Yunel Escobar, homophobia and hazing

My apologies on what is likely to become a rather rambling post.

My idea for this post came upon reading this bit by Jeff Passan saying that covering the Yunel Escobar story is focusing too much on the negative and that instead we should have covered the Chris Kluwe/Brendon Ayanbadejo more. And I’ll get to that.

Then Cee Angi wrote this about hazing and homophobia in sports, and I feel like that ties in to what I wanted to say here, too.

Lastly, any talk about hazing in sports is going to raise this sorority girl’s hackles.

So we’ll get to all of that and I guess I just sign-posted for you like it’s a school speech, but I feel like there’s a lot to say on a group of topics that are all related and I might get a little shouty and I wanted you all to be on board.

Let’s start with Passan. Please take a minute to read it. The more I read that column, the more upset I get. While I can get on board with some of his basic concepts, mostly that whole thing reads to me like Passan thinks we should be giving Escobar a pass by not writing about the story.

When mass shootings happen and the media continues to show us crazy pictures of the attention-seeking killer instead of the victims? That’s when I’m on board with what Passan is saying.

But when he’s telling me that publicly calling out Yunel Escobar is “focusing on the negative” I think he’s totally missing his own boat.

Not only did the story about Escobar properly shame him, but one can only hope it did the same for the millions of Latino men who casually throw around the word “maricon.” That word is not only incredibly acceptable for use in everyday, casual Spanish, but it’s also meant to be incredibly insulting. The inherent homophobia in that word’s use needs to be focused upon, written about and shouted from the rooftops. By reducing the coverage of this very important topic to mere media negativity, Passan is totally misunderstanding the impact of calling out Escobar and shining a light on this problem.

This is probably taking it to far, but it also feels like if we follow Passan’s prescribed plan, these sorts of things will not only continue, but might even become more common as folks realize they won’t be publicly called out for their actions.

Additionally, there is positive within this story. MLB and the BlueJays handled the whole thing impeccably. Escobar was suspended for three games and will be donating money to the You Can Play Project as well as GLAAD. The attention brought to those two amazing projects is a good enough reason to write about the story.

Maybe most importantly of all, if it weren’t for incidents like Escobar’s, people like Kluwe and Ayanbadejo wouldn’t be so necessary or extraordinary. Passan wants more coverage of athletes like these standing up for what’s right, but if guys like Escobar didn’t exist, there would be no need. So instead of focusing on and trying to eradicate the problem, we should focus on the reaction?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a die-hard Packers fan who wants to own a Chris Kluwe jersey – what he and Ayanbadejo have done and said is spectacular, honorable and generally wonderful. But the fact that we have to be excited about athletes acting like and speaking up like normal human beings proves there’s a problem in the culture. To only focus on the wonderful things they’re doing is to make the problem itself secondary.

The Cee Angi column is also worth a read and go ahead and take the time to read the comments. Because when a woman complains about folks using any sort of word for female as derogatory, we’re being too sensitive, taking things too far, taking all the fun out of everything and generally being entirely too pc.

As Cee points out, dressing men as women seems to be the predominant way to embarrass and humiliate them – because apparently in the locker room, there’s nothing more demeaning than likening you to a woman.

But she also says this practice is blatantly homophobic and I’m not sure I’m ready to make that jump. While I certainly get where she’s coming from with this, I also think she might be causing her own issues by saying that any man doing something feminine is gay. She seems to be assigning her own stereotypes to gay men in the process of making her point and I’m not sure that helps the discussion.

And the pictures of the rookies getting hazed are making the rounds of the internet at the same time MLB is telling us that what Escobar did is wrong and that sort of attitude is not acceptable in Major League Baseball.

About the Escobar incident, commissioner Bud Selig said, “I consistently say that baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game’s diverse fan base deserves.”

So Commissioner Selig, why is marginalizing gays a problem, but doing so to women, not?

I am a proud and active alumna of a sorority. I spent my entire undergrad career learning how and why hazing is a problem. We couldn’t count or chant in a bar, less it be construed as forcing someone to drink. We couldn’t have uninitiated members take a test that the rest of the members did not take, because that’s hazing. We lived in constant fear of being accused of hazing or getting in trouble because something we did was construed as hazing.

Yet Greek hazing is somehow separated from sports hazing. In my ongoing volunteer work with my sorority, I’ve learned about things like National Hazing Prevention Week (which happens to begin tomorrow) and HazingPrevention.org, yet those are focused only on, as they say, colleges and universities. But I have to tell you in reading their information, they’re only focused on hazing among Greeks. While there is significant hazing happening on sports teams in college and universities around the country, this organization doesn’t mention it. And they have nothing to say about the hazing going on in sports at the same time they’re telling collegiate Greeks not to do it.

Isn’t this a double standard? Isn’t Hazing Prevention’s lack of comment on such things tantamount to an endorsement? Even if their stated goal is to stop hazing among Greeks, doesn’t it behoove them to mention the hazing going on among professional athletes (whom many view as role models) and point out that it’s wrong?

I can’t hear the word hazing without connecting the two together, so I find it crazy when media sites cover MLB or other sports hazing and don’t connect it to Greek hazing. How has this disconnect never been explored?

As someone within my sorority whom I both trust and admire put it, even if baseball doesn’t explicity forbid hazing, if their policies and mission statement make reference to teamwork, dignity of the individual, etc… all those can be used as a foundation to build the argument against hazing. That being said, isn’t the degredation of forcing folks into costumes in direct oppotion of the quote from Commissioner Selig above?

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