Saturday, June 30, 2007

Trial Coverage Continues

On Thursday, Lindy Vivas's attorney finished making his case that Fresno State's decision not to renew Vivas's contract as head volleyball coach was discriminatory.

The last witness of the day was former AD Scott Johnson, who had been accused by an earlier witness, former basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein, of having"a plan to get rid of lesbians in the athletic department," preferring to hire "female coaches who were straight and attractive," and instructing other athletic department officials to "make Vivas's life miserable."

Johnson's testimony did not appear to go well according to the press. The Bee reported that when former AD Scott Johnson was being cross examined by Frenso State's own lawyer, Dawn Theodora, he was unable to correctly answer her question about how many volleyball players are in the match at one time. "Seven or eight" he said, which forced Theodora to ask, "you mean six?" Said the paper, "Johnson's incorrect answer appeared to validate Vivas' claim that he was indifferent to volleyball and not the expert witness that Theodora portrayed him as."

The Bee also ran an opinion piece by Professor Kathryn Forbes of the Women's Studies Department at Fresno State, which gives cultural context to the events underlying the trial. Why are men like Johnson apparently so resistant to women in sport? Forbes speculates that sport's historical significance as a site of masculinizing boys and men explains it:
The cherished values of sport -- competition, strength and aggressiveness -- are core components of our society's construction of masculinity. In sport, men are allowed to perform and experience this masculinity in an unfettered fashion while in wider society the movement for gender equity has curtailed unearned privileges many men historically have enjoyed. Scholar David Whitson argues that sport acts as a "male preserve" and serves as an "important site in the construction of male solidarity." Undoubtedly, Title IX threatens this solidarity by challenging the definitions of masculinity.
So, like much discrimination against women in sport, Fresno State's attempts to purge women from its coaching ranks, to pit them against each other, and to bait them with accusations of lesbianism, are all defensive tactics by men attempting to preserve the hegemonic masculinity of sport.

Fresno State's defense starts Monday. For earlier coverage of the Vivas trial, use the Fresno label below.

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