“When a guy says ‘You throw a ball like a girl’ or ‘You’re a sissy.’ It reflects an attitude that devalues women, and attitudes will eventually manifest in some fashion.”
I wasn’t watching Thursday Night Football, but Matthew Henderson’s transcription of James Brown’s words last night hit my timeline more than once, most often accompanied by praise for their clear and simple message [full transcription at the end of the post]:
“This is yet another call to men to stand up and take responsibility for their thoughts, their words, their deeds and to get help, and because our silence is deafening and deadly.”
As Brown points out, destructive attitudes towards women begin in little moments: in the sorts of dismissively demeaning comments that he cites, in the words that are used to describe women, in the images that are used to portray them. It’s easy to take a stand against domestic violence; it’s less easy to get people to take you seriously when you want them to stop referring to women as bitches, or to stop accepting objectifying images, or to stop encouraging their portrayal as sexual objects.
If there is one thing disheartening about Brown’s comments, it’s that their very reach and power are a result of his being a man. A woman objecting to a comment about throwing like a girl is more likely to be called overly sensitive or over-reacting than she is to be taken seriously.
It was not one of CBS’ female sports reporters who made the comments, or someone who works on domestic violence issues, even though Brown noted that “Women have been at the forefront in the domestic violence awareness and prevention arena…”
And yes, I understand that it is Brown’s position and authority that give his statement such power. The underlying question, illustrated in this tweet by Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation and host of the Edge of Sports on satellite radio, is why, in 2014, there are still no women with the same power as, or even sitting at the desk with, Brown.
The responses speak for themselves; not a single woman was among the suggestions.
Brown’s enlightened thinking has apparently not reached the social media team at Turf Paradise, who last night tweeted out this gem as a promo for the upcoming race meeting in Phoenix—thanks (?) to MsVFab for making sure I saw it.
Now that we have your attention, remember opening day is October 18th pic.twitter.com/49fbV3v8t4
— Turf Paradise (@turf_paradise) September 12, 2014
It doesn’t quite reach the level of Calder’s exotic dancing wagering campaign of a few years ago, but the lazy instinct and impulse are the same: Hey! Let’s use scantily women to get people to the racetrack!
Well…some people, anyway:
What is Turf Paradise trying to do? Degrade Women? — Rachel Levine (@furlongdrive) September 12, 2014
— Emily White (@racehorsewriter) September 12, 2014
As it was mansplained last night to me and some of the other commenters above, sex sells. Does it? Anyone, particularly anyone at a racetrack, have any data that suggests that this approach actually works? Dana Byerly offers this from Spencer Chen at TechCrunch, which says no (though he loses points for populating his post with photos of “booth babes” and not the “grandmothers” that actually generated leads).
It also demeans. It also degrades. It also alienates. And those images are not a very big step beyond the sorts of comments that Brown criticized last night to much fanfare and applause. The depiction of women as inadequate, as incompetent, as objects of sexual pleasure, as commercial props, without agency or authority or brains, is not harmless. A study on the objectification of women in video games by The Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change quotes media psychologist Dr. Karen Dill-Shackleford:
“When women are consistently shown as sex objects rather than agents, consistently depicted in demeaning and degrading ways, and consistently shown as submissive, the result is to condone and support violence against women, and anti-woman attitudes.”
The most recent video installment by media critic Anita Sarkeesian (herself the victim of so many online threats she had to leave her home) “examines how sexualized female bodies often occupy a dual role as both sexual playthings and the perpetual victims of male violence.”
How we talk about women matters. How we portray women matters. And obviously and of course, how we treat women and girls matters. Don’t leave it to James Brown (I wonder if he got any death threats after his comments last night?) and Anita Sarkeesian to speak up. Object when you see it. Call it out. Don’t put up with it, at work, at school, on Twitter.
Seek women’s voices.
Speaking of which: NYRA has hired a new director of marketing. In case you’re keeping track:
- Of 17 officers in the company, four are women.
- Of 25 racing and operating officials, four are women.
- Of 21 members of the board of directors and special advisors, zero are women.
- Of five stewards, zero are women. (Stewards are appointed by NYRA, The Jockey Club, and the New York State Gaming Commission.)
- Of nine Gaming Commission members, zero are women.
Matt Henderson’s full transcription of Brown’s comments
— Matthew Henderson (@mhenderson95) September 12, 2014