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Posts Tagged ‘Brittney Griner’

Since March Madness is officially upon us, it must be time to talk about basketball. Kate Fagan at ESPN has a nice article discussing Baylor’s Brittney Griner and the role of gender in sports. Griner is a 6’8″ player who is able to do things that most female basketball players cannot do (see some highlights here). If Griner were a male, Fagan argues, her accomplishments would be celebrated. As a woman, her accomplishments are simultaneously celebrated and questioned. Fagan writes that no matter Griner’s achievements, “the naysayers hop on message boards and social media to deliver a variety of insults, questioning her fierce on-court demeanor, her talent in comparison to male players, even her genetic makeup.”

Fagan compares Griner to Shaquille O’Neal, who was also physically dominant as a college player. She writes:

But whereas Shaq was hailed for being big, bold, different, Griner is sometimes viewed in a harsher light, with skepticism bordering on suspicion. When people called Shaq a freak of nature, it was a compliment; when directed at Griner, the term often carries a cruel edge, punctuated with the refrain of “She’s a dude!”

Such wary appraisals are not unique to Griner, of course. This is what Joe Fan does to any female athlete who doesn’t fit neatly into one of two boxes: the cool, tough-talking guy’s gal (see: Ronda Rousey, Lindsey Vonn) or the unattainable beauty (see: Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova).

Fagan also quotes Nicole LaVoi, a professor at the University of Minnesota, who adds:

“People can’t just say, ‘Wow, Brittney Griner is a great athlete.’ We need to have a caveat: ‘She plays like a guy, she looks like a guy, she must be a guy.’ These qualifiers marginalize what Brittney has done and serve to keep the current pecking order in place, whereby men’s sports are more valued, more culturally relevant — the norm.”

The entire article is interesting and could be used to spark a classroom discussion.

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