By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Is Barry Graham ("Les Go, Mercury," July 31) threatened by the physical ability of women on the basketball court? Would he write a similar column about a gay football player?
I go for the sport because of good players playing a good sport, doing a great job. I enjoy the fans because they, too, are having a great time rooting their home team on to victory.
So what if they are lesbians, so what if they are homosexuals, so what if they are heterosexuals? We are there for the enjoyment of the concert of human life, enjoying the game together. Get into the game of life, or leave everyone alone!
There is so much more to women's basketball than the composition of the crowd. To reduce it, as Barry Graham did, to "a bunch of lesbians" having a party is ignorant. The women athletes are wonderful, and to reduce all of their training and ability to "curiously sexless, unaesthetic bodies" is typical male insecurity. They play for the sheer joy of being able to show the world that women, too, can be terrific athletes. They don't have the "gifts of a Jordan, Rodman or Barkley"? Hell, yes, they do, and it's wonderful that the world can finally see that. Women's basketball is sheer ability. And guts. And desire. It's sick to look at it by the makeup of the crowd. Look closely at the makeup of the people who go to watch the men play. Whew.
To attack the "bunch of dancers that come out in the quintessential motif of European gay cabaret" is moronic. These are, again, talented folks and dancers who are there for the joy of it, for being able to show the world how to have fun. Or, is having fun more like having large breasts, makeup as thick as mud, bodies built like French whores, "dancing" around to show the common world what moronic truly is?
This is not simply "show biz," the "breeders" against the nonbreeders, as Graham puts it. This is finally a chance for women to be able to get out there and be counted. To matter. And it matters to a lot of folks, not just those who have been targeted. Many of these women are married and have children--not that that matters. But, with all this ridiculous publicity, if I were one of them, I might be tempted to quit. And it would be for all the wrong reasons.
Women's basketball is where it should be. And women have had to fight for their place in this world for far too long. I am a woman physician, I should know. Stop all this foolishness, this ignorance. Just let it be--it speaks for itself.
Teri L. Goslin
Barry Graham writes as a firmly entrenched chauvinist with a trembling fear of women, particularly if they enter a "man's" arena of professional sports, and that he is bluntly homophobic. He postulates criticisms about the Phoenix Mercury, the WNBA enterprise and women in general, intending to debunk and debase, but succeeding in presenting a stratum of dogma that is offensive and simply irrelevant.
Graham takes issue with the Mercury making money, citing a fleecing structure which includes inflated prices in parking, concessions and merchandising. He admits that the same marketing structure is built into NBA games, but when women are factored in, "it feels different, worse, tackier." This is paradoxical, since Graham cites Dennis Rodman (well-known for his thoughtful social poise and grace) to illustrate the "personal charisma and athletic prowess" demonstrated by the male industry. Rodman is a prime example of vicious commercialism. All fans of the NBA have, for 20 years, "felt hands in their pockets." Why, then, are the WNBA and the Phoenix Mercury singled out for indulging in the same rules of business? According to Graham, the answer is to cater to the entertainment needs of lesbians.
Since the women of the Phoenix Mercury are strong and talented athletes coming dangerously close to the prestige enjoyed by their male counterparts, then by default they and their fans must themselves be asexual or lesbian. More dangerous, this belief extends inclusively to all women in sports. "The Mercury players, like almost all female athletes [letter writer's emphasis], seem curiously sexless while they perform. That appeal is not to heterosexual men." This seems frighteningly misogynistic and patriarchal. Graham ignores the traditionally feminine appeal of such athletes as Florence Griffith Joyner, Gabrielle Reece and Steffi Graf. He blunders onward to suggest that because a woman exhibits athletic prowess, she is instantly stripped of her femininity. Graham is quick to attack the spectators, criticizing them if they should cheer, disapprove of a call, generate excitement for their team--in short, behave as the fans of male sports do. Graham even notes that some fans "smell strongly of cigarettes," as if this attribute would be absent at a male sporting arena. In short, anyone who would attend a Mercury game and thus support female sports falls too far outside Graham's good, old-fashioned, male-chauvinist bell curve of normalcy.
Barry Graham's "Les Go, Mercury" is extremely disturbing. Graham's "insights" on the impact the WNBA has had on the sports-fan community in the Valley reminded me of that of the high school freshman who cannot be sure he will ever score a date with a girl, so he decides that all of his female counterparts must be "lesbians." Graham misused his power as a writer by trying to pass off his own insecurities as academic reporting. Call it what it was: a display of covert bigotry.
Who cares who attends the games? Much more important, Phoenix is making history: There are eight teams in the WNBA, and we have one of them--a good one with a great coach. This town is famous for rallying support around our sports teams. I think strong fan support sparks the winning passion of a team just as much as high salaries. Was Graham's goal to stereotype the crowds, spark the insecurities of others like himself and, thus, thrust the Mercury into low ticket sales?
I must point out that I am a heterosexual, married woman of color who was extremely distressed by Graham's column. I point this out only for those who, like Graham, probably would dismiss my comments as the sentiments of "just some overly sensitive lesbian." But, believe me, even "straight" people were offended by Graham's irrelevant rhetoric. I still plan to go out to America West Arena and cheer on the Mercury in the same way I cheer for the Suns and the Coyotes. I truly hope that the community of sports fans in Phoenix will not be swayed into nonsupport of the Mercury as a result of Graham's irresponsible "reporting."
Since when has the sexuality of those present at a sporting event become the show, the main event, that to be watched for monitors and clues about the inner desires of its members? Does Barry Graham attend Arizona Rattlers games and wonder, "Hey, why are there so many sweaty, beer-gutted, obscenity-yelling, groin-scratching, wiener-eating men in the audience for this castrated version of gridiron?" I think not!
Graham mistakenly assumes that all attendees of the Phoenix Mercury games believe as he does: that women's basketball is not as interesting as men's basketball, and, thus, we should objectify and sexualize the players as we would any woman. Consider that historically and socially, it is considered unbecoming for a woman to engage in sport. Women are not encouraged to play sport and, thus, it is created and re-created as a male domain. Now that the Mercury has corporate sponsorship and a marketing scheme, women have the opportunity to demonstrate their physical and mental savvy and skill on the court; i.e., very publicly and for cash.
Prior to the WNBA, women's capacity to showcase their athletic skills and get paid for their labor was well-constrained by funding problems, social retardation and reactionary politics. Prior to women's public visibility in professional basketball, for whom was sport a means of making a living? Who was supposed to enjoy sport and its performance?
We always risk subordinating women to male models of the world, furthering the entrenchment of heteropatriarchal social relations, and basically acquiescing to the ignorance and violence of sexism and homophobia. While Graham's piece retrogrades into argumentation that labels the male version of basketball authentic and interesting, and the female version bad mimicry, he fails to recognize the larger sociohistorical context--the reality--which has constrained opportunities for women in professional athletics.
Graham has written of the Mercury as if the players belonged to some second-rate, ill-planned sports endeavor that is perverse because it has attracted the attention of women. Sports-marketing gurus have been trying to attract a larger market of sportsgoers for eons! After much failure, they got wise and realized that if they put women on the court, and not just at halftime, they would attract their target market--WOMEN! Women and men enjoy the Mercury games for various reasons, but most would agree that they came to watch women strut their basketball stuff. Chicks play hoops with flair, panache, strength and intensity. This is obvious to people not blinded by overly large egos and hyperactive yet fragile masculinity. It is certainly obvious to women in the audience. And we don't need men like Graham to discipline us or educate us about how to watch a basketball game.
Graham should get over the heterosexist, patriarchal values and wake up to the reality that women do not applaud his writing. Oh, by the way, if Graham reads anything besides his own column, he would know that "the breeders" are not the only ones capable of reproduction. It's called biotechnology.
I write to advocate for less anxiety about "demasculinized men," misogynist writing and thinking, and heteropatriarchy in the articles of New Times. Disciplining women who derive pleasure and pride from actively supporting female athletes and athletics is outrageous behavior for anyone, particularly those who attempt to communicate with the public!
Barry Graham responds: Did these people bother to read the column? I wonder, because the one they're talking about bears no resemblance to the one I wrote.
The comments Keith Walker attributes to me--the suggestion that if a woman exhibits athletic prowess she is instantly stripped of her sexuality, that fans must be asexual or lesbian--are not in my article and are the product of Walker's imagination. The same goes for his claim that I "attacked" fans for cheering or booing--on the contrary, I praised them for the good-naturedness of their partisanship.
Lisa Todzia's tirade shows the same imaginative flair as Walker's. I did not suggest that the Mercury is second-rate, ill-planned or perverse. I did say that "the Mercury is a good team." I did not offer women advice on how to watch a basketball game (although many now seem to be offering me such advice). I certainly made no reference to "disciplining women." And, for Todzia's information, "breeder" is a mildly derogatory term commonly used by gay people when referring to heterosexuals. I like it. I think it's funny, so I used it.
Teri L. Goslin displays her homophobia when she says I "attacked" the dancers by comparing their Men in Black routine to European gay cabaret. How is that an attack? Is there something wrong with being gay? Or European? I made no reference to "breeders against the nonbreeders."
Joscelyn Johnson Andrews asks, "Who cares who attends the games?" I do. This is New Times, not Sports Illustrated. I'm more interested in the social and cultural demographics of the spectators than I am in the game, though I do enjoy the game and will continue to attend.
Andrews suggests that because of my "insecurities," I decided that my "female counterparts must be lesbians." The reality is that I went to a game alone, noticed the crowd, then went to another with a group of lesbians--one a close friend, another a neighbor. I didn't decide they were lesbians--they told me.
In my writing, I speak for myself. When reporting, I say what I saw. When commenting, I say what I think. I don't speak for anyone else. But Goslin, apparently, is in a position to speak for the athletes, while Todzia is speaking for all women.
Mercury games provide a strong social and cultural focus for lesbians in Phoenix. Long may that continue.
I really must disagree with JHP (Letters, July 24). Possibly this letter writer just doesn't get it. Red Meat is one of the funniest strips I have ever read. Beware the pinks.
Max Cannon's usually offbeat tempo and dark, bizarre humor never cease to amaze me, and constantly leave me chuckling for several minutes. I say this in answer to JHP's letter to the editor. I'm fairly typical of the comic-reading public: I loved Calvin & Hobbes, enjoy Dilbert and sometimes find Tom Tomorrow's work somewhat amusing.
I can sympathize with JHP in one regard: Zippy the Pinhead struck me as funny as a 17-car pileup without survivors. If that is JHP's problem with Red Meat, then I can see the request to pull the strip. As for those of us who read New Times for the sort of information and entertainment you can't get in a mainstream paper, please keep Max Cannon!