Friday, April 16, 2010

Bowling Teams

I've been spending more of my time recently over at the BARCC blog; come and find me over there on Mondays.

With HCR now passed (it's a BFD!), I can resume my regularly scheduled ranting about political and social messaging in a broader context than one bill. Since the HCR bill decided to throw women under the bus, as pretty much always happens when we talk about sexual and reproductive health, I'm in the mood this morning to rant about rape culture.

Here's an example of excellent, grassroots, media supported social messaging: bowling team names. I'm in a seasonal bowling league with some good friends from college, and here's what I've noticed about bowling team names (and to an extent, bar trivia names, too) - they are all required, by John Locke's social contract, to be terrible puns. All of them. Pretty much without exception.

So in my league, we've got my team (Split Happens), the reigning champs, Living on a Spare, and so forth. When my team captain first sent out her email to get our ideas for team names, she didn't explicitly tell us that we had to pick something that was a terrible bowling pun - we just knew we were supposed to do that. There is enough support in the social atmosphere for us to have learned through osmosis that this is the convention in bowling leagues.

Where did we get this information? Probably a bunch of different places: Obviously, the Big Lebowski is a big driver of it, as is probably a small stable of other bowling-focused large-budget comedies I saw as a kid. A few episodes of the Simpsons here and there, a few episodes of other major TV shows, and the words and conversations of my parents and adult relations when I was a kid, made me aware that this was the naming convention in bowling leagues.

This led me to wonder - how is that the world that I float in on a day-to-day basis is able to educate me quite firmly about the social conventions of something so trivial, like a bowling league, but it is unable to create a coherent message about sexuality? Obviously, there are less social power dynamics at play in a bowling league than in our overall messages about sexuality, so that's one reason at least that our messages aren't as easily shaped.

Rape prevention activists also don't get a whole lot of support from mainstream media, and we're not making a lot of our own media in the meantime. I'm talking social media, not news reports and blog posts - both of those are great, but when my friends get together on the weekends to have fun and shoot the shit, we don't quote our favorite blog posts (well, not most of the time, anyway). We toss jokes back and forth from our favorite TV shows, movies, and sometimes viral videos, if they are funny enough.

One of the tools progressives and gender justice folks like myself will need to really push back against rape culture is the support of major social media, to start creating a viable alternative social space for people to make jokes, have fun, and share common experiences and loves that aren't sexist and rape-y.

My ultimate goal in this world is to make consent in sex, and respect, as basic and easy to learn through osmosis as how we're supposed to name bowling teams.

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