wasn't able to find it on the web, but if you can find it somewhere, it's worth watching.)


Fannie said...

I'm reading the fantasy-ish novel "Gate to Women's Country" right now and it's an interesting take on the dominator model and the partnership model. Not sure if you've read it, but in the novel's society, boys are taken at the age of 5 to live in the men's "warrior society." When they turn 15, they can choose to return to "Women's Country" or to continue living with the men in the warrior's society. Men who choose to return to Women's Country are those who reject the violence of the warrior's life.

However, few men return to live with the women, because they must do so by passing through the Women's Gate, which when they do so, the older warriors shame them, insult them, and throw rocks at them.

I think this is a good metaphor for how the dominator model in our society works and perpetuates itself. I think many men would like to live in equal partnership with women, but out of shame of being seen as "woman-like," do not do so.

Also, unlike in real life, the warriors are only allowed to kill other warriors- not women and children- since they are the ones who start the wars.

Seda said...

It does sound like a good metaphor, Fannie. Thanks!

It takes courage to walk through that gate, but I did it.

But then, I'm not a man... :-)

Hong said...


Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our