Anytime a woman who doesn't quite fit the norms of what society deems feminine gains some influence in American politics, it seems lesbian rumors follow. Go ask the ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt, or, for someone living who you might actually run into in Miami, Donna Shalala or Janet Reno.
Though, the rumors have never quite broken through to the mainstream as they have with Elena Kagan, Barack Obama's latest Supreme Court nominee. See, she's not married, wears paints, has a haircut that sort of resembles one I used to sport, and, worse of all, enjoys playing softball! Kagan's friends and the White House has denied the rumors, but they still persist.
Yesterday The Wall Street Journal ran a picture of Elena Kagen playing softball 17 years ago on its front page. Gay activists said that it was smear. Well today, The New York Post (both the Post and Journal are owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News), ran a story with the headline, "Does a picture of Elena Kagan playing softball suggest she's a lesbian?"
What's more odd is that somehow this all has made a South Florida lesbian softball league relevant to national politics. Yes, these are the times we live in.
See, the Post also ran a story by Amy Guthrie about her experience as the only straight girl on an otherwise lesbian softball league. Even though Kagan isn't mentioned in the story by name, online the article is still illustrated with the infamous softball picture.
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Guthrie is a former staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and wrote about her lesbian softball league experience in 2008 in a feature story for that paper. The feature also examines the long history of lesbians and softball:
Historically, playing ball has been a way for lesbians to meet like-minded women. Most small towns had ball fields, so the sport was accessible. It seems natural that the national pastime also became a lesbian pastime.
In her 1988 book Diamonds Are a Dyke's Best Friend, author Yvonne Zipter reflects on why she and other lesbians are so attracted to softball: The softball field is a place where tomboys can act more like themselves, a place where there's less pressure to conform to the delicate feminine ideal.
Zipter also suggests that the public perception of softball players' being lesbians may have hurt the sport; more specifically, the stereotype may have handicapped the International Women's Professional Softball Association. By then, the women's liberation movement had made the general public increasingly aware that some females prefer to partner with other females. "[A]thletic women of the forties, while perhaps viewed as oddities, were not looked on with as much suspicion and contempt as their counterparts in the seventies," Zipter wrote.
It's an interesting story, sure, but we have to wonder if the Post asked Guthrie to again recount her lesbian softball experience, under the headline "I was token straight gal on gay team" no less, just to drive home the point that only lesbians play softball?