Complicity

This guest post is published as part of a series related to the American Sociological Association conference, which occurred from August 12 – 15 in Montreal, Quebec. #ASA17

By Cynthia Enloe, author of The Big Push: Exposing and Challenging the Persistence of Patriarchy

I grew up a Yankees fan. My mother, who couldn’t tell a home run from a quarterback sneak, gamely took 10 year old me and my pals to Yankee Stadium. Now I’m a Red Sox fan. I still love major league baseball. Today, though, I’m far more conscious of the insinuation of militarized patriotism into the game, and, more discomforting, the likelihood that as a fan, I am complicit in that risky process.

Last week I was among the 36,000 fans soaking up Fenway Park’s special beauty on a glorious July afternoon. The stands were full, the grass green, and the bases white. Red Sox fans are a boisterously friendly lot, so I felt I had to stand up with everyone else when a teenage girl sang the national anthem. I cringed when a mammoth stars and stripes was unfurled in the outfield down the beloved Green Monster wall. I kept my cringes to myself.

Around the 6th inning, during a lull in the action, the Fenway announcer drew our attention to the Jumbotron, where we saw a giant version of a middle-aged white man who, in human proportions, was with us in the stands. He was identified as a veteran of recent U.S. wars. Invited to give him a hero’s welcome, a wave of grateful applause erupted. I sat stingily on my hands, still saying nothing.

I love singing at Fenway. Joining thousands of other fans in “Take Me out to the Ball Game” and Boston’s own “Sweet Caroline” is to experience sheer joy. But when at the bottom of the 8th came “America the Beautiful” and everyone around me stood, I sat quietly. My friends smiled down at me sympathetically.

Patriotism, especially militarized, masculinity-heroicizing patriotism, is escalating at American sporting events. It may be most prominent at NFL games and NASCAR races, but it is in full bloom at most major league baseball games—not just the national anthem, but also the ubiquitous lauding of military personnel, and additional patriotic songs in the middle of the game.

Complicity. I have become more interested in complicity, and aware of its subtleties, but I’m not sure how to research it. Feminists in other countries might be our tutors. Japanese feminists today track the singing of their nation’s anthem and displays of the national flag. Bosnian feminists chart ethnicized patriotic symbols as they dominate masculinized soccer games in all parts of the now-rival states of the former Yugoslavia.

I think we need to explore how exactly ordinary women and men—and girls and boys—get personally drawn into militarized masculinized patriotism. To do that, we need to investigate the gendered responses of individuals to both pressures and the allures. I suspect that complicity in militarized masculinized patriotism is camouflaged as mere entertainment or sentimentalism, as well as collective appreciation and gratitude. Gratitude is so often feminized. It becomes an extension of dependency. Women, therefore, are popularly expected to be grateful to men and to the masculinized state for offering them militarized protection. In a militarized society, a woman who refuses to express that gratitude (staying seated when the male veteran is being cheered) risks being deemed unfeminine.

Appreciation can be either masculinized or feminized. In its militarized masculinized form, appreciation is imagined by many men to be an expression of their own special understanding of what it takes to be a manly soldier. By contrast, when feminized, that militarized appreciation is an expression of recognizing that an ordinary woman would be unable to perform these soldiering feats.

Sentimentality, entertainment, appreciation and gratitude—each are routinely gendered. To the extent that all four can be mobilized to serve masculinized militarized patriotism, patriarchy will be perpetuated. It will take researchers and analysts with patience, imagination, stamina and feminist curiosity to understand the myriad deep social processes being entrenched today at a baseball game on a sunny summertime afternoon.

Why did I sit during “God Bless America,” but say nothing?

Other titles from Cynthia Enloe:


Cynthia Enloe

Cynthia Enloe is Research Professor at Clark University specializing in critical studies of militarism and transnational feminism. She has appeared on the BBC, Al Jazeera, and NPR and has written for Ms. and the Village Voice. She is the author of more than fifteen books and was awarded the Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement in Peace Studies Award from the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA).


Hilary Levey Friedman on the Evolution of Competitive Childhood Sports

Hilary Levey Friedman’s Atlantic article about the increasing prevalence of childhood competitive sports has spurred a discussion at the New York TimesRoom for Debate. The Times assembled a team of experts to debate how competitive youth sports should be, and whether sports overwhelm childhood or enhance it.

Friedman’s article gives historical context to the phenomenon of childhood sports and class, noting that “not until after World War II did these competitive endeavors begin to be dominated by children from the middle and upper-middle classes. The forces that have led to increasing inequality in education, the workplace, and other spheres have come to the world of play.” Read the full article at The Atlantic.


Why the World Needs Benchwarmers

Playing to WinHarvard sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman, author of the forthcoming book Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, is now a featured blogger at Psychology Today. Her first installment, “Qualities of the B (aka Bench-Warming) Player” talks about why it may be more advantageous for a child to be a benchwarmer than a star player.

“Every team—whether it is athletic, artistic, or academic—needs members who support the others, strengthening the glue that holds the team together and making the group more successful as a whole,” writes Friedman. “In some contexts individuals may excel, and in others they may fall short. Children need to learn how to adapt to both situations.” Read the full post at Psychology Today.

 


Secrets of Successful Women Coaches

Michael Messner
Michael A. Messner is Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California and the author of several books including Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports. His latest title, It’s All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports, will be published by UC Press in March 2009. Below, is an excerpt from the conclusion of his blog entry entitled, Secrets of Successful Women Coaches, from the youth sports website, MomsTeam.

“These successful strategies can be summed up in a single quote from a woman softball coach: ‘You gotta be tough.’ As I spoke with these women, I came to see them as courageous pioneers.
But I also concluded that the individual strategies they developed are very limited. Not all women are willing to be ‘tough,’ just to be able to coach their kids. Nor should they have to be. Moreover,
the women who did act more competitive, tougher,and more assertive than many of the men found that they ran head-on into the same sort of double-standard that women face in corporate life or the professions: if you are not competitive and aggressive, you are not taken seriously; if you are overly so, you are seen as pushy, or as having, as one woman told me, ‘a chip on my shoulder.'”

To read the entire blog entry and other subsequent blogs, please visit, Messner’s MomsTeam blog.


Including More Women Coaches in Youth Sports: Why it Matters

Book Page
Michael A. Messner is Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California and the author of several books including Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports. His latest title, It’s All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports, will be published by UC Press in April 2009. Below, is an excerpt from his blog entry entitled, Including More Women Coaches in Youth Sports: Why it Matters, from the youth sports website, MomsTeam.

“Unlike in my day, when all of the kids playing Little League were boys, there are now a substantial number of girls playing. Today, LLB/S is an organization that boasts 2.7 million children participants worldwide, 2.1 million of them in the United States. There are 176,786 teams in the program, 153,422 of them in baseball and 23,364 in softball. But the dramatic growth of girls on the field has not been matched by a growth of women coaches.

In the community I studied for eight years — South Pasadena, California — only 2% of boys’ baseball teams were coached by women, while 11% of girls’ softball teams had women coaches. I discovered
that prospective women coaches faced barriers—mostly informal and unspoken — that diverted them away from coaching.  Most of the few women who did coach left after a year or two, after finding the league to be dominated informally by a less-than-supportive “old boys’ network” of coaches. I came to see this as a problem.

To read the entire blog entry and other subsequent blogs, please visit, Messner’s MomsTeam blog.


Interview with Adrian Burgos, Jr., author of Playing America’s Game

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On July 16, Adrian Burgos, Jr. was interviewed by Ismael Núñez of Latin Week NY regarding issues upon his latest book, Playing America’s Game: Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line (UC Press, June 2007). Furthermore, you can read more about Burgos in his blog, Playing America’s Game.

Where are the Latino Legends in Baseball?

Article By: Ismael Núñez
Wed, 16 Jul 2008 15:30:00

Called a must-read by Slate Magazine and the San Franciso Chronicle,
Adrian Burgos’ Jr. recent book, “Playing America’s Game: Baseball,
Latinos, and the Color Line,” examines an era in baseball history
largely ignored by historians and sports fans until now: Latinos in
professional baseball pre-1947. Burgos, an Assistant Professor of
History at the University of Illinois, has long been an expert on the
Latino struggle for acceptance both in the major and Negro leagues,
serving on the screening and voting committees for the National
Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2006 special election on the Negro Leagues.
Latin Week sat down to talk with Burgos about how Latinos helped break
the color line in baseball long before Jackie Robinson, and how Latinos
still face a fight for respect on the field today.

Not a single Latin American was voted to the all-century team? Does that still hurt?

The absence of Roberto Clemente from the all-century team is a major
issue on several levels… Whether Clemente is the greatest outfielder or
rightfielder in baseball history is a debatable matter, but whether he
is one of the most important baseball figures of the 20th century is
without debate. An all-century team without Clemente and all he
represented to the game’s history is just not right. The fact that
Major League Baseball (MLB) had the discretion to address this
oversight and opted not to is telling of the need for an understanding
of baseball history through a Latino framework.


Focusing on the book, one thing people are not aware is that there were
Latinos playing baseball long before Jackie Robinson. Why we are not
given the credit for opening the doors for other peoples of color?

The full story of Latinos in U.S. professional baseball is unknown to
the American baseball public. Many do not know that over fifty
foreign-born and US-born Latinos performed in the majors from the 1880s
through 1947, when Jackie Robinson began the dismantling of organized
baseball’s color line. Fewer realize that the overwhelming majority of
Latinos who played in the States during the era of baseball’s
segregation performed in the Negro leagues, over 250 Latinos played in
the Black baseball circuit starting in 1900.

In “Playing
America’s Game,” I argue that the manner that major league team
officials manipulated racial understandings served as a template for
how Branch Rickey would approach the official launch of the racial
integration of Major League Baseball… officials for teams such as the
Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves, New York Giants, and, most notably,
Washington Senators, brokered access for lighter-skinned Latinos in the
1900s and by the mid-1930s began to allow increasingly darker, more
racially ambiguous Latino players into the Majors. However, these
Latino players were not given the same exact treatment as Jackie
Robinson did, because these officials were not engaged in trying to
overturn the color line system of racial division, but rather to
manipulate it for their own gain—signing talented Latino players for
lower salaries than what they would earn if they were white Americans.


In your book you describe the many obstacles Latino ballplayers had to
face, for example speaking English. Do they still face these problems?

Learning to navigate the English-language press remains an extremely
challenging obstacle once they “make it” in the United States. It is in
the press coverage of Latinos we continue to see how Latino difference
as racial beings constantly in production. For example, during last
year’s American League Divisional Series Manny Ramirez became embroiled
in a controversy after stating that he was not worried whether the Red
Sox would defeat Cleveland, because his team had been down before and
had overcome a 3-game-to-none deficit in defeating the New York Yankees
a few years earlier. Some stated this was another example of “Manny
being Manny,” but what really perturbed me was hearing a prominent ESPN
reporter stating that Manny did not know what he was saying because he
lacked mastery over the English language. What?! Manny came over from
the Dominican Republic at ten years old and was schooled in the United
States before graduating from George Washington High School in
Washington Heights (NYC). But this reporter lumped all Latinos into a
familiar stereotype, and then he used that to frame his analysis. And
thus continues a practice of portraying Latino players as ignorant,
dumb, or not as smart as the white American player, a practice that
dates back to the earliest era of Latino participation in organized
baseball.

The New York Cubans
[a team of Latino players that competed in the Negro leagues] won the
Negro League Championship in 1947. There is hardly any talk about this
team [in popular and official histories of baseball] – why?

The NY Cubans were one of three NYC-based teams to enjoy a banner
season in 1947, and yes, they are the least discussed in part because
the other two were the Brooklyn Dodgers and NY Yankees. So there is the
issue of timing. The NY Cubans enjoyed their greatest success in the
Negro Leagues during the same year that Jackie Robinson initiated the
dismantling of organized baseball’s color line system.

Another
part of the reason the Cubans team suffers today from a lack of
attention is the misperception that they were not a significant team in
the Negro Leagues or in New York. Much to the contrary, a look at two
main Black weeklies published in NYC (The New York Age and Amsterdam
News) one sees that the Cubans and not the NY Black Yankees were
celebrated as “Harlem’s Own”…

Much of the story of Black
baseball is told as just that of African Americans, leaving out the
Latinos who participated in the Negro Leagues from its inception …
Moreover, the NY Cubans (and its predecessor the Cuban Stars) were
trailblazers in bringing in talent from throughout the Americas. While
operating these teams, Alex Pompez introduced the first Dominican,
Puerto Rican, and Panamanian players to play in either the Negro
Leagues or the Majors. The NY Cubans represent a vital part of baseball
history in the Americas for they offer a different approach to
diversity in U.S. professional baseball long before “Los Mets.”

One player on the team you talk about highly is Martin Dihigo. Many former Negro League Players say he was the best!

Dihigo is quite a unique figure in the annals of baseball history
because he was an ace pitcher and a fabulous everyday player (and a
pretty good team manager on top of that). Think of someone who was on a
Hall of Fame level as a pitcher in Black baseball (the Smokey Joe
Williams, Jose Mendez, and Satchel Paige type pitchers) and then think
of the very best everyday players from the Negro Leagues. Put that
together and you begin to imagine El Maestro, El Inmortal, Martin
Dihigo.

Should Roberto Clemente’s number (21) be retired?

I am of two minds on this question. For one, I want Latino players to
be a living memorial to the meaning and significance of Clemente to all
Latinos. The best memorial is seeing a great Latino player chose to
take the number 21, and demonstrate mastery on the field and also
grace, dignity, and a willingness to speak for the cause of social
justice off the field…

No greater example has been set for all
of those involved in any capacity within organized baseball than what
Clemente did… How best do we recognize that vital historical lesson? I
am for a living memorial, the Latino players keeping his (and our)
story on the field for all to see.


Fight Pictures: A History of Boxing and Early Cinema

10754Dan Streible is Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University and Associate Director of its Moving Image Archiving and Preservation master’s program. He is also director of the Orphan Film Symposium. In his recent book, Fight Pictures: A History of Boxing and Early Cinema, (UC Press, 2008), he examines how early prizefight films transformed the stigmatized sport into a popular American culture. Here’s an entry from Streible’s Orphan Film Symposium weblog, “Fight Pictures and Orphans at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.”

“The truism ‘silent films were never silent’ is of course correct – except for the peculiar genre of fight pictures. Their exhibitions virtually never had musical accompaniment. Instead of music, fight pictures had screen-side announcers telling spectators what to watch for – the knockout ‘solar-plexus punch’ in Veriscope’s Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight (1897), the questionable performance of the old master Joe Gans (‘was he taking a dive, ladies and gentlemen?’) as filmed by Selig Polyscope in the McGovern-Gans Fight Pictures (1900), or the Australian constabulary stopping the Gaumont cameras as Jack Johnson’s finished off Tommy Burns in 1908.”Spectatorsapplaudsharkey_13

Note: Image from the Police Gazette, Dec. 9, 1899,
captioned: “Spectators Applaud
Sharkey.

Visitors at the New York Theatre Carried Away with His Work as Shown by the Biograph.” Tom Sharkey lost a brutal title fight to Jim Jeffries at Coney Island a month earlier.