May 13, 2013

she's a girl, not a woman. fifteen will get you twenty, dude.

Remember way back last week when a man was arrested for having sex with a minor?

A women's water polo team.
I am sad to say I did not
personally take this photo.
The man was a girls' water polo coach at our local high school. I don't know either the girl or the man, but from the rumors shoved down my throat, this seems to have been consensual. (The law, of course, insists that a minor cannot consent, so  the dude is in big trouble for his galactically awful judgment. I don't excuse him. Not one bit.)

But here's the thing. The high school administration, and the local sports community at large, are as guilty as anyone in this.

I'm a writer. I think words matter. The difference between "infant" and "toddler," for example, is huge. An infant isn't mobile, can't pull an unattended knife off a kitchen counter and stick it into an electrical outlet (or into a little brother). Infants are cute when they cry. Toddlers are Terrible, all the time. We all know it without any more information than the words infant and toddler.

What about the difference between "girl" and "woman"? Girls are innocent and naive. They're Laura Ingalls. They fantasize about being Disney princesses swept away by Prince Charming, and they wear fairy wings even when it's not Halloween. Women, however, have a gritty, world-wise toughness. They listen to All Things Considered, count points, and have credit card debt. They understand that romantic comedies are shelved under Fiction.

The article linked above, you may have noticed, referred to the arrested man as a "girls' water polo coach." Our high school, however, consistently refers to our girls' sports as women's teams. When I was growing up, I was on the boys' track team, not the men's track team. Why are we in such a hurry these days to treat our kids like adults? Why can't we let them be kids?
Kinda says all we need to know about that, doesn't it?
Maybe I'm old fashioned, but when the participants are minors, I think they should be called boys and girls, not men and women. The coach was told, over and over, that he was coaching women. The girls were told, over and over, that they were women. What, exactly, did the administration expect to happen?

2 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

That's a tough one. I don't think a label made a bit of difference to him. He chose someone who was in an inferior position of power.

That can be a lot of things like an age difference or a mental capacity difference (like the one arrested near here today for molesting a teenage student with a 5 year old mental capacity.)

It's about the sniveling coward who can't relate to a real woman so he chooses one (girl or woman) who he perceives is easier to control.

Peter Dudley said...

You may be right, Sarah, but I'm not so sure that's the case here, from what I've heard from people who have some credibility. My point is not that the guy shouldn't be blamed--it was at a minimum a colossally stupid thing to do, and everyone knows what he did is a crime. It could have been predatory, of course, but credible people seem not to think so.

My point is that society already puts pressure on kids to grow up too fast. It comes from media, from parents, from peers. Does it really have to come from the school, too? I guess the point of calling them "men's wrestling" and "women's swimming" is to make the kids feel more mature. Maybe it's to lend gravitas to the sports so parents will donate more. I don't get it. It's one of those "seems like a nice idea for building self esteem and promoting maturity," but is that really what it does?

Being on a sports team doesn't make a kid an adult. She's still a kid. Why isn't that okay?