Thursday, March 15, 2007

Just Call Me a "Hoya," Please

Each week, my alma mater's (mater, Latin for "mother") alternative weekly sends me an e-version of their paper. Nerd that I am, I try to keep up with Hilltop happenings. Anyway, this headline caught my eye. Maybe I'm looking for inequality where it doesn't exist, but I really, really dislike applying gender distinctions to team monikers.

It all started in high school. Know what my field hockey team was called in homeroom announcements, fundraisers, flyers, programs, newspapers, and soaped-up school bus windows? The Lady Knights. How dumb is that? Lady Knights. Sheesh. Field hockey is a women's sport. There are no men on the field. So if we were just the "Parkville Knights Field Hockey team," I'm pretty sure everyone would've understood that we were girls*.

But there were other sports to consider, ones that had both male and female teams, like basketball, soccer, lacrosse, etc. So, couldn't the school come up with something that was simply gender-neutral, like maybe the Warriors? For the girls' teams, we couldn't just use the female equivalent to Knight, which is Lady, as that would call to mind high-falutin' things like courtesy and grooming. Not appropriate for athletes. Besides, I didn't want a completely different name for the girls, even if it was a powerful one like, say, Amazons, because then we'd have a whole separate-but-equal situation on our hands. Nope -- one school, one team name.

Which is why when I entered those balloon-bedecked front gates during Orientation weekend, I thought, "Aha! Hoyas! Hoyas** are neither male nor female. Sweet." But here we are, calling them Lady Hoyas.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that this distinction is made because success in men's sports brings in more national publicity, more alumni donations, and more student applications. All of this equals more moolah for a staid institution. So, anytime a school crows about its women's athletic prowess, they try to avoid inadvertently stirring up excitement about men's sports. Doing so would pull a mental bait-and-switch in their minds. Because, clearly, it would be dreadful if a dude saw the headline "Hoyas Hold Off Hopkins," got all grinny about his beloved men's lacrosse team, and then realized the article was about women. What disappointment!

Ultimately, my complaint is a stylistic one: don't employ superfluous words. Alright, alright, you've got me: there's a soup├žon of feminism tossed in there too. It makes for a tasty dish.

*I think it's OK to say "girls" instead of women because I am referencing a team comprising 14-18-year-olds.
**A Hoya is not some exotic word for a bulldog. Georgetown legend states that a canny student combined some Greek and Latin to nickname the school's formidable baseball team, the Stonewalls, "Hoia Saxa," or "What Rocks." So, G.U.'s teams' names are steeped in linguistic nerdliness. And we call ourselves the "Whats." Great. That's...specific. I'd love to start a movement where we call ourselves Saxas instead, because at least rocks are things, but I don't think it would get very far. Hmm...other Hoyas are going to think I'm not a loyal alum. So to that I say...I bleed Hoya blue! That's right! I just quoted a gift shop bumper sticker!

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