Dec 26 2005

Lady Bloodlusting Mercenaries

LadyDudes, New Bremen H.S. 1926

It’s the godawful holiday season, which means it’s time once again for me to enjoy complaining bitterly about the sexist nature of sport. When the Olympics rolls around in a couple of months I’ll get to really tear into this, but until then:

It’s no newsflash that nobody watches women’s sports on TV unless the “sport” involves premenstrual nymphet children in sparkle makeup and crack-crawler leotards. But that’s not even what I’m complaining about today. Check out this eye-bleedingly dull report on County Girls Basketball from the Wabash Plain Dealer. Don’t bother trying to read it; the tedium will melt your face. Just scan for the names of the teams.

That’s right. Here it is a week before 2006, years after the 19th Amendment and the Pill and Title IX, and the default gender for a sports team is still Heterosexual Male. It is still of paramount importance that everybody know it.

Here’s what’s goin down in good old Wabash: The Lady Squires. The Lady Knights. The Lady Apaches*. The Lady Norsemen.

Lady Norsemen! I’m not even kidding!

Why don’t they just get it over with and call’em the Lady Dudes? The Ineffectual Boring Lady Dudes?

They’ve got quite a few lady dudes playing basketball in Wabash. There appears to be some anxiety in the community that hapless sports fans might omit to remember at all times that these teenagers have female reproductive organs the virtue of which has never been encroached upon by any of the non-lady Norsemen. This community anxiety over the femininity of its young females is mitigated by appending the word “lady” to the name of the virile boys’ team. This reassures everybody of the girls’ status as auxiliary athletes and as human beings of secondary importance.

That’s because “lady” is a term for a woman whose pussy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of her family or her community or her cult. It is what patriarchy calls a dainty non-male without personal sovereignty.

Based on this Lady Norsemen model, the sane person would expect at least one boys’ team in Wabash called The Gentleman Norsewomen. But this is America, and few sane people are left.

The boys’ teams, it will interest you to know, are not called The Gentleman Norsewomen. I know this because I read another article in the Wabash Plain Dealer, one which preceded in importance the article about the girls because it is about boys. Through this article I discovered that the golden male sportifs in the Wabash Metropolitan Area are just generic Squires and Knights, with no references, explicit or implied, to their purity, daintiness, or reproductive organs. I also learned that chroniclers of high schools sports refer to boy athletes by their last names, whereas girl athletes are called “Miss Demure Heterosexual.”

Boy athletes celebrate their love of patriarchy through emulation of white male supremacy. Their sports teams are named for groups of men-only organizations from days of yore commonly believed to have exhibited valor and heroism in some political or warlike capacity discharged while defending patriarchy. Knights, for example, were pillagers who flitted about the countryside oppressing the peasantry with clubs. The squires were the knights’ butt-boys. To a teenage American male basketball player, this apparently represents the pinnacle of human achievement.

I realize that sport venerates patriarchy, so in addition to The Gentleman Norsewomen, here are some high school boys’ team names I came up with that could balance out the Lady Norsemen. I draw, naturally, for inspiration on some of the historical roles for women as beloved and celebrated by patriarchy as are the knights and squires.

The Slutty Male Hos
The Virgin Dude Brides
The Raped Slavewomen
The Straight Guy Airbrushed Supermodels
The Obedient Male Secretaries
The Well-Hung Trophy Wives
The Non-Lady Kidnaped Squaws
The Teen “Male Lesbian Schoolgirl Prostitutes
The Dandy Church Ladies
The Pussywhipped Suffragettes
The Gentleman Manicurists

*”Apaches” as a team name is an odd exception. There is nothing in the word “Apache” that suggests, as do other team names, “white male racist.” One assumes, in fact, that actual Apaches come in all the usual sexes and genders, so a girl’s team could easily be called just plain old “Apaches” without causing uncomfortable gender-bending complications. But in Wabash, as in most of North America, Indian women are so invisible it is entirely forgotten that they exist. The default Apache, in Wabash, is a dude.


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  1. Ms Kate

    I’d bet “lady” Apaches was constructed so that you would not ever believe that such hoopsters and track stars could possibly ever be, well, uncivilized.

    How about the Gentleman Mermaids? He-Shivas? Man-Valkyries?

  2. MzNicky

    For decades now, the University of Tennessee’s mighty women’s basketball team, which almost always wins the national-championship honors, has been known as the “Lady Vols.” (The same cannot be said, to say the least, for the “Gentlemen Vols,” as I have always persisted in calling the male counterpart.) “Vol” is short for “Volunteers,” as in, Tennessee historically has sent more volunteers to fight in US wars than has any other state, so I’m pretty sure this is of course a moniker of dudely origin, but as you point out, it could have been worse.

    And in terms of daintiness, etc., the “Lady Vols” could kick just about any basketball team’s collective ass, no matter what its chromosomal makeup. As head coach/goddess Pat Summit once remarked, when begged for about the millionth time to please please become the “Gentlemen” Vols’ coach: “Why does everyone assume that would be a step up?”

  3. Donna

    That sexism is exactally why I couldn’t wait to move away from Texas, which otherwise is a pretty nice place. While on the track team in high school, we dressed out in the regular gym lockerroom with concrete floors. After showering, we would be given giant paper towels to dry off with (not kidding). In contrast, the football team had its own carpeted locker room complete with a whirlpool.

  4. Liz

    Hey, look at me, I’m a Lady Power Lifter! I can bench press twice my body weight, while wearing pearls and making watercress sandwiches, without mussing my coif or sweating a drop.

  5. Steph

    The varsity teams at the place I work are the Blues. They dropped the Lady a while back. I doubt they dropped the male supremacy though.

    How about The dudely breeders
    The gentleman bleeders
    The gentleman sirens

    Sheesh team names really are stupid.

  6. Hattie

    The University of Hawaii male teams are “The Warriors,” and the women’s teams are “Wahine,” Hawaiian for “Women.” So the male athletes are special guys, whereas the women are, well just women.

  7. wordgirl

    There is also the dismal practice of making all women’s teams into something that ends in “-ette”. Pantherette. Tigerette. Badgerette. You get the idea. I’ve never understood why, if you don’t find a Hippo-ette giving birth at the local zoo, why would you give a worthy sports team that name? (Full disclosure:My high school, the Mirabeau B. Lamar Vikings Arlington, Texas), had/has a drill team called the ViQueens. I’m still not over it…even though I wasn’t a drill team person).
    ‘m a book reviewer and recently wrote about a book that chronicles origins of Texas high school mascots. The worst offender for names? The Lady Bulls. Seriously! Now I need to go lie down.

  8. joy

    One of my favorites, from northern Wisconsin: the Lumberjacks and Lumberjills.

  9. whyme63

    I’m happy to say that while I played against Falconettes, Lady Eagles, and (seriously!) Badgergirls, I was simply–an Arrow. (the guys were Indians, we were Arrows. Beats “The Squaws!) The next town over had a team called, technically, the Lady Bulldogs. Everybody called them the bitches.

  10. amaz0n

    One of the virtues of being a young, award-winning female sportswriter at a small paper (we’re an effing rare breed, to be sure) is plowing through all of the sexist formatting policies as soon as you get hired. That’s what I did, at least.

    Second-day-of-work conversation:
    Me: “Why in god’s name do you call them the ‘Lady Giants'”?
    Boss: “Uhhhh…”
    Me: “We’re not doing that any more. It’s dumb.”
    Boss: “I see where you’re coming from.”

    Third-day-of-work conversation:
    Me: “Why do we slug the LPGA stories ‘Ladies Golf’? That’s stupid. They’re pro golfers. We’re not doing that anymore, either.”
    Boss: “Uhhhh … okay. I see where you’re coming from.”

  11. amaz0n

    Okay, that’s kind of clever, actually.

  12. amaz0n

    Also, let me be the first person to suggest “The Male Queens.” There’s a team around here named the Kings, and the girls are, yes, the lady Kings.

  13. emjay

    I was fortunate to go to a high school where we never had our mascot prefaced with “lady.” I never considered my town particularly progressive. None of the adjacent towns had “lady” before their mascot names either — everyone was just Tigers and Panthers and Pioneers. though I was fighting for equal treatment in just about every other way in high school (we successfully lobbied for a girls’ soccer team, citing Title IX), I was not introduced to the “lady” idiocy until my adult life.

    I am the president of a women’s recreational sport league, and I am just shocked every time a team puts “lady” in front of its own name. I cannot believe it when a team petitions to enter our league as the “Lady Wildcats” or something similar, when there are not even any male teams in our league against which they might need to contrast themselves. It annoys me much more when women try to make ourselves a group not to be taken seriously than when men do it, especially a group of women who play a contact sport. You’d think women who play contact sports would be beyond that, but apparently not.

  14. Summer

    Locally, team names are gendered thusly: The Hornets and the Hornettes. The ‘tes really gussies it up, I think.

  15. BritGirlSF

    One of the few good things about having gone to an all girls school is that there was none of this “Lady” crap with our sports teams. I agree with emjay – the fact that this happens at all is offensive, but the idea of adult women infantilising themselves by taking on the “Lady …” tag willingly makes me want to smack them. I’ve heard of this happening in the local women’s hockey league, and really, how exactly can one be a properly patriarchal “lady” while playing hockey? It almost seems as if they’re apologising for not being ladylike enough.
    Side note – some of the names have unintentionally amusing results. The name “Lady Kings” doesn’t make me think of a high school girls’ team, it makes me think of a team composed entirely of male transvestities. I’m picturing a bunch of dudes in full Ru Paul get-up trying to play basketball in heels, which I’m pretty sure isn’t at all what the idiots who felt the need to add “Lady” to the team’s name had in mind.

  16. emjay

    BritGirlSF, I think you’ve nailed it. There is a lot of apologizing in women’s sports, exclusively from the heterosexual women, for not being ladylike enough. It’s not all or even the majority of the hetero women, but none of the lesbians seem to do it. But several of the straight women I play with try to play down the competitive aspect and play up “burning off calories.”

    In another league in which I play, I was brought before the administrators for having a “negative attitude.” If I weren’t forced to be contrite in order to continue playing, it would have been funny. I’ve played coed sports before and worked in a recreational sports facility, and never have I heard of any adults being sanctioned for attitude. Plus my “negative attitude” did not come close to the infractions committed by male players at the same facility, and did not even include any actions, only verbal disagreement with some league policies. It is a struggle for me to back down in the face of anti-feminist practices in sports (the female coordinator of the league refers to disagreements as “catfights”), but there just aren’t a plethora of options for adult women playing certain sports. I comfort myself with the knowledge that the league I run is full of women who take our athletic participation seriously and don’t apologize for it.

  17. Ms Kate

    I don’t see it so much as “infantillising” themselves as feeling it necessary to take the edge off the ferocious uncivilized nature of their mascot.

    Thus “cannibals” becomes “lady cannibals” or “cannibaletts”, and loses its teeth in the process.

    What I like is when I see women’s teams that ignore all convention, like Sirens or such. How about The Incubus and Sucubus? Nasty! Don’t fuck with ’em!

  18. Ms Kate

    Could try the french pronunciation for the men (Hor-nay).

  19. BritGirlSF

    Emjay – wierd, and annoying, but sadly not surprising. I’m never sure why my fellow hetero females are so damn paranoid about the idea that someone might think that their participation in sports in unladylike. I played both hockey and lacrosse (and did fencing) in high school, and I’ve never felt any need to apologise for my aggression during said sports. The aggression is sort of the point, you know? If someone just wants to “burn calories” then going for a run would be a more logical way to go about it.
    Don’t even get me started on the idea that all straight women must constantly be on some kind of weight-loss program. It’s still the holidays and I’d rather not start throwing things.

  20. BritGirlSF

    Twisty – once you get into full Olympic blaming mode it might be worth taking a look at the book “Little Girls In Pretty Boxes” (don’t remember the name of the author). It’s about gymnastics and figure skating, and the overly sexualised little girls who participate in them. Truly a horrifying book, and a must-read for all patriarchy blamers.

  21. lemon peelings

    I’ve never encountered the “Lady” naming scheme – the “ettes” always pissed me off, though.

    In university I played on some kick-ass women’s intramural teams – there were some great names. The Crimson Tide, Flatinum (a mining and metallurgical team pun), Big Mech Attack (mechanical) … we were probably rougher than the guys, and everyone knew it. Maybe being engineers makes a difference. There was no one asking to be “Lady” anything.

  22. DrSue

    The men’s sports teams at the local college here are called the “Terriers,” while the women are the “Lady Terriers,” because, as you know, all dogs are male.

  23. Emma Goldman

    The men’s teams at my college were the “Yeomen.” The women’s basketball team (and other teams, for all I know; I didn’t play varsity sports in college) dubbed themselves the “Yo-mamas.” Which I thought was pretty funny.

    I play a sport in which very few women compete–I’m mostly playing with/against men in their 50s and 60s (i.e., patriarchal attitudes are hardly a surprise). In general, they have no problems with me playing; the occasional guy is afraid his dick will fall off if I beat him, but in general it’s not an issue. What they do do, however, is ask if I play against other women, where I find other women to play, etc., and some will always try to find a woman against whom I can play, as though the genitalia of my opponent is at all relevant.

  24. Christine

    My highschool teams were called the Generals, but until my sophmore year the girls teams were called the Ladybugs. Although I don’t think “lady” before names is necessary, Lady Generals was an improvement to Ladybugs. Not a huge improvement, but atleast it implied that the girls were a part of the same school.

  25. Mrs Bine

    The whole idea of women’s teams is idiotic. All sport should be played by all at whatever level of intensity / skill they can muster, regardless of biological plumbing.

    If a woman can play as well as a man in college ball or the NBA or wants to compete with those husky turkish men in the powerlift, I see no reason to disallow that. I do see a reason to eliminate “special leagues” for the physically deficient, like all-girls _yoursporthere_ leagues. They are ridiculous and offensive, it sends a subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) message to girls that they aren’t good enough to keep up with / play with the boys.

    I also disagree with all types of gender norming in jobs such as fire rescue, police work and combat military work (actually, I disagree with gender norming in any job).

    I completely agree that calling a team lady-this or lady-that is offensive. I find the existence of “women’s” teams offensive.

  26. emjay

    In theory, that sounds nice. In practice, it will push girls and women out of sports. Tall women basketball players might be 6’3″. Tall men basketball players might be 7 feet. That makes a lot of difference in basketball.

    A women’s league isn’t necessarily because women are physically “deficient,” but because women’s physiques give a different set of advantages and disadvantages. For example, a ration between length of legs and time completing a marathon is taken into account, women fare equally or better than men. But if it’s a strict time measure, men come out faster. Ice hockey is another example. The men’s game (which some women do play) involves bodychecking, which gives advantages to the biggest men. The women’s game, with no body checking, favors the quick player, not the biggest one.

    Finally, girls still do not have the same opportunities as boys when it comes to sports, and eliminating teams specifically for adult women means that women won’t play at all. Where I live, the men’s recreational adult soccer leagues are full of men who have played soccer since they were boys. The women’s leagues include a lot of mothers in their thirties and beyond who never played a sport before. Women in this situation will by and large be more comfortable playing with other women who are also learning.

  27. emjay

    One more thing — I have the single exception to the “lady” issue. The Senior C women’s ice hockey team in Atlanta was founded in 1996 and named itself after the Georgia state bird. They were called the Atlanta Thrashers Women’s Hockey. Three years later, along game the NHL franchise which decided to also use the name Atlanta Thrashers. The women’s team had to rename themselves Lady Thrashers to distingush themselves from the professional men’s team that took their name. Now everyone thinks the women’s team is a subsidiary of the men’s, or was at least named after the NHL team.

  28. Mrs Bine

    This sounds like Uncle-Tomming the patriarchy to me. Either we play with the boys (rather, everyone plays with everyone), or we don’t play at all. It’s how I’ve always felt. Women may select different sports where our qualities can help us more (like judo, and mixed martial arts, since we have lower centers of gravity and are generally more flexible than men), but there’s no reason we can’t run marathons and track and field with men.

    Tall women basketball players will simply have to find their niche, 6’3″ women will realize that they are no longer playing center, but forwards or even guards and will have to work on their physical bulk and size up a little to be able to box out the boys. I don’t see a problem there. I say let nature take its course and let us stand on our own two feet and accomplish as much as we can.

    As far as expertise is concerned, the grade you play with would be entirely based on merit. If you are not good, you’ll play on coed teams just starting out, if you are great, then I see no reason not to play for a mixed AAA team. It would be entirely based on merit, so the whole “30y/o mom would be a newbie” argument I think is a bit weak, there would be teams for 30 y/o moms and dads just starting out.

    Things, I am sure, would work out in the end.

  29. emjay

    A lot of marathons are run by both men and women, but the top finishers are listed by gender.

    I have played both coed and women’s sports, and I prefer playing with women. If we lived in a society where sex was irrelevant except in reproduction, I could see your point. Since I live in this society, though, I am not willing to give up women’s space to prove a point, whether that is in sports or music festivals or with whom I chose to socialize. I agree with coed sports for children, but I do not think women and teenage girls need to play with men just to prove that they can.

  30. Ms Kate

    My son’s soccer team, which I coached, was coed until they reach age 9. After that, they split things because the size differences between the boys and girls mean that the smaller boys take a real beating. Size is the biggest indicator of who will injure whom in a collision.

    When a school was trying to bar a girl from playing high school hockey, this worked to her advantage in court. The judge was basically “how big is the average boy player” and “how big is she?” and so on. Then it was “so, based on what we know about injuries, you are trying to keep her out so she won’t hurt the boys?”. High school boy hockey players are not usually the biggest guys, since those guys play football and basketball. The girls who try out tend to be bigger than the boys. So, guess who will get hurt in a body check – the 5’9, 155 lb girl or the 5’7 135 lb boy?

  31. Ledasmom

    I just found an account of a game between the “Lady Rams” and the “Lady Steers”. That last one is so stupid it kinda makes my brain hurt.

  32. Twisty

    If Texas were the only place where you could find sexism I’d actually maybe consider leaving, almost.

  33. Marla

    There is catholic high school in Milwaukee (Pope Pius the somethingth) whose female teams are known as the “Lady Popes”. Wrong on many levels.

  34. Casey

    that’s fucked up

  35. PerpetualBeginner

    My son’s school has the Pirates and the Lady Pirates – Pirates were never women, right?

    In a perfect world I would go for the gender-neutral teams. I do think that consideration should be given to any person who wants to play on the team of the other gender for whatever reason. However having teams that are primarily intended for one gender or the other – at the very least through childhood and puberty, when size differences can be considerable – seems sensible to me.

  36. mk

    I coach a girl’s soccer team and we are the jaguars. Is that good? I can’t say that I ever thought about any gender-specific names.
    THis article made remember all the school teams that were named the Spartans. Does anyone remember a girl’s team named the Spartans? Spartan women were, after all, famous for their physical prowess in ancient Greece.

  37. Dave

    No lady pirates? I don’t think so…

  38. Stephen

    Actually i believe in Indian mythology, it was not male gods who did the fighting.

    It was the goddess such as Durgha and Kali who fought against ancient enemies demonizing as Asuras.

  39. Laura

    Actually we didn’t “rename” ourselves the Lady Thrashers. The addition of “Lady” just kind of evolved over time. Not only did the NHL team take the same name, they constructed their practice rink and facilities adjacent and attached to the same rink we used (at the time). It was confusing for rink workers who posted schedules for spectators and other teams so they started calling us the Lady Thrashers. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any of us were thrilled at the addition; at the same time, when we were ready to buy a domain name and create a website (in 2003), no one had any better ideas for a name. So the Lady Thrashers were officially created. But our logo still says Atlanta Thrashers Women’s Hockey.

    Now that the NHL team has gone, it would be nice to take our name back, but probably too late.

    And yes I know this post was originally written in 2005. :)

  1. You need Other Magazine

    […] Twisty Faster has a super-witty post up at “I Blame the Patriarchy” about women in sports: Lady Bloodlusting Mercenaries. First she works up a head of steam… “It’s no newsflash that nobody watches women’s sports on TV unless the “sport” involves premenstrual nymphet children in sparkle makeup and crack-crawler leotards. But that’s not even what I’m complaining about today.” She then mocks women’s basketball teams that have names like “The Lady Norsemen”. It’s not just a casual mocking – it’s thorough and lengthy… no sports team could survive its eagle-eyed scrutiny! […]

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