We Americans are a sports-dominated culture. Last year, 95 of the 100 most-watched television broadcasts were sporting events. And of those 95 events, football is far-and-away the leader of our sport-watching days. Seventy-five of the most watched broadcasts were NFL games — including 28 of the top 30 most-watched events of the year — and seven of the most-watched were college football games. The Olympics (11) and NCAA basketball (2) made up the other 13 broadcasts. The Super Bowl blew away every other broadcast and had almost twice as many viewers as the second and third most-watched broadcasts, which, not coincidentally, were the AFC and NFC Championship games.
This past weekend was likely a continuation of that trend of huge television audiences watching NFL games, with four divisional NFL playoff games that were all decided on the final play of the game – three in regulation and one in overtime. Although the final ratings numbers have not been publicized as I write this, the television network powers that be must surely have appreciated these games for their advertising revenue potential, especially since the previous weekend’s wild-card games posted a 21% ratings increase over 2020 even though most of the games were decided by the beginning of the fourth quarter.
As we watched these games in my household I thought of one interesting sidebar to them. They are male-dominated. The players were all men. The coaches were mostly men (For those keeping score, the Buccaneers have two women coaches and a female intern, the Bills and the Chiefs each have one female coach). The referees were mostly men (The replay assistants for the Bengals-Titans and Bills-Chiefs games and the alternate down judge for the Rams-Buccaneers game were women). The vast majority of the active participants in the most watched television broadcasts every year are men.
This counterpoints with some recent happenings here in Happy Valley.
On Jan. 3, the first all-female board of supervisors in the history of the Centre Region became official in Ferguson Township. And the three new members of the five-member board who joined that night were sworn in by Centre County’s first woman president judge – an historic first creating another historic first.
Also taking on newly-elected opportunities at the beginning of this year, the State College Area School District Board of Directors — the nine-member elected governing body for our local school district and its $168 million budget — is now comprised of seven women and only two men.
To top it off, less than a month before these elected bodies took office the Penn State Board of Trustees – for the first time in Penn State’s 167-year history – named a woman as Penn State’s next president. Neeli Bendapudi will begin her appointment as the 19th president of the university later this spring.
Which means that in a few months the three largest local employers in Happy Valley (Penn State, Mount Nittany Health and the State College Area School District), who among them control a majority of our local workforce, will be led or governed by, or mostly by, women. Could this be a sign of a resurgence of the feminine?
Which leads me to this concept called the divine feminine. And no, if you are a rap fan I am not referring to the album by Mac Miller. The divine feminine refers to a spiritual concept that there is a feminine counterpart to the masculine worship structures that dominate organized religions. My wife wrote an article on this topic for the winter issue of Centered magazine and it has been a topic of conversation in our lives for years.
I am not a religious person. I was raised in the Catholic faith and, like some of my peers, took the opportunity to abandon religion at the first possible moment in my life, which for me was going away to college at Penn State. However, I am a spiritual person. Which for me is the concept behind the divine feminine – spirituality. That the divine has both masculine and feminine aspects. The yin and the yang. That both masculine and feminine – seemingly opposite forces – may, in fact, be interconnected and necessary parts of the divine, as well as each of us regardless of the labeled nature of our sex.
The concept of the divine, or sacred, feminine has been around for ages, but not always recognized in the masculine and patriarchal worship structures that dominate organized religions. The Catholic religion often is accused of sexism because of its longstanding history of barring women from becoming ordained deacons or priests. I would suggest that although this canonical law does exist, because of the role that the Virgin Mary plays in the faith, my experience as a child was that the feminine presence was a necessary part of the entire religion. That was reinforced by the fact that I spent much more time with nuns as teachers of the religion than priests, said countless Hail Marys as a result of confessions, and mostly sat on the right side of the church where the altar at the head of the aisle was dominated by a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Moving away from the spiritual and back to the physical world, this year we will celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the 19th amendment which guaranteed all American women the right to vote. It’s been 59 years since Betty Friedan published her seminal book “The Feminine Mystique” and explored the concept of women finding fulfillment in ways other than their traditional matriarchal role. And it’s 56 years since the women’s rights movement was advanced by the founding of the National Organization for Women.
All of which is to say that perhaps the divine feminine, spiritually-based as it is, may be witnessing an exciting and invigorating physical manifestation here in Happy Valley. Maybe we can all embrace the inner feminine and see where this road leads. Perhaps business-as-usual will see a change and, as one of Ayn Rand’s characters in her novel “The Fountainhead” says in response to a stifling “Who will let you?” question, remarks, “That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?”