Serena Williams, Teachers’ Strikes, Personal Experience

Midway during her US Open Final match against Sam Stosur, Serena yelled “Come on!” while hitting a blistering forehand winner. Points are supposed to be replayed following accidental yelps, but since this one was clearly intentional, the line judge followed the rules and awarded the point to Stosur. Stosur went on to upset Williams who unraveled and yelled “You’re out of control,” and “Really, don’t even look at me,” and my personal favorite, “You’re a hater, and you’re just unattractive inside.” Williams was fined $2k on Monday which I’m sure will inspire her to take a long hard look at her insides (sarcasm).

On Monday on ESPN2 two analysts debated the line judge’s decision—Jemelle Hill, a youngish, always thoughtful African-American female sportwriter, and Skip Bayless, a pasty white*, cocksure, middle aged male who is almost always the debate aggressor. The exchange was interesting viewing because Hill focused exclusively on William’s gender, never referencing her ethnicity. In essence, she argued that since MacEnroe’s epic outbursts (hilarious picturing Mac wrapping up one of those with “and you’re just unattractive inside”) men have gotten away with far, far worse on court behavior. She added that Andy Roddick’s US Open outbursts were at least as bad as Williams. Bayless wasn’t buying it insisting it was a pattern with Williams and that she got what she deserved and should be banned from next year’s Open. What? Hill kept coming back to the obvious double standard, and surprisingly, to Bayless’s credit, he conceded the point at the end of the segment.

Hill was far more insightful and persuasive than Bayless, because, I’m assuming, she has direct, first-hand experience with gender and race-based double standards in her professional life. She knows it as soon as she sees it. I wish the moderator had asked Jemelle if she thought Serena’s race also impacted the public’s (and Bayless’s) stronger negative reaction to her outburst. But I digress.

Tacoma, Washington teachers are on strike. Among the issues, the district wants greater flexibility in moving teachers from program to program and school to school to better meet the needs of struggling students. Teachers want continuity and are fearful of one superintendent or one principal arbitrarily moving them from year to year. I hope I’m wrong, but given the stagnant economy, high unemployment rate, and growing antipathy for public unions, I predict the teachers will struggle to win the community’s support.

Also, only a very small percentage of the public has direct, first-hand experience with the challenges of public school teaching. Just as Bayless struggled to see a gender double standard in professional tennis, the public can’t see things from the teachers’ vantage point. I empathize with the teachers. Few people, even if they freely chose to enter the profession, would passively and indefinitely accept their modest (and reduced) pay, their increasing class sizes, and their district and schools’ top-down management.

I hope the public union vitriol is tempered, the conflicts can be resolved, and the strike is short for the students and families it will definitely inconvenience.

* Just as African-Americans are able to use the “N” word, I can use the “PW” phrase because I am PW.

Trapped Deep in a Fem Vortex

In 1998, shortly after we moved to the upper left-hand corner of the lower forty-eight, we discovered a wonderful lake less than a mile from our crib. Once the GalPal and I became full-fledged lake swimmers, I felt it my duty to caution her about the “vortex” in the middle that swirled in violent secrecy and pulled down any unsuspecting swimmer that dared too close to it. She half-bought it, which was so gratifying I of course had to pull the same stunt on the daughts once they got old enough to venture across the lake.

What goes around comes around.

Just recently, when I got to one of the later chapters in Tina Fey’s very humorous bio, Bossypants, I suddenly realized that I have been pulled down by a seriously strong, all pervasive female vortex. TF had to know I was thoroughly enjoying her book, but a chapter on breast feeding? Really?! That’s taking serious advantage.

I took the time I would have spent reading that chapter and instead reflected on the fact that I’m surrounded by at least two or three women almost all the time. Afternoons in the fall, I help coach 40+ young womens. On my visit with my mom right now in FL, the GalPal, daughts and I are overlapping with my sister and her daught. What do you call a gender ratio of six to one? Normalcy.

Would it really have been so hard for the GalPal to give me a son?! Prior to my first move, did she conspire with my mother, her mother, and my sister, to put some sort of feminist hex on me as some sort of twisted joke?

I pray to God that you didn’t see me sitting among the sisterhood (mom, sissy, and GalPal) at The Help in an Orlando theater last week, dabbing back tears near the end. That confession alone introduces the possibility I may be too far gone. For shitsake, I refer to romantic comedies as “romcoms”, I routinely pick up feminine products at Costco, and I’ve been known to watch Glee, SupperNanny, and the Home and Garden channel.

In the life of this blog, this is post #507. Thank you very much. And I’ve never dedicated any of the previous 506 to anyone. But I’m dedicating this badboy (can I use that term?) to a fellow brother dangling dangerously close to the fem vortex—18 month old Kai UptheStreet. Too innocent to feel the tug of the vortex. His army dad gets deployed occasionally. His mom just gave birth to his fifth sister. Someday he’ll have his “Tina Fey” moment.

Hang in little man, hang in.