My colleague EBuz has really hit a sensitive nerve with her criticism of Coach Hayden Fry's tradition of painting visiting locker rooms pink. As I noted, the appalling nature of much of the vitriol directed at her really sickens me -- whether one agrees with her or not, it's disgusting for people to wish for her to get AIDS and die. Personally, I would have simply deleted all such comments had it been my blog.
At this point, sifting through the numerous comments, the substantive criticisms of EBuz's argument fall into the following categories:
(1) Hayden Fry was a great man who invited the first African-American to play in the conference.
Let's suppose for the sake of argument that EBuz is correct about the misogynistic/homophobic reasons for painting opposing locker rooms pink. (I realize that many people disagree on that point, which would be a legitimate basis for not being persuaded by EBuz's argument.) If so, Fry gets credit for integrating the football team, but why should that then immunize him from criticism on other fronts? For example, former Chief Justice Earl Warren is lionized among the liberal community because of the landmark decisions issued by his Court (such as Brown v. Board of Education, Baker v. Carr, and others), but he also played a significant role in the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Are we forbidden from criticizing Warren about the internment merely because he did other "good" things?
(2) Doesn't EBuz have more important things to do than to waste time on a trivial matter like this?
State 29 suggests that EBuz could be complaining about the scholarship athletes living in low-income housing. An anonymous commenter on EBuz's blog suggests that EBuz should be fighting for equal funding for women's sports teams. And so.
But this news story quotes EBuz as having taken just 10 minutes to respond to a call from a reporter. It's not as if this is a time-consuming crusade of hers. And as for spending time on more "important" matters, EBuz's research in fact does concern gender parity in sports, among other things.
I wonder if these commenters would say that Rosa Parks' quest to sit wherever she wanted on the bus was also just a trivial matter?
(3) EBuz has selectively and misleadingly quoted from Fry's autobiography.
Here's what EBuz wrote:
By one account, Fry was a former psych major who understood the psychological effect of pink as a "calming" color. The more plausible explanation is Fry's own. His autobiography reports that he chose the pink walls because "pink is often found in girl's bedrooms, and because of that some consider it a sissy color." Hayden Fry, A High Porch Picnic (1999).
I think the root issue here is whether Fry had a single reason (the "sissy color") or multiple reasons (the "sissy color" and the calming effect). EBuz presents it as the former, whereas many long-time Iowans say it's the latter. I haven't read Fry's autobiography, so I can't say which I think is right, but of course I know EBuz (and her scholarly ethics) and am therefore inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.
This isn't a legal matter, of course, but it's worth noting that in sex discrimination cases, having a mixed-motive does not absolve the defendant of liability. All the plaintiff has to do is show that the illegitimate motive was a motivating factor (not even a substantial factor).
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So we are down to, how plausible is it that today, someone who didn't read Fry's autobiography would view the pink locker rooms as imparting a misogynistic and homophonic message? Ebuz's argument is that it's apparent; others could, I think, reasonably disagree. That strikes me as the legitimate ground on which to debate EBuz, and I'm pretty sure that she would welcome civil debate on the point.