December 4, 2007

Let's take a closer look at that pink urinal.



Remember the controversy over the University of Iowa's pink locker room for the visiting teams — the men's teams? I blogged about it back in 2005 when the feminist critique of it first made the news. It's flaring up again because of a threatened lawsuit:
More than a quarter century ago at the University of Iowa, the legendary football coach Hayden Fry decided to paint the visiting locker room pink as a psychological strategy, so the story goes, intended to calm opponents and curb aggression. After the university rebuilt its pink locker room in 2005 as part of a $90 million stadium renovation project, two then-law professors who objected that the color scheme carries demeaning implications for women sparked an intense and often ugly national debate involving death threats and hate mail...

After protesting the pink locker room at a Hawkeye home game in November, Jill Gaulding plans to file a complaint under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions, now that a new Iowa presidential administration is in place.

“I don’t think this is about Hayden Fry or his intention in the 1980s; I think this is about how people understand the locker room in 2007,” said Gaulding, who has since left Iowa and now practices employment discrimination law in Minnesota. “This [is] understood as a funny version of the slur that goes on in athletics about playing like a girl, playing like a sissy” — and worse, she said, the university has perpetuated the insult in “a very official, permanent way.”

“It’s based on a concept of gender hierarchy that says not only are boys and girls different, but more important it’s better to be a boy than a girl; it’s shameful to be a girl,” said Gaulding, who is researching a book on cognitive bias and gender discrimination. “Anyone who’s not deeply in denial understands and acknowledges that the pink locker room taps into this very long tradition of using gender as a put-down.”

I think these feminist insights are interesting (if exaggerated), but taking legal action is utterly polarizing. This is the kind of emotional yet subtle issue that requires conversation and debate. But everyone you need to talk to will clam up when they hear you're about to sue them. Feminism is a cause that proceeds by winning over people's minds. Lawsuits can be a part of that process, but you have to be savvy about when to litigate and when to use writing and talk to persuade and cajole (or to shame and denounce). 

The reporter, Elizabeth Redding, called me because of my 2005 blog post, and I'm quoted in her story. The old blog post produced a great comments thread back then, but feel free to revive the conversation here.

***

Through Redding, I heard of this other controversy at the University of Virginia. I don't know why I missed it, because this is exactly the sort of thing I look for:
After a Cavalier touchdown, the marching band strikes up what, to an outsider, sounds like “Auld Lang Syne.” But, to its tune, students and alumni sing the “Good Old Song,” its lyrics written by Edward A. Craighill in 1895, its mention of all being “bright and gay” a throwback to when “gay” meant “happy,” the line a launching pad for what’s since become a university tradition of negating the word “gay” with gleeful (often drunken) shouts of “not gay!”

When Redding told me about this on the phone, I laughed out loud. I'm no homophobe, as any reader of this blog knows, but I found this funny. On further reflection, I said I thought it all depended on the context. What is life like for gay students at the University of Virginia? Do they feel like outsiders and does the cheer sound threatening, or does it sound the way it sounds to me: completely silly? I pictured good-natured straight students spoofing the old fear of being thought gay, the way someone might intone Larry Craig's "I am not gay" for laughs.
At the University of Virginia, steeped as it is in tradition, a student-led campaign this semester has applied peer pressure to encourage students to rethink the ritual. “Essentially,” said Stephen Leonelli, president of the Queer and Allied Activism group at Virginia, “we believe that it marginalizes the gay community by creating an environment in which certain people who may or may not identify as gay do not feel welcome.”

The campaign has sparked a fury of letters and opinion pieces in the student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, with the latest opinion piece, on Wednesday, defending the “not gay” chant and criticizing a culture of political correctness and liberal groupthink. “I’m just expressing my religiously informed political views that it’s wrong to act homosexual,” Alex Cortes, a first-year student and the writer of “Not gay and proud of it,” said in an interview Wednesday.
Eh... 

If Cortes is representative, then the straight students aren't as cool and fun-loving as I'd instinctively pictured them. (I love students!) And if Lionelli is representative, then the gay students are not in on the fun. But for all I know, Leonelli and Cortes are anomalous activists pushing their political agendas and with little feeling for the campus culture.

42 comments:

EnigmatiCore said...

They are upset over the color scheme in the visitor's locker room?

These harpies are akin to the religious zealots who get under everyone's skin. They can't win hearts and minds when they are of a mind to make everyone want to gouge their hearts out.

Now, if there were maxipad dispensers in there, I might see their point. Otherwise, they are demonstrating that they really need to find something better to do.

If feminism's big battles now include fighting the painting habits of college football coaches, then there is no need for feminists any longer-- the important fights have already been won.

EnigmatiCore said...

"The campaign has sparked a fury of letters and opinion pieces in the student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, with the latest opinion piece, on Wednesday, defending the “not gay” chant and criticizing a culture of political correctness and liberal groupthink. “I’m just expressing my religiously informed political views that it’s wrong to act homosexual,” Alex Cortes, a first-year student and the writer of “Not gay and proud of it,” said in an interview Wednesday."

Ooooooh. He said 'homosexual'. I learned just the other day from DTL that this is a code word. Cortes is clearly a bigot!

Mortimer Brezny said...

Feminism is a cause that proceeds by winning over people's minds. Lawsuits can be a part of that process, but you have to be savvy about when to litigate and when to use writing and talk to persuade and cajole (or to shame and denounce).

I think most feminists are anomalous activists and feminism is mostly ritualistic nagging and pointless shaming.

ricpic said...

If the bathroom were shocking pink that would be one thing, but, based on the photo, it looks mauve: no big deal. Mauve? Make that pinkish beige. Oh the subtleties of bathroom interior decoration.

rhhardin said...

Wm. Kerrigan

We are men and women. It almost always matters which we are. Men and women are aggressive. Their regard for each other is clouded by grudges, suspicions, fears, needs, desires, and nacrissistic postures. There's no scrubbing them out. The best you can hope for is domestication, as in football, rock, humor, happy marriage, and a good prose style. Jokes trade on offensiveness; PC is not a funny dialect. The unconscious is a joker, a sexist and aggressive creature. Our sexuality has always been scandalous.

One instance, when guys read

I think these feminist insights are interesting (if exaggerated), but taking legal action is utterly polarizing. This is the kind of emotional yet subtle issue that requires conversation and debate. But everyone you need to talk to will clam up when they hear you're about to sue them.

they're amused by clam up. Emotional and subtle includes a 100% openness to low jokes. Women don't consider this. Are they going to end it, they think? They don't have testicles setting up those neurons that make life so interesting to men in that way.

The traditional woman's reaction is stamping of tiny foot. That becomes another joke when a lawsuit comes up, let alone the suggestion that men be more sensitive. Sensitivity is why they get the joke and women don't. Guys sharing an experience.

Feminism is a cause that proceeds by winning over people's minds. Lawsuits can be a part of that process, but you have to be savvy about when to litigate and when to use writing and talk to persuade and cajole (or to shame and denounce).

Winning over minds ought to go the other way. Who understands that feminism is a displacement of nagging? Which is itself a displacement of sending your man on a quest, but without ever showing satisfaction with him? The shown satisfaction is impossible because there is no actual man involved, but only all men in general. Something is wrong and men have to change to fix it. That's wired in too.

Feminism marches in place, and has not progressed a single step. It's eternal because it's the essence of women. And every guy likes nagging jokes ; another shared guy experience.

There's actual oppression, and there's ``oppression'' that's part of formal nagging.

If the difference between wired-in interests of men and women cannot be recognized, no minds are going to change. It will be outrage versus jokes, the stable situation we have today.

Stephen Potter recommends for visiting team locker rooms, keeping it in general disrepair with a prominent sign saying ``Please leave this room as you would like to find it.'' Painting it pink serves the same purpose. It's a guy thing. Women don't get it because they're not interested in the joke.

They stamp their foot.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If they're singing this song to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne", they could probably work in the phrase "Not that there's anything wrong with that" without doing too much violence to the meter.

MadisonMan said...

Why is a solitary urinal stuck on the wall? There are no dividers, no neighbor urinals. Bizarre.

OTOH, what do you expect from Iowans?

Richard Fagin said...

Feminism stopped winning over people's hearts and minds after the Meritor Savings Bank case. Once objective criteria were no longer required to prove sexual harassment, suits such as the one over a pink men's room were all but inevitable.

I think the same kinds of things were said when the Americans with Disabilities Act was being debated in Congress. Amazing how much sociopathic behavior constitutes a "disability" for which accomodations have to be made, eh?

Guess what? It's all about the money. You can always find an aggrieved plaintiff if the payoff is big enough, or if the defendant has deep enough pockets to pay an extortion fee. Sometimes they even catch the buggers in their shakedown, like Bill Lerach. Here's to hoping a few of the sexual harassment shakedown artist plaintiffs lawyers join sweet 'ol Bill in Leavenworth.

Michael_H said...

Perhaps o'l Hayden Fry was an early and committed soldier in the fight against breast cancer; hence the pink fixtures and other decorations.

Pink, you know, the color often chosen by many, many people who support fund raising and research for breast cancer.

Not an offensive color to anyone, except self-aggrieved feminists who can never be made happy.

Ron said...

I love students too! Grilled, some hoisin sauce, scallions, with the pancakes...yes, moo sho students... except for the fat of course, best stick with duck instead!

Michael_H said...

Anyone heard any pronouncements from NOW regarding the rape and massacre of women in Darfur? Treatment of women in Muslim countries? No?

Surely these are issues of greater import that locker room plumbing fixture colors in Iowa.

Oh no, wait a minute. I forgot. Feminism is only about white middle class college-educated American women who support the ideals of the donkey party.

Never mind.

Jennifer said...

MM - From the shadows, it looks like it has neighbors.

What a silly lawsuit.

vnjagvet said...

I'll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children carrousel
The chestnut trees
The wishing well

I'll be seeing you
In every lovely summer's day
In everything that's light and gay
I'll always think of you that way
I'll find in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you


Somehow, I don't think Irving Kahal was concerned with the issue now plaguing UVA in 1938 when he wrote these lovely lyrics to one of my favorite standards.

jawats said...

I wonder if "I'm offended" can ever or should ever be the basis for lawsuits. What "injury" other than to sensibility has actually occurred here?

This is a dangerous path for any nation to take, especially when the "laugh test" to sue is based upon the previously determined status as a "victim." If I, as a Catholic, were to sue based upon offensive artwork produced by a university at public expense, I'd be laughed out of court, told I needed to relax, told that the public forum cannot enforce religious beliefs, or something along those lines.

Joan said...

1) Absurd lawsuit. Isn't there research that shows the effects that various colors have on mood? Like, red is supposed to make you hungry, greens are supposed to be calming, etc. What does such research actually say about pink? I had peach-pink rooms in an old apartment and I loved the light in them. Everything always looked more healthy. It may be that by painting the room pink they're actually giving the visiting team an advantage. They might want to look into it.

2) If Cortes is representative, then the straight students aren't as cool and fun-loving as I'd instinctively pictured them.
I read that Cortes quote as entirely tongue-in-cheek, someone who knows how to use politically correct speech to skewer a politically correct target. It made me laugh, it seemed so very, very correct, I thought it had to have been written for effect. The "gay" - "not gay" call-and-response sounds like typical (possibly drunken) college exuberance to me. I don't even know what to think about a school that's going to reprimand people for saying they're not gay. Bring in the FIRE people.

Bruce Hayden said...

I love how Ann can start off a discussion like this from a picture of a pink urinal.

I agree that feminism really stopped winning the hearts and minds of Americans when they started doing this sort of thing. The lawsuit is not only silly, it is counterproductive, at least in the long run.

Women have always had power, it just wasn't overt like male power, but rather was moral and through their men. It was women who really were the force for Emancipation (as well as for Temperance and, of course, Suffrage) throughout the 19th Century. After the men "won" the West physically, it was the women who civilized it through their churches and laws.

I am not going to suggest that their lot was better than that of men through those times, but rather, that they had far more power collectively than is normally attributed to them.

Before I read this this morning, I was thinking about the power of MADD. Ever wonder why it wasn't called DADD instead? Because of the absolute moral authority of mothers. They managed to reduce the BAC required for drunk driving recently through that by .02% nation wide w/o a shred of evidence that the roads would be safer because of it. Sounds like a modern Temperance movement to me.

But what has appeared to have happened is that through their grab for traditional male power, women have given up some of their moral power, and the more they push this sort of silly lawsuit, the more they lose.

A lot of the institutions of the state, etc. have been taken over by feminism. We are at a place where women are more likely to be the aggressors in physical disputes, but are far less likely to go to jail for domestic violence (and this doesn't take into account verbal aggression).

In an era where women are having starter husbands and now have complete control over reproduction, to the point where it is not an excuse that the man didn't have unprotected sex, or even sex, with a woman in order to be stuck with child support - but rarely custody, it is not surprising that men are starting to shy away from marriage in droves. And women's traditional power was through that institution - marriage.

But the weakening of marriage through feminists attempts to gain as much traditionally male power as possible, while giving up their traditional power, has significant societal costs. Note our underclass, where kids are often now raised in fatherless households, and their young males end up joining juvenile packs, until they end up in prison.

I fully support equal access and rights for females, with some limitations (such as military combat - see current thread over at Volokh.com). But the pendulum has swung too far. The level of male rage at the state of affairs has risen steadily throughout the feminists' rise to power. It is almost palatable over at some of Dr. Helen's blog threads. And with that rise in male rage, comes a consequent decrease in traditional female moral soft power.

So, this feminist, who is suing under federal civil rights laws to stop boys from being boys, is doing her cause far more harm than good.

Bruce Hayden said...

What is wrong with a coach who tries to win games by essentially calling the other team sissies? This is football, one of the ultimate male sports, where testosterone and male bonding are the ticket to winning. And part of male bonding is excluding females.

Indeed, I would bet that if the women on campus were polled as to whether it was ok to give the opposing team a pink locker room in order to win games, a majority would say yes. But I would also bet that the feminist department at the school would vote almost overwhelmingly to abolish (American) football if they could.

Smilin' Jack said...

The pink locker room isn't intended to demean visiting teams by implying that they're women, it's intended to demean them by implying that they're gay. People in Iowa need to get their outrages straight (hee hee!) The feminists need to stand down and let the gay activists take over.

Hairy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger said...

Looks to me like Coach Fry was doing the old psyche out thing on visiting teams. To read anything else into it, is a bit bizarre.

Zeb Quinn said...

Forget the feminist sophistry. I think it's a bad strategy football-wise. An opposing team goes in there and sees that, what's their reaction going to be?

Pogo said...

Why does feminism always seem to mean "I'm telling on you"?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The more feminists push stupid lawsuits like this while ignoring dangerous and real oppressive situations of women that exist worldwide, the more diminished will be the prestige and seriousness of the feminist movement.

Surely there are more important issues to concentrate on than the color of the men's locker room?

While the dilettantes and elitists that have taken over the feminist movement wail and beat their chests about inconsequential and manufactured slights.....real women are dealing with life and death situations and real oppression.

Get over yourselves ladies. Pay attention to something outside of your narrow narrow self absorbed little worlds.

When you take a stand on the atrocities that are happening in Darfur, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, India and other places ....as well as in the US then people will take you seriously. Until then you have made a joke and mockery of the feminist movement. The silence is deafening.

Robert said...

I can't say about UVA today, but I graduated from the Law School in 1994. The UVA student body is known for being on the conservative side (with the understanding that these things are all relative), with a heavy spice of old-line Richmond culture. That being said, I never saw any meaningful signs of homophobia, other than what Ann identifies: the "macho" straights who feel the need to make sure other people know they are not gay. I would think that conditions have improved, if anything, over the last 13 years. All of that being said, the surrounding community isn't so tolerant (of gays or African Americans), and many locals are not shy about letting you know. So perhaps we're seeing some of those problems reflected/projected/deflected in the football chant issue.

Roger said...

Agree with Zeb--that color scheme would have the opposite effect on visiting teams.

P. Rich said...

So, there exist feminist "causes" and campus women's centers and women's studies and NOW and its ilk and silly lawsuits such as this one because...? And yes, that is a serious question.

Rational feminists moved on some time ago and became people, leaving behind the angry radical dregs.

George said...

R. Mutt 1917

Kurt said...

Ann wrote:
If Cortes is representative, then the straight students aren't as cool and fun-loving as I'd instinctively pictured them. (I love students!) And if Lionelli is representative, then the gay students are not in on the fun. But for all I know, Leonelli and Cortes are anomalous activists pushing their political agendas and with little feeling for the campus culture.

Although it has been a little more than 10 years since I was last a (graduate) student at UVA, I would say that in my years there, Cortes would have represented a fairly typical attitude among a large faction of straight undergraduate students, and that Lionelli would represent a fairly typical attitude of the campus gay activists. I imagine that the environment at UVA has changed since my years as a graduate student from the late 1980s throughout the 1990s, and I imagine that the attitudes of people like Cortes are not as prevelant now as they were when I first started there, but the genesis of the "not gay" was definitely more homophobic than ironic in nature.

jeff said...

"Agree with Zeb--that color scheme would have the opposite effect on visiting teams."

Well, it's not like there isn't plenty of history at that school to look at. If it was ineffective, I guess the question would be why did they keep it that color for 25 years?

SGT Ted said...

But for all I know, Leonelli and Cortes are anomalous activists pushing their political agendas and with little feeling for the campus culture.

If all of the things in this post are what passes for culture on Campus, I think lots of parents and students are being ripped off.

Blake said...

With all due respect, it's much better to be a man on the field (during the game) than a woman.

A large man, preferably.

It's just one of those places where structure counts.

Besides, aren't they feeding into the stereotype that "pink = female"?

Peter said...

I graduated from UVA in 2001, and I remember well the "not gay!" chants at football games. I'm a pretty straightforward Reagan-style conservative, and I can say that those chants were definitely not meant in any subtle, tongue-in-cheeck way. It was always a stupid, "my c*ck is bigger than yours" moment of frat-boy conformity. It used to piss me off.

And Alex Cortes's "not gay and proud of it" attitude just takes the worst aspects of mindless leftist identity politics and applies it to his own anti-gay attitude. True conservatism should undermine identity politics in favor of universalism, not adapt it to fit right-wing causes. (This is why ex-leftists like David Horowitz will never be true conservatives, because they still have the idiot crusader tendencies of totalitarian campus activists.)

That being said, I agree that lawsuits are usually the least effective way to change behavior. It is one of the reasons leftists frequently change laws, but rarely change opinions. It merely polarizes and creates animosity to require people to live under laws that were never subjected to a vote. Essentially, it undermines the whole point of democracy: devolving power to the popular level (see, for example, Roe v. Wade).

Thus, I think the feminist lawsuit against the bathroom is stupid, but I respect the UVA GLBT organization's movement. If it is truly "student-led," as it is described, then that, in my mind, is democratic, and likely to change people's behavior for the better without resorting to the anti-democratic, authoritarian tactics so favored by self-important activists and lawyers.

Whatever happened to persuasion? Often, people who sneer at persuasion -- as too slow or not "revolutionary" enough -- are just exposing their lack of good, coherent arguments. It's also snobby -- you wouldn't argue with a child over why they shouldn't eat three servings of ice cream, so why should you have to argue with those knuckle-draggers in the athletics department?

I hate leftist legal bullying, but for some reason I find right-wing legal bullying even more insidious. Leftists can't help it, because their philosophy is by nature totalitarian. But conservatives who use legal institutions to mandate how people live, think, and behave are not conservatives at all. Just bullies.

knoxwhirled said...

“I’m just expressing my religiously informed political views that it’s wrong to act homosexual,” Alex Cortes, a first-year student and the writer of “Not gay and proud of it,” said in an interview Wednesday.

oh, puke.

knoxwhirled said...

If they are seriously suing over a pink bathroom, then feminism itself is at risk of being perceived as a solution in search of a problem. I mean, as dustless black pepper.

Palladian said...

LOL. A college friend of mine and I used to have a term for the supposedly "straight" boys around New York who were easily (and repeatedly) seduced into having gay sex – NOT GAY.

We'd sit in Burritoville having lunch, figuring out which boys passing by were NOT GAY.

He's NOT GAY.

She even made a little painting for me that says NOT GAY in pink (!) letters.

Hilarious that little Alex Cortes (ooh, a Conquistador!) and his "Exit only" buddies have chosen NOT GAY as their slogan. NOT GAY indeed.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk Parker said...

"people who may or may not identify as gay"

You've gotta admire Leonelli's global reach...

Kurt said...

That's a good one, Palladian! Of course, there are a lot of those NOT GAY types around, and not just in New York City. Some of the hyper-masculine bodybuilders at the gym I used to belong to come to mind. NOT GAY, indeed!

I also appreciated Peter's comment quite a bit, not only for some more recent perspective on UVA, but also because I liked his discussion of the differences between left vs. right legal bullying.

PatCA said...

I think the defense should be that actual sissies are being irreparably harmed and offended by terming their culture as an insult.

Ann Althose said...

I like pictures. They are pretty

Jill Gaulding said...

Speaking as the harpie (sometimes also known as the feminazi): I'd like to respond to the comments made here, and by Ms. Althouse, but I don't want to clog up her comments forum. Thus, I invite anyone who would like to know more of the relevant facts to write to me (jill(dot)gaulding(at)comcast(dot)net) to ask for my PLR FAQ, and/or to pose questions or comments to me directly. Who knows: you might decide that I am not as crazy or stupid as you thought.

In any event, everyone can rest assured that a dialogue is exactly what I have been seeking all along, since the PLR offers such a powerful "teachable moment" to address topics like the impact of stereotyping and unconscious cognitive bias (topics on which I happen to possess some expertise).

Asking the Office for Civil Rights to examine the appropriateness of the PLR, given Title IX's demand that schools treat men and women equally, is simply one way to further the dialogue. If the complaint is successful, the PLR will be removed and we will all have learned something (I am not a plaintiff and do not stand to benefit in any way from the complaint).

Jill Gaulding said...

Oh, BTW:

Hayden Fry himself stated that he created the PLR because pink is a "passive" color AND the color of "girls" and "sissies." The media (and fans of the PLR) tend to avoid the latter part of the quote, despite its relevance to any "fair and balanced" discussion of the message sent by the PLR.