Gender Diversity: Double Standard on Female Behavior in Sports and Business?
November 14, 2009
As I visit my daughter here at the University of New Mexico, the video that went viral of the UNM female soccer player who violently yanked an opponent’s ponytail — among other unsportsmanlike behaviors — is on my mind. The fact that it went viral. raises questions of whether women are trapped in conflicting standards of behavior and in double standards as it relates to men.
The blogosphere has vented quite a bit, and accurately, on the fact that if the player in question had been male this would have been a non-story. Not that soccer player Elizabeth Lambert actions aren’t appalling but culturally what made the difference between a story that would have only been of import only to the two teams playing each other, became a nationwide youtube and ESPN sensation.
As Bruce Arena former coach of the US men’s national team said in a interview with the New York Times, “I think we are somewhat sexist in our opinion of sport. I think maybe people are alarmed to see a woman do that, but men do a hell of a lot worse things. Was it good behavior? No, but because it’s coming from a woman, they make it a headline.”
This soccer incident surfaces the double bind that women in the workplace often face. Play it too softly, and they are not seen as leader material, play aggressively and the B word accusation is triggered to put her in her place. As more women play sports, and as more women rise into positions of leadership in society, politics, and business, all of us as part of it, must take a deep look at our beliefs and intuitive reactions to seeing women be explicitly competitive.
We must be able to clearly and fairly answer: what is truly unacceptable behavior — regardless of whether it’s a man or a woman doing it — and what is a double standard that ends up being detrimental in how women are assessed in their leadership success and potential?
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