Act Like a Lady?
By now, you’ve probably seen what has become one of the most popular Internet videos of the year — University of New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert in a game against Brigham Young University, throwing elbows and punches, viciously colliding with several players and then yanking the ponytail of a BYU player who went crashing to the ground.
I’m curious what everyone thinks about what Lambert did — and why it has made her, to her own despair, such an Internet celebrity. Despite the fact that she has apologized practically to everyone in the world, and despite the fact that she was suspended indefinitely from the team, there are a lot of people who are still in an absolute frenzy about her antics. I actually heard someone on one of the sports cable channels call her the “dirtiest ever” female athlete in all of sports.
I agree that what she did was shameful, bratty, unsportsman-like and just plain unacceptable. I do have to say, as someone who grew up in athletics from grade school through college, I have seen worse. A lot worse! So my question is, would our reaction to Lambert have been different if she were a man? Perhaps you remember earlier this year, when a running back from the University of Oregon punched an opposing player in the face. Although he was initially suspended for the season, he was quietly reinstated several weeks later. And don’t forget, even Michael Vick is playing football again — yes, that Michael Vick who killed dogs.
What do you think is going on here? Should we expect more of women in athletic contests than men? Should we expect them to be more than just the typical “dumb jocks?” Or is it unfair to hold women athletes to stricter standards of behavior than male athletes, who are taught that it’s OK sometimes for boys to be boys? Are many of us still, deep down, resentful of women who act aggressive — who don’t act nice and cuddly the way their mothers and grandmothers did?
I do hope that in the same way we forgive misbehaving male athletes, we let Lambert go on with her life and return to the soccer field. (She is only a junior.) And I certainly hope we don’t use what she did on one afternoon as a sort of proxy for her entire gender, claiming that this new generation is in some way more out of control.