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Guest Post: Elizabeth Lambert and the art of the media double-standard

Nov 20, 2009, 2:19 PM EDT

And now for your dining and dancing pleasure, it’s time for the word stylings of Jelisa Castrodale. Why this woman isn’t more well-known is beyond me, but it’s good news for you, because she’s agreed to write guest posts for us from time to time. Today’s subject, as seen on Google Trends and a viral YouTube video near you; New Mexico soccer enforcer Elizabeth Lambert. Jelisa has been known to yank the unruly by their ponytails now and again, so this should be interesting.
I’m a single, semi-employed writer, which means my days typically include sobbing and watching syndicated episodes of Law & Order. In less than sixty minutes, Law prevails, Order is restored, and the perps are sentenced to several years of county-issued outfits and metal toilets. What I’ve noticed — other than the fact that I don’t have any friends — is that there are rarely female antagonists on these programs, regardless of which frequently abbreviated incarnation you’re watching. I don’t think it’s because women don’t want to kill people … they just know what a chore it would be to clean up afterwards.
If you’ve flipped from TNT to ESPN, you’ll know that there’s nobody trying to mop up a bigger mess right now than Elizabeth Lambert. She’s the twenty year-old University of New Mexico soccer player who went ape**** on the pitch two weeks ago during the Mountain West Conference tournament, earning herself an indefinite suspension from the team and a full scholarship to the Tonya Harding Finishing School for Girls.

The video of Lambert in full HULK SMASH! mode quickly made its way from the internet to the mainstream media, spreading faster than Kanye West jokes after the MTV Awards. In the brief clip, Lambert can be seen punching one BYU player between the shoulder blades and attempting to add a skylight to another Cougar player’s scalp by violently yanking her by the ponytail. C’mon, Elizabeth. You know you’re not supposed to use your hands … not unless you’re Thierry Henry.
Other than proving that the BYU players don’t wear wigs, nothing good has come of this. Lambert is forbidden from participating in any team activities — even though their season has ended — and has been dubbed “The Loco Lobo” by people with an elementary understanding of Spanish. She has also apologized more than the guy who gave the green light to The Jay Leno Show.
For her first in-depth interview since the incident, Lambert told her side of the story to the New York Times, who accompanied the article with a picture of her wrapped in a soft pink scarf, perhaps to prove that she could be warm and cuddly as long as you don’t jostle her, provoke her or WHY ARE YOU STILL LOOKING AT HER? KIDS, DON’T MAKE ANY SUDDEN MOVES, LET’S JUST BACK AWAY SLOWLY.
In the NYT piece, she was alternately apologetic and contrite, defining her actions as both indefensible and inadvertent. I don’t buy the latter, but do agree when she says that there was a Costco-sized overreaction because she’s a female athlete. For example, earlier this year Oregon running back LaGarrette Blount cold-cocked Boise State’s Byron Hout after a loss. While he, too, was suspended from the team (though he’s since been reinstated) he wasn’t discussed in hushed tones on The Today Show, nor swaddled in fuzzy fabrics and asked to explain his motivations.
There seems to be a double double-standard when it comes to violent behavior by women. It’s totally unacceptable when it happens during an athletic event — and these incidents are inevitably termed a ‘catfight’ in the same way every suspected terrorist is called a ‘mastermind’ and every Creed album is described as ‘total s***’ — but somehow more forgivable if women get scrappy in other situations.
Way worse s*** is going to go down next Friday at Target as parents claw and scratch their way toward the last Edward Cullen dolls during after-Thanksgiving sales. Lambert will look like the Patron Saint of Ladylike Behavior compared to what we’ll see on grainy store-camera footage, but we’ll either ignore it or laugh to ourselves as we wipe the leftover Stove Top off our mouths and debate whether it’s time to clear the turkey carcass off the counter.
I don’t have an explanation for our own ingrained reactions and I’m not suggesting that we disregard the next Elizabeth Lambert. But we shouldn’t be surprised either. Women are just as passionate about athletics as their male counterparts and they can just as easily lose their minds on the field, whether it’s during a season-deciding soccer match or it’s Serena Williams offering to force feed a tennis ball to a line judge. We shouldn’t be desensitized to it, but our jaws shouldn’t clatter off the floor when it happens again either.
Because it will.
Unless you’re watching Law & Order.
– Jelisa Castrodale is a writer and comedian who has learned a lot about life by making a mess of her own. She chronicles her failures at The Typing Makes Me Sound Busy, covers music for London’s BitchBuzz and twitters while she waits at stoplights. Castrodale was featured in the book Twitter Wit and was named one of Mashable’s 10 Funniest Twitterers.

Also by Jelisa Castrodale:

* Andre Agassi and the attack of the meth people

  1. knittel - Nov 22, 2009 at 4:32 AM

    Personally, I can’t get enough of the great writing of Gordon Shumway…keep up the always excellent work Jelisa!

  2. Wanda sykes - Dec 17, 2009 at 5:51 PM

    I recently came across your blog and have been learning along. I thought I would leave my first remark. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Fine blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  3. red ring of death fix - Feb 23, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    I love Kanye west music and his songgs.. he has a really nice voice…. But i dont really like his personality cuz at the music awards there was an award for taylor swift and he goes well done but i think that betyonce should of got the award… taylor must of felt really embarresed and ashamed… he doesnt seem lyk a nice person personality wise….!!