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You Play Ball Like a... Sexist


Nov 12 2013
Time out: Coaches and parents need to rethink how we talk about gender.

Last week NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins because of alleged bullying and racial threats from his teammate Richie Incognito.

The story caught my attention because it's about sports and justice—two things I'm passionate about. As a coach and parent, I've become increasingly concerned about another form of injustice taking place in locker rooms, living rooms, and around water coolers across the country.

A frustrated middle school boys' coach calls a time out and yells at his players, "You look like a bunch of girls out there! Come on ladies, get your heads in the game!" A dad says to his five-year-old son, "You're throwing like a girl. Let me show you the right way to throw a baseball." A high school football kicker misses a field goal that costs his team the game. The next day, he opens his locker and finds it full of tampons.

There's a common message in all of these scenarios. Femaleness is equated with being weak, passive, and a loser. The accompanying message associates maleness with strength, aggression, and victory.

Sadly, kids and adults are as likely to hear this message at home and at the church picnic, as they are to hear it on the school playground or the local youth sports league. It's the same kind of language we've heard for decades, kids calling each other "sissies" and men calling each other "pussies." But in 2013, we can do better.

Coaches and parents, please ask yourselves the following questions:

  • Is denigrating women in order to motivate male athletes the best I can offer as a coach? What kind of character am I modeling and developing in my athletes when I demean their mothers, sisters, and fellow athletes?
  • Does belittling women align with God's heart toward women? Did Jesus make disparaging remarks about women in order to motivate men or otherwise?
  • As a Christian, am I called by God to love all children—male and female? If so, how can I love girls as wells as boys with the words I choose?

In his book Setting the Captives Free, pastor and domestic violence educator Ron Clark says "labeling feelings and behavior as male or female" keeps men from becoming like Jesus. We stunt the social and spiritual development of boys and men in our churches when we offer a narrow, impoverished view of masculinity. Similarly, we constrain the development of girls and women when we offer constricting ideas about what it means to be feminine.

Related Topics:Football; Sexism; Sports
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You Play Ball Like a... Sexist