Even the NYT can find better bad propagandists than Lindsay Crouse

One truly wonders if Crouse's Lindsay Crouse-filled head has room for shame and embarrassment

Lindsay Crouse is remarkably bad at her job, which is supposed to consist of writing columns for The New York Times about how bad women athletes have it—not only compared to men, but in general. She does this from the perspective of a dazed, middle-to-upper-class liberal woman whose incessant demonstrations of her own searing, comprehensive fragility are somehow cast as calls to action from a towering perch of strength. And somehow, enough readers interpret her falsehoods and bellyaching in just this way to keep the whole charade of keening backwash rolling along at the Times.

Given that Crouse averages only about one story a month—and her columns are certainly that, stories—between harried, soon-to-be-deleted tweets, she should have no trouble coming up with genuine examples of women who exemplify tangible striving for equality of opportunity, and describing how the world might address the issues these women are tackling. But not only is this not a snap for Crouse, it’s impossible, because in addition to over-personalizing almost every topic and freely inventing whatever “facts” she feels her bumbling ad hoc thesis requires, she regularly reveals that she’s genuinely clueless, too.

Specific goofs aside, the one concept that refuses to go more than a millimeter from the back of my eyeballs when reading anything Crouse writes is logical fallacy. This was even more evident than usual in her column yesterday, “So You Want to ‘Save Women’s Sports’?”, which proposes that opposition of transgender girls competing on girls’ sports teams stems from bigotry (not new) and that if the men among these opponents really cared about girls’ and women’s sports, they’d worry about equality instead (a somewhat different twist). No, really.

Thankfully, I can’t quote the whole paywalled piece because of the limitations of fair-use laws. So I’ll sum up the introduction: A bunch of bad people (Donald Trump! Nikki Haley!) are on the pro-biological girls’ side, meaning it must be an evil position to hold, and this must be the thing influencing the high percentage of women and young people who also hold this position (since, in an unforeseen twist, young people, especially women, are taking most of their moral cues from Trump-loyalist Republicans).

“Exclusion elevates nobody,” Crouse objects, forgetting in her haste to write memorably pouty sentences that in fact, exclusion by definition “elevates” the people who aren’t excluded. In theory, that’s the whole damn problem. But Crouse herself has failed upward in life with such flying colors that expecting her to be insightful on the general concept of fairness would be like asking me to write my own “columns” in Sanskrit. She just doesn’t, or can’t think, with any depth about what she’s writing about, ever.

Also, notice the blatant and therefore smooth conflation of inclusion and fairness. This is endemic to the issue of trans-athlete participation at various levels of athletics, a point I’ll delve into further when I reviewing a similar and similarly bad Runner’s World article in the coming days.

Crouse then reveals her muse du jour:

But all this new passion has made me wonder, what if all these people claiming to be fighting for the future of women’s sports would really fight for the future of women’s sports? What if they suddenly said, “We demand women’s sports get equal resources, equal media coverage, and equal pay”?

First: I and thousands of others can only offer a belly laugh at this lazy, huddled-on-the-couch do-nothing who accuses men of being uninterested in girls’ or women’s sports as meaningful sporting enterprises, and of not really caring about girl or women athletes. Has Crouse ever coached a girls’ high-school team or worked with individual girls or women on their running? (I know, perish the thought, but the point stands.) I was curious about how many of my Running Times and other articles published in Respectable Outlets over the years dealt exclusively or primarily with women runners, and while I can’t offer an exact ratio, I think I wrote national-scale profiles on Jenny Simpson, Emma Coburn and Shannon Rowbury before anyone else did and certainly before they became superstars. Sure, that doesn’t really prove anything besides me having extraordinarily good karma, but it gives me an excuse to brag about a quirk of fate while at least suggesting that I’m not some…never mind.

Second: The paragraph is a non sequitur. There is no conflict between wanting to see the basic rules of fair play enforced and leaving the problem of resource allocation to others. I can’t honestly say that, broadly speaking, women’s sports really do deserve the same infusion of cash that men’s sports do, if economics rather than a crude sense of egalitarianism is informing the word “deserve” here. As sad as it is, most people who qualify as sports fans would rather watch men play any given sport I can think of other than maybe beach volleyball, and if I could snap my fingers and effect a sea change in human psychology, perhaps I would.

What if these new activists embraced women’s sports and invested in female athletes, instead of using us as their excuse for transphobia?

Well, like I said, people like me have been around for quite some time; only in Crouse’s dystopic netherworld are we* “new activists.” This passage is merely a restating of “Men only care so they can associate themselves with bad people,” with the specific accusation of transphobia now appended for emphasis.

“The conversation is disingenuous, patronizing and often racist,” Crouse asserts without any evidence. “Using our struggle to score political points is a distraction,” she adds without irony.

Crouse then engages in some reasoning I honestly can’t figure out.

In her essay, Ms. Haley argued, “The game is being rigged against women and in favor of biological men.” But the game has always been in favor of men.

So, when a woman says that men are unfairly controlling and ruining something, a real women’s-sports advocate stands up and says, “Why mess with the status quo”?

Crouse goes on to complain about the amount of money given to sports that people want to watch compared to those people don’t. This is the sports landscape we live in. The only NCAA sports that aren’t afterthoughts in the grand business sense are football and men’s basketball—that is, most men’s sports. The others ride along on the revenue streams these provide. Again, if I could snap my fingers and elevate track and field and cross-country to the same stage as these other sports, I just might warm up the ol’ carpal flexors. Of course, the easiest way to immediately transform the running landscape into something more appealing would be to get rid of almost everyone currently writing about it or in charge of the outlets publishing their work.

Crouse then introduces not-transgender athlete Caster Semenya into the mess so that she can portray opponents of biological males as not just conditional fans of women’s sports, but racists. She makes a number of loosely connected assertions on this front, again without evidence. She proposes that “discussion of Semenya’s testosterone”—as if testosterone and the organs it comes from were not central to the entire controversy—”became a template for the anti-trans campaign we see now.” All of this, yet again, is asserted with zero evidence.

The next part is where Crouse’s meandering path takes her wobbling into a large pile of her own poop:

In 2019, I noticed that in the front-page photo of Semenya, the women racing her were pictured but not named. They are Kate Grace from the United States, Noélie Yarigo from Benin and Lynsey Sharp from Britain — some of the best athletes in the world. You may not know their names because our attention is misplaced. But if you claim to fight for female athletes, you should begin by knowing who they are.

Even if one assumes that Crouse believes her target audience to be both credulous in the extreme and unconcerned with the truth value of anything she writes—both of which are clearly correct—the only explanation for this paragraph is galactic ignorance. Lynsey Sharp, as I recently mentioned, is exactly the kind of “other side” critic Crouse neglects to detail in her airy dismissal above.

That Crouse is painting Sharp, whose death threats never seemed to concern any of the current crop of pro-women’s running journalists,” and others who hold her convictions as the bullies in this whole broad battle is among the most gruesome misportrayals and misconceptions of all the bogus ideas swirling around. Pro-trans (if they can even be called that) Internet warriors are among the most vicious and dishonest people alive, even and especially at the institutional level.

Some lawmakers have the audacity to give their bills names like the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” Crouse, who has the audacity to call herself a journalist, observes. She then says that in a fair world, we’d all be watching men’s and women's sports equally (that’s not how anything works, and she doesn’t say how society might get there). She reintroduces the non sequitur that concern about allowing unqualified athletes to compete on girls’ teams has no place in any discussion until this “injustice” is remedied and women receive as much funding as men or even more, as the results of the last Olympics imply that they should.

”The science is still catching up to this conversation,” Crouse then lies, linking to an anti-science article in Popular Science. “So for now, we are navigating policies largely based on values.” No, we* are not. We* are following the science; you, Ms. Crouse, are infecting science with your anti-science values just as transparently as any religious zealot.

That’s about it, but I have not yet gotten to the most damning thing about the wreck of a column, and that’s that Crouse, apart from invoking anti-trans bigotry, presents the entire opposing argument as something framed “under the guise of protecting women and girls.” But she doesn’t give a single example of someone adversely affected by what she calls “inclusivity”—at least not on purpose.

That she actually calls on readers to investigate Lynsey Sharp’s background while clearly being oblivious to Sharp’s stellar career as well as her thoughts on intersex athletes is both hilarious and infuriating. Hilarious, because Lindsay Crouse is a lying, self-debasing human being and should be repeatedly told so. And infuriating, because all of the usual suspects invariably retweet and otherwise link to whatever she says simply because of her unearned position at a major newspaper.

Although I refuse to get used to running journalism having no standards at all anymore—none—and being in the hands of a bunch of self-interested whiners pretending to advocate for things they don’t care about, this abysmal column is unremarkable in context, nothing more than an ignorant and incompetent moral scourge being paid gobs of money to bitch about how bad women (or self-described women) have it. This is Crouse’s shtick—it has been for years and is only gaining steam in spite of her ever-more-obvious lies. She has no impetus to stop other than a presumed conscience, buried deep under all the “Is my ass too big"?” substrate fueling all this.

But the other running figures who embrace and disseminate her lies and flights of unhelpful ideas also torpedo what's left of their own credibility. At this point, they clearly don't care, because they approve of both Crouse’s yammering and the damage it does. They may not be entirely blind to how grisly the results of their collective mission will be if it succeeds, but they do seem oblivious to the fact that some of the damage will ultimately be to their own far more trivial careers.