If you’ll be watching the Academy Awards on Sunday, swing by here at 8:30. I’ll be liveblogging awards, speeches, and whether the sheer force of Anne Hathaway’s emoting or Seth MacFarlane’s snark melt down the Dolby Theater.
Philly Youth Football League Upholds Ban On Girls Just As First Woman Will Participate In NFL Scouting Combine
The original ban was about safety, the CYO explained then, even if there were no indications that Pla was in any more danger than any of the 11-year-old boys playing football. When they upheld the ban, the reasoning shifted to fears of “inappropriate contact” between male and female players, even though neither Pla nor her family had ever given thought to such an issue before.
At nearly the same time, a football league far larger than the Catholic Youth Organization took a step in the opposite direction. In 2012, the National Football League formally instituted a rule allowing women to participate in its league, and next week, the annual regional scouting combines for amateur players will feature its first female participant.
Lauren Silberman, a 28-year-old former college club soccer player, is attending a regional combine with the hope of becoming the first woman to play in the NFL. The odds that Silberman, a kicker, will make a team are longer-than-long, but that doesn’t matter: the NFL provided a path for women to participate, and for the first time, one will. There are more than 1,600 girls playing on boys’ high school football teams, and multiple women have played college football, so Silberman almost surely won’t be the last woman to go out for the team.
But these stories aren’t as much about football and making the team as they are about just having the chance to play. Women now enjoy far more access to sports than they did 40 years ago, when Title IX became law, but female participation still doesn’t match that of men. Neither does funding, even though sports participation has substantial health, education, and economic benefits for the women and girls who participate. It’s wonderful that the NFL is expanding access to women, but those efforts are undermined when youth leagues like the CYO, where there are more girls who want to play and fewer who have access, refuse to let the Caroline Plas of the world play the games they love.
This post discusses plot points from the February 21 episodes of Parks and Recreation.
Their shows are entirely different animals, but in recent weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope. Both are the main characters of tonally innovative and critically loved but ratings-challenged sitcoms, both have as their best friends older, Alpha-male archetypes, and both lead teams of people who are not always eager to make their lives easy. And both of them recently married their soulmates, laid-back food truck operator Criss Cross and anxious geek and good-government nerd Ben Wyatt, in impromptu ceremonies where they wore dresses that summed up significant themes of the run of their shows. As I watched Leslie and Ben tie the knot on last night’s Parks and Recreation and thought about the episode today, something came clear for me. Liz Lemon is a much pricklier, more challenging character than the relatively normal if professionally ambitious Leslie Knope. But Leslie’s relationship with Ben is more radical than Liz’s marriage to genial weirdo Criss.
Much of Liz Lemon’s dating history was about her coming to terms with what she really wants. In Floyd, she learned that she wanted her career and relationship with New York more than she wanted him in the suburbs. With Drew, she found out that handsome is only as handsome does. Carol turned out to be as rigid as Liz herself was. But in Criss, Liz found someone who was complimentary to her, whose great strength and expression of love for Liz was to help her handle her worst tendencies. He was a guy who’d never mistake an argument at Ikea for a breakup, who wasn’t intimidatingly perfect—his idea of romanticism was making Liz a table out of found objects that almost immediately collapsed—and, as we found out in the finale, really just wanted to stay home and raise their adopted children, letting Liz be the primary breadwinner. It makes sense that Liz married Criss in her Princess Leia outfit: their relationship was about Liz finally embracing herself precisely as she was, even if sometimes it’s the worst, because of society.
But while I appreciate 30 Rock‘s embrace of ladyweirdness, from female science fiction fandom, to using your treadmill as a hanger for a ham-stained wedding dress, to ambivalence about sex, Liz and Criss’s relationship came down to a fairly common argument about being loved for who you really are, even if who you are is kind of neurotic and strange. Parks and Recreation, by contrast, took two relatively conventional humans, albeit ones with intense fondness for calzones, waffles, Game of Thrones, and in Leslie’s case, a hoarding problem, and used a conventionally shot sitcom wedding where a makeshift family comes together at the last minute, to make permanent a relationship based on ideas that are deeply challenging by the standards of popular culture.
When Leslie met Ben, he was working as an Indiana State auditor, a job he’d chosen in part to redeem his disastrous tenure as the teenaged mayor of his small town, where he’d bankrupted the city government by building an elaborate ice skating complex and been impeached. The auditor’s job was a way for Ben to demonstrate that he’d definitively left the misconceptions of his first foray into government behind, so someone might give him the chance to run an agency or a city again. But over the course of Ben’s relationship with Leslie, he’s made a significant shift from planning for his own long-term ambitions to working to make Leslie’s dreams happen.
Over at io9, Rob Bricken asks whether Batwoman’s in-costume proposal to her girlfriend Maggie Sawyer will earn DC Comics good-will that it lost by hiring National Organization for Marriage board member and virulent homophobe Orson Scott Card, or “is this too little, too late for the company”?
I’m 99% sure the only reason DC hasn’t mentioned Batwoman’s marriage to the press is because it would call attention to the furor caused by the company’s recent decision to hire Orson Scott Card, scifi author and ardent detractor of gay rights, to write Adventures of Superman. Angry fans and retailers alike are planning to boycott the Superman comic in general, and some DC in particular unless Card is removed.
It’s too early to tell if Batwoman’s proposal will at all mitigate DC’s public relations problems with Card, or even if Card might have a problem collecting a check from a company whose works seemingly condone gay marraige. But at the moment, at least Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer are happy, even if nobody else is.
I’m always delighted to see more, and richer depictions of gay characters, especially in a medium where they were marginalized by the Comics Code and the disapprobation of Congress, a panic fed by cooked research. But this plot development won’t save DC Comics, and not just because a proposal on the page doesn’t really outweigh the harm Card’s speech and actions cause in the real world. Who gets hired to create content and what content ends up on the page are issues that are often related, but that function separately. People who care about where their money goes and the values of the content that they consume are going to care about both of those elements.
Something I wish I’d said more clearly the first itme I wrote about DC’s decision to hire Card to write Superman is that calls to fire him don’t appeal to me that strongly because it separates out his hiring from DC’s other hiring practices, which among other things, have produced a staff with very few women and no lead African-American writers on any comics titles. A decision by comics stores not to stock the title, demonstrating that Card’s values turn them off from a product that otherwise might have been profitable for them, makes more sense. And what would be most interesting to me is an explanation from DC about what process lead to Card’s selection. What made his pitches’ stronger than other writers? How did they weigh the likely publicity challenges from his employment against what appears to be a larger institutional imperative to modernize the brand by telling stories about committed gay couples? If DC Comics wants its image to be gay-friendly, then it should have been expected to be evaluated for consistency. More same-sex engagements doesn’t eliminate the appearance of a glaring contradiction in DC’s image.
If all DC wants is our money, rather than our social approval, that’s fine. But it needs to recognize that fishing for money on the grounds that it’s producing progressive and game-changing content is going to be a more difficult task if there’s a disconnect between what the content is, and who the money spent on it ends up going to.
The bridge is yours.
-A closer look at Leslie Knope’s wedding dress.
-I actually agree that an oral history of Up All Night would be really interesting.
-Soviet alternate history is clearly the hot new thing.
-James Marsden is going to be in Anchorman 2, and I am excited!