Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 23:09
Let me start by saying that I, like many, am a fan of Boston College football. I go to the games, I yell too loud, I sing along with the marching band, I do the cymbal thing on third down, I love it. Being an Eagle has always been one of my favorite parts of being at BC, and that isn’t going to change.
But part of being a fan is calling out my team when they aren’t doing a good job of representing me, and lately BC football deserves to be called out: the #BeADude mantra that trends on Twitter every Saturday and is plastered all over our promotional materials is offensive and should be removed. The slogan promotes a restrictive ideal of manhood and alienates the many women who love football as much as their male peers. #BeADude makes us look immature and frat-y, so it’s time to pick a new slogan.
#BeADude originated with defensive coordinator Don Brown and was later adopted by coach Addazio as the team’s de facto slogan. Asked by ESPN to explain what it means, Addazio said, “be a dude, and what being a dude is, is being a baller. You know? Just being a real baller. Just being a dude. Be great. Be a baller. Be great at what you are. Just don’t be average.”
So, let’s set aside for a moment the fact that that explanation is, at best, confusingly worded—this is a remarkably close-minded statement about gender for a top-flight university (or any university, or anyone, ever) to be making. Think about what BC football is saying. They’re drawing a line, with “dudes” on one side, and everyone else on the other and claiming for themselves the authority to determine which side of the line you fall on. In so doing, they’re simply perpetuating the narrow stereotype of machismo-laden masculinity that plagues our society, creating an in-group and an “other” group. We live in a society that encourages men to be aggressive and unfeeling while discouraging them from being emotional and vulnerable. Sports are manly, so they’re acceptable. But singing along when the marching band plays One Direction? Not so much (sorry, not sorry). I’m not saying that BC football is creating or even intentionally promoting this unbelievably restrictive standard of masculinity, but they’re certainly participating in a broken culture that fails to give many men space to express their gender identity comfortably. If you want to say something to your team, fine. But what message does it send to other students, not to mention young boys who idolize BC athletes, to equate being a “dude” with being a big, tough football player? I know some great dudes who sing opera or paint or do math. And they’re just as manly as the dudes I know who play football. We need to tell our young boys to do what they’re passionate about, whether it’s suiting up for a football game or suiting up for a ballet performance (ironically, the “suit” is somewhat similar). Telling them that being a man is “just being a real baller, just being a dude” is as harmful to their growth as it is verbally senseless.
And by the way, I know plenty of people who love BC football who aren’t “dudes.” News flash: women like football, too. So what message are we sending by sticking “#BeADude” on the promotional poster for BC football? It’s like the sign they put up at the end of Little Rascals (spoiler alert): “The He-Man-Women-Haters Club: Girls welcome.” Oh, why thank you, BC football, for allowing women to participate in this dudely dude-fest. I dropped out of CSOM, so I don’t know what theory of marketing says it’s a good idea to alienate half of your consumer base, but apparently that’s a thing now. If football is all about being a dude, we’re perpetuating the notion that sports are for men. It’s a man’s world—women just get to live in it. I would never try to speak on behalf of women, but I’d guess that being on the receiving end of that message is pretty awful.
As cynical as I may sound, I actually think this is a great opportunity for BC. Because, let’s be honest: gender is awful. Gender is just this arbitrary set of societal conventions telling us what we can and can’t be, and it’s the worst. But it’s really difficult to talk about gender, particularly for men, because talking about it means questioning it. And why would you need to question it? Why would there be any doubt in your mind about what it means to be a man? Are you gay or something (side note: it turns out some men are gay and they’re also men, crazy, right?)? Men grow up in a world where questioning masculinity is itself considered unmasculine, and that’s a shame.
But whose masculinity will never, ever be called into question? BC football players. Say what you want about their performance on the field, nobody is disputing that they’re a manly freaking bunch. So let’s use this. Let’s start the conversation on masculinity that we so desperately need and let’s start it with the BC football team. Because that’s who we need to hear it from. That’s who we need telling young boys that they can play an instrument and still be manly. We need them telling boys they can like boys and still be manly. We need them telling young boys that it isn’t sex if their partner doesn’t say yes. The “dudes” of the BC football team have so much potential to be a force for good when it comes to deconstructing antiquated and harmful stereotypes about masculinity. And maybe the clumsily-worded, ugly slogan is an opportunity for BC football players to be examples, not dudes. Maybe it’s the push we need for that conversation to finally begin.