Friday, May 14, 2010

Kagan once played softball, which means she's gay?

Ever since President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, questions about her sexuality have figured into the overall news narrative. Recently, news sources have begun showing a picture of Kagan playing softball, and suggesting that her affiliation with the sport shows that she is indeed lesbian. (Pat Buchanan, the MSNBC pundit, provided particularly insightful commentary, stating that playing softball is a lesbian “signal,” just like “two guys sunbathing together” brings the “immediate implication that they’re gay.”) Aside from the problematic ideology that an out lesbian is somehow a mark in the negative column in evaluating this potential justice, the implication draws from an age-old stereotype about female athletes. News media own the responsibility of ethically informing the public so that we may become better citizens equipped to make educated decisions. What Kagan’s short-lived amateur softball career has to do with her potential as a Supreme Court justice is unclear. What is clear, however, is the persistent stigmatization of women who do not conform to traditional notions of femininity, including those who have the gall to use their muscles and swing for the fences on a softball field.

--Erin Whiteside

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