Monday, October 03, 2005
the pink thing
(a friend who insisted her decision to wear pink and order a pink drink the day before the game was just a coincidence)
While I was decked out in the more traditional black and gold this weekend, quite a few Hawkeye fans last weekend were wearing pink. Because I never stop doing social science, I did some counting of a few sections and my estimate is that there were maybe around 5,000 fans dressed in pink. The color was especially popular among both the female fans in attendance and the students (by my count, at least one in five women in the student section was wearing pink). The University of Iowa's student paper ran a headline story after the game titled "The Pink Revolution."
Why the pink? This was the first home game since the Hawkeyes made national news because of a visiting adjunct law professor's complaint over the visitors' locker rooms at Iowa being painted pink. They were painted pink over twenty years ago by a former coach beloved for bringing about the renascence of Hawkeye Football, who had been a psychology major and enamored of the research (whose ultimate epistemic status I am ignorant) about the subduing effects of Miller-Baker pink. This manuever became part of the lore about this coach and then a matter of "tradition." When the Hawkeyes renovated their stadium recently, the locker room was renovated, and now instead of just being painted Miller-Baker pink, all of the fixtures and everything else is also pink.
In case you were unaware, the color pink is associated with femininity in our society.* In case you were unaware, there are people who like to do things like, for example, denigrate football players deemed insufficiently tough by yelling about how they play "like girls." Or even yelling something like, "You should be wearing pink if you're going to play like that, you stupid sissies!" These are some fairly large dots on our cultural landscape, and you don't exactly need a law degree to connect them.
You also don't exactly need to be a genius to see that if you want to stir up a backlash in a state that has plenty of good reason to feel like it is looked down upon by the liberal elite of society, have the standard bearer be a visiting adjunct law school teacher. Yes, imagine it: "She's not from Iowa," "She's not even a real University of Iowa professor," "She's a lawyer."
My own opinion on the matter is that the pink locker rooms are distasteful and, if there were an alumni referendum on the matter, I would vote to change them, perhaps to an equally soothing green pastel. I do not regard this as being anywhere near the same league of distasteful as Indian mascots, and, in terms of sexism in college football, regard it as less regrettable than the progressively frank objectification of pom-pom squads (which I do regard as, just so there is no ambiguity, regrettable).
In any event, there won't be a referendum on pink, and if there was keeping the locker rooms pink would now win with at least 90% of the vote. Because the way this controversy has played out has made the locker rooms into now being A Matter of Tradition. And nothing makes folks dig in their heels against politically sensitive change quite like the successful evocation of the idea of Protecting Tradition And Heritage. Had UI just decided not to go with pink when they built the new locker rooms, this then-minor tradition would have passed without much of a whimper. Now the forces of faculty senate resolutions may indeed get the pink removed, eventually, but it will be one of these things done over various threats of donor withdrawals and legislative intervention.
In any case, the law school teacher who raised the complaint did so in part on her blog, which she has since abandoned and deleted in the face of death threats and other ugly gestures from Hawkeye fans. Her voice deserves better than that, obviously. You can retrieve her post from the Google cache here.
* Although, famously for social constructivists, at least some American commentators associated pink with masculinity less than a century ago.