Feminist prof decries 'militarized patriotism' at sporting events

A feminist professor at Clark University recently lamented the “militarized patriotism” at sporting events, adding that she has “cringed” upon seeing the American flag unfurled.

Cynthia Enloe, a research professor at Clark University, wrote in a recent article for the University of California Press that she worries she may be “complicit” in the “insinuation of militarized patriotism” at sporting events such as those held at the Yankee Stadium.

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Having recently attended a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, Enloe recounted her discomfort when the crowd sung the National Anthem.

“Red Sox fans are a boisterously friendly lot, so I felt I had to stand up with everyone else when a teenage girl sang the national anthem,” she wrote, adding that she “cringed when a mammoth stars and stripes was unfurled in the outfield down the beloved Green Monster wall,” though she claims to have “kept my cringes to myself.”

Enloe’s discontent grew when a veteran was honored at the stadium. While the rest of the crowd erupted in applause for the hero, Enloe writes that she “sat stingily on my hands, still saying nothing.”

Later, when the crowd stood to sing “America the Beautiful,” Enloe says she refused to stand and “sat quietly” while her friends “smiled down at [her] sympathetically.”

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Warning that “patriotism is escalating at American sporting events,” Enloe explains that while it is “most prominent at NFL games and NASCAR races,” it is nonetheless “in full bloom at most [M]ajor [L]eague [B]aseball games.”

While patriotism may seem like a positive sentiment, Enloe argues that it is actually problematic because it can be weaponized to perpetuate “patriarchy,” asserting that patriotic displays marginalize women while honoring men. Women, she says “are expected to be grateful to men and to the masculinized state for offering them militarized protection,” and they risk being seen as “unfeminine” if they do not comply.

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Reached for an interview by Campus Reform, Enloe explained that she has long had an interest in exploring the intersection between feminism, militarism, and sports.

“So when I was recently at beloved Fenway, I wondered why both the Red Sox administrators and many of the fans seemed comfortable believing that active duty soldiers or military veterans were the most appropriate people to carry the American flag onto the field,” she explained.

“Why not battered women's shelter volunteers? Or ER nurses? Or kindergarten teachers?” she asked. “And if those (most likely) women were chosen, would the male sports fans feel as comfortable as female fans with the choice?”

Enloe, who has written books exploring war through a feminist perspective, explained that she is trying to reflect more on patriotism in America, which she said “has meant wondering if I've ever lazily slipped into assuming that retired generals are the best news commentators on war, or that the people deserving monuments are wartime leaders, or that soldiers are the bravest defenders of a country's highest values.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen