html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Still? We are <i>still</i> doing this?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Still? We are still doing this?

In 1995 I went to Nationals to fight. I lost my first fight and was done the first day. Struggling back tears, I was walking back to the stands when a coach I'd met before caught sight of me. He called me over and asked where I was from. Trying not to cry, I told him my university and my master's name. "Well," he said sympathetically. "You must be why they say California girls are so pretty."

I couldn't believe him. I'd just lost a huge match, after twelve years in the gym. I'd flown across the country, and now had nothing to do for two more days. I'd starved myself for two months to make weight. It was nearly certainly the end of my career. And he told me I was pretty? I was pretty without doing any of that crap. He couldn't even say I had nice turnover on my roundhouse kicks? Real good timing on my spin kicks? Nice big drop on that axe kick? There was not one thing to say about any of the kicks I'd spent my childhood learning? Those tens of thousands of repetitions got me a "pretty"? I didn't even make me pretty. My parents made me pretty.

His intentions were nothing but good. I bowed respectfully when he let me go.

Now, Don Imus is clearly an abhorrent jackass and ever will be. I would like him to be completely shunned. His comments were particularly despicable for being nasty racist, sexist slurs, directed at amazing athletes at a time when they're already down. But, for the record, I would like to say the obvious one more time. When a woman succeeds or fails at an impressive achievement, the important thing IS NOT HER APPEARANCE.


Blogger bobvis said...

This post would clearly benefit from multiple pictures of you in a slinky tkd uniform.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

Bob, what the hell has gotten into you? You ... you... poppadom! Take that!

7:35 PM  
Blogger t.s. said...

Well put.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Imus' comments were nasty to be sure, but they weren't actually directed at the team members' physical appearances. The "nappy haired" remark really meant "stereotypically black."

7:56 PM  
Blogger arf said...

I'd have tried a roundhouse kick to his ass and told him that he needed to handle athletes as athletes.

No, actually, I wouldn't have, but I'd have wished I did later.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Megan said...


Nope. The quote came in the context of comparing the "rough" appearance of the Rutger's team to the "cute" appearance of the Tennessee.

The two teams might have trained differently, been in different shape, had different team dynamics or different plays. Just about the only difference between them that wasn't interesting was their appearance.

I don't think he chose the phrase "nappy haired ho" because he was rigorously describing a particular type of short-cut dreads. I think he chose it as a reference to their race and class. Since it was entirely unnecessary in the first place, it is even more of a shame that it was vicious and hurtful.

He was a nice guy who meant well. He truly meant to be comforting. I wouldn't have wanted to kick him even if I could imagine being that disrespectful to a coach. I don't wish I did that now, but I do wish he'd actually seen my fight and had some useful thoughts.

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:20 AM  
Blogger scott said...

Has anyone ever told you you're cute when you're raging about chauvinism and harassment?

Hello, Megan.

4:47 AM  
Anonymous Thelonious_Nick said...

The disgusting groveling campaign Imus has taken to keep his show only compounds his original errors, in my view. Just adding the sin of hypocrisy to the already-existing racism.

Although there is some sort of poetic justice in his appearing on Al Sharpton's show. One racist letting another off the hook, I suppose.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I deleted the comment about for being unkind to the Rutger's team and unkind to me. There's no call for that.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's not important, why do women spend so much time on their appearance?


10:58 AM  
Blogger bobvis said...

I think it's the context in which the prettiness is acknowledged matters, Justin. Megan was interested in beating people into submission, not being pretty at that moment.

I think this is easy to empathize with. I generally wouldn't mind being thought attractive, but I would be annoyed if someone tried to say that I was to comfort me after I got a paper rejected.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

People spend a lot of time on their appearance to present themselves in the world and be attractive to people they want to sleep with.

BUT. Those women, the Rutgers team? They were playing basketball when they were criticized on the grounds of appearance. And contrast: how much time do you think they spend on their appearance over a week? Couple hours, maybe, over and above hygiene? (I'm totally guessing - for me it would be maybe an hour.) How much time do you think they spent on basketball per week? I'd bet 25-30 hours per week, more towards the end. In no sense can you say they applied their extra time to their appearance.

When you are discussing what people, but mostly I mean women, do, discuss what they do. How they look is not at issue, even when they look good.

On preview - Bob nailed it.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Justin, imagine if you could find someone to be interested in all your code. And this person was really sharp and qualified and actually could follow it. So this person read your tens of thousands of lines of code and really understood it. And when he was done, he nodded and said, "You have pretty blue eyes."

And you're all, are you fucking kidding? Did you not just read my entire code? Did you see the part where I really did a beautiful job on solving that hard thing? There was a brute force way, but I thought about it even more and did it the clean way. And that part over there? That was HARD and most people couldn't even tell, because I made it look easy, but you know enough to know that was a tricky problem. So you're just sitting there, stunned, wondering how the fuck your eyes got to be part of this conversation, when he could have talked to you about how he would have approached that problem.

Now, in other situations, when you are looking to take someone home, appearance is very relevant. Comments on your eyes are a good sign.

But when we talk about what people DO, what they look like isn't the point.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

I used to have a friend who, whenever I was disappointed that I hadn't succeeded at something, would remind me "At least your hot." It always made me feel a little better. Maybe its because as a boy I don't feel societal pressure towards moral outrage at the statement.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

My outrage didn't come from societal pressure. I found it all on my own.

I do sometimes console a friend with "Good thing you can fall back on your looks." But that is not pure sweetness.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pfft, I'm a guy, I'm lucky to get any compliments. Usually, no matter what I'm doing, or how well I'm doing, I'm being subjected to a string of insults.

It's hard for me to feel sorry for someone who's getting some kind of encouragement/compliments.

And, as for that first article, reread it. Towards the bottom she says that the girls from the Rutger's team aren't strong enough to deal with an insult? Why aren't you upset by that?

Also, it's not like they don't do the same thing to men. I've seen things talking about great male athletes where they say, "He's great at this, and he's hot."


12:25 PM  
Blogger bobvis said...

"He's great at this, and he's hot."

That is different from "he sucks at this and he's ugly", which is what Imus said.

You don't have to feel sorry for people who get compliments. I would think though that you'd be able to recognize that there are certain times when a compliment about something irrelevant can be irritating. Being the prettiest girl at the tkd event or the tallest guy at the science fair or even the smartest girl at the beauty pagent aren't accomplishments those people would necessarily feel proud of. If anything, they almost tend to reinforce the fact that they weren't able to qualify for the award they were actually there to try to get.

As for the article, I think you are referring to "They are not old enough, or established enough, to have built up the sort of carapace many women I know — black women in particular — develop to guard themselves against casual insult."

I don't know. Maybe I would actually be annoyed by that if I was one of the team members.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

"He's great at this, and he's hot."

That is different from "he sucks at this and he's ugly", which is what Imus said.

Sadly, I don't think Imus even evaluated whether the team was good or bad at basketball. (Although I don't know that for sure, because that would require that I go back and read the rest of his comments.) It is too often the case that when women are being evaluated, the critique goes straight to:

(s)he's hot."

(s)he's ugly",

neither of which are relevant to an athletics competition.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous quirkybook said...

It's hard for me to feel sorry for someone who's getting some kind of encouragement/compliments.

So this got me thinking a couple of things. First of all, definition of "encouragement/compliment" definitely varies from person to person. I'm sure that the guy described in this blog thought he was being positively courtly with all of the compliments he was paying.

But secondly: I do think that Justin's reactions are in accordance with most of mainstream America. I don't see a hue and cry being made over Imus associating the Lady Vols' big moment with their "cuteness". Their looks have just as little to do with their achievement as the Rutgers team's do theirs; presumably, Megan, you are just as offended by this part of Imus's remarks?

4:16 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Honestly, it hadn't occurred to me. Two things:

1. You don't care what people say about you when you just won everything. Dude. You won. So it super sucked that while they'd had this incredible run and were dealing with the end of it, they got inaccurately slammed for something irrelevant.

2. I was just as offended that he said nice things about my appearance. 'Cause it didn't matter. He could have said nice things about my form during kicks, or bad things about my timing in the second round or anything like that. But who cared what I looked like when I was doing something hard.

So, yes. If I had gotten that far, I'd have been offended that all he had to say about the national collegiate basketball champions was that they looked nice.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just looks for women, either. Who else has gotten a job rejection or is in a career slump or just lost the NCAA and is told: "Well, you have a great boyfriend/husband."

Neato! Let's forget this other thing and go bake cookies!

Do guys get that?


9:21 AM  

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