Kris at Random has a brilliant post about the pink locker room controversy. Well, controversy is probably too strong. Let’s call it the pink locker room contretemps.
In brief, for my non-Iowa readers, when Hayden Fry came to rescue Iowa football from the wasteland, he painted the Kinnick Stadium visitor’s locker room pink. Fry, an old psychology major, reasoned that pink was a more soothing color and, to be completely fair, somewhat of an insulting color. He felt it would give the Hawks a slight advantage.
The University is in the midst of a remodeling project for Kinnick. Part of it is finished, including the new locker rooms. The visitor’s locker room, and all facilities within, are a dull pink. Not so much because of a belief that it still gives the team a psychological edge, but as a nod to the legacy of Coach Fry.
Recently, several University professors have complained that the use of the color pink is degrading to women, gays, and flamingoes. Sorry. To women and gays. There has been somewhat of a backlash to this opinion, including death threats. And that should catch you up to the point where Kris’s post, which you can and should read it its entirety here. (Another interesting discussion is available here at the Yin Blog.)
There are just a couple of things I would like to add to this. First, I think I usually have a pretty good radar for these things, at least as good a radar as a straight middle-class middle-aged white guy can, and this never struck me as problematic. To be absolutely honest, it still doesn’t. I can see the point, but I don’t see it as being strong enough to warrant painting or redoing the locker room.
Offensiveness lies on a continuum that runs from “This bothered you why?” on one end to “I can see why that gets to you” in the middle to “They said that in public?” on the other end. At the same time, offensiveness cannot be removed from the impact it causes and how many people feel that impact. The smaller the number of people who take offense to something, the more offensive that thing needs to be to warrant action. The message the pink locker room sends is too diffuse, too disparate, and too poorly felt to warrant the University acting on the concerns. If the quality of anyone’s life is being seriously impacted because the visitor’s locker room in Kinnick Stadium is a dull pink, then that person has far more important problems they need to be looking into.
That doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have a right to have those concerns aired. I think Kris makes a perfect case for that, and as she points out, the ferocity of some of the responses highlights that underlying hostility towards women does still exist. But having a right to have your concerns aired doesn’t mean you have a right to have your concerns addressed.