I. “Non-consensual sex” at Yale.

Oh, Yale. You can’t even use the word rape in trying to address the “hostile sexual environment” at school? The latest report shows that what Jezebel calls “non-consensual sex-havers” are given written reprimands, and sometimes given probation, and most of the time advised to seek counseling.

Daaaammmnn! Rapists beware!

Before I speak too soon: one rapist was suspended for two whole semesters.

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II. Difficult men and women.

The pleasure I’m getting while reading Brett Martin’s Difficult Men– about the sociopathic male characters who have dominated the highbrow cable television drama for the past 15 years (Tony Soprano, Walter White, Don Draper, Al Swearingen, Jimmy McNulty, and on and on) and the sociopathic men who created them and portrayed them onscreen — is matched by the pleasure I got from Emily Nussbaum’s superlative reading and defense of Sex and the City (1998-2004) in last week’s New Yorker. A snippet:

The four friends operated as near-allegorical figures, pegged to contemporary debates about women’s lives, mapped along three overlapping continuums. The first was emotional: Carrie and Charlotte were romantics; Miranda and Samantha were cynics. The second was ideological: Miranda and Carrie were second-wave feminists, who believed in egalitarianism; Charlotte and Samantha were third-wave feminists, focussed on exploiting the power of femininity, from opposing angles. The third concerned sex itself. At first, Miranda and Charlotte were prudes, while Samantha and Carrie were libertines. Unsettlingly, as the show progressed, Carrie began to slide toward caution, away from freedom, out of fear.

See what I mean? It’s excellent.

III. I can’t care about Anthony Weiner. 

I understand fully how sleazy he appears, but I’m having a hard time seeing why people are more exercised about him than the comebacks of Mark Warner and Eliot Spitzer, who committed actual crimes and are also guilty of moral hypocrisy. Lying and being a terrible husband seem endemic these days, but tweeting some crotch shots just seems stupid and mortifying.

anthony_weiner_huma_abedin_a_lAnd honestly, how Huma Abedin deals with this is her own @#$%ing business, not mine.

IV. I’m thinking of seeing some underrated girl comedies.

I hadn’t planned on seeing the big hit The Heat (with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy), but its remarkable staying power in the theaters and a great essay entitled “The Heat: Not Enough Peen for Critics” over at Mighty Damsels have persuaded me to check it out. Also the new film The To-Do List. More soon on that one.

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V. WHO WANTS TO TALK WITH ME ABOUT MY CRUSH ON GIANCARLO ESPOSITO FROM BREAKING BAD?

Don’t tell me what happens; still making my way through Season 3 and into Season 4. He might be the best secondary/ tertiary character I’ve ever seen.

VI. Just go read Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Ridiculously enjoyable, cleanly-written, funny summer reading. And I’ve had a pretty good summer of reading, relatively speaking.

It’s the 40th anniversary of Title IX — that groundbreaking bit of legislation that facilitated women’s educational equality on many levels, including sports. No one would doubt the fundamentally radical effects on women’s senses of self as a result. Even if we acknowledge that the law never sought to establish, nor did it achieve, anything measuring true equity, as I’ve written about before.

And yet critics complain that giving any funds to women’s sports effectively takes money away from men’s sports — and as a result women’s teams still fight for the small funding they receive. The Bush Administration was particularly effective in dismantling some of rules that schools show increasing efforts to comply with the law. And so the Women’s Sports Foundation has produced this nice video remind us of the stakes. (Thanks, Eteokretan, for sending the link!)

Considering that the US women’s soccer team is surely one of the country’s most popular women’s athletic teams, perhaps it’s no surprise that Major League Soccer would be the institution funding this campaign. And yet aside from its national team, women’s pro soccer has floundered in the past 15 months — most of its pro teams have folded, leaving members of the US women’s team to languish without pro teams or to try their luck as pro players for women’s teams elsewhere in the world.

So happy birthday, Title IX: let’s hope the current anti-feminist backlash against women subsides sometime soon.

So I got up this morning to discover a radical spike in hits on this blog overnight — which can mean one of two things: either suddenly my nuanced analysis of the South Korean film Poetry has finally found a mass audience, OR basketball star Brittney Griner is in the news.

Sure enough: at last night’s awards show honoring the best athletic performances of the year (called the ESPYs because, shamelessly, they are sponsored by and shown on the sports channel ESPN), Brittney Griner received two awards: Best Female Athlete of the Year and Best Female College Athlete of the Year!

The 6’8″ college junior Griner helped to lead the Baylor women’s team to an undefeated 40-0 season, culminating at the Division I playoffs at which the Bears swatted away other teams like inconsequential flies. They won the final against Notre Dame by 20 points. Not that this was solely Griner’s doing — her team included the spectacularly talented guards, Brooklyn Pope and Odyssey Sims, who like Griner will be back next year to blow the rest of college women’s basketball out of the water.

Now, why are people coming to my obscure little feminist film & pop culture blog for info about Griner? Because they’re doing the same web searches they did when I wrote about Griner during her freshman year, and again during her sophomore year, all of which have to do with her sex/ gender/ orientation:

  • brittney griner a man
  • is brittney griner a man
  • brittney griner girlfriend
  • brittney griner makeover
  • brittney griner in a dress
  • brittney griner gender
  • brittney griner lesbian?
  • is brittney griner xxy
  • brittney griner in regular clothes
  • brittney griner dressed up

And yeah, in response to those posts a number of readers held forth about how she must be something other than a woman — based on nothing except their own notions of how girls are made up of sugar and spice. Based on my own unscientific analysis, I pronounce that Griner provokes extreme sex anxiety in straight people.

The best thing about all this? Griner herself has always been ahead of the curve, in on the joke. She plays with her gender performance all the time, and last night was no exception: she wore a suit. And looked smokin’. And when she bent down to give teensy-tiny 5’2″ actress/ presenter Hayden Panettiere a hug in thanks, Panettiere couldn’t help herself:

Now, what is that look on Panettiere’s face? Is this the B-list actress version of straight-people anxiety about a tall, hot woman in a suit bounding up onstage and giving her a grab? Is she looking for a cheap laugh — to get the audience to giggle with her in shared nervousness? Or was she genuinely flustered/ impressed by Griner’s sex appeal, leading her to overcompensate with the goofiness?

Whatever. I just want to recount a small moment from a talk I attended by the scholar Judith/ Jack Halberstam, whose Female Masculinity is the bible of analysis of gender transgressions by women. During the Q&A session, an anxious woman in the audience asked the brilliant Halberstam a strange, rambling question that amounted to something like, “Do butch women dress this way because they have given up on looking sexually attractive?”

The very butch Halberstam could not have been more kind — or more sexy — in answering with a sly smile on her face. “That has not been my experience,” she said with perhaps a little more thoughtfulness than she required. The obvious fact of Halberstam’s sex appeal, and the weirdness of the woman’s question, led the rest of the audience to laugh. “It has been my experience that femme women and many straight women alike are drawn powerfully to masculine/ butch women,” Halberstam continued. Some ten or fifteen women in the audience proceeded to whoop with approval.

Whooping with approval from my end, I say Brittney Griner is doing her best to upset the male/ female gender binary — which is why I keep writing about her and the weird gender & sex issues our culture seems to have with female athletes.

Also: “I wouldn’t be here without Title IX,” Griner said backstage after winning. Amen. And squeee!

Why should we care that colleges have found ways of shirking Title IX rules that seek to create greater equity for women in college sports, as reported in last week’s New York TimesBecause those rules never demanded true equity to begin with. Everyone needs to stop acting as if colleges have been under some crazy burden to give women 50% of all resources. Title IX was never intended to deliver exact parity. To offer an analogy: it’s as if the federal government passes an equal pay act and 50 years later women are still only getting paid 77% of what men make, only to have men argue women are getting paid too much and stealing resources away from men. (Hey, wait a second…that’s pretty much true, too!)

First, a few truths about Title IX: this law does not demand exact equality between men’s and women’s sports. Rather, colleges can comply with it in one of three ways:

  1. by showing that the number of female athletes is in proportion to overall female enrollment
  2. by demonstrating a history of expanding opportunities for women
  3. by proving that they are meeting the athletic interests and abilities of their female students

Considering that women make up 57% of college student populations nationwide, it’s obvious that colleges are not complying via path #1. I know of no school that gives female students a majority of funds and resources. Instead, according to the best statistics I can find:

  • Division I institutions: women make up 53% of college student bodies but only 46% of athletes
  • Universities overall: women make up 57% of college student bodies but only 42% of athletes
  • Female college athletes receive 42% of athletic scholarship money
  • College women’s sports receive 36% of sports operating funds
  • Women’s teams receive 32% of recruiting funds

Again, all of this is legal so long as colleges show that they are doing their best to increase athletic opportunities for women or are otherwise meeting the athletic interests and abilities of female students. There is no equality for women’s college sports. Men’s sports still get the vast majority of university funds. And this does not count the vast amounts of booster funds that come in to support specific sports, creating vastly disproportional funds going to football and basketball. (How else do you think top-shelf football coaches can get paid $5 million per year?)

Title IX has been fought from the outset. The NCAA went to court in the 70s fighting to be excluded from the law but was denied a victory. Instead, many colleges simply disregarded the rules since there was no governmental regulation or punishment for noncompliance until 1992, when a Supreme Court case determined that individuals could receive monetary damages in court. In 2003 and 2004, a public battle took place again over Title IX, resulting in the Bush Administration opting to soften the rules even further. The Obama Administration quietly reversed that decision in 2010, returning Title IX to previous rules and seeking more enforcement of the law. But now it seems colleges are at it again, giving college women’s sports short shrift.

Here’s a quick rundown of the story (with quotes) from the NY Times: colleges have found ingenious ways of flouting the rules. Some schools count male athletes as women: 15 of the 34 players on Cornell’s women’s fencing team are men, while “Texas A&M, which just won the women’s Division I basketball championship, reported 32 players in the 2009-10 academic year, although 14 were men.” Or schools populate women’s teams with ghost players, as at the University of South Florida, where only 28 of the 71 women on the cross-country roster ran a race in 2009. “Asked about it, a few laughed and said they did not know they were on the team.” Still other schools engage in voodoo math: Quinnipiac University was found guilty last year of “requiring that women cross-country runners join the indoor and outdoor track teams so they could be counted three times,” according to the Times‘ story, and guilty too of adding names to a roster in time for the count but cutting those players a few weeks later.

Are colleges engaging in this duplicity because they can’t find women interested in participating in sports? No: they do it because they must submit annual reports listing the total numbers of women and men in athletics, and whereas it costs money to start a new team that women might want to sign up for, it costs a college nothing to add names, however fraudulently, to existing teams (honestly, 71 cross-country runners?). No one has shown that college women don’t want to engage in organized sports.

Nor should we confuse the question of whether a sport earns a profit in ticket sales with its value to the university. I understand the impulse to celebrate football teams that earn money for their universities, but not only is this relatively rare, but most men’s teams are as equally unprofitable as most women’s teams. Besides, as I’ve already mentioned, much of that income goes back into the coffers of profitable teams; it’s not distributed widely.

These facts make it all the more aggravating when journalists on the ever-reactionary, often anti-feminist Double X podcast (you guessed it, Hanna Rosin again!) last week offered this slew of false information and misinformed commentary on the issue. Rosin is introduced by her colleague Jessica Grose by saying, “So, Hanna, you have done tons of research on this topic. Can you tell us a little bit more about college women’s sport and Title IX more generally?”

Rosin: “Yes. I did not have the expected response to this article. You’re supposed to have the expected reaction of, just, you know, isn’t this is terrible, how could they be fudging the numbers, they’re giving it to the boys once again. But I raise my hand in exasperation and, just had the words Title IX reform! It’s time for Title IX reform! This is a law that was passed in the 70s that really doesn’t seem to any more reflect the reality of American colleges and there’s so much shenanigans they have to go through in order to comply with this law that it seems like we need to rewrite the law. Now that’s not to give credit – not to take away credit from all the amazing things that Title IX has done in terms of making it possible for women to be competitive and aggressive and participate in sports the way they never have been. But, like, if you’re padding the running team with people who have never run a race in their lives, like, what does that mean? You should force the women to run the race? I just, I just don’t know a way around this except to say, you know, ease up on the proportionality a little bit! It doesn’t have to absolutely be exact. Like, isn’t there a way to rewrite the law in which it’s not exact? So am I being, like, a crazy anti-feminist [unintelligible] here?”

Well, yes, Hanna, you may be a crazy anti-feminist, but mostly you’re a bad journalist who offers up false information about the subject you’re discussing. I’m not a journalist, but was able to find this information and statistics using reliable sources online in a single morning. Next time you use your journalist credentials to spout off — especially after being introduced as having “done tons of research on this topic” — do just a tiny amount of research ahead of time.