September 22, 2008

Headlines that make you go…huh?

Posted in gender, gender stereotypes, sexism, sports at 12:00 pm by LB

“Scary, Isn’t She?”

That’s the September 11, 2008 headline of an article about Jaime Nared, the 12 year-old basketball phenom who, back in May, was curiously kicked off of a previously mixed-gender basketball team (the league citing old rules barring coed teams) after she clearly demonstrated she was “too good” to be on the team–she makes the boys look “bad.”

Scary? The article is about how good she is, what potentiaal she has, and how she struggles to find appropriate peers to play with and against. How about describe her as “amazing”? “Phenomenal”? “Incredible” Why “scary”?

Scary she’s so good…because she’s female? Scary that her talent and physical blessings (she’s 6’1″) threaten a male-dominated sport, that women are rapidly becoming more visible in? How about scary that she seems expected to apologize for her talent, her drive, her interest, her skill, her motivation…

Scary that “female” and “exceptional athleticism” still are assumed to be contradictory terms.



  1. ballgame said,

    It seems to me there are three options that could be considered equitable from different perspectives:

    1. Separate leagues for boys and girls; or
    2. A combined mixed gender league for them both; or
    3. Three different leagues: a mixed gender league, plus a boys-only and a girls-pnly league.

    It seems to me that the options that would be best for Jamie (#2 or #3) would not be the best option for most of the girls who want to play. The fact is, most boys are larger, stronger and faster than most girls, particularly in the subset of each gender that is athletically inclined. This gives males a significant advantage in the most popular American sports, where speed and strength are key.

    This fact would quickly become evident in a mixed gender league, where most of the players would end up being boys (assuming objective gender-blind criteria were used to keep and cut players), or where most of the 1st rate players would be male, and most of the 2nd rate players would be female (assuming teams were mandated to have equal numbers of boys and girls).

    I’m curious as to which option you’re in favor of, lindabeth.

  2. lindabeth said,

    Your comment is interesting, but that isn’t what this post is about; it’s about the use of the word “scary.” I’m guessing your “choices” above stem from her being booted from the team. I think the point is not which of your 3 options is better (I would guess they all have their merits, I’m no scholar on youth and sports), but the fact was that the team had been mixed-gender for a while, and she was only kicked off because she was a superb female player, not just because she was female and they wanted to make it an all-male team. I’m not opposed necessarily to single-sex teams or anything, and I’m trying to take a position on youth sports teams either. I think the characterization of a highly-skilled young female athlete that exceeds the skill of many of her male peers as “scary” is problematic.

  3. ballgame said,

    OK, I didn’t realize. My own experience with “scary” is that the word is pretty commonly used to describe someone who is just ‘off the charts’ good at something, so the idea that someone would find the term objectionable just went past me completely. I wonder if our different interpretation of the word’s usage here is a regional or generational thing.

  4. Renee said,

    I agree calling her scary is definitely a gendered comment. It says that girls or women aren’t supposed to be able to compete with males without the bar being lowered.

    I experienced something similar when a little girl was picked on by parents at my sons t-ball game because she was the only one that could catch and understood the fundamentals of the game. I was disgusted.

  5. Evan Carden said,

    I’ll admit, I just skimmed the article, but my take on it was either that it was scary in the sense of: she’s scary good at it, which is fairly common, one example: or, given the way the title is phrased and the tone of the bits I read, that the author is mocking the folk who kicked her off the team.

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