Thoughts by Richard Bleil
The uproar is about female Volleyball teams being required to wear two-piece bikini uniforms. The men don’t. They wear athleticwear that is quite conservative. On my social media page, I reposted a meme calling this sexist practice into question. A friend of mine commented, saying that if you look at the roots of volleyball, it started on the beaches and historically the women wore bikinis. Yes, I get this. And yet, I doubt that the men wore the tops and athletic shorts, rather than swimwear, that they wear today. For that matter, if we are being true traditionalists, then we must ask why the teams play on hardwood floors, rather than on the sand.
Calling for bikinis because of the roots of volleyball is just an excuse. It’s another way to separate the genders and continue to objectify women. It derives from the desire to see young, fit, female bodies glistening from moisture. I’m sure there are many who would like to see the male volleyball players in uniforms modeled after the slender Speedo swimsuits as well, and although that is likely the roots of male volleyball teams, they’ve been allowed to evolve into more practical uniforms.
And I think that evolution is, indeed, the root of the issue. The sexist outfits required for female athletes is little more than an attempt to prevent evolution to a more advanced society, one of more equality, just as the resistance to remove confederate statues is an attempt to stop evolution to a more evolved society based on respect for everybody. Truly, the goal of any enlightened society should be evolution.
Now I’m not saying there is no need for conservative thinking. Sometimes evolution is too fast. Had we paid more attention to the thinking of Native Americans, with their respect for mother earth and reverence for our ancestors and their ways, maybe the earth would not be warming to the point of fires so bad that the smoke from Canada covers the US. In the earliest days of the automobile, more than half of vehicles were actually electrical. Imagine if we had kept a healthy mix if electric and internal combustion engine vehicles all along. We would be in a far better position than we are today.
The problem with doggedly holding onto the past is clear in the January sixth investigations occurring today. Even now, Trump continues to harp on what he calls the stolen election and perpetuating the same great lie that inspired, if not flat out instructed, the participants in the January sixth uprising. This was little more than an attempt to overthrow the legitimate election results, and the US Constitution, to keep Trump in office. It was an attempt to stop national evolution.
Change and evolution are frightening concepts to us as human beings. We’re raised with the world being a certain way, and this world, as we know it, has protected us, fed us, and kept us going, but does it keep us growing? Critical Race Theory is an academic pursuit for continuing evolution. In essence, it is an examination of how racism is rooted in our past and continues to grow today within the institutions and establishments we’ve created. This racism is insidious in nature, not always revealing itself at first glance, and yet the results are obvious. Minorities struggle economically and overpopulate our prisons. It’s easy to overlook racism in ourselves and our institutions, and yet, closer and deliberate observation reveals real problems. For example, recently statistics demonstrated that minorities are more likely to be charged with crimes for possession of narcotics, and that they are often given longer sentences when convicted.
I’ve written before on the difficulty of recognizing racism within ourselves. It requires a very difficult and painful self-examination and, frankly, will reveal truths we’d rather not see. Recently I’ve had cause to re-examine my own practices, and yes, found myself wanting. But while it is not easy to accept shortcomings within ourselves, it is really the only way to evolve. When I taught, we always had evaluations that the students had to fill out. Back then, the faculty was given the opportunity to ask three questions of their own. In my opinion, these evaluation forms are misused because they are part of the administrative evaluation of faculty. This is an amazing incentive to ask fluffy questions that have no real value. The best questions will be the difficult ones that reveal negative comments to give the faculty something that they can focus on improving, but if administration reviews these evaluations, there is incentive to avoid asking these kinds of questions.
Of course, I’m a freak.
I always asked three questions and told my students that if they do not put serious answers for all three, I will not consider their answers. The first was to explain something that they found helpful about my teaching style, the second was something I did that had no effect, and the third was something they found distracting or harmful to their learning. The idea is simple; students who have nothing to say but negative are likely biased and simply angry, just as those who have nothing but positive things to say are biased as fans. If you cannot look at yourself with the equivalent of these three questions in play, you’re not really reviewing yourself.