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« Another problem with torture as a tool of interrogation | Main | Martha v. Donald: The battle of "The Apprentices" »

September 24, 2005



Thanks Tung. I wanted also to point on the "wasting time/taxpayer dollars" point that most importantly, the University has asked for University employees to attend the public forum on Tuesday to discuss the gender equity component on the NCAA accreditation report. It was in that context that I prepared my comment on the issue and that forum to which my efforts are directed.

In short, I was asked for my opinion by the University. So it is not beyond the capacity of my job to offer my opinion in response.


Here's the relevant quote in full:

"One thing we didn't paint black and gold was the stadium's visitor's locker room, which we painted pink. It's a passive color, and we hoped it would put our opponents in a passive mood. Also, pink is often found in girls' bedrooms, and because of that some consider it a sissy color."

What do you think of Ebuz's scholarly ethics now?

I'm very disappointed that Ebuz, a professor of law, would intentionally do something like this.

The quote can be found at page 102 of Hayden Fry's autobiography, and is viewable on Amazon (free registration required) here:



Regarding the critique of EBuz's "scholarly ethics," give me a break. (With all due respect!) As Tung points out, a bad motive is a bad motive, regardless of whether it is mixed in with acceptable motives. Fry's autobiography, which EBuz quotes, makes clear that he thought that the PLR was a cool idea at least in part because it implicitly labeled the other team "girls" and "sissies." The "at least in part" is enough for me.

And do not forget that Fry's motivations are just the backstory here, anyway. The real question is whether it was a good idea to carry on the tradition as part of the renovation of Kinnick Stadium. I'm on record as saying "no," and I will stand by that, along with Erin.


Any scholar should always cite in full. Ebuz didn't. Her argument may still stand, but every Iowa law student reading these blogs will take home the message that it is acceptable to selectively quote from source material.

The pink locker room is a red herring. Collegiate football is a barbaric sport that glorifies physical violence. The players receive preferential treatment because their activity is lucrative. Then, when some of the players abuse their privileges, either by poor academic performance or by off the field behavior, the University looks the other way. It's a shameful.

Singling out the pink locker room misses the entire point. The entire sport, as it is currently practiced, is objectionable from a feminist viewpoint. Changing the locker room color to a neutral color is just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

When a feminist scholar objects to only the pink locker room, the message received is that everything else regarding collegiate football at Iowa is acceptable from a feminist perspective.

Tung Yin

Any scholar should always cite in full.

SB, I think you mean that any scholar should "quote all relevant parts." EBuz certainly *cited* the relevant source, allowing anyone to check up on her, as you did.

As to the single motive versus mixed motive, I probably would have worded it a little differently than EBuz did, saying something like "Fry was clearly motivated in part by sexist and perhaps homophobic feelings." But I cut EBuz some slack here. First, it's a blog, not an academic article, and so there is a certain degree of editing/cite checking that's absent. Second, I think if you read more of Fry's book beyond the part you cite, you get the sense that Fry delighted in the fact that opposing coaches, if they noticed the colors, would get upset. Now maybe that's because the other coaches were also psych majors who realized the calming effect pink would have, but maybe it's because the other coaches didn't like the "sissy" color. . . .

As to your larger feminist critique of college football, I'm not sure if EBuz agrees with you. But assuming that she does, I don't see why she has to take on every feminist fight just because she takes on one. I'd guess that she stands about a million times greater chance of getting the locker room color changed than she does of getting UI to drop football.

Professor Yin,

RE: cite vs quote. I agree.

I agree that blogs do not have to meet the same standard as a more professional writing. But, I think Ebuz is playing a little fast with the rules. She is a professor of law teaching first year law students, and she knows those students are reading her blog.

Everyone makes mistakes when they write. That's not new. I'll have no idea if she takes the time to do this, but she has a wonderful teachable moment here when she can show her students the right and wrong day to quote source material.

RE: football at Iowa, I'll expand a little bit. If Ebuz is concerned about the implicit message behind a pink locker room, how would she feel about what is actually being said in the *IOWA* locker room or on the Iowa practice field about the opposing team. I'm sure everyone reading this can imagine that it is much more offensive than some pink paint.

Changing the pink locker room won't change a thing. It's a symptom, not a cause. Want to get rid of mysogynism and violence? Then stop activities that celebrate it. Repainting the locker room will just make us feel good about ourselves and sweep everything under the rug.


Thanks for the feedback, SB. I'm glad you are such a careful cite-checker.

But to me, the "passive" rationale was bound up in the same gendered overtones as "sissy" and "girls bedrooms" so I was reading this particular passage as proposing one, unified, rationale -- read the word "passive" as rape-able, dominable, emasculated, etc. In other words, in my humble opinion, "passive" was just one more piece of the gendered rationale that included the "sissy" and "girlie" quotes. I was sure to mention the separate, alternative, psychology rationale, but I did not attribute that to this passage of the autobiography.

But as Gaulding points out, whether he's on the record
or not with mixed or singular motives is not at all the point. To me, the point is how the message is received,and I believe the message appears as a "sissy" or "girlie man" type insult.


That's an interesting interpretation.

If the point is how the message is received, then what are we to make of the fact that the message isn't perceived uniformly?

Over the many years, it appears to have bothered some coaches, and not others. Bothered some players, and not others. Whose feelings are more valid?

A significant part of competition (and not just football) is about intimidating the other opponent. Intimidation is classic alpha-male behvior.

Is a sprinter who stares another sprinter in the eye and says at the starting line, "I'm going to crush you" guilty of the same type of trespass as the pink locker room?

Both are alpha-male modes of intimidation. The pink locker room is even more subtle, it relies on some shared level of cultural awareness. The "I'm going to crush you" comment only relies on a shared language.

Trash-talking is a routine part of competitive play, is all of that objectionable on sexist or homophobic grounds as well because it is a pattern of alpha-male predatory behavior?

The point I'm driving at, of course, is that the most egregious acts of sexism are spoken and acted out on the football field. It's tough to imagine a more compelling example of alpha-male behavior out of control, short of gunplay. One grown man hitting another so hard that he has a concussion or tears a knee ligament, and the fans "ooh"ing at each hard hit as it happens.

Lastly, what is most concerning to you, as a feminist professor of law? What is painted on locker room wall? Or what 70,000 people are cheering about? You have a rare pedestal that most of us don't, and will never have. Naturally, you have the right to choose whatever issues you want, but this observer finds the pink locker room a curious choice.


SB: I have to ask your comments on hockey, too, because if you also condemn that sport as misogyinstic and alpha-male, then both EBuz and Gaulding come up short in your measurement of a true feminist. From what I've heard, you don't go into the corner with either of them and emerge unscathed.


SB: Like EBuz, I appreciate your careful fact checking, and your powerful feminist beliefs. I would say we are all on the same side here and should avoid being distracted by internal differences. But that is just my opinion.

I think you and EBuz see this problem differently in part because you view the relationship between sex and competive sports differently. Your approach tends toward "difference feminism," in a particular form that elevates some of the (supposed) feminine characteristics and denigrates some of the (supposed) masculine characteristics. EBuz and I happen to subscribe to a different version of feminism ("liberal" or "structural" feminism), which is much more skepical of supposed sex differences. We do not think competitive physical sports are bad, of and by themselves. In fact, we enjoy them, and I know my young daughters do too! Come join us on the ice sometime, if you want to see whether you might enjoy it too.

I think we can agree to disagree about the split between difference and structural feminism, and try to support one another when our viewpoints point in the same direction. The pink locker room falls into that category, even if it would be low on your priority list and higher on ours.

As to the "accuracy in citing" business, I want to refer you to the dialogue on EBuz's blog. When the issue was raised there, I responded to it much more thoroughly than I did here, and I would urge you to review what is written there before you draw any final conclusions about what EBuz was arguing and how she argued it.

I am a stickler for ethics, too, and, understanding EBuz's argument as I do, I see absolutely no reason to critique her citing ethics here. I think that to the extent you see a problem, it is because you are misunderstanding her argument. (Again, see the discussion on EBuz's blog for a fuller explanation of this misunderstanding.)

Interestingly, the person who might be subject to criticism along the lines you are pursuing is Bob Bowlsby. Unlike EBuz's argument, Bob Bowlsby's argument depends on whether Hayden Fry had mixed motives or a single (acceptable) motive. Given this stance, it was inappropriate for Bob Bowlsby to cite to the "pink is soothing" evidence without acknowledging the "pink is girlie and sissy" evidence (assuming that he knew about it).

But I would not waste my time on this nicety. As I keep saying, the question is whether it makes sense for the University to continue this tradition, given the large number of people who believe that the tradition rests on a slur against women and/or the so-called "sissies."

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