I read that the Buffalo Bills have hired a new assistant coach. Ordinarily news like this would not find its way out of the city of Buffalo but today it is nationally news worthy. And why would that be? Their new, full-time, specialty teams, quality control coach is a female and the first of her kind. Kathryn Smith is the first full-time NFL assistant coach. This comes on the heels of Jill Welter’s internship as she served as an Arizona Cardinal linebacker coach during the summer. Back in April of 2015, Sarah Thomas became the first female NFL official. I guess these would be major steps in women’s rights. It doesn’t seem that long ago women newscasters were arguing with the league for access to the side lines and, GASP, the locker room. My guess is, once the furor and the abusive and stereotypical comments die down, they will be successful in this bastion of testosterone. I do find it interesting many men still believe that “A woman’s place….”
I have been involved with many firsts when relates to Women’s Rights. I taught for the first female principal in Greenville County, South Carolina, coached the first female to be allowed to play high school soccer and the first coed to play football at the varsity level. I was looking for none of these firsts and had the media not made an issue of it I would not have known. Title IX now that’s another story.
I wrote the story “Liberation” for the book FLOPPY PARTS and with the news of the day decided to dust it off. I hope you enjoy.
Even though Charlotte, NC was close by, we were sheltered from the rapidly changing outside world. It was a long twenty miles to the Queen City on a two-lane blacktop and, by the way we grew up, possibly a decade in time removed. We had gone through the duck and cover drills that assured us that any textbook would protect us from a nuclear attack provided we took all sharp objects from our pockets. We were raised to be stoic and to be seen and not heard. In some ways we were raised to be “un-included.” Words like duty, reverence and respect were a part of our vocabularies. We still believed in the “American Exceptionalism” of the post-World War Two United States despite the warts we tended to ignore. We were decidedly Republican and my grandmother openly worried more about having a Roman Catholic in the White House than a democrat.
Still, being typically male, I was more aware of my floppy parts than world affairs, and, beginning in the late Sixties, they both got tied in knots.
Even though any available female was fair game and a target for our raging hormones, we had been taught to respect women. It was okay to pursue, but you didn’t lay a hand on a woman. You gave up your seat to women and you opened doors for women. As males, we did this not because we viewed women as weaker but as a sign of respect, the same way we were taught to say “Yes, Ma’am” or “No, Ma’am.” Most importantly No Meant No and not maybe. It was easier in those waning days of the Sixties because the girls had been taught the same way… and they didn’t have The Pill. I admit I may be looking through “rose-colored” glasses because I had been surrounded by such STRONG female role models. I believe with all my heart that women who grew up in rural settings during the depression and World War Two were taught to be stronger than their urban counter parts. I remember asking my grandmother to describe the changes she experienced during the Great Depression. She laughed and said, “We were farming on the lien and it was so hard already we never noticed.” That would be that she was out in the fields with my grandfather doing hard “man’s work.”
Regardless of my beliefs, all of them began to change as I welcomed the new decade and my address changed to Newberry. There were many movements spawned by the period. Native American Rights, Gay Rights and environmentalism were a few that joined Civil Rights during the “Age of Love”. Also, there was my favorite – Women’s Rights. There was one positive about the Women’s Liberation Movement – bra burning. Whether they were wearing a bra or not, women deserved to have the same rights as men despite the chauvinist argument “I don’t know why they want to climb down off of their pedestals?” After watching MAD MEN I wonder how high that pedestal actually was and who really had the power. I am sure this portrayal was “exactly” the way it was in the Sixties.
Liberation was a battle ground where if you picked sides you were either labeled a eunuch, if you agreed with the cause, or a chauvinist pig if you didn’t. Most of the Newberry coeds were southern gals (Is my chauvinism showing?) and had grown up under the same Biblical tenants as mine. The “times they were ah changing” and it wasn’t unusual to hear discussions about “Who should pay for the cost of birth control?” or “Who should make the decision about getting an abortion?” Fifty years later I still avoid expressing opinions on those questions because to do so would be to spoil for a fight.
Women’s Lib finally tied me in knots in the early Seventies. I remember walking up to the campus library door and seeing the reflection of a coed approaching me from behind in the door’s polished glass. Her reflection was dressed in bell bottoms and a pea coat, fashion staples of the period for those individuals who took political positions somewhere left of center. I also had time to notice her really short dark hair and the narrow, hawkish shape of her face. Nevertheless, I paused and opened the door for her. Smiling, I nodded my head and then got my ears pinned back. With a face that truly had turned hawkish she spat, “What are you asking me to do? Inviting me into to your male-dominated world? Baby Dicked Chauvinist Pig!” If you are waiting for my snappy comeback, hell may freeze over first. I still don’t have one. I should add, she still managed to enter the library ahead of me through the still-opened door but then so did the next fifteen people as I stood with jaw “slack and agape.” Baby dicked? Where did that come from?
Despite wearing khakis, oxford cloth and penny loafers during most of my adult life, I find myself embracing my “Old Hippy” side with flip flops, blue jeans and tee shirts to accommodate my move to the center left of politics as I have retired. Hawaiian shirts are a far cry from bells and pea coats but I wear them proudly. I believe in equality above all else. Equal rights, whether racial, gender, sexual, religious or economic, should be our goal as a country or as a people of that country. Women should have the same opportunities to succeed or to fail as men and it should be for the same pay. I was again sheltered when I chose teaching as my vocation. Teaching opportunities and pay were always equal and, as far as pay was concerned…Sorry, wrong movement. Now, I don’t know about upward mobility into administration but I do know that if I were ranking principals, women would take the top two positions as the best of the many I have had. The best one asked me during my interview in 1974 if I would have a problem working for a woman. She kind of leaned in as if she were going to tell me a dirty joke when she asked me. I thought, to myself, “I want this job so badly I would work for an orangutan.” To her I simply answered, “No problems whatsoever, I love women. My mother was a woman.”
I think there might have been a price for the equality so deserved by women. I read more about the rise of attacks against women or spousal abuse and see that doors are not opened and seats not given up nearly as often as they used to be even here in this hotbed of Southern chivalry. I guess I should add despite a little hawk-faced witch from 1970. Could that be the price that women pay? Maybe they did knock themselves off of their pedestal.
During the late Seventies, athletics were equalized due to Title IX legislation…except it wasn’t, at least in the school district in which I toiled. Rather than add resources to girl’s athletics, resources were taken away from men’s athletics which left a bitter taste in most male coaches’ mouths. I remember being told that, as a baseball coach, half of any money raised by my baseball team could be spent by the softball team whether they participated in the fund raiser or not. Luckily I had great relationships with my softball coaches and this never happened. Everyone didn’t have those great relationships that I fostered with malice and forethought.
While sitting quietly in a graduate course that included a study of the distribution of monies for athletics, a young female coach commented that it did not matter. “God Football” gets it all and until they fire all of the football coaches, girls would get nothing. At a break I could not help myself and strolled over to advise her that, while her feelings might be warranted, expressing them in an open forum might not be the best idea, especially if she were looking for a job. I also pointed out that football paid the bills and probably was what allowed her to have a job. She said something about having to “audition instead of interview” and that she was not “giving up the cause” just to get a job and that “maybe I should wait until my advice was asked for.” Her bell bottoms and pea coat were showing and no good deed goes unpunished. Several months later as we were looking for a girls’ softball coach, I received a call from my principal informing me that he was sending a prospective coach to be interviewed. Yeah, it was her and the look on her face was priceless. No, she didn’t get the job. Instead, we hired a softball coach who was also an offensive line coach. To her credit, she didn’t back down either, but then I am sure she knew she was doomed from the start. Does this make me a chauvinist? I don’t think so… but I do admit to being a realist.
If you enjoyed this story you may download it and other “STUPID MAN TRICKS” in Don Miller’s FLOPPY PARTS $.99 on Kindle http://goo.gl/Ot0KIu