Miss Coach

by Mark T. Mitchell on March 16, 2010 · 106 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Culture, High & Low

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Kearneysville, WV. Last Friday something spectacular happened in Washington, D.C. No, peace did not break out between Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell. No, the President did not agree to scale back his ambitious health care initiative. Instead, Coolidge High School announced that its new varsity football coach was a young science teacher named Natalie Randolph. The appointment makes Randolph one of only two female head coaches of a high school varsity football team in America.

By all accounts, the twenty-nine-year old Randolph is well-qualified. She was an NCAA Division I sprinter at the University of Virginia, and she played wide receiver for five years for a woman’s football team called the D.C. Divas. She was an assistant coach at another high school several years ago. Currently she is a teacher at Coolidge High and is popular with the students.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty was present for the announcement. He listed her various qualifications and insisted that “Natalie Randolph, like all the head coaches who preceded her…is being honored because she’s the best person for this job.” Of course, that was not exactly true. The mayor does not make it a habit of attending the announcement of football coaches at D.C. high schools. This announcement was different.

Ms. Randolph is aware of the uniqueness of her new position, but she insists that she’s only interested in the players and the game.

People are going to say stuff wherever you go. I can’t control what people say,” Randolph said. “The first thing is, I love football, no matter whose domain it is. I’m going to do it. If I let people dictate what I do, I wouldn’t be where I am. While I’m proud to be a part of what this all means, being female has nothing to do with it.

Except that it does. If coaching was merely a technical process where an expert (the coach) taught certain game-specific skills to players, the gender issue might not matter. But coaching is more than that. Coaches–I mean the best kind of coaches–teach far more than the game. They provide an example to their players of strength, character, and grace under pressure. In the process, a good high school coach teaches boys how to be men. He can address them as men and encourage, cajole, and push them to behave in a way befitting men.

Furthermore, team sports–especially intensely physical ones–provide a cauldron in which strong bonds of male friendship and camaraderie can develop. These are goods that extend far beyond the field of play. Their possibility is diminished and perhaps even destroyed when females are on the team. I suspect that the same dynamic will be at work when a woman leads the team.

Boys, no less than girls, need role-models. To be sure, boys need female role models who exhibit, in word and deed, what it means to be a woman of character, grace, and dignity. But at the same time, boys need male role models who demonstrate the character traits proper to men. Boys, after all, are future men, and they will be less equipped for adulthood if their formative years are bereft of men they can respect and seek to emulate. This is one role a coach can, and should, fill.

One of the team moms expressed her delight that a female would be coaching her son:

A female coach will be more compassionate, more concerned about the children getting home at a certain time, and not just making it all about football.

Well. First, I will happily admit that many coaches are not necessarily compassionate.  I recall a basketball coach in high school who was so ticked off at our performance that he made us run suicides while he yelled and threw basketballs at us.  Compassionate? No. A bit on the Spartan side? Yes. I am not necessarily condoning his behavior, and in the various teams I have coached, I have never employed his tactics. But there was a spirit of intensity and camaraderie in that gym that would have dissipated if a woman was present, either as an observer, a player, or a coach.

One web site emphasized the social progress this story represents:

Maybe some day a woman coaching a football team won’t be a big deal. But today it is. Natalie Randolph has accomplished something very big.

No one will deny that Ms. Randolph is breaking new territory. But is one more step toward a gender-blind society a good thing? Does the triumph of egalitarianism help us better to realize our maleness and femaleness or does it further blur lines that are already hazy? A world of metro-sexuals and G.I. Janes is more difficult than ever to navigate. Shall I defer to a woman because she is a woman? Do I hold the door, or will she be offended and think me patronizing? For three years I rode the D.C. Metro and each day I tried to give my seat to women who were standing. Usually, they politely refused. Very rarely an elderly woman would smile gracefully and accept my offer. Sometimes a man would slide into my seat instead. I once saw a military man give up his seat for a pregnant woman, but in general, chivalry, at least in that context, is dead. That’s a loss to all of us. Society is less coherent, not to mention less pleasant, when men and women are confused about their respective roles, prerogatives, and privileges.

Men and women are different, and certain activities are qualitatively different–and qualitatively better–when they occur in a single-sex environment. Advocates of female colleges know this. Men who once joined men’s clubs knew this. Women don’t invite men to baby showers because a man’s presence would change the nature of the event, and furthermore, most men would be loathe to attend because of the nature of the event. Single-sex sports environments can provide some of the same unique goods that other single-sex environments provide.

I have no reason to think that Ms. Randolph will not succeed in her new position. I do, though, feel a twinge of sadness for the boys who, while they may be getting a knowledgeable and compassionate coach, are missing out on a tremendous gift: a coach who can not only teach them football, but more importantly, who can show them how to be men.

{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Steve K. March 16, 2010 at 1:05 am

I am so sick of our society.

avatar Robert March 16, 2010 at 7:45 am

Mr. Mitchell,

While I’m inclined to agree with the overall point of your article, I do feel you overestimate the positive role coaches play in the lives of young people.

Maybe my experiences were unique, but I found the majority of my male coaches exhibited behaviors that most people in polite society would wish to banish rather than emulate.

First, there was my Little League coach who thought threatening six year olds with physical violence when we missed a fly ball or struck out was a good motivational tool. Apparently he often acted on those threats at home with his wife and kids. Then there was my junior high school football coach who was having an affair with another teacher, and tried to get rid of his wife–also a teacher–by claiming she had molested one of her male students. Finally, there was my high school football coaching staff. Those guys gave new meaning to the word slimy. The head coach, with help from the principal, had the miraculous ability to transform our star half-back’s D’s into B’s. Our linesmen coach came to practice every Monday and asked us if we had slept with any of the cheerleaders over the weekend. If anyone answered in the affirmative, he then wanted to know if a certain part of said cheerleader’s anatomy was “covered or uncovered.” And let me not forget our defensive coordinator who missed a state championship playoff game because he was in jail for second offense DUI.

I should add that it’s not my intention to paint all coaches in a negative light. There are some good ones. My junior high basketball and track coach comes to mind. He started every season the same way. He walked into the locker room, picked up a piece of chalk, wrote, “DO WHAT YOU KNOW IS RIGHT” on the board, and said, “let’s hit the floor.” He also ended every practice by telling us to take care of our families, pay attention in school, and listen to our mothers.

avatar richard March 16, 2010 at 8:06 am

At the risk of being branded as elitist, I would rather that there were no (or at least fewer)football coaches of either gender. I have two younger cousins who were severely damaged playing football. The ones who survive injury end up as lifetime spectators of mass culture. I have nothing against recreation, I just would rather see it less organized and more youngsters involved in lifetime recreation like fishing, shooting, singing and dancing.

avatar richard March 16, 2010 at 8:12 am

Pardon the second post, but Football is the worst of the major sports;expensive equipment costs poor country schools way too much.American Football is almost custom made for a consumer society. The emphasis on sports in those same small country schools does a lot to distract from what learning might be possible.

avatar Bob Cheeks March 16, 2010 at 8:17 am

Following on Richard’s sage comments: my younger brother played football for the old school and ended up with five concussions, resulting in a lifetime of voting for Democrats and supporting unions.

avatar Patrick J. Deneen March 16, 2010 at 8:57 am

Anthony Esolen has written more forcefully – and, in my view – more persuasively than anyone I know about the crisis of boyhood in today’s America. This issue goes far beyond the question of the gender of coaches and such, but to the deeper agenda of “de-sexing,” or even “feminizing” boys. The irony that Esolen identifies is that this renders it essential that boys assert their manhood in the only remaining acceptable way – engaging in earlier and earlier forms of sexual promiscuity (this connects the “feminizing” agenda with that of “safe sex.”) Of course, none of these subjects can be discussed in polite company, since “gender” is socially constructed.

Read some of Esolen here.

avatar Pat March 16, 2010 at 9:07 am

Robert’s already pointed out that your descent into a Grease-like paean to high school, hot rods, and men being men, etc., etc., is deluded. I’ll just add that your editor shouldn’t have deleted the paragraph wherein you lamented most girls’ coaches being men.

avatar matthew March 16, 2010 at 9:17 am

I agree that a female football coach is a terrible thing, but I fail to understand the reasoning behind all of the football-hate in this thread. High School football is a great institution, one that holds small towns together, , one that promotes fitness, and one that gives boys a place to learn lessons about being men that they’d scarce be able to learn elsewhere in our present, man-gelding culture.

Soccer, the prescribed “safer” alternative to American football, is a fine sport, but it actually produces more concussions than football does. Basketball is also not without it’s risks, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the lower injury statistics for that game as opposed to football have a lot to do with the fewer number of participants playing at any one time.

What’s even worse than knocking football based on spurious conventional wisdom, though, is blaming football because certain people don’t develop into what you want them to be. If football and television in tandem turn people into mass-culture lemmings (and this is fair), then maybe it would be wise to look at the control group; people who avoid football but watch a lot of other television somehow manage to disengage just the same.

High School football, like education generally, is better handled on a small scale than a large one, there’s no denying that, but the brushes we use to paint in broad strokes could use a little bit of refinement as well.

avatar Thomas G. March 16, 2010 at 9:28 am

Is this one of Peter’s sarcastic posts meant to stir the pot? I sure hope so, because if this is serious I am embarrassed to even be responding to it.

avatar Caleb Stegall March 16, 2010 at 9:42 am

Mark, you’re threatening to lay bare anther latent chasm dividing the Porch!

Count me with Mitchell, Esolen, High School Football, men being men, and even hot rods if necessary, and against the egalitarian levelers, “compassionate” coaches, and desexers of America!

avatar Anamaria March 16, 2010 at 10:33 am

What about the fact that most girl’s coaches are men?

Furthermore, while I agree with the general point of this post (that boys need positive male role models), I think that this has been over-emphasized in some circles. I have a friend who teaches high school theology at a very conservative Catholic school in Atlanta, and she is one of the only female teachers for the upper school. They frequently converse about the importance of male role models for both the boys (who will grow up to be men) and the girls (who need to know what a good man is), but rarely, if ever, discuss the importance of female role models for either gender. One member of the faculty even said that boys can’t listen to attractive women until they are older. So, while the rest of the society might be gender-neutralizing everything, this can be taken to an extreme such that the importance of women’s influence is diminished.

avatar Grammar March 16, 2010 at 10:46 am

There are several aspects of this article that I find abrasive, not least of which include the author’s tone and general attitude on a sensitive issue. The real problem with this article, however, is not the fact that the author’s prose is less than palatable. The bottom line is that the author is not comfortable with the terms of current society. A society as he so deftly observes full of “metro-sexuals and G.I. Janes,” but this observation, as with many stereotypes says more about the obeserver than the observed. Mr. Mitchell believes that football coaches should be male because football players need good male role models. There are three assumptions made here that undercut his argument. First, it is assumed that the act of playing football in inherently male and that only males may purvey this masculine knowledge effectively. The simple fact is that this is not true. There is nothing inherently male about football, nor is there anything inherently female about good grooming or anything inherently male about combat. Furthermore, Mr. Mitchell does the youths of today a great diservice when he implies that their imiginations are so limited that they may only recognize admirable qualities in people that share their biological characteristics. Essentially, males may only recognize hard work, a sense of fairplay, leadership and whatever other positive qualities one learns from a coach, in other humans who are possessors of male genetalia. In fact, there are incapable of differentiating character traits from biological traits when deciding what actions to emulate. Clearly, this is not the case. Finally, I wonder how Mr. Mitchell feels about co-ed classrooms and single-parent families? Should single mothers quickly find a husband at the peril of their sons turning into well-dressed adults or their daughters enlisting in the armed forces? Should female teachers only teach female studens and vice versa at the risk of male students behaving like females in the classroom because that is how their teacher acts?

avatar D.W. Sabin March 16, 2010 at 10:54 am

The best kind of Football is Great Basin Bareback football, free of much equipment but spiced with Prickley Pear Cactus so that in the aftermath, one must pick cactus spines out your various appendages and, of course, sterilize the wounds with Jim Beam.

There just aint no thrill like sacking the quarterback into a Sagebrush underlain by fat bristling pads of the Opuntia humifusa. Its even better when Buzzards are hovering.

avatar Steve K. March 16, 2010 at 11:25 am

“this can be taken to an extreme such that the importance of women’s influence is diminished.”

I really don’t think that’s a problem confronting us in America, circa 2010. To the contrary.

avatar Grizzlie Antagonist March 16, 2010 at 11:32 am

Women are evil and that’s all they are!

avatar Howard Merrell March 16, 2010 at 11:37 am

Steve,
In the words of football coaches everywhere, “Suck it up!” Being sick of our society–if that is an excuse for avoiding engagement–isn’t allowed.

Robert,
Yep, there are idiot coaches. I also had an out of control second grade teacher, and a 7th grade science teacher who taught us that there is no gravity on the moon. Maybe we should outlaw second grade & Jr. Hi. science.

Bob,
If that’s the same brother who pulled you out of the river, he has demonstrated that he is lacking in judgment & should therefore be removed from consideration.

Patrick,
I don’t know Esolen, but as a 60 year old lifetime pastor, who regularly works with kids, I can tell you that our society has big time encouraged the feminization of boys/men. That is the reason, that Wild at Heart, (and other books/films like it) in spite of some of its problems was and is so popular.

I didn’t play football in HS, I did attempt to wrestle. I kept both ears intact, but emerged with a bum knee that still gives me trouble. I am a far better man having the discipline I learned grappling, even though I now have a bad hinge, than I would have been with a good joint without what I learned on the mat.

Thomas G. ??

Caleb,
I would have thought that you would advocate for big-wheeled trucks and tractors in the pulling competions.

Anamaria,
The situation you describe in which the dominant influence is dominantly male is unusual. Even a sitution where the bulk of teachers are male, does not assure that an appropriate masculinity will be presented. Many adult males have so been marked by the tenor of our time that they are incapable of passing on an appropriate male role model to the next generation.
In my observations the feminization of our culture has been so pervasive that I welcome words like Mark’s trying to preserve one of the last bastions of the men’s fraternity.

Thanks Mark.

avatar Caleb Stegall March 16, 2010 at 11:42 am

For Howard:

http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2009/04/life-amid-the-suicide-machines/

… which actually has a lot to say about the current state of the sexes … these days in the rural school districts around here, the football teams have a recurring difficulty fielding enough players. Whereas in my day, not that long ago, playing football was the be-all and end-all of a high school boy’s life. Rightly so.

And for a bit of historical trivia …

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=W4syAAAAIBAJ&sjid=0OYFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2161,5542976&dq=caleb-stegall&hl=en

avatar Stephen March 16, 2010 at 11:45 am

Grammar,

You state that Mr. Mitchell’s fundamental problem is that he is not “comfortable with the terms of current society.”

I think you may have missed the point that FPR exists precisely because the writers here are not “comfortable with the terms of current society,” but are not reluctant to say so.

You see that as a problem. I see that as a virtue.

avatar Bob Cheeks March 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Howard: “ouch!”
The fella that pulled my out of the frozen and flooded Carpenter’s Run was a friend who didn’t fare well as a result of the 60′s and the penchant for peyote, hasish, and assorted hallucinogens. He too is a commie-dem.

Re: football, I do love the game. My own high school “career” was tragically cut short in August of 1961, my sophomore year, when I collapsed with heat exhaustion…the coaches didn’t know enough to provide water to us during two-a-days. As I remember the head coach was something of an anal cavity!

avatar Pat March 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I think Grammar’s hit on the essential point here. The argument in the post is essentially that because men generally coach boys teams and thus are role models, no woman can ever coach a boys team. Which indicates a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of statistics. Similar in a way, ironically enough, to the critics of Larry Summers.

And this, I don’t know what to call it besides “pride in gender,” I lump in with “pride in race” as a category of things to have pride in when everything else has been exhausted. Maybe worse, since it’s not like gender roles don’t change even on a short time scale. The you from the 60s would be calling you a bad role model for boys because you’re sitting there typing, let alone what faults the you that fought in the khan’s armies would find.

avatar Grammar March 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Stephen,

I can understand, and even resonate with, a discomfort with some of the directions that current society is going. My point was that Mr. Mitchell’s discomfort led him to fall back on stereotypes and caricatures that resulted in unfair conclusions. I fully support critiques of modern society, yet I have reservations when it is done in this way, particularly, because it limits the forcefulness of those who would critique society from a more informed and engaged position. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

avatar Albert March 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm

woman’s football team called the D.C. Divas

How unbecoming.

avatar Sam M March 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

“Whereas in my day, not that long ago, playing football was the be-all and end-all of a high school boy’s life. Rightly so.”

Huzzah.

avatar pb March 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Grammar: “Inherently male”? That’s just confusion — of course an action does not have an inherent gender, since it is not a thing-in-itself. The question is, who is better suited for such actions? Do men better warriors than women? In general, yes. Your attempt to shame (lack of sensitivity for a sensitive issue) and use of deconstructivist rhetoric do not impress.

avatar richard March 16, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Matthew,
I think following the local football team is a poor substitute for a local economy. Here in Western Pa., the communities with the highest interest in High School Football are ironically the ones most devastated by rust belt de-industrialization. I think there is a trend wherein that remains the only source of pride and local identity. I am also old enough to remember that Football was a major factor in school consolidations in these parts; something I suspect most front porchers would reject.

I would be happy if the coaches were unable to field a team if the kids were all too busy squirrel hunting and crappie fishing (but I suspect that is not the case). Why does the sizable local Amish community have neither a crisis of masculinity or football?

Again, my objection is not about games. I like to watch the local kids play baseball. The farm field upon which my home office now sits was once loaned by my grandfather to the township for a baseball field. My argument is about emphasis. I would not ban football; maybe just not publicly subsidize it. I have admittedly personally discouraged boys in my extended family and friends from taking it up by encouraging hunting, shooting, trapping, and fishing. I think that beats a professional coach/mentor. I even mentored a daughter and a niece in shooting without costing the taxpayers anything.

Richard

avatar Bruce Smith March 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm

The ability to create great teamwork is gender neutral. Not so long ago difference in appearance was used to complain about black coachs for white football teams. Try watching the “Remember The Titans” movie to get a glimmer of this difference irrelevance argument.

avatar Grammar March 16, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Pb,

You’ve tapped into one of my central points when you observe that actions are not gendered. The reason I have called attention to this fact is that it seems that this article is saying that the act of portraying strong chracter qualities to males should only be done by other males. That is where I take issue. As you say, the question is: who is better suited for the job? It seems a D.C. school has decided that a woman is the best person for the job of football coach and the only reason that the author of this piece takes issue with that decision is that he believes the coaching of football should only be done by males. That, somehow, men’s ability to coach football will always trump woman’s regardless of other considerations or at least that if a man and woman are equally qualified, then the man should always be selected based on his ability to be a role model. I disagree with this position, however unimpressive my disagreement is.

avatar Mark T. Mitchell March 16, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful responses. It seems to me the disagreements here go to a fundamental question: is gender socially constructed or not? If the answer is yes, then the argument advanced in my piece is ridiculous and offensive (if you are inclined to take offense at stupidity). On the other hand, if gender is more than genitalia, if maleness and femaleness is an essential part of who and what we are, then my argument begins to make sense. In other words, the root of the question is metaphysical.

If what we are is the product of our individual wills, then gender is determined by desire (or feelings or aspirations). Individual will trumps any appeal to nature or essence. There is no essential difference between men and women. This is nominalism and, I would argue, nominalism is the coin of the realm today. Because of the dominance of this philosophical position, my argument looks odd, indeed.

Alternatively, if humans possess essences, and one aspect of that essence is maleness or femaleness, then we can ask questions about the best way to encourage male and female flourishing. Are some settings better when they are only male or only female? Do some team sports facilitate this? I think the answer is yes.

Now, with all that, I realize plenty and perhaps even most coaches fall short. We’ve all known coaches who taught Health” class in their spare time while cracking lewd jokes and leering at the female students. But arguing from abnormality is no way to do normative theory. The same kind of argument is used by one commenter who asks “what about the single mom?” Many people are single parents and many do a heroic job, but few would argue that this is the ideal. Plenty of studies have shown that children do best in a whole range of areas when they have a mother and father in the house.

Furthermore, one commenter suggested that my argument is analogous to arguments suggesting that black coaches ought not to coach white kids. This merely begs the question: is race in the same category as sexuality? If both are socially constructed, then the argument works. But race and sexuality are not the same. Race is not an essential feature of one’s humanity. Maleness and femaleness is. Thus, the film “Remember the Titans” supports my position (assuming the distinction I am making holds).

Another person asked “what do I think of mixed classrooms”? As someone who taught junior high and high school for a couple years, I will say emphatically that separating the boys from the girls would be a great advance for education. The amount of distraction caused by hormonal boys trying to impress giggling girls is truly dizzying.

Obviously, my argument has implications beyond sports. Marriage and women in combat are two topics that are obviously on the horizon, but I will leave matters here for now.

avatar Aaron Schroeder March 16, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Dr Mitchell,

Your thesis seems to entail something like the following: Despite playing one of the more masculine sports around, and despite being forced to work as hard as under a male coach, being yelled at as loudly as under a male coach, receiving the same lessons about fair play and camaraderie (or whatever football is supposed to teach) as under a male coach, and (in the view of the school district) winning as or more often than they would under any male coach in the district’s market, the players will be nonetheless sissified by the presence of a female coach. That sounds…unlikely.

You’re right, I think, that the point of our culture’s maintaining its commitment to high school football is the contribution that participation in the sport can make to the masculinizing of young men whose childhoods increasingly lack such influences. Where the wheels come off the wagon, though, is in the assumption that a man is the only thing that serves as a masculinizing influence–and even further, that the presence of a woman in a what is traditionally a male role will serve as an emasculating influence. That’s like saying that boys reading about the masculine exploits of the warrior-maiden Camilla in the Aeneid will be emasculated by the experience. Go back to Book 11, and tell me that there was anything emasculating at all about her performance.

What I’m saying is that, yeah, maybe men are more likely to be masculinizing role models for men than females are, and maybe the best male coach will be a better masculinizer than the best female coach. But that doesn’t mean that women can’t do it. For as long as there has been war, the responsibility of masculinizing young men has fallen upon the gentler sex, which means that it might just be fair to say that, to a degree, masculinizing young men is part of the cultural role that has been handed to women. Or at least, as in most typically masculine activities, the best female will exceed the worst male and indeed, many of the better-than-worst males. And since there aren’t nearly enough of the best male coaches to go around in high school football, why not let the duty fall to someone whom history has proven may be able to do the job just as well–if not better?

avatar Jeff Taylor March 17, 2010 at 12:21 am

Mark, You ask if gender is socially constructed or not. I would say No, but I do think gender roles are partially if not largely socially constructed. There may well be innate essences of maleness and femaleness, but I find it hard to believe that culture, family, the media, and other social forces do not play a role in shaping how that maleness and femaleness get played out.

I also think we, as men, should be wary of assuming our own bias, or group self-interest, does not come into play in evaluating these matters. I’m not saying it’s conscious and I don’t won’t to overstate the matter, but it’s not surprising, for example, that two millennia of male Bible translators and exegetes have chosen to interpret the role of women in ways which are conducive to both male power/pride and the views of the dominant culture (see Katharine C. Bushnell, God’s Word to Women: One Hundred Bible Studies on the Place of Woman in the Divine Economy). Maybe it’s a coincidence but I doubt it.

I detest political correctness and I’m not saying we should rewrite Scripture, history, biology, or anything else to make it more female-friendly. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be blind to the possible effects of nurture. It doesn’t have to be either-or. Nature and nurture both play roles in how most men and most women act in society (there are always exceptions).

I think there are some parallels between traditional gender roles and sexual orientations. Just as I find it absurd to think that a newborn baby boy’s future sexual activities and romantic proclivities are inexorably predetermined by DNA or brain design, without considering the effects of future social influences (parental role modeling, early sexual experiences, cultural gender stereotypes, media attitudes toward sexual orientation), I think we’ve got to admit that mainstream maleness is going to come out in different ways when it’s subjected to different social influences.

I notice that science has not yet located the Barbra Streisand gene among gay men, or the Judy Garland gene, or the fashion conscious gene, or the interior design gene, or the wispy pseudo-feminine speech gene. Perhaps because these are learned behaviors, picked up from a social context. Same thing with many of the stereotypes about men and women. Testosterone may give a male more aggression, but how is that aggression channeled or manifested?

Frankly, I think a lot of homosexuality (not all, but a lot) can be attributed to socially constructed gender roles. Sensitive boys who don’t like violence and don’t like treating girls as objects of sexual conquest, or who aren’t sufficiently macho or sexually aggressive, are encouraged to come out of the closet. Strong girls with minds of their own who don’t like being patronized or used, or who have bad experiences with abusive men, are encouraged to become lesbians. Ironically, some cultural conservatives unwittingly encourage “homosexuality” by defending some traditional yet artificial standards of what it means to be a “true man” and “true woman.” When there’s little bend, it can lead to breaking. Or, to use a different analogy, when the bar is set too high (needlessly so), some will give up in frustration and finally admit to being “gay.”

I know it’s more complex than this, but I’m saying I think traditional gender roles are responsible for some–not all–of the homosexuality in America today. Why wasn’t this the case a hundred years ago, when traditional gender roles were even more monolithic? Because we didn’t have the navel-gazing, therapeutic, hedonistic, culturally-liberal-affirming society we have today. Back then, Americans didn’t have the time or energy for so much nonsense. We do today. So sensitive boys have another option, instead of just feeling a little out of place among their male peers, and strong girls have another option as well.

As cultural conservatives, most of us would see nurture and culture as playing roles in all kinds of things, including sexual behavior. Why should gender be any different? Scripture doesn’t set much in stone. The post-Fall pronouncements of God toward Eve can be seen just as easily be seen as predictions as curses. The patriarchy of the OT also includes Deborah, prophet and judge. Paul’s words about women and wives can be seen in the light of his references to Priscilla and the apostle Junia or to his “neither male nor female” line in Galatians. It depends on what we want to highlight.

When you write, “Boys, no less than girls, need role-models. To be sure, boys need female role models who exhibit, in word and deed, what it means to be a woman of character, grace, and dignity. But at the same time, boys need male role models who demonstrate the character traits proper to men.” I agree that boys and girls both need role models, including role models of their own gender, but why should we assume that character, grace, and dignity are inherently female traits? Why can’t a female show what it means to be woman of strength and courage, as well as character, grace, and dignity? I’m co-raising a strong-willed girl right now. It’s sometimes a challenge, but strength of will and mind might serve her well in a host of areas as she grows up, including resisting the nonsense of the world and the temptations of the devil. And what are the character traits proper to men? Those often-exaggerated and constricting traits are easily exploited by our godless culture for purposes of war and consumption.

As C.S. Lewis points out, in an age of drought we’ll often hear about the dangers of water and vice versa. Do we really need more emphasis on boys being stronger and girls being weaker? Or men being tough and women being pretty? Have you noticed the gender-segregated toy aisles? Frilly pink garbage for girls, aggressive black garbage for boys. Barbie and guns. Princesses and skulls. Take your predetermined pick. The world–even politically-correct, progressive America–has not changed as much as you might think in the past half-century, when it comes to gender roles. Men are more involved in parenting, which is a good thing, in my book. There are more women in the workplace, although few in top management positions. Beyond that, there haven’t been a lot of deep changes, as opposed to superficial PC changes.

Grown women are still referred to as “girls” on national television. Women in the media dress in a way that men do not. Hollywood does not give good roles to women beyond a certain age or outside a certain body type. Those who want to stay competitive undergo the scalpel, most of whom end up looking like freaks as a result. “Breast enhancement” isn’t just for the stars anymore; it’s for middle America because…I guess it’s important for women to have big boobs, although they shouldn’t be used for nursing a baby. (Kudos to Sarah Palin and Salma Hayek for being counterexamples, though.)

Pornography is more rampant but it’s very “conservative,” in terms of gender roles. The ease with which almost all prominent, respectable men give interviews to Playboy and Penthouse without anyone batting an eye is one indication that not much has changed. The radical feminists have not triumphed. The ladies’ auxiliary of the Democratic Party is riding high, but its members are not real feminists, as their reaction to the Clinton scandals of 1998-99 proved beyond a doubt; they were always more committed to power, privilege, and abortion, than they ever were to actual women. Women harassed, threatened, and raped by a pro-abortion “liberal” man count for nothing, beyond their status as annoyances and unpleasant reminders of “feminist” hypocrisy.

When Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians, he identifies love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. He does not list separate traits for men and women. There is one list, and many of the traits sound rather “girlish” or “womanly” by mainstream American societal standards. What’s wrong with a man being gentle? Jesus Christ exhibited the full range of human traits–gentleness and strength, meekness and courage. They don’t have to be thought of as opposites or gender-determined.

I know I’ve opened a can of worms with my musings on homosexuality and feminism. I don’t intend to elaborate. If you disagree, I’d just ask you to not miss my bigger point.

Mark, even though you and I see things somewhat differently, I commend you for writing your essay. You set forth a valid perspective and you do it well. What you’ve written has provoked us to think and discuss, which means it’s a big success.

avatar Jeff Taylor March 17, 2010 at 12:57 am

P.S. – I believe in popular sovereignty and local control (within certain moral and constitutional limits). If a majority of parents do not want their boys coached by a woman, I would support their right to have their way even if I disagreed with their view.

avatar Wessexman March 17, 2010 at 12:57 am

Well Mark as a Christian Platonist I do not consider gender roles completely socially constructed, though there is obviously a degree of social input. However even if you do think gender roles are completely socially constructed then it doesn’t follow that they can be changed willy nilly as any Burkean conservative knows. If social institutions are complex and intertwined then one as central as gender roles will be very hard to remake if it is rashly and rapidly assaulted.

avatar Bruce Smith March 17, 2010 at 7:46 am

Statistically it is highly likely that the person who has spent the most time “coaching” you to believe in your abilities and “coaching” you to understand the relevance and achievement to be had by socializing and cooperating with others is a female. Your mother. Psychologists and sociologists need to be consulted to determine why male chauvinism and misogyny can subsequently develop. There is also the observation to be made that the value of these two characteristics would seem to be negative with regard to the success of fundamentalism Muslim countries in male world team sports competitions.

avatar Brandon March 17, 2010 at 10:42 am

With regard to Jeff Taylor’s thoughtful post, I would like to mention an observation I have had for some time now. In regard to traditional gender roles, it seems that especially in the realm of “being a man”, the more superficial, physical aspects are impressed in today’s society. Big, muscular, energetic, and aggressive men are seen as ideal. I’m 22 years old and amongst many young men my age is an obsession with building massive muscles. Some will even resort to steroids to ensure that this happens.

Thus, my conjecture is that modern society has done away with any meaningful purpose for men in life. Technology and machinery has all but vanquished traditional masculine occuputional pursuits. Hence the reason why men either obsess about getting bulging biceps and sculpted pecs or take the other route and become homosexual.

In my estimation, modern technological cosmopolitan society has erased all opportunites for human beings to actually live any meaningful roles as men or women. Think of the antithesis, that of the agrarian community, which promotes fullfilling physical work on on the land and cultivates manly character in men, while women cultivate the home in the spirit of hearty domesticity. This form of living left little time for ruminations about “social constructs” and “sexual preference” and the like. The way of life gave meaning to both men and women working as seperate parts of an integrated whole. Cosmopolitan society and culture has cultivated an increasingly meaningless and inhuman mode of “existing” and not truly living.

avatar Steve K. March 17, 2010 at 2:18 pm

It’s hard to express how surprised I am at the comments on this post – simply put there are a lot of attitudes expressed here vis a vis sex and sex roles (or “gender”) that I would have never associated with people interested in a Front Porch Republic and all that it implies, or at least what I thought it implied.

I think feminism occupies a place near the top of the hierarchy of ideas that have poisoned our society and culture and make an front porch republic so necessary if we are to recover our society and humanity. Things like the female football coach are just an absurd manifestation of this root problem.

In the same vein as women and football is women and the military and since I didn’t play football in high school (track and cross country instead) but was in the Army, I’ll just move over to the issue with the military. There’s more to it, but at heart it’s very similar. It has to do with sex roles and it has to do with the cognitive dissonance that feminism induces. I spent about half my time in the Army in all-male units and the other half in mixed-sex units. There was no comparison between the two – the all-male units were superior in every way to the mixed-sex units. First, physically superior, and soldiering is above all a physical way of life. Female soldiers were weaker than their male counterparts but expected to do the same jobs, which meant that not every soldier could pull his or her weight (and which meant that in certain jobs women could expect assistance that would not be provided to men). Women have much lesser physical fitness standards than men in the Army, so they are capable of less on the battlefield. There are other factors too, like hygeine. Male soldiers can live for weeks and months in the field and keep hygeinic with very little. Not so with the ladies.

These differences, in an environment where everyone is expected to be strong and pull their own weight, beyond practical problems, breed cynicism and morale issues as male soldiers know they are held to a higher standard than female soldiers but are not given commensurate consideration. There are also plenty of issues with fraternization (read sex) among the troops in mixed sex units. When I was a battalion adjutant, my battalion dropped in personnel readiness ratings due to pregnancies among the female soldiers. This came not long after the bright idea to put women and men, originally living in separate barracks, first in the same barracks buildings, then in on the same floors. It was so bad the clinic was sending boxes of condoms to the units to make available for soldiers so as to cut down on the pregnancies.

There’s more but I’ll leave it for another time or a follow-up post; now is a good time to get at a larger issue. This gets right to a fundamental moral failing of our society: we send mothers to war. We tend not to even see it in this term, but that’s because most of us have bought into the lie that men and women are interchangeable, self-actualizing units bounded only by their desires and will. It is a mechanistic view of humanity, part and parcel of the Culture of Death. But make no mistake – women are the mothers in our society (not men – surprise!), and it is perverse to arm them and send them to the battle. A society that contemplates that no longer understands
life and has no longer any sense of human propriety. It is of a piece with abortion, murdering our children in the name personal convenience and self-actualization. There are plenty of moms out there in harm’s way, in fact no small number of them got to be (single) moms in the barracks in the first place (see above). In a society rightly ordered according to the will of the Lord, women tend to life and do not do service with weapons, that is the province of the men. The issue with the female football coach is just another facet of this sex role confusion, confused society thinking that a women should mentor young men in that most battle-like of sports (well, except maybe for hockey).

For those of you who cried sexism at Prof. Mitchell’s piece, how do you see the relationship of the sexes in a Front Porch world anyway? Assuming its likeness to traditional agrarian society – which I assume to be the basis of the Front Porch – do you think the women will drive the plough and chop down the tree, and the men spin the wool? I ask this because I can’t think of a traditional agrarian society, not a one, where there wasn’t a clear division of sex roles. I don’t think this is an accident, I think it’s obvious that this division was arrived at naturally. Why would we think an FPR society operating under “gender norming” would be any kind of success?

avatar Brandon March 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Well spoken truths, Steve K. You illuminate succinctly the exact reasons I decided against joining the military when I turn 18 in 2006.

avatar Marion Miner March 17, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I played varsity football in high school for four years and loved it. I got my ass kicked every day my freshman year and didn’t start until I was a junior, but it was an experience that could not have been replicated anywhere else.

If a woman had ever been hired as the football coach I would have transferred.

Grammar…. you have no idea. I couldn’t even read your whole post. Ridiculous.

Mark hit it right on the head. Furthermore, boys need to kick the crap out of each other occasionally. Football is the perfect channel.

avatar Robert March 17, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Steve K,

As to your last point. There are numerous examples of hunter-gatherer societies, some of which still exist in parts of South America, wherein the women did exactly the jobs you mention. While it’s true the men in these societies spend their time hunting and “being important”(that’s the best I could come up with)rather than spinning wool, it’s nonetheless shows that a society can at least function with non-traditional gender roles.

I once attended a lecture for an anthropology class in which the presenter argued that women were responsible for the development of stationary agricultural societies. His argument, based on artifacts and the layout of early Mesopotamian villages, was that women sought out desirable plants and brought them back to the encampments, where they developed methods and tools for breaking the ground and planting the aforementioned plants.

avatar pb March 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Grammar:

As you say, the question is: who is better suited for the job? It seems a D.C. school has decided that a woman is the best person for the job of football coach and the only reason that the author of this piece takes issue with that decision is that he believes the coaching of football should only be done by males. That, somehow, men’s ability to coach football will always trump woman’s regardless of other considerations or at least that if a man and woman are equally qualified, then the man should always be selected based on his ability to be a role model. I disagree with this position, however unimpressive my disagreement is.

The author is not saying that men’s ability to coach football will always trump woman’s regardless of other considerations — he is saying that there are other considerations–there is more to being a coach than someone who gives direction on playing the game. He is also a mentor, father-figure, and male role-model.

avatar pb March 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Robert:

It seems to me that even if it could be claimed that there are “non-traditional gender roles” in some hunter-gatherer societies, there is nonetheless a division of roles according to gender. (Including the exercise of political authority.)

avatar pb March 17, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Statistically it is highly likely that the person who has spent the most time “coaching” you to believe in your abilities and “coaching” you to understand the relevance and achievement to be had by socializing and cooperating with others is a female. Your mother. Psychologists and sociologists need to be consulted to determine why male chauvinism and misogyny can subsequently develop.

Actually, statistically it is more likely that it is the father, if there is one around, who encourages independence and initiative. No father –> a host of problems. Before a male can cooperate as male he must have a sense of self as a male. Otherwise he’s an emasculated sheep subject to another.

There is also the observation to be made that the value of these two characteristics would seem to be negative with regard to the success of fundamentalism Muslim countries in male world team sports competitions.

As of disparity of wealth were not the most important reason, if not only.

avatar Robert March 17, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I just realized I uploaded the unedited verion of my last post. I apologize for the grammar and punctuation errors.

avatar D.W. Sabin March 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm

In the aborning Managerial Pagan Edifice, where the role of BAAL rotates based upon covering all the bases, there is no longer any need for such pesky things as gender nor is there much need for any muscle tone beyond that required of the genus Dictostylium. Consuming the various effluvia of the robust Popular Culture is the sum total of the job and so by all means, into the mosh pit one and all.

Still though, congratulations to that young woman who displayed an obvious level of reluctance at being used as a political football by one of our Top Slime Molds. I wish her well. Young black men are ahead of their white counterparts, they are well-used to the strongest person in their lives being a woman. If there is one thing that the lapsed republic is most professional at, it is tossing the family into the crypt and throwing away the key.

Just this morning, on the radio, I listened as a woman informed the moderator that woman-owned/run businesses are out-performing men-run businesses, including our Hedge Funds (not that this is a clear victory). The Faustian Bargain is coming home to roost however because while men used to be just scum, now they are becoming both scum and worthless. But their hair is moussed perfectly and they are highly skilled at computer games. Three more decades of this and the best thing a Woman could do for herself is buy a Mule. They offer the same stubborn blockheadedness of the man, no small measure of brute muscle tone and of course, they will be useful around home.

avatar Deanna March 17, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Gender confusion is the host of many current problems effecting women as well as men. Mark presented a fabulous argument that a female coach can not serve well a male football team so I will say no more about it. Instead I want to address the question of whether the selection of a woman football coach is a true victory for women. If this was an isolated story about a specific woman and a specific football team, it would probably not get much attention. But there is more to this story. The selection of this woman is viewed as a victory for all women. Inherent in this story is the belief that the important “things” in life are wealth and power, and that women as well as men should have access to both. Football, which was once a recreation, is now Big Business, and women are clamoring for their piece of the pie. But money and power are not the most important “things”; God, home, family, community, friendship, character, virtue, culture, and service are more important. By claiming this woman’s selection as a victory for women, we are focusing our attention on the wrong “things” and the wrong people. Women have always played a large role in forming society by their contributions to home and family and community. There is nothing little or degrading in this work. G.K. Chesterton makes a great argument that there is nothing little about the work of the homemaker. Sadly, most women do not even protest the shift in focus.

avatar Mark T. Mitchell March 17, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Jeff Taylor,
That was a terrific comment that could be a post in itself. While I don’t have time to respond in a way that your comment deserves, I want to clarify one point. I did not intend to suggest that some virtues or character traits are specifically masculine or feminine. Strength, endurance, grace, and dignity are things we should all strive for. These can, though, manifest in different ways and some of those differences are tied to maleness and femaleness.

Perhaps down the road we can think about running a symposium on these issues. I suspect we’d all learn plenty.

avatar Bruce Smith March 17, 2010 at 9:26 pm

As if women rearing children on their own through no fault of their own never exhibit independence or initiative. As if oil wealth would not level the playing the field and coupled with extra strong male bonding sweep all before them.

avatar Cecelia March 17, 2010 at 11:54 pm

well call me old fashioned but I always thought that the way boys got their male role models was – male marries female – they have kids – male sticks around to raise kid. Male then models to son (and daughter) what it means to be a decent man.

And in the absence of FATHERS – some high school football coach is going to be the male role model a boy needs? The fate of continued masculinity resting in the hands of – football coaches. The nation for sure is in dire peril. Personally I sometimes get the impression that the penchant for football is what deprives boys of the attention of their fathers – all that couch time watching football instead of actually doing something with the son.

Is this a real discussion – like the same folks who perceive that our schools are a disaster and at best preparation for participation in the consumer culture – but – high school football – run by exactly the same folks who bring you high school education – is somehow exempt from all the ills of the system that it is part of? I do believe we are having some consistency problems here.

all it takes to make men out of them is kicking butt on a muddy field and a male football coach who they will see for maybe 3-4 months out of the year. This being a guy thing sure is easy then.

I do appreciate that I may simply be reinforcing the ideas of some posting here that education has truly ruined women – but – I do think that if one seeks role models for a boy then one should focus first on Fathers, Grandfathers, Uncles, Men in the community who support their families, serve their communities. Men who spend time with their kids. Men who show their kids that being a man sort of takes just a little bit more than butt kicking.

avatar pb March 18, 2010 at 1:27 am

As if women rearing children on their own through no fault of their own never exhibit independence or initiative. As if oil wealth would not level the playing the field and coupled with extra strong male bonding sweep all before them.

Does that description apply to the majority of single mothers? I don’t think so. Even if it did, it would not prove that a mother is interchangeable with a father.

Any evidence that oil-producing Muslim countries are spending substantial amounts of money on sports?

avatar pb March 18, 2010 at 1:31 am

Is this a real discussion – like the same folks who perceive that our schools are a disaster and at best preparation for participation in the consumer culture – but – high school football – run by exactly the same folks who bring you high school education – is somehow exempt from all the ills of the system that it is part of? I do believe we are having some consistency problems here.

That football is associated with high school is accidental to the arguments being proposed by the author — they would apply even if football was being managed by the YMCA, the city recreation, or some other organization.

avatar Bruce Smith March 18, 2010 at 7:31 am

The object of the movie “Remembering the Titans” was to make the point that great leaders are transcendent from a social cohesion aspect simply because they teach others to stop playing zero-sum games both on the field and off it. Trying to label races and genders so that members of these have greater or lesser attributes is part of these zero-sum games.

avatar pb March 18, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Remember the Titans is about overcoming racial bigotry, as the racial differences separating the whites and blacks were irrelevant to the playing of football. The existence of real differences between men and women does come into play with respect to being a father figure.

avatar Bruce Smith March 18, 2010 at 4:50 pm

The essence of racial bigotry is that somebody of different race is not as good as you are and that includes not being as capable. So despite the fact that coach Denzil Washington from the closed black high school is preferred over the coach from the closed white high school to sort out integration issues in the new combined high school mixed race football team the default bottom line in “Remember the Titans” was that a member of the black race can’t offer leadership to a mixed race football team as well as a member of the white race can. The bottom line of many of the posts in this topic is the same prejudice, namely that a female can’t offer leadership as well as a male. So the concluding logic of this line of reasoning would probably be to press for a constitutional amendment denying females the right to run for President on the grounds of inferior capability. Can’t lead a football team so can’t lead a country! I think Queen Elizabeth Ist, Margaret Thatcher and Indira Ghandhi would have enjoyed much laughter to hear how leading a football team is so much more difficult than leading a country!

avatar pb March 18, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Any differences between races regarding physical ability are either insignificant, or can be reduced due to selection. A black man and a white man are still men. But a woman is not the same as a man, and a mother is not the same as a father. You can cite 3 examples which can be explained given the existing political structures which they assumed. You can choose to pretend that nature respects your egalitarianism. But the fact remains that women tend to not be able to exercise authority over others well. (Which is not really Mr. Mitchell’s point, since he is talking about father figures.)

avatar Grammar March 18, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Your logic here is flawed. You do not point to any substantial differences between men and women and blacks and whites other than that their names are different. You are correct a woman is not a man and a father is not a mother. Similarly, blacks are not whites and black men are not the same as white men. Two different things can not be the same. Then there is the argument that both black men and white men are men. Well, in the same way men and women are both human. The point being that this logic does not identify the defining features of either. One might query that the differences between blacks and whites and men and women are biological, but this article assumes something more. It seems that you are suggesting a substantial difference between the sexes, that men have a natural proclivity to command authority, while women inherently lack this quality. This has never been my experience. I can think of a long list of female educators and mothers I have encountered who have no problem exercising a great deal of authority as though it was the most natural thing in the world and I have no reason to doubt that it is not. I’m not necessarily arguing that there are no differences between man and woman but their biology, yet I remained uncovinced that the true difference is that one is more naturally authoritative than the other.

avatar Wessexman March 19, 2010 at 12:42 am

Grammer the point is that traditionalists do tend to think there are differences in gender both naturally and socially constructed, and the socially constructed parts are generally complex and not to be chanfed willy nilly. The author is just saying that if you believe this you will have problems with woman coaches, I don’t think an indepth discussion of the basis of this views of gender roles was sort.

avatar Wessexman March 19, 2010 at 12:48 am

Deanna excellent post. G.K Chesterton expresses this issue so well. This ideal of woman doing everything men do seems to me in fact a complete repudiation of centuries of female history and the woman of the past. It is saying homemaking is somehow inferior to other work, whereas I’d say it is superior to most, and that the woman of the past who often gloried in their roles were fools.

avatar Junker March 19, 2010 at 10:31 am

Anyone ever see this movie??

http://watch-classic-movies.blogspot.com/2009/11/watch-swept-away-online-free-old.html

Very interesting flick regarding the roles of the rich and poor, men and women……

avatar pb March 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Grammar: The logic is fine, your difficulty is not with the logic but with the assertions being made, which you think are false. Women can exercise authority over children as mothers and teachers. Then there is the exercise of authority over adolescent males and men. Getting males follow orders when there is a support system and culture of obedience and respect for the rule of law? Not too difficult. Starting from scratch or under primitive conditions, when there is much at stake? Virtually impossible.

avatar Cecelia March 21, 2010 at 12:05 am

Homemaking is boring – mind numbingly boring. Yes – I get much satisfaction from providing a nice home and good meals for my family – but part of why I can be so satisfied is that I get to have an occupation outside my home which is challenging and stimulating and financially rewarding. I challenge any male who asserts the superiority of spending your time making beds and cleaning the bathroom over male work to spend a year or two doing such.

avatar Wessexman March 21, 2010 at 3:55 am

I disagree Cecelia, most jobs in the modern economy are very boring. Even in a more traditional setting it is hard to see how providing for and building a healthy household can be seen as more boring than most jobs.

avatar Brandon March 21, 2010 at 10:17 am

Indeed, Wessexman. This stiffling drudgery of the modern workplace leaves much to be desired.

avatar Brandon March 21, 2010 at 10:20 am

And also, as a very exuberant and dynamic homemaker I once had the pleasure of being acquainted with told me: “If a woman finds homemaking boring, she must be lacking in creativity and intelligence.”

avatar richard March 21, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Cecelia,
I have met a number of young women who feel exactly opposite of you. Even some with “professional” careers that might be thought to bring fulfillment. They would much rather be home with their babies.

I would agree that being an isolated housewife in a suburban house might be stifling. The suburbs down the road from me are eerily empty all day. However, extended family used to do much to eliminate the isolation that leads to boredom. When I was a little agrarian kid, a lot of work (canning, cooking, child rearing, gardening, butchering) was shared between my mom, grandma and aunts. My older great uncles pitched in, as did my dad and uncles when they came home. While there was a traditional division of labor by gender, the idea of Dad having a right to come home from work and plop down to watch TV because he spent 8 hours at work was unknown. An extended family and neighbors did not eliminate drudgery, but it did make it sociable.

avatar Wessexman March 21, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Indeed, I was going to say the same Richard. It is rather different being a homemaker in a traditional setting with extended family, neighbours and friends frequently looking in to being a suburban stay-at-home mum today. But I still don’t think that would be more boring than most jobs today.

avatar Cecelia March 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I should have been clearer in my post – homemaking is not done by a woman alone – homes are made by families and yes the woman usually serves a singular role as organizer of the whole effort. But a FAMILY makes a home. The unfortunate thing is that the noble and joyous act of homemaking also includes housework – which is mind numbingly boring.

I appreciate you meet woman who stay at home and are rapturous about it – I meet woman who worry that their brains are turning into jello and who are rapturous when their kids get older and they can get a part time job.

The assertion that toilet cleaning, floor moping, and polishing the silver is all it takes to fulfill any human being is nonsense and all this rhetoric about the great sanctified and superior status of household drudgery is at worst propaganda and at best a susceptibility to myth. Woman like men have talents and gifts that are God given and like men they find satisfaction is using those talents and gifts in ways that do not apply to doing the laundry. I take great pride in my home and my table – I grow our vegetables/fruits and jar that which I grow. I bake my own bread and I even quilt. But I also have a full time job as a professor which is a source of great accomplishment and pleasure to me and enriches my family life too.

The difficulty with believing in myths is we end up losing reality. Woman and men historically both used to work in the home so that women were not isolated in their homemaking. Women raised chickens and sold the eggs, they sold their surplus candles, they made cloth and sewed. They contributed financially to the family and expressed their intelligence and creativity in those activities. Urban and working class woman did not stay home – they went to the factory or the house they cleaned or did laundry for just like their husbands.

Today – women who stay at home do not contribute financially to the family – so they express their creativity and intelligence by buying Martha Stewart craft kits at the Mall – seriously take a look at some of the looney things woman get themselves involved in – I know – I have done it. Woman at home no longer have the company of other woman or their husbands. They are isolated and that isolation is very wearing. Consider the role of corporate policies in absence of fathers from the home. Professional class workers are expected to work a standard 60 hour week. Ergo absent fathers. Working class men end up with two jobs to support families. I suspect those corporate policies have more to do with feminizing our sons than the two female football coaches.

Perhaps in the days of GK Chesterton it was possible for a woman to find stimulation and opportunities to express her creativity in the home. But the world Chesterton knew isn’t around anymore. The stay at home Mom is as much a consumer and as much a product of our distorted consumer society as the working Mom. If we really do want to create the Front Porch society – we need to be real about separating the past from what is happening now.

avatar Grammar March 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Pb,

I think you are misunderstanding what I am saying. The logic is flawed because you have committed a non sequitur. In other words your conclusions are not the necessary end of your premise. You assert that men are different from women and thus should occupy different roles in society. The flaw here is that difference alone does not dictate an inability to fulfill similar roles, e.g. blacks and whites. The missing step is that you do not clearly state what specific attributes men have that women do not that make them unqualified to coach high school football. That is the issue, hence the relevance of female teachers. Females that teach at the secondary level are examples of women exercising authority over adolescent males. As far as doing this without the support of society, culture and the rule of law, I think that if we take this point to its logical conclusions we see some very serious problems. Without these supports it would be difficult for anyone to exercise authority and inevitably it would come down to a contest of brute strength in which many men, as well as women, would lose out. Something about this survival of the fittest scenario does not seem optimal or even desirable.

avatar Brandon March 21, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Cecelia– Thank you for clarifying your position! I agree with you that consumer society has poisoned every aspect of our lives and made it nearly impossible for anything of substance to take root. It is very much the stuff of tragedy.

avatar richard March 21, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Hi Celilia,
I have no issue with a woman using her God given gifts to teach. Having been raised in some unusually archaic circumstances, I also have no romantic notions about some past “good old days”. Many of your observations about the problem are spot on.

However, since you brought up the topic of dangerous myths, I would put forward that one of the most dangerous myths is that a woman “can do it all” as professional,wife and mom. The young professional women I meet are working the same 60 hour week as their male counterparts. They either burnout by also trying to cook and clean, keeping some semblance of a household; or the successful ones hire “somebody else” to scrub the toilet and buy take-out dinners. Thus “somebody else” gets the drudgery of cleaning toilets for strangers all day, and Then gets to go home and clean their own toilet.

The sad fact is that somebody has to clean the toilet. Getting out of necessary work is the cause of a lot of social ills. By the way, prior to indoor plumbing, cleaning the toilet was mens’ work. I never was old enough to do it, but watched the operation. It brought the concept of drudgery to a new low.

My personal take on this is that we need better theology of work and vocation in our society. Then we can look drudgery right in the eye and spread it out fairly.

I enjoyed reading and thinking about your comments.

avatar pb March 22, 2010 at 12:50 am

Grammar:

I think you are misunderstanding what I am saying. The logic is flawed because you have committed a non sequitur. In other words your conclusions are not the necessary end of your premise. You assert that men are different from women and thus should occupy different roles in society. The flaw here is that difference alone does not dictate an inability to fulfill similar roles, e.g. blacks and whites. The missing step is that you do not clearly state what specific attributes men have that women do not that make them unqualified to coach high school football.

If there is anyone talking about qualification solely with respect to technical expertise, it’s you. Hence it’s a non sequitur, for you. But Mr. Mitchell is arguing that a coach is not merely a teacher of how to play football — he is more than that. In so far as a coach is a father figure to males, then a woman cannot be a coach. You may argue that a coach doesn’t have to be a father figure. I agree with the author that for adolescent males and young men, a father figure is more important than a mother figure.

That is the issue, hence the relevance of female teachers. Females that teach at the secondary level are examples of women exercising authority over adolescent males.

Not really. They exercise more authority at the primary level — here I use authority in a strict sense with respect to giving direction related to moral spheres of action. In high school there is very little of this. Some may take it upon themselves to advise young men about doing what is morally right, but I am betting that very few young men ask them for this advice. To speak of authority in other sense is to use it equivocally.

As far as doing this without the support of society, culture and the rule of law, I think that if we take this point to its logical conclusions we see some very serious problems. Without these supports it would be difficult for anyone to exercise authority and inevitably it would come down to a contest of brute strength in which many men, as well as women, would lose out. Something about this survival of the fittest scenario does not seem optimal or even desirable.

There can be hierarchy based not only on strength but also on respect, as you see in “primitive” societies. I wouldn’t characterize them as “survival of the fittest.” Without the aid of men, women would not be given positions of authority outside of the family. That’s reality.

avatar pb March 22, 2010 at 12:53 am

Richard:

However, since you brought up the topic of dangerous myths, I would put forward that one of the most dangerous myths is that a woman “can do it all” as professional,wife and mom. The young professional women I meet are working the same 60 hour week as their male counterparts. They either burnout by also trying to cook and clean, keeping some semblance of a household; or the successful ones hire “somebody else” to scrub the toilet and buy take-out dinners. Thus “somebody else” gets the drudgery of cleaning toilets for strangers all day, and Then gets to go home and clean their own toilet.

Obviously, the men should be helping women out more. Or did you not see that response coming?

To which it can be noted that men and women have different standards of what is to be considered “clean” and that one standard isn’t necessarily the “right” one.

avatar pb March 22, 2010 at 12:55 am

I agree with the author that for adolescent males and young men, a father figure is more important than a mother figure.

I should add that in a fragmented, atomistic society, the more reinforcement of a positive understanding of masculinity the better, and so adolescent males need more father figures to bear witness to it, not less.

avatar richard March 22, 2010 at 8:07 am

PB,
Indeed the men should be helping more, but there will be tension. Actually, my wife and I have a very divergent standard of “clean”.
However, this can vary among women too. One of the sources of conflict in my marriage has been a cleaning standard that most of the women who raised me maintained. My wife refers to this standard as “dirty English”, blaming some of my DNA.

All marriages are compromises.

avatar Sam M March 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm

“Homemaking is boring – mind numbingly boring.”

So are most jobs. Even good jobs.

“I challenge any male who asserts the superiority of spending your time making beds and cleaning the bathroom over male work to spend a year or two doing such.”

I challenge any woman who asserts the superiority of spending your time swinging a sledgehammer and digging ditches over female work to spend a year or two doing such.

avatar Grammar March 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Pb,

These are the type of specific differences that I was asking for. Now that they have been specified allow me to reiterate and clarify some of the problems that I originally pointed out about this piece. Let’s set aside, for the sake of argument, the fact that girls do play football and it is conceivable that an adolescent girl may be better than her male counterpart at a given position. This fact alone exposes some real flaws considering that you would then have to decide whether it is more important for a female on the team to have a strong role model or for the males to have one. That said, I see some real problems with the belief that adolescent males must have male role models as coaches. I’m not going to disagree that it is good for males to have good male role models, but I do not think that all leadership positions should be decided according to this standard. In other words, what are the limits of this rule? Should all activities be separated by gender or are some meant to be co-educational? If co-educational, what activities should be segregated and which mixed? If separated, when will members of either gender learn to deal with the messiness of working with members of the opposite gender in various contexts, not the least of which is the workplace where a man might have a female superior? Perhaps the implication is that women should never exercise authority over men past adolescence. This is a situation in which I can not see much merit. Maybe the solution is for men to step up and be those role models no matter what their role in society. Perhaps we should expand our definition of role model to include people who do not occupy leadership positions, but interact with adolescents every day. This way there is a plethora of good role models and less of a need to mandate them in certain situations. Perhaps that is too ideal.

In addition, when you quote the word primitive please remember that I never used that word to describe traditional societies. It is not my intent to disparage traditional ways of living, but I do believe that improvements may be made. My critique of your position still stands. A society that grants power only to those with brute strength leads to a survival of the fittest situation. When you add the aspect of respect you are either implying that women are not worthy of respect in this way or that they do not have the strength to garner respect, which, of course, is circular reasoning.

avatar pb March 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm

“Should all activities be separated by gender or are some meant to be co-educational? If co-educational, what activities should be segregated and which mixed? ”

Sports activites should be separated.

“If separated, when will members of either gender learn to deal with the messiness of working with members of the opposite gender in various contexts, not the least of which is the workplace where a man might have a female superior?”

Men do fine learning on the job, even if their superior, regardless of sex, is incompetent. Marriage is where men and women really need to learn how to work together. Outside of marriage, that sort of socialization isn’t that difficult, although the topic of misandrist rules/laws governing the workplace can be left for a different discussion.

avatar Deanna March 22, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Cecilia,

As a homemaker, I disagree with your understanding of the value of this vocation. With all due respect, I am more than a baby-factory or maid or loony crafter. None of these describe my actual value to society. I am an intelligent, college educated woman whose vocation to homemaking contributes to the building of a culture that is socially, economically, and politically healthy. Thus, my contribution extends beyond the home. I am raising nine young people as intelligent, responsible, charitable members of our society. I am also an active member of my parish, a social justice ministry, the local schools, my city, and several scouting programs. These offer me many opportunities for sharing my intelligence, skills, and talents. My impact on our society is greater and reaches further than if I was working full time for a pay check.

Having said that, the question is not whether women should have the right to work outside the home, but whether a woman’s advancement outside the home is a true victory for all women. I believe that women should be allowed to work and advance in their career if they so choose, but I disagree that women’s work outside the home is more valuable than women’s work inside the home. For this reason, I assert that one woman’s career advancement can not be hailed as a victory for ALL women.

Deanna

avatar Wessexman March 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm

With the possible exception of homesteading, a traditional craft in which its true spiritual and vocational nature is allowed, being a writer or artist or a very few outdoors jobs like park ranger or leading nature hikes or something(all of these jobs are either hard to get or like homesteading don’t bring in a great lot of money even if I’d do them anyway.) I cannot think of a modern job better and less boring than a traditional homemaker.

Even many of those modern jobs you might think are less boring, like police officer on balance don’t seem to be.

avatar Wessexman March 22, 2010 at 5:40 pm

It perhaps worth adding that homesteading, which is my dream “job” and probably the best of all regular “employments”(imho.) greatly overlaps with homemaking anyway.

avatar John Willson March 22, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Wow, nothing like football and women to bring out the FPR fault-lines! I love it!

Now, as someone who has played all the sports invented in New England (football, baseball, basketball) and coached them as well, and has played rugby and lacrosse and coached women’s track and cross country at the college level and still coach the kickers on our college football team (at three score years and ten)–sorry, folks, just establishing bonafides here–I guess I come down like the troll under the bridge.

That athletics became part of the Great Social Engineering Operation after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Educational Amendments Act (“Title IX”) of 1972 was ridiculous enough, but to regard women coaching boys or men in football is pure Alice in Wonderland.

I’ve never really cared what the chattering classes think about football. They will never make it go away until it sinks under its own weight of moral and economic corruption (and, given little league fathers and NFL salaries, it just might). Football is an inherently beautiful game, full of grace, courage, teamwork, sacrifice, hope, and manliness. A few women are welcome to play it, but nobody will ever watch them or think of them as promoting anything feminine. If I had a son playing in the district this–for all I know perfectly smart and nice and tough–young woman is appointed to coach, I would simply and quietly change schools.

My wife comes to the playing field after our home football games and she is the first person my kickers want to see, to give her a hug. No social engineering there.

avatar Bruce Smith March 22, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Ah the joys of writing the coach job description. Must be able to act like a “father figure”. Now should that be defined as more like Father Christmas or Rambo? Mmmm…..passing that Equal Opportunities act with that bit about age discrimination doesn’t help in the least!

avatar Katherine T March 23, 2010 at 9:27 am

Dr. Mitchell,

I second your idea of having a colloquium/further discussion on the topic of gender and gender roles. I think that would be a great, especially if Jeff Taylor would come. Great post, Jeff; I found your writing persuasive and incredibly thought provoking.

~kt

avatar Deanna March 23, 2010 at 12:02 pm

The discussion about work and boredom illuminates our societal aversion to work. I was talking recently with two older women, one of whom raised 12 children, about (ironically) the differences between boys and girls, and both commented that their children never complained about being bored because there was always a lot to do. I believe that there is still a lot to do, but our young people are unwilling to do it because it all takes work, and they are convinced that work is boring. For them, work serves to provide the money they need to buy the entertainment they want. Our young people are in a constant search for entertainment.

I recall a story told by John Seymour in one of his books. He was listening intently as an elderly woman described all the activities she had done daily on her farm. When she was finished, he commented that it must have been a lot of work. At which point, she looked at him and replied, no one ever told us it was a lot of work.

avatar Brandon March 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Deanna-

I agree with you that young people are over fixated on entertainment and have an aversion to work. As a young person myself (I just turned twenty two), I’ll say that I hardly blame them, given the intensely boring and stiffling nature of the “work” offered by modern society. Most of it involves pushing papers in a cubicle or working with technology in some form or another. Young people are constantly told how important “math and science” are (to the detriment of most other subjects) and how they need to “get a good job” which usually means one of three career routes: (business, engineering, or technology).

I am dealing with this pressure myself right now. I am a Philosophy major in college and am constantly ridiculed for getting a “worthless degree” and that I should of gone after a degree which will make me some money. However, I have no interest in the current careers paths offered.

I believe there is an intrinsic need for meaning in the lives of human beings and today’s young people are no exception. The work scene today provides little in the way of spiritual fulfillment for anyone. It merely makes one feel like a cog in the ever turning wheels of production and consumption.

I would love nothing more than to be able to be a cowboy or a farmer and live a simple life, raising a family and doing good, hard, honest work on the land. Simple work that leads to purpose and meaning in the lives of individuals and families is the best. However, this is increasingly a non-option. And don’t get me wrong, I believe in intellectual pursuits as well, being an avid knowledge seeker myself. But the career choices given to us all in our corporate centered and hyper-technological world have deprived the human soul of a reason to work.

In short, modern day “work” has been stripped of humanity in the name of efficiency and “progress. No wonder many reject it as boring.

avatar Brandon March 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm

In addition, I forgot to mention that besides the consumerist nature of popular culture and entertainment, I think that young people seek entertainment as a rebellion (consious or subconsious) against the paths of drudgery offered to them.

There are other factors contributing here as well, such as massive feelings of entitlement among the young and a general lack of work ethic, but at the core is an essentially spiritual problem.

avatar pb March 23, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Brandon, I am a bit envious of you as you seem to have discovered some very important lessons at a much earlier age than me. I am waiting to see if the economic crisis precipitates a move towards localism where I live, but I don’t count on it.

avatar pb March 23, 2010 at 5:46 pm

*than I did.

avatar Sam M March 23, 2010 at 6:52 pm

“I agree with you that young people are over fixated on entertainment and have an aversion to work. As a young person myself (I just turned twenty two), I’ll say that I hardly blame them, given the intensely boring and stiffling nature of the “work” offered by modern society.”

Go back to any period of history and find some thoughts about “kids these days.” I am pretty sure this is what all people thought at all times.

At what stage, exactly, was work not “stifling and boring”? People sure complained about it a lot.

avatar Jeffrey Polet March 24, 2010 at 9:04 am

I have little to add to the other comments, except to re-emphasize how this seems to me a continuation of the war against boys, and thus an addition to the FPR canon on how gender constructivism has worked to the disadvantage of boys and girls alike.

One additional thought: anyone in a position of leadership has to have credibility with the group they are leading. Part of that credibility is predicated on the knowledge that the person leading you has gone through and survived in the trenches him (or her) self. It would be difficult to be an effective football coach without having been a player, both in terms of your credibility and in terms of your intimate knowledge of the game. Perhaps the day will come when we mandate that each team must field so many females, most of whom would do so to their distinct disadvantage.

Which itself raises the specter of the unintended consequences of any project of social engineering. If we take Title IX to be emblematic of the effort to create equality for females, one of its more pernicious effects has been to cap male involvement in college athletics at the level of female interest.

avatar Grammar March 24, 2010 at 10:06 am

“One additional thought: anyone in a position of leadership has to have credibility with the group they are leading. Part of that credibility is predicated on the knowledge that the person leading you has gone through and survived in the trenches him (or her) self.”

This statement does have some interesting repercussions if we translate it to the classroom. For example, can I teach African American history as a white man? Can I teach about the Jim Crow south having never been “in the trenches” or without having experienced prejudice and discrimination to anywhere near that extent? There are other obvious places this applies as far as who gets to teach what, but I believe this example makes the point well. It is a problem we must consider.

avatar Bruce Smith March 24, 2010 at 10:21 am

One can go through the “trenches” and learn to be a better sociopath, a better trained killer. I think football has more aspects to it than being Rambo. The beginning of our learning process to act morally and be a team player usually starts with the mother-child bond and certainly teaching team-playing particularly helps keep the sanity of a mother with several children. Many males who’ve posted in this argument seem to have forgotten the authoritative role mothers play probably including their own. Their world has become dominated by the need to look up to “father” figures whereas it seems saner and more rational to me to keep some balance and see that above average leadership skills can be developed by either sex. Pointing out that there seem to be more above average leaders amongst males doesn’t particularly prove anything other than they carry a higher media profile whilst many women choose the less newsworthy option of raising children. This does not preclude the potential for those females to take on a higher media profile leadership role as child rearing pressures abate and you have such an example currently before you who has a very high media profile, Nancy Pelosi. And yes, you may love her or hate her politics, but some media reported that out of sheer frustration she decided to kick ass to get the Health Care bill through, namely Obama’s! Her biography reveals that in her younger years she gave birth to five children in six years. I’m very confident she learned some great leadership techniques in civilizing and motivating that brood! No one doubts that you have to study football and there may well be advantages to playing it but it is not axiomatic you will become a great coach through merely playing it. There are countless examples throughout sporting history of great players who failed to make it as coaches. Leadership skills are complex and can be learned through experience even I suggest at home where the child usually gets the first taste of submission through a female as well as a male authority!

avatar Bruce Smith March 24, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Interesting to read about the Aeta women’s hunting ability in the Phillipines in the section on Social and Economic Structure in this Wikipedia article on Hunter Gatherer’s:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter-gatherer

Can’t imagine there would be a great deal of stereo-typing going on for this supposedly typical male activity amongst these people.

avatar John Willson March 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Bruce Smith,
Sure would like to have the Wicked Witch of the West as my football coach! By the way, she is 70 today. I will be the same three score years and ten on Sunday. I was born to cancel her vote.

avatar Bruce Smith March 26, 2010 at 2:43 pm

John. I’m sure she doesn’t limit herself to kicking Democrat ass (Obama’s)!

avatar Bruce Smith March 27, 2010 at 9:00 am

The Wicked Witch of the West.

Of course calling a woman a witch has always been a time-honored way of shutting a woman up who was telling you something you didn’t want to hear, or doing something better than you, or just plain doing something you didn’t want. If she wouldn’t desist well then you accused her of doing stuff behind your back and threw her on the fire:-

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/opinion/26krugman.html?src=me&ref=opinion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrzMhU_4m-g

avatar George Marshall March 27, 2010 at 3:03 pm

A lot of the comments above remind me of those against all male schools, i.e. that males who go to them will not be able to interact properly with females because they will have no experience in doing so. I always thought that argument incorrect because boys attending those schools would have plenty of opportunity to interact with females. In the same way, those football players with a female coach will have other opportunities for male role models. Is the only male role model they will have their football coach? If so, what about all those other males at the school?

My wrestling coach didn’t teach me to be a man…he taught me about the sport, responsibility and sportsmanship. But none of that had to do with the fact he was a man. I had a lot of male and female teachers in HS, but I don’t think any taught me anything about gender roles. Plus, is it really the responsibility of the school to do that?

avatar Deanna March 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I think this discussion about men and women is less about men and women and more about our values as individuals and as a society. I have to wonder if women (or men) would be grasping for coaching positions if football was just a sport. What makes this job so desirable is that it provides the coach with a great deal of wealth and power. As I said before, football is no longer a form of recreation; it is Big Business. The discussion about whether men or women are better suited to this work ignores the fact that we have assigned football and coaching a place in society that it does not deserve. The most important work is that which values tradition, home, marriage, family, community, place, etc. Again, I have to wonder if women (and men) would be so quick to abandom the home if we recognized the real value of the work done there.

avatar Brendan McHugh March 28, 2010 at 11:50 am

If we’re just talking about “normative” situations, it would be better to keep genders separated, I agree, especially if it is a situation that orients the players to their proper gender roles. But I think there comes a time when athletics can be used to teach players how to relate to members of the opposite sex. When I played ultimate frisbee in college, girls were included on each team, and although their inclusion did not by any means eliminate male bravado – as one guy slapped another fellow in the chest with the frisbee – it did make the men more courteous, not only to the girls, but also to each other. The absence of women from sports at all times would be just as tragic as the absence of women from civilization. It seems they tend to have a civilizing effect.

avatar Brendan McHugh March 28, 2010 at 12:03 pm

An odd example jumped to my mind: young Argentine men were required to practice the tango with each other under the supervision of expert adult men before they ever approached a young lady. When they did, they were experienced and had already learned not to step on feet.

Perhaps sports is a similar affair.

avatar Bruce Smith March 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm

“Coaches–I mean the best kind of coaches–teach far more than the game. They provide an example to their players of strength, character, and grace under pressure. In the process, a good high school coach teaches boys how to be men. He can address them as men and encourage, cajole, and push them to behave in a way befitting men.”

If this is the case Mark what are all these male coaches doing with female basketball teams? You see them so often on TV and nobody seems to get uptight about it.

avatar Mark T. Mitchell March 28, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Bruce,
I think this is a great question and does perhaps count as a point against my argument. At the very least it suggests there is more to think about on this matter. I’ll add another wrinkle: a woman coaching a boy’s golf team doesn’t strike me as nearly problematic as a woman football coach. So is the issue team sports vs. individual sports? Well, maybe not. A woman coaching a boys wrestling team would be a problem in my book. Now let’s flip it around. I assume you would be OK with a man coaching a girl’s golf team. How about a man coaching a girl’s wrestling team? What about a girl’s wrestling team in the first place? In other words, maybe all sports are not created equal.

avatar Brendan McHugh March 28, 2010 at 7:45 pm

A few more wrinkles: is she a mother figure? Is she a sister figure? Would the boys benefit more from a brother figure or a father figure, as young females might benefit more from a figure of their own sex?

Granted, the sister and the mother have a great deal to offer young and old men alike, but perhaps sports is not the best format for that education. Another discipline might be more appropriate.

avatar Bruce Smith March 28, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Mark. I don’t particularly disagree with the idea that not all sports are created equal I just don’t see the point of ruling out somebody who has good tactical knowledge of a sport, etc. plus great leadership and teamwork building skills simply because of their gender or color. Its like applying a filter for the wrong reasons and missing out on a great opportunity. I guess I’ve been lucky to work with some great female leaders and in my own family I’ve seen a female build up a small charity from scratch to employ twenty people using great leadership skills. Maybe not too many females find football that appealing but some do and the movie “Remember the Titans” showed the white coach’s young daughter obsessive and highly knowledge about football as a result of her excellent relationship with her father. Great talent tends to be rare so why handicap yourself in the selection process! A great coach irrespective of gender, color or age will free individuals from prejudice anyway.

avatar Mark T. Mitchell March 29, 2010 at 9:05 am

Bruce,
Just to be clear: I am not saying anything about women leaders per se. Nor am I saying anything about race. Race and sexuality are not analogous. While I am arguing that in some contexts, the maleness or femaleness of the coach matters, the race of the coach is not an issue.

avatar Bruce Smith March 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

Mark. I appreciate that. I use race and age merely as further examples of “labels” that get pointlessly attached.

avatar Deanna March 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm

“I just don’t see the point of ruling out somebody who has good tactical knowledge of a sport, etc. plus great leadership and teamwork building skills simply because of their gender or color.”

What is the purpose of football? Is it a recreational outlet for building a healthy community or is it a business for generating wealth? Why would a woman not coach a women’s football team, except that perhaps it does not create the wealth and power that men’s teams do? Why don’t women’s teams generate the wealth and power of men’s teams? In my opinion, these are not questions of gender equality, these are questions of values. I recommend Wendell Berry’s Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community.

avatar Brendan McHugh April 3, 2010 at 7:35 pm

I guess the word for these people is: “Stop. Think.” Two words, I suppose.

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