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While her loyal sons and daughters march on to victory

January 7, 2013

As a feminist, South Bend native, Notre Dame sports fan, Notre Dame wife, and Saint Mary’s alum, tonight’s National Championship game brings up a lot of feelings.

I was raised watching Notre Dame football. I visited Lou Holtz in his office when I was a little girl, almost certainly charming him with my dress and perfectly curled hair.

When I raced go-karts, I used Joe Montana’s number as my own. Ron Powlus continues to be my favorite player. I babysat for Tony Rice’s kids. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the words to the fight song.

I applied to only one college – the women’s college across the street from Notre Dame. I remember instantly falling in love with Saint Mary’s, and its access to football student tickets didn’t hurt.

I put off my semester abroad until the spring so I could experience football season (and sing at Carnegie Hall). I soaked up Saturdays in the fall; the smells, the sounds, the excitement all enveloped in the short walk to campus. And when I started dating a member of the marching band, I relished the concerts and march outs even more.

I went to Saturday night parties and Sunday night Mass in the dorms at Notre Dame. One of my proudest moments was attending the graduation of the Domer I would later marry. Joe and I took wedding pictures in front of the golden dome. Our Christmas tree is decorated in blue and gold. A Notre Dame flag hangs in our extra bedroom, a Notre Dame clock hangs in our living room, and a Notre Dame hockey gnome makes his home on our desk. It isn’t football season until we watch Rudy.

 We take Saturdays in the fall as seriously as we take Saint Patrick’s Day. Tradition never graduates.

But as a feminist and Saint Mary’s alum, I am conflicted. Being a Notre Dame fan comes as naturally to me as breathing. But what do I do about this fandom when football players rape female students? What do I do when one player assaults a Saint Mary’s student and she commits suicide? How do I reconcile this fandom?

How do I support a team when their players think it’s okay to rape and their coaches fail to reprimand them?

How can I wear my Notre Dame sweatshirt today, how can I be excited that they’re in the National Championship game tonight, and how can I justify calling today a holiday?

 My fandom seems to have trumped my feminism.

Yes, this makes me uncomfortable. All of this is fucked up. But here’s what I believe: I’ve known for years that the gender relations at Notre Dame are so far out of balance that it may be irreparable. Yet my love of Notre Dame football is a product of my upbringing, and I won’t let that go. Acknowledging and hating the mistakes of a few players and, more importantly, speaking up about my disgust of their actions counteracts the otherwise implicit acceptance of their crimes.

I’m not ready to give up my fandom, but I’m also not ready to sweep rape under the rug. I can advocate both Notre Dame football and acknowledge the university’s blindness to the fucked up situation on their campus.

So for those of you in similar positions (um, Steelers fans, isn’t your QB a rapist, too?), I think it’s safe to say we’re fans. But we can’t be silent. Speak up, speak out, and seek justice for the victims and survivors.

For more information on the suicide following the alleged assault of my Saint Mary’s sister Lizzy Seeberg and subsequent inaction from ND, click here.

For more information on the scandals that plague Notre Dame, click here and here.

For a good rundown on why Notre Dame seems to get away with all this shit, click here.

For more information on the social construction of masculinity and its relation to the media (including organized sports leagues), watch this.

But, most importantly, if you’re cheering on the Irish tonight, don’t do it blindly. Keep Lizzy and the countless other anonymous survivors in your heart.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2013 1:55 pm

    #1) Ron Powlus is from my hometown.
    #2) I think you’re right. It is possible to be both a fan of the team you love and speak out about the need to change the way women are viewed and rapists with shoulder pads are punished.

  2. January 7, 2013 2:22 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I have had the same feelings of conflict all season and I am still not sure how to deal with them. I cannot even say I have been a lifelong fan to back up my support of the team tonight.

    However, that football program helped to shape me as the woman I am today, created an amazing four years for me in college, lead me on my career path, and in a very strange way lead me to my husband.

    I will be cheering for the Irish tonight, but I will hold Lizzie and every other victim in my heart as well.

  3. Becki permalink
    January 7, 2013 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the eloquent words that articulate the fragments I’ve been stewing over all day! The other school that I applied to besides SMC was the same school the Steelers’ QB graduated from the year before I applied. That campus’ security report listed a rise and subsequent fall in reported sexual assaults, something that struck me as ironic in that it coincided with a certain player’s time there. This is a huge conversation that needs to happen outside of national championships at all schools and athletic programs. The more fruitful discussion should shift to violence and athletic programs on campuses nationwide, not just as an isolated occurrence at a highly visible school. Maybe then we can make our campuses and fandoms safe for all students and participants.

  4. January 7, 2013 11:42 pm

    So, I am curious… If it was up to you, would you have the offenders punished at the expense of the teams future victories? Is that what you mean when you say your fandom has trumped your feminism? Or would you prefer a less talented team with higher standards?

    • January 8, 2013 1:09 am

      From what I’ve read here, the choice Renee had was to cheer for her team despite the downfalls or to walk away from it. She didn’t get into what should or shouldn’t have been done other than commenting that the situation is fucked, which it is.

      What I see her saying is that you can be disappointed in your team because you are aware of their faults and still enjoy the fandom, the important part is to not let the fandom completely overshadow the faults.

      Or maybe I read it wrong.

      • January 8, 2013 11:11 pm

        Yeah, that makes sense. I am glad to see that people aren’t just overlooking such ugly truths.

    • January 9, 2013 12:08 pm

      Katherine’s right. But to answer your question more directly, yes, I would rather see the offenders punished than play in a National Championship game. However, that’s not how things worked out, so I still wore my blue and gold to cheer on the Irish Monday.

  5. March 22, 2013 9:35 am

    I kinda wish you spoke more about justifying your fandom in the face of these horrible crimes. I mean, I get where you’re coming from, but I also feel like you spent more time loving the team than you did questioning their actions.
    That’s WHY the coaches ignore this kind of thing, and let them get away with it..

    That said, this is still looking like the best option for the 20SB Speakeasy Award.

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