Beach Walk 148 – Size Matters in Football

I talk about an inspired perspective on gender by Dr. Ben Barres.

About Today’s Show

One aspect of black and white thinking, or the “all or nothing” approach to life, is who falls through the cracks. In this case, it is the people who are born trans-gendered and end up choosing the alternate gender than the one their parents picked for them. We think in terms of man or woman, boy or girl, and most of the time it is an easy distinction. But any scientist knows that for any pair of human attributes, there is a continuum connecting the polar opposites. Thin-fat, tall-short, male-female.

I read a fascinating interview in the NY Times with Dr. Ben Barres, a graduate of MIT and Harvard, now a neurobiology professor at Stanford. He started life as Barbara, until his surgery a decade ago. He wrote an editorial in the esteemed scientific journal, Nature, on Does Gender Matter? I found his insights extraordinary, having experienced a range of prejudice yet also being first and foremost a scientist.

From the Interview:
Q. What about the idea that women are too emotional to be hard-headed scientists?

A. It is just patently absurd to say women are more emotional than men. Men commit 25 times the murders; it’s shocking what the numbers are. And if anyone ever sees a woman with road rage, they should write it up and send it to a medical journal.

The emotion more often associated with females is crying. That is weak (i.e. “bad.) Anger tends to belong to men. But it is seen as strong, thereby “good.” But not if you are at the receiving end of it!

Meanwhile, the Farrington High School Football Team arrived to workout. I asked the coach if there were any girls on the team: No. Nothing unusual about that. But really, a football team is made up of a range of body types: big brutish defensive lineman to small, agile place kickers. There have been girls who love to play football and many more girls who are larger and more brutish than the agile place kickers on your average football team. It seems we get distracted by gender, when really it is more about size and interest. Gender is so broad. Why do we persist in feeding the stereotypes? What is the underlying fear that keeps our eyes closed to common sense and logical observations?

Mahalo nui loa to my paddler friends for another great day on the water.

Hawaiian words
Wahine: woman
Kāne: man
Keiki: child

Be in Touch!


  1. Rox, this is great! I blogged about this today – the article from the Washington Post – and you said such great things about this. Rock on! Can’t wait to collaborate!

  2. i really appreciate that you cite your sources and not only give us so much to think about, but tell us how you arrived at that line of thinking. its so honest, and therefore far more inspiring than simply stating your opinions.

  3. I just randomly stumbled onto this video today, while I was browsing

    You brought up several very interesting points. As far as accepting the transgendered female onto a female paddling team, I think it depends on the reasons why the sport is segmented in the first place. Is there a men’s paddling group, a women’s paddling group, and perhaps a mixed paddling group? I don’t know anything about your sport, but if that’s not the case, the transgendered person has a dilemma.

    As far as football, if you’re not a man, you’re not playing. period. There’s no question that the transgendered person would be excluded by their own definition of themselves as female. In paddling, all you have to do…. is paddle. :D There’s no chance that a middle-linebacker’s going to smash some woman and paralyze her, causing a backlash against the NFL as inhumane. I think the question would be where the transgendered person fits in, physically, amongst the women…. I mean, if the surrounding society were willing to accept “him” as a female just because “he” says so.

    Physically, men have advantages because of the production of testosterone. Advantages in strength. Advantages in size. Advantages in aggression….. However, there are lots of guys that don’t produce a lot of testosterone and/or aren’t athletic at all. There are also a lot of women who are better at whatever given sport than A LOT OF MEN are at that sport… including football. :D That’s where I think the line “should” be drawn… “Does this person fit the physical (sports-wise, not genitally) makeup of these paddlers?”. Again, that assumes that the people who make the decisions are willing to look past the transgender-thing.

    You’re right also about competition in divisions. Someone transgendered is not going to be seen as a member of either the male or female division. Whose “problem” is that, though? Should the men have to accept someone that says they’re a woman into their division… a division the transgendered person doesn’t want to be in, anyway? Should the women have to accept someone that they consider to be a man into their division, just on her say-so that she’s a woman? At this point, American society isn’t set up to accommodate anomalies.

    Let’s say someone gets arrested, and considers themselves to be female. Maybe they even had their license changed to F from M. If they’re still “physically male” then they’re going to be thrown in the men’s jail. period. They might get some kind of protective custody, but they are NOT going to be thrown in the women’s jail, and there probably isn’t a special jail set up for transgender/transvestite/hermaphrodite people. Same thing with sports. There’s the WNBA. I’m sure that many of the women that play in the WNBA are better players than some of the players currently in the NBA, ESPECIALLY the benchwarmers! :D I don’t know what the reason is for not accepting a woman that can play better than the “worst” man in the NBA, but there must be one. Either someone has decided there NEEDS to be a separation between the genders in sports, or they really don’t believe a woman would make it in the NBA. Regardless… if a woman in the WNBA decided to announce that she had been born a male, I think she would be immediately discharged, since she no longer meets the qualifications of participation in this division.

    I don’t know that paddling is that serious….. but maybe it is! :D


  1. […] Here is the BlogHer site. The show I was talking about with Ben Barres is #148 – Size Matters in Football. […]

  2. […] I am not really intending to lump all men and women into one generic pot. But like I mentioned in the football episode, I’d rather see us lumped by actual preferences than by some stereotype applied to whole groups of unrelated people! […]

  3. […] Jamie Ann left a very insightful message on the conch line regarding Beach Walk #148 – Size Matters in Football. I want you to hear it, so I’m posting it after today’s show as an audio comment. Please visit the site to hear it. Information can be such a tonic. […]