What Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman Teach Us About Respectability & Black Masculinity
“Black masculinity and respectability are not synonymous, nor do we need/want them to be,” writes the Crunk Feminist Collective
From the Crunk Feminist Collective:
My take is that respectability and black masculinity are often situated in opposition of each other. Respectability seeks black men who are mild mannered, well dressed, and obedient (which is read as effeminate) while hegemonic masculinity requires resistance, a demonstration of dominance, and tendencies towards violence.
The NFL is unique in its glamorization and acceptance of hypermasculinity and aggression. In a game that is all about taking and getting hits, it epitomizes intimidation and glorifies thuggery on the field but expects, if not requires, a turn around when representing the league off the field. They want you to be a “beast” (Lynch’s nick name is Beast Mode) when you play, but a “choir boy” in the press room. It is irresponsible and unrealistic to think that despite the fluidity of gender performance, that you can socialize men to be antagonistic and aggressive for their job, but then expect them to effortlessly shift to being cooperative and submissive for that same job. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the legalities facing NFL players for their aggressions off the field, hypermasculinity cannot be neatly contained on a football field, especially in a culture that values masculinity above any representation of femininity (shout out to the Always commercial “Like A Girl” that aired during the Super Bowl).
But this objectification and manipulation of black athletes is not new. In 2005, the NBA implemented a dress code“to distance the league from its then ‘thuggish’ (and we all know what that really means) image in the mainstream. The rule made it mandatory for the players to wear a jacket and tie before games, after games, during interviews, on the bench while injured, and in attendance at league charity events.” The dress code required ball players to only “look” like ball players on the court, and to otherwise promote a more “respectable” aesthetic when representing the organization.
It is problematic to market black male athletes as hypermasculine and profit from their performance but then attempt to sanitize them as off the field and place lesser value on their everyday masculinity and cool pose/s. This is true in what is communicated verbally and nonverbally, by what they say (or don’t say), what they wear, and how they act.
Read the rest at Crunk Feminists