Men, Women, Athletes

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Men, Women, Athletes


I.

Don Juan loved women,
women of all size and and form,
young, grown, mature and old,
blonds, brunettes, women of white hair,
tall, short, fat, and thin,
ladies, vamps, matrons and maidens. 

Women come in all size and shape.
But, believe it or not, so do men --

blonds, brunettes, white, and, ah, bald,
stocky, scraggly, strapping, and, ho, sagging,
fat and flabby, rugged and raw.
You see them bare, for all to behold
on a beach and at poolside, unguarded.  

Riding subways in New York where I live
I gawk at men and women, unobserved,
and marvel at their infinite variety.

There are women of towering heights.
There are men of gargantuan girth.
But some men are slim and sleek,
and some women are of solid build.


II.

Men and women are more alike than unlike
much more than we are likely to assume.
Yet most men did believe,
and, alas, many still do,
in the world of sports, above all,
that women are fair as in the fair sex,
that men are stouter and stronger,
that men carry authority by their sheer size
that manly activities are unfit for women,
speaking categorically,
speaking generically,
speaking unthinkingly.

True some women are gentle and fair,
but others are fierce, full of force.
Many women can endure brutal pain,
like the pangs of delivering a child.
Not all women are fit for men’s work,
but some are, yessir,
and they do it and they do well.

Time was when it was believed
that only men can be tailors,
that women are too tender to drive a truck,
that they are hazards at construction sites,
that they lack stamina to conduct an orchestra,
that they can compose little songs but not symphonies,
that they can cook at home but are disqualified to be chefs,
that women who dare to do men’s work
were failing in being womanly.

Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Some can’t and some can; but why should she at all?


III.

In the world of sports ethos still prevails
that manly sports are superior to women’s
because they exhibit such prowess,
that girls and women simply don’t possess,
that manly sports are the real sports, and
figure skating is frivolous if not downright silly.
If women want to play rough games,
OK, let them have their own tamer teams.

All sports, manly or womanly,
executed by best champions,
exhibit power and precision,
speed and finesse, 
and stamina and endurance.
and, above all, discipline and grace,
no less than the classical ballet.

Playing pianissimo is no less strenuous than
pounding the instrument for fortissimo.
 

IV.

When we speak of men and women,
we are tricked by these words
into thinking that all men are of one cut
and all women come in one size.

So, some men naively believe
that men are strong categorically.
and women are weak generically.

It’s a trap but convention dies hard.
What do we mean when we say manly, womanly?
How men do and act mostly, most of the time?
How women behave for the most part?
How some men expect women to be?

Such words are abstractions,
words of statistical generalities,
with no substance in the real world.
Words delude us.

Let us learn to avoid saying men and women.
Let us learn to say some men and some women.
Let athletes, men and women, compete equitably
on the basis of their real capacities and potentials.

There are women who would drive a race car
if only given a chance.
There are women who would coach a male team.
Some can, some can’t.

There are women who like being cheerleaders.
Some do well, others don’t.
Some men like cheerleaders
only because they are women.
Some women find cheer-leading only demeaning.
Abilities vary across genders.

Let us celebrate athletes individually,
for what they can do, what they excel in,
free of any of those misguided rubrics:
male, female, men, women.

02.20.09  Copyright

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