Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Say it ain't so, Muffet!"

I missed the press conference after Baylor's big win over Notre Dame in the NCAA Championship Basketball game. But it did not take long for me to hear about this 8-second clip in which ND Coach Muffet McGraw said that Brittney Griner was like a "guy playing with women." Afterwards, Christine Brennan tweeted that she "Just asked coach Kim Mulkey about McGraw 'guy playing w/women" quote. She strongly said she also takes it as a compliment."

Coach Mulkey may have taken it as a compliment after winning the national championship, but according to an article on ESPN, she has been irked by taunts, insults, and criticisms of Griner that have been posted on social media for weeks. Many of those posts on message boards suggest that because Brittney dunks, she must be a man. Ironically, one of the biggest criticisms of women's basketball is that women don't dunk, so it's not as exciting to watch. Despite Griner's ability to dunk, Coach Mulkey has acknowledged her reluctance to do so because of all the criticism she has received.

Criticisms that have been made about Brittney Griner illustrate what Mike Messner (1988) meant when he wrote it was "a double-edged sword" to say that a woman plays like a man. Messner explained that on the surface it may be "a compliment to an individual woman's skills, but it also suggests that since she is so good, she must not be a true woman after all" (p. 205). In many of the comments that I have observed on social media I have noticed that people suggest - in not so flattering terms - that if Brittney can dunk, then maybe she is "really a man."

I began to notice such commentary when Baylor played in the first round of the NCAA tournament at BGSU. I was thrilled to see her play, and excited to see her dunk in practice (below)!

Later, it was fun to see her first two dunks of the season in Baylor's second round game against Florida! As exciting as it was to see, I was troubled to read the insensitive remarks that flooded social media and even some of the blogs that students were writing in my classes. If I don't want to be bothered by the comments on social media, I could just do what Brittney does - according to the ESPN article - and that is to ignore it. But as an educator, I feel that I need to take this opportunity to educate. That task becomes more difficult when someone who coaches a team in the NCAA National Championships makes the kind of comment that fuels further disrespectful commentary. I have to agree with another Twitter post that Christine Brennan wrote that said: "Even though and Mulkey are taking the high road re: McGraw comment, why in the world did she say it that way?"

I wonder the same thing!


sport and gender said...

I hope ND’s Coach McGraw is telling the truth when she said her comments were taken out of context. I don’t see why a coach of the game would want to attack one of its best advocates. I like how Griner and Baylor’s Coach Mulky responded to the situation. Even if they were offended taking the high road is always the best option. I believe McGraw was taken out of context and was in the heat of the moment after losing her second straight National Championship game.

In response to all the comments and lashing out against Brittney Griner and her dunking I think it’s completely unfair. I remember hearing awhile back that she chooses not to dunk very often because she’s afraid if she misses the dunk she will be harassed even more.

I worked the first two rounds of the Women’s NCAA tournament at BGSU, and it was clear that by the second round at least everyone that was there was there to see her play. In saying that those same people were making a joke of her abilities and stature.
As Dr. Spencer brought up in class it is very disrespectful to use any term such as animal when describing an athlete. She is a very tall athlete and because of that she is a skilled athlete, that’s it.

I think Griner has done a great job dealing with the comments that she gets, she is building herself into becoming a great advocate for the WNBA in her near future.

-Tony Fritsch

The Tennis Prof Chronicles said...

Thanks for sharing your observations Tony. I was interested that even before she played in the final game, she had announced that she was returning for her senior season. That is a rarity in the men's game, but I wonder if it would benefit men's college basketball if more of the men stayed in school longer. Having said that, I do look forward to following Brittney Griner in the WNBA!

Rebecca Lewis said...

I stand with Tony's opinion that Notre Dame's Coach McGraw's comment was taken out of context. However, I do stand by my opinion that the comment was a little out of line. Saying that Britney Griner plays like a man sort of alludes to thoughts that she is a man, like the Caster Semenya situation. Just because both Semenya and Griner excel in their fields, does not make it right that people start saying that they are male.

With Britney Griner's dunking, I find it to be a unique aspect that hasn't been (or at least not made such a big deal of) in the college area yet. Today's YouTube clip on the WNBA, showed that a female basketball player dunking is a huge thing, a thing to be celebrated. When Lisa Leslie first dunked in the WNBA, there was no speculation about her sex, people just were amazed at her feat and celebrated her for it.

The comments about Griner, even though Britney says that she ignores them, can become a detrimental thing. If they still get through to her, they can affect her mindset and her confidence. So far, she has done a good job at dealing with the comments, I just hope that they fade into nonexistence when she moves on the the WNBA.

The Tennis Prof Chronicles said...

You brought up some great points in this post, Rebecca. First, I think you are right when you suggest that no one called Lisa Leslie's sexuality into question when she dunked. Perhaps that was also because she was a model, so she performed a more "traditional femininity." Just today, I was surprised to come across a statement that Florence Griffith-Joyner made about her running style, when she said: "I run more like a guy than a girl" (cited in Vertinsky & Captain, 1998, p. 553). However, just because a woman athlete made that statement about herself does not mean that the statement is not problematic.

As for comparisons between Semenya and Griner, I can see where social media coverage of both was quite similar, and must have been painful for both to endure. I agree that Brittney is wise to ignore it. That is what many elite athletes seem to do. Like you, I hope that coverage of her is more positive when she goes into the WNBA, although sadly there will probably be much less publicity.

Kara Arend said...

I agree, I think Griner and Mulkey’s response to McGraw’s comment is a testament to the resiliency they have built up to other remarks regarding Griner. High profile athletes and coaches are constantly subjected to criticism from others coaches, players, the media, and the general public; however, I feel that this particular incident necessitates more discussion. Originally torn on how to interpret McGraw’s comment, I felt that it was essentially McGraw’s way of saying that Brittney plays on a superior level, which is indeed a compliment. Yet, it still seems outdated that “playing like a guy” is positive and “playing like a girl” is negative or an insult. Should women have to be compared to men, as if that is the standard for athletics? If playing like a guy is the goal, it seems that the already gracious Griner would be mistaken if she reacted to McGraw’s comment any other way. Ignoring and enduring the countless comments surrounding her skills and sexuality is one way Griner can properly keep her composure while handling her basketball career. Mulkey has expressed her frustrations with the social media and it seems suitable for her to speak on Brittney’s behalf. I am not surprised that other female athletes have voiced their opinions as well. What I believe is missing from the scrutiny of the incident, is a valid argument as to why it is inappropriate for a woman in her position to make such a comment (compliment or not). Many have said that if a man had said the same thing it would have been much worse. I believe that it is actually worse coming from a woman, who is also supposed to be an advocate for the sport, because it implies that it is permissible to make these types of statements, which it is not. Taking offense and speaking out against something that is so ingrained into society might seem futile, but I expected better from McGraw. There are a million other ways to say that Griner is a talented player.

Group 5 said...

I agree with both Tony and Rebecca in that ND's coach Muffet McGraw's comment about Griner being a "guy playing with women" was not meant to be a negative comment. I think that it came out like that in the heat of the moment after her team had just lost the national championship. I also think that Mulkey and Griner handled what McGraw said in a very responsible manner, but it may also be something they are used to.

I not only hear comments being made about Griner having masculine features on the internet, but I've even heard some of my friends say things too. The other day one of my male friends said that Griner must be a hermaphrodite because she not only looks like a man, but she sounds like one too. After everything that we have heard in class about the negative remarks towards Griner, I sort of took offense to this comment. No matter if Griner reads all the comments about her or not, she shouldn't have to deal with people calling her a man.

One of the main reasons people say that Griner plays like a man is because of her dunking. Society isn't used to seeing females able to dunk because they are viewed as the less athletic gender. While there have been females to dunk before Griner, it wasn't as common. Brittney Griner has the height to be able to dunk, almost whenever she wants to.

With all of the negative remarks that Griner receives from the media and society, I think that she handles them pretty well. If anything, I think that she takes these comments and uses them to better her game and show people what a great athlete she is.

Heather Cox