We’re so old we remember when “gender” was a term you only heard when you were learning grammar. It was something that nouns and pronouns had, along with “person”, “number” and “case” and even then you didn’t really hear much about it. In English you only get worried about gender when you get trapped into sentences like “Everyone has his, I mean her, I mean their own opinion about gender.” In the Paleolithic era of our childhood we were taught a principle known as “masculine by preference” which resulted in the use of “he, his or him” where there was any doubt. Since this concept now makes feminists’ heads explode, people usually settle on “their.” The problem is that “their” is plural and its antecedent, “everyone,” is singular.
OK, I promise not to use words like “antecedent” any more, and I didn’t go off on gender just to do a boring grammar rant. One of the Idler’s solemn promises to you, the home reader, is that no one will ever be in danger of learning anything in this space. No, we only bring it up in the context of something extremely insignificant, namely, the gender of team mascots.
When it comes to mascots, it’s the “lady” thing that always kind of bothered us. If the boys’ team is the Lions, why is the girls’ team the “Lady” Lions? Aren’t female lions also lions? Or why not the Lionesses? Based on several obscure cable channel nature shows we’ve watched, the female lions do most of the hunting anyway. The big guy with the impressive flowing mane just hangs around waiting for his free wildebeest-burger and making himself available for propagation of the species duty.(You know, if the Hindus are right and we get to come back for another at-bat, king-of-the-jungle sounds like a pretty sweet gig. But I digress.)
Likewise, If the guys are the Muskrats, are not the gals Muskrats too? How does being a “Lady” Muskrat make her any more or less a Muskrat? This issue came into focus for us last weekend when, to avoid doing something mind-improving like reading, we tuned into the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Notre Dame women seem content to just be the Fighting Irish, and this seems logical given that it’s a gender neutral term and, let’s face it, if you ever had Sister Bridget for Algebra, you’d know that some of the more aggressive and even disagreeable Irish people you’re likely to meet are female. (Ha-ha, take it easy, Irish ladies, you know you’re each as lovely as the Rose of Tralee.) But the identity of the opposing team poses the thorny question, what exactly is a female Gamecock? They called themselves the “Lady Gamecocks” for a while (apparently never even considering “Game Hens”), but the sheer stupidity of the term eventually got to them. So now, they’re just the Gamecocks. This is like going from “Lady Bullmoose” to “Bullmoose.” A cock is always and only a male bird; a bull is always and only a male mammal. Wait, does that make this a cock and bull story? I guess so.
Fans of the University of California Santa Cruz Banana Slugs say they don’t have this problem because their slimy shell-less mollusk mascot (try saying that three times real fast) is hermaphroditic.It’s probably too late to change our local teams names to something like that. Plus, we’d have to look up “hermaphroditic.” But seriously, what would be so wrong with being a Steel Valley Ironwoman?