Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wild World of Wednesday: It's Not a Double Standard, It's Just a Man's World

In the spirit of hijacking the regularly shceduled posts lately I bring you this guest opinion in place of the usual Wild World of Wednesday.

Yesterday I had a guest post from Lindsay about double standards in sports. There were comments as I expected but I also received an email with another guest post on the subject.

Mike Southern is the author of Ruthless Putting and he first contacted me to review his book (which will be a later post). Last night, he sent me the following in response to Lindsay's point of view.

Do men treat women differently? Yeah, they do... but not really any differently than they treat older men.

Correction-make that men older than they are. When Tom Watson nearly won the Open Championship a couple of months ago at the age of 59 the reaction of many in the sports media was to question whether golf should be considered a sport at all. That's insecurity talking...what does it say about me if a 60-year old can beat the best names in golf and I can't even hit the fairway?

Every man believes he is youthful and immortal and better than everybody else. Of course, I really am youthful and immortal... but at 51, I've learned that I'm not better than everybody else. I've also learned that it's ok not to be better than everybody else. Being able to accept your limitations, work within them, and respect rather than resent people who surpass you is important to one's personal growth.

My experience is that most men never learn that.

I was fortunate to grow up in a family where both sides had strong male role models who married equally strong women. That's unusual these days; most men aren't so lucky. Rather than growing up secure, they struggle with low self-esteem; and, to my point, if they aren't particularly gifted athletes themselves... well, nobody expects them to match up to a paid male athlete. But watching women with whom they can't compete... are you kidding?!?

Regardless of what the world may say, there is a glass ceiling. Only men live above it, and they constantly work to make it thicker so they can convince themselves that their effort means something. For example, a woman like LPGA golfer Annika Sorenstam can make it in business because men spell her name like this: $$$$$$. One woman can succeed without threatening them; in fact, the man who signs the deal with her will be heralded for his marketing savvy. The fact that she gained that value from superior athleticism will not enter into the equation.

This is an issue that will become increasingly important in the golf world for one simple reason: Players like Watson and Sorenstam prove that, although Tiger may play a power game, that's not the only way to win. Eventually it will become apparent that golf is in a unique position to become the first truly "flat playing field" in sport, one where age or sex isn't a deterrent to playing against the best. Already, golfers in their 40s are beginning to ‘show up' at the major tournaments in a way they never have before; and men are watching women players like Lorena Ochoa blast the ball down the fairway, then shaking their heads and muttering, "But she's so small!" Within the next ten years, someone like Michelle Wie (who is 6'1" and capable of tremendous clubhead speed) is going to get her game in shape for the special conditions of the PGA Tour and take it to the men in their own backyard.

And when that happens... well, most men will just turn the TV to a football game. At least there, the women stay on the sidelines "where they belong."

Welcome to the world of the male ego, ladies. It can be a lonely place sometimes.

So what do you think? I welcome all opinions, comments, and guest posts on the subject so let's hear it.


Becky Leetch said...

Do you believe that this is a learned behavior passed down to boys from their fathers? The cycle will never end until the fathers break the cycle and teach their boys that girls are equal to them.

Thank you for the guest post. He is a truly enlightened individual and I hope that he is one of the few that breaks the cycle.

Apryl DeLancey said...

It must be something passed down. I know my parents taught my brothers and I that we could play whatever we wanted. We were treated equally in my house.

Mike said...

Thanks for the compliment, Becky... I try. Again, I've been fortunate to have such a great family.

And I believe this insecurity is passed down. There's a frequently-quoted Bible verse that says the sins of the fathers are passed down, sometimes as far as 3 or 4 generations. I'm pretty sure this is the kind of thing it refers to. Boys tend to imitate their fathers, and girls their mothers. But one of the beauties of life is that any generation can choose to change things. That's a good reason to have hope, don't you think?

Vince Spence said...

Pretty heady stuff. And, I agree that 'sins of the fathers' are a huge part of this problem.

When my kids were young (4 and 8??), I had an issue where, let's say, I was very opinionated. It wasn't pretty. Somehow, my son, the elder, picked up on it. I was embarrassed. It was corrected pretty quick.

You are also right that low self-esteem and self-centered fear are prime culprits. If the Dad is comfortable with his athletic skills, OR lack of skills, that attitude will transcend to the son(s). It is okay not to be Brett Favre.

One of my favorite lines is, "Yeah, but Ginger Rogers did it backwards and in high heels..."

Apryl DeLancey said...

Ha! Love the Ginger Rogers line!

LifeandGolf said...

We need to enlighten the media as well.They continure to purpetuate male/female stereotypes - especially in sports.

Many of us had human roles models to see and touch and live with. Young people today are growing up with the "media role model" image created by television exposure and million $ contracts. They see one of those models act and they try to emulate.

Beat your wife/girl friend, ok, the ______ (fill in the sport) player does it.

Objectify women, ok.. _____ (fill in the name) singer/movie actor does it.

Golf is still culpable ... remember when Annika play at Colonial?

It will be nice when we can look at each other and just see a human being!

Apryl DeLancey said...

Agreed - I look at everyone as human myself and always have. I'm so glad my parents gave me that.

Kate said...

Yes, it's a man's world since ~6000years ago when the male of the species invented war and rape as a standard weapon of war. Violence was the tool which converted this planet to a "man's world" and in many ways this is still true.
Saying it's a man's world is very like it used to be to say "boys will be boys". Which was short hand for "sexual harrassment and rape are the way things are"... and that's ok.

Boys will be boys is no longer accepted as a bona fide explanation for anything. And to my mind neither is "it's a man's world."

I do agree that the mentality is passed down from father to son; and I do note the few and far between exceptions to that pattern.

Contempt and violence against women is indeed learned, not just at the father's knee but also in the dominant messages of the media.

This discussion about whether women golfers are equal to male golfers is rooted in all these things. I am really bored with it because it is such a repetition of so many other discussion which go round and round like merry go rounds and seem endless to me.

Btw men and women are NOT equal... women are better in so many ways... this is what frightens so many men so much and why violence was chosen as the best weapon.

Vince Spence said...

I definitely do not need Kate to keep me straight. I have a daughter who does that quite well, thank you...

Did some man piss in Kate's Post Toasties??

Mike said...

Ooh Kate, that's harsh! Obviously you've been on the receiving end of some bad treatment by men. I sympathize; I've known a few women who, if you met them, you wouldn't be so quick to say women are better "in so many ways..." Physical abuse isn't the only way to terrorize others, and men don't have a corner on THAT kind of behavior.

I'm not going to argue with you about that; I think that's one of those endless discussions you mentioned. But you brought up a couple of points that I would like to clarify.

When I say "it's a man's world," I am NOT saying "boys will be boys." All I mean is that, for better or worse, men hold most of the positions of power on this planet and, consequently, men generally call the shots. "Boys will be boys" is an excuse used by men (and women) who just want to justify their behavior rather than take the sometimes difficult action of changing it; most of the men I associate with wouldn't put up with that kind of crap. Abusing people, male or female, repulses any man worthy of being called a "man."

The other thing is that not all violence against women is learned. I have known men who were abusive, who were sent to court-ordered anger management classes but were not helped, and who were truly distraught over their behavior. The true problem was a feeling of helplessness and, once the source of this helplessness was identified and they learned how to deal with it, the abusive behavior ceased entirely. Believe it or not, Kate, sometimes people act purely out of ignorance and weakness, and simply lash out at whoever is closest at the time.

I do agree with you that men and women aren't equal; men are better in some things, women are better in others. But I can promise you this: Until each learns to appreciate the strengths of the other without feeling that they have to "be better," nothing is going to change.

Lindsay said...

Great guest post, Mike! I see your point. There is a lot of insecurity out there, and that's too bad. At least things will slowly move in the right direction as more fathers and mothers try to raise kids with a strong self image and an appreciation for others' abilities as well as their own.