Before we dive deep into this nasty pool, let’s be very clear: we really don’t care what Rosie O’Donnell said... about anything.
We really don’t care that she’s lesbian, or famous, or funny (to some people).
We really don’t care about the tell-all book about her secret crush on Elisabeth Hasselbeck, her behind-the-scenes feuds with Whoopi Goldberg at The View, the multiple reports about her bad behavior to human resources, or even how she outed Clay Aiken in 2006 while attacking Kelly Ripa for being homophobic. I mean, it’s horrible that she did that, but, really? It’s 13 years later; do we not have other things to get upset about?
Like, let’s instead look at what O’Donnell was quoted saying this week about women who excel at playing softball: O’Donnell’s talking about her former View cohost, who she said played softball so extraordinarily well, she must be “at least a little bit gay.”
Ugh. Here we go. Why, Rosie?
So yet again, a tired old trope is targeting women. Earlier this month it was Saturday Night Live mocking the women of the WNBA. Now it’s the lesbian former cohost and comedienne who’s taking a shot at this well-worn cliche.
In this particular instance, O’Donnell was being quoted by Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh in an excerpt of his new book, Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of ‘The View.’
According to the book, Joy Behar suspected O’Donnell had a crush on Hasselbeck, a straight actress and author most famous for her appearances on “Survivor” and Fox News. Setoodeh resolved to find out by interviewing O’Donnell, and asking the former co-host and “League of Their Own” co-star about her “crush.”
“I think there were underlying lesbian undertones on both parts,” O’Donnell told Setoodeh about her working relationship with Hasselbeck. O’Donnell then told the author something that most people would regret saying even before they said the words, nevermind after:
“I think this is something that will hurt her if you write it. She was the MVP of a Division 1 softball team for two years that won the finals. There are not many, in my life, girls with such athletic talent on sports teams that are traditionally male that aren’t at least a little bit gay.”
O’Donnell told Setoodeh when they fought it on the show, it was actually love that she felt. But she decided not to act on her feelings, and explains in the book how she really felt about Hasselbeck, using a string of really bad sports metaphors:
“There was a little bit of a crush,” O’Donnell says in the book. “But not that I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to support, raise, elevate her, like she was the freshman star shortstop and I was the captain of the team.”
Then she changed gears, from baseball to basketball.
“I was going to Scottie Pippen her. If I was Jordan, I was going to give her and the ball and let her shoot. But it was in no way sexualized.”
Do lesbians play softball? YES. Do lesbians play sports? YES. And so do straight women, and bisexual women, and women who identify as trans, queer, poly, pan, intersex, agender, asexual, genderqueer and the list goes on and on. Sometimes women who’ve always considered themselves straight realize they’re gay or bi or they’re willing to explore their sexuality through connections with lesbians. Got it? Can we move on?
No, said Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who wanted to tell her friends on “The View” (about her new book and) how offended she was by Rosie’s comment about her being “at least a little bit gay.” And being Hasselbeck, she spoke a few times about praying.
“I’ll be very honest: I read it and I immediately started praying,” said the mother-of-three “I pray now the Holy Spirit gives me the words to articulate this, but I think it can be addressed with both truth and grace.”
“If you’re an athletic girl, and you’re competitive and you’re gritty, and I wore eye black and I slid into second base,” Hasselbeck said. “And if you’re a runner or a pitcher or whatever your sport it is, it’s a lie and it’s reckless to attach a sexuality to that. And I think it’s selfish on her part.”
Hasselbeck added that she still respects O’Donnell, and added that she’s attempted to reach out to her. O’Donnell did the same, via Twitter. And Hasselbeck said, she forgives O’Donnell. But that was before this appeared on Instagram Live:
“It’s crazy. She was so afraid of the concept of a lesbian having a crush on her that she had to go directly to Jesus— do not pass go, do not collect $200.” — Rosie O’Donnell
Lesbian athletes have far bigger problems than these two celebrities.
In 2011, five prominent lesbians met to discuss the problems facing lesbians in sports. Pat Griffin, Lisa Howe, Lauren Lappin, Sherri Murrell and Mechelle Voepel took part in a panel discussion sponsored by the Association for Women in Sports Media, titled, “The Rainbow Ceiling.”
Moderator Stefanie Loh wrote this for Outsports following the panel, and it’s apt today as it was in 2011:
“There are lesbians in women’s sports. (No, we don’t talk about it) And yes, we know that’s a common assumption anyway.
“That’s part of the problem.”
“‘When you talk about women’s sports, the historical stigma is ‘if you’re a female athlete, you’re a lesbian’ and it holds women back from coming out,’ said Pat Griffin, project director of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network’s “Changing the Game” initiative to promote a safer environment for kids of all sexual orientation in K-12 sports and physical education.”
“There’s a fatigue that we’re always having to discuss sexuality and different issues like this, and yet by the same token it’s still a closeted world. It’s a very difficult thing to navigate between the comfort level of straight women who say, ‘I’m always perceived as a lesbian and that bothers me’, and the comfort level of the lesbian who still feels invisible… That probably, to a degree, is an aggravator for straight women in women’s sports, and so the dialogue kind of has to go on between the straight women and the lesbian women that we’re not enemies here. We are all in this together. We are all perceived in ways that sometimes are harmful.”
“We are all in this together.”
“I think that is a really important point,” remarked Griffin in response. “I think that heterosexual women athletes who respond in that defensive way, when people talk about a homophobia in sport or lesbians in sport, need to understand that they have a huge stake in addressing this issue because it’s not just lesbian athletes and coaches who are targeted by homophobia in sport.”
“The lesbian label is used in a really effective way to silence all women in sport,” added Griffin, “to make all women feel, if not shamed, at least self conscious about their athleticism and their interest in competition and challenging the idea that women shouldn’t be athletes. Heterosexual women have a stake in helping to challenge those notions.”
All women do, and so do the people who love us.
This weekend, UCLA Softball — number 1 in the nation — will host the Cal Bears at Easton Stadium. The players will celebrate Pride Weekend, no matter how they identify, who they love, or what Rosie O’Donnell said. And that’s all that really matters.