It can be hard to tell that Dallas Observer sports blogger Richie Whitt is a sports blogger, since his professional blog, the one that is actually hosted on Village Voice servers, largely consists of pictures of women in various states of undress and reflections on recent Korn performances, so you could be forgiven for wondering where the hell he thinks he gets off shitting on Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis for having the gall to miss a start in favor of attending the birth of his second child.
I mean, my first question was, what is Richie Whitt doing writing about sports, anyway? Is there not a wet t-shirt somewhere in the whole of suburban North Texas that needs his undivided attention?
Apparently not. No, when Whitt heard that Colby Lewis skipped a game, well, this:
In Game 2, Colby Lewis is scheduled to start after missing his last regular turn in the rotation because — I’m not making this up — his wife, Jenny, was giving birth in California. To the couple’s second child.
That’s right, folks. If you can believe it, this guy attended the birth of his child. Take a moment to collect yourselves if you must. I know news like this can be hard to process. Ok? Ok.
And lest you think that Whitt was just joking, I invite you to read further, wherein Whitt doesn’t really joke at all but just talks about how hard it is for him to wrap his mind around the idea of taking a day off to see your kid born.
Don’t have kids of my own but I raised a step-son for eight years. I know all about sacrifice and love and how great children are.
But a pitcher missing one of maybe 30 starts? And it’s all kosher because of Major League Baseball’s new paternity leave rule?
Imagine if Jason Witten missed a game to attend the birth of a child. It’s just, I dunno, weird. Wrong even.
See, it’s not that childless, single Whitt doesn’t know all about children and family sacrifice, it’s just that another dude choosing a different path than his is too hard for him to understand, and therefore wrong. No doubt the Gender Police have given Whitt some kind of very meaningful commendation (gilt mud tires, maybe!) and are preparing for quite the promotion ceremony.
Here’s where shit gets real: as the confused and disappointed Whitt noted, Colby Lewis is the first MLB baseball player to ever go on the league’s paternity leave list. This is not a small deal. This is a huge deal. This is a deal where a major sports operation moves from saying, hey dudes, we will pay you gazillions of dollars to chase a ball around a field and kids will look up to you for that as a role model, to saying hey dudes, with our express permission, how about you go be a father if you want to, because that is a good thing to do, that is also a role model thing to do. And Colby Lewis took them up on that. He decided that being a dad is important to him. And he went and was a dad and a husband and a partner.
And what’s more: he came back to work and is still a pretty fucking good baseball player.
So we can shrug off Whitt and say he’s just being a shit-stirring media personality who thinks any attention is good attention, which I am definitely doing, and which I think is a reasonable thing to do. But we need to go a step further and call out Whitt for using his shock-jock personality to perpetuate a system of toxic masculinity wherein men are only real dudes if they don’t do too much of that being-a-human-being shit, like trying to physically and emotionally support their families, witness once-in-a-lifetime moments and demonstrate that there’s more to life than a paycheck. Toxic masculinity, gender policing and shaming doesn’t just hurt women. Doesn’t just hurt men. Hurts everyone. Hurts families. Hurts people, all people, who deserve to not be pigeonholed and socially pressured into any one kind of behavior based on the junk in their drawers.
With this column, Whitt really hits the Toxic Masculinity Trifecta: ignorance (caveman too stupid to understand things other than sports/beer), fear (caveman cowed by freaky, unwelcoming ladybits and operations thereof) and dick-centricity (caveman judge value of all behavior in light of adherence to other socially constructed, traditionally male behavior). But hey, no doubt Whitt is pretty pleased at all the attention this is getting, not to mention the page views, because hey, page views you guys! It’s basically like thinking up a new cat meme! Victimless crime!
Except this kind of horsesassery isn’t a victimless crime at all. I don’t know if you guys look forward to this, or if Richie Whitt looks forward to this, but I do look forward to it: a day when those who have the microphone do not casually and ignorantly reinforce systems of gendered oppression that have been fucking up people’s shit for an awfully long time. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe being a father is the worst, and mocking men for doing absolutely, totally hetero-normal family stuff is super classy and awesome. I may have missed that memo because I was busy being parented by a loving father before growing up to watch many of my guy friends become great parents, because again, that is a normal and acceptable thing dudes do.
Of course, it’s interesting to observe the point at which Whitt, champion of toxic masculinity if ever there was one, felt it was reasonable and/or funny to call it “wrong” when a guy has demonstrably done the most heteronormative thing possible, which is to make a baby with a lady. Whitt doesn’t mind kids and family, ya know, he’s totally cool with that–it’s just that he wants to make sure the kids and family don’t upset some abstract image of Studly Professional Athlete, who is the epitome of manliness and would never let anything as silly–and unmanly–as parenting get in the way of actual priorities, like a baseball game. (And an individual baseball game as priority is up for serious debate, anyway, so go read Jason Heid’s post on Frontburner for more on why it’s not that big of a freaking deal if Lewis misses one game out of 30.)
So it’s really very simple: by choosing his family over his job, Colby Lewis is not performing masculinity properly, and that scares the shit out of people who have invested their entire careers, even their whole identities, in reinforcing said masculinity. What do I mean when I say a super studly professional athlete is not performing masculinity properly? I mean this: Colby Lewis’ act of choosing to be at the birth of his kid rather than starting as pitcher in a major league baseball game is a direct and public challenge to the patriarchal norm which dictates that women will be the ones to make career sacrifices, full stop. < / getting all women’s studies 101 on your asses >
Now, Whitt and his fans, one or both or all of whom I expect to turn up here in the comments section at any moment (oh, how I hope to hear a new sandwich-kitchen-stove joke, or perhaps a lengthy inquiry into whether I am fat, ugly or slutty!) probably think this all sounds like a bunch of feminist hoo-hah. It it totally is. Because feminism is for dudes, y’all. Richie Whitt just proved it.