Re: A slightly differing tangent on sports, fiction-reading, drawing, music, basket-weaving, fishing, herding....etc etc


Andrew Stewart
 

Anyone who has studied the copious histories published in the past 40 years by New Left labor historians like Paul Buhle, Robin DG Kelley, Mark Naison, et. al. would know by now that one of the great publicity coups of the Daily Worker in the Depression era was its sports page and coverage of the fight to desegregate baseball.
I found the recent tangent about Zirin and sport journalism/fans to be both bemusing and bizarre. Sure, toxic masculinity exists in sports culture. It also exists on the Left. Lots of Communists in the aforementioned histories talked frequently about the sexism in the CPUSA. Bettina Aptheker wrote a very insightful review of the book Red Feminism <https://www.jstor.org/stable/40404032> that included multiple insights about the self-destructive misogyny and homophobia she dealt with for the 19 years as a member of the CP.
It was "thoroughly male-dominated, male-centered, and resolutely anti-feminist... [T[he Communist Party of which I was a member was so deeply sexist and homophobic. Male superiority was assumed in matters of theory and political analysis; women were objects of sexual prey in ways we would now call sexual harassment; women and children were victims of domestic violence and worse. None of these issues was taken seriously by the men in the Party, and few women were up for a serious challenge... Most women in Party leadership, especially at the national level, were the wives of Party functionaries. They held various and lesser staff positions. One exception was Dorothy Healey, who was her own “man.” Nevertheless, at a meeting of the National Committee in September 1968, I overheard Gus Hall, the Party's General Secretary, tell another (male) comrade sitting next to me that what Dorothy Healey needed “was a good lay” to overcome her opposition to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia!"
This is just a single organization. It is also a pattern replicated across every Left organization. The late International Socialist Organization departed this world after it was revealed that the leadership had engineered a systemic coverup of sexual abuses for years. The Party of Socialism and Liberation has seen similar schisms result from these behaviors. Various DSA chapters have seen similar scandals emerge over the past 5 years. In 2017 a similar scandal imploded the Providence chapter of the anarcho-syndicalist IWW.
Regardless of politics, sexual violence, misogyny, homo-trans-bi-phobia, and sexism have a significant, deleterious impact upon the Left. To insinuate or claim that sports is an exceptional instance of these behaviors rather than a social phenomena that reflects these chauvinisms in the same way these aforementioned radical organizations do is cynical naivete. For every instance of documented domestic violence by a football player, there is another one perpetrated by a radical, with Bettina Aptheker's own personal history demonstrating this. (And in fact, I have just a little more sympathy for football players owing to what we have learned about CTE and the way it causes decent ment to regress towards violent behavior as a result of their illness.) What compounds the indictment of the Left furthermore, magnifying the severity of these issues, are the following issues:
  1. As a result of both real and/or imagined threats of infiltration, as well as turning the threat into a weapon by the perpetrators, attempts to gain genuine redress for these grievances can be dismissed as "counter-revolutionary" or "snitching" or "breaking security culture" (which I personally saw happen in the aforementioned case with the IWW in Providence);
  2. Unlike the reactionaries, our side bases its entire existence upon the claim it seeks to eliminate these chauvinisms from society and, as a result, we look as hypocritical as the supposedly "celibate" Catholic priests that caught assaulting children! At least in sports they have the decency to be honest and forthright about how sexist they actually are!

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