As I said in an earlier post, I'm not a feminist scholar. I'm not interested in the way outsiders are constrained in terms of access or voice by the hegemonic norms. This is not at all a criticism of that area of scholarship - it's just not, to quote Danny Ocean, my brand of vodka. And yet, this blog entry in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette bothered me. It's a poll/debate - who would win in a game between the UConn women and the Mount Lebanon boys' high school team?
I guess this is an interesting, kind of fun, bar/basement debate to have while watching a game. But several things about this bothered me.
For one, it is, of course, a blatantly sexist debate. The question is set up for people to answer "Mount Lebanon." The question is based upon the premise that the best women's basketball team of all time isn't as good as a high school boys team. The question is set up for people to answer "Mount Lebanon."
Second, it's a comparison of apples and coffee cups. I believe that men's and women's basketball are different sports. Differences in size and strength make men's basketball a different game. To me, the question asked by the Post-Gazette is like asking if a softball team could beat a baseball team.
Third, from a practical standpoint, there's no context. What's special about the Mount Lebanon team? Are they good? Do they have a lot of size? How big is the school - A, AAAA? Do they have D-1 prospects, or even future pros? I know that most readers of the blog would know this, but not all of us do. The answers would add context to the overarching question. Is this the question asking "Would a really good high school boys team beat the best women's college team?" Or is it asking "Would an average high school boys team beat the best women's college team?" Because that makes a world of difference.
Fourth, and here's the crux of my problem with it ... it's an absolutely pointless debate. There's no right or wrong answer. There's no way to prove your point of view. It is, like I said, a bar room debate. I know it's "only a blog" on the newspaper's site, and that's one of the purposes of a blog. I'm sure the people at the paper are very happy with this, because the blog's gotten a ton of traffic and a ton of comments. It's "created a conversation," in Gannett-speak. And that is gold in this day and age in newsrooms (Ooops, I mean Local Information Centers, as Gannett calls them. Not making that one up. Working for Gannett is like living in an Orwell novel. Only with crappy benefits).
But, is it a worthwhile conversation? Does it add anything to the marketplace of ideas? Or does it just reinforce reflexive thinking (at best) or gender-based stereotypes (at worse)? And even in this new media world, shouldn't we expect more out of newspapers?