March 18, 2013 § 29 Comments
Apologies in advance. This post will contain foul language, grammatical errors and abuse of parenthetical statements, and a really poor drawing of a gavel. I am sorrier for the grammatical errors and abuse of parentheses.
(If you have trouble with my using the word bullshit and other profanity, I have the okay from Norman Lear. Good enough for me.)
I wanted to do a post entitled “I Call Bullshit” last week, and here’s what I wanted to include:
1. Upworthy and Nicole Sherzinger. Here’s the link to a video and commentary on Upworthy. Normally I really enjoy Upworthy posts, but this one made me roll my eyes. In it, NS is being interviewed on Conan O’Brien wearing a dress out of which 3/4 of her 8th Wonder Of The World breasts spill. Upworthy gives her “props” for “matching wits” with Conan, by reminding him to focus on her face. Gimme a break. She not only didn’t match wits with him, he gave her EXACTLY what she deserved. I’m not saying she was asking to be abused, but she sure as hell was asking for attention to be paid to her breasts-o-magnificence by EXPOSING most of them. Even *I* couldn’t take my eyes of those orbs. Please.
2. ESPN. Here’s the link to a Deadspin article detailing the firing of an ESPN executive for sexting a stripper. A STRIPPER. A single man. Sexting a STRIPPER. The stripper and her boyfriend tried to extort Scott Sassa, and he refused to pay up. So the stripper and her boyfriend forwarded the texts to an ESPN colleague, and ESPN FIRES Sassa. ESPN is owned by Hearst publishing company, and justified the firing thusly:
“Hearst ‘prides itself on being a very ethical, clean-cut company.'”
HAHAHAHAHAH. Journalism as a rule is so ethical and clean-cut. Especially at Hearst, the inventor of yellow journalism way back in the 20th century. Especially SPORTS journalism, wherein the very nature of the culture of professional sports involves sexualizing and objectifying women. If sports journalism was so concerned with ethics and cleanliness, how about banning Go Daddy and Cialis ads instead of giving a shit if one of their single (or married, for that matter) partners was sexting privately with some woman (and apparently her boyfriend) who takes off her clothes (and apparently is into extortion) for a living? How is this ANY of ESPN’s business? How about capping salaries at slightly less than obscene rates and charging a little less for beer?
Since I’m a big believer in lists having at least three items on them, I didn’t publish the above. Until now. Why? Because the universe dropped the biggest opportunity to call bullshit in my lap over the weekend. Steubenville. Now I have three. Cue the thunder and lightning and bats and maniacal laughter from the Count on Sesame Street.
3. Awwwwwww. Those poor boys. Can Mommy come wipe your face with a tissue as you cry remorsefully about having TAKEN PICTURES of the girl you raped and dragged around to various parties for people to witness said rape???? You pieces of SHIT? How dare anyone, ANYONE , let alone CNN express the tiniest iota of sympathy for these “boys?” How dare they??? Have they even SEEN this video where drunk onlookers are laughing at how dead and raped she was? What do DESPICABLE, lower than slime, pieces of fucking shit like these kids deserve but derision, dismissal and jail? Now, I’m sorry, but being drunk doesn’t turn you into a different person – I firmly believe that in most cases, it turns you into more of the person you already are. And these boys are sociopaths.
When this video was leaked, a friend on Facebook urged us to show it to our daughters. I didn’t – she’s already got a healthy terror in her about losing control of her senses and actions via alcohol, but I sure as hell showed it to my son. My son who is in his first year of high school, and entering the world of high school sports. I watched him come to the computer happy, and walk away sickened. I didn’t make him watch all 12 minutes. It went without saying (but I said it anyway) engaging in any type of sexual activity with a girl this drunk was rape, and while I’m not worried he’d perpetrate such an act, I want him to be aware he might witness and/or hear of something like this going on. And if he does, for god’s sake, get the hell out of there and get help for the GIRL. Make use of the technology in your hands to HELP HER. Text the address to 911. Take a snapshot and forward it to the police. Get the hell OUT OF THERE and get her help. Or, even STAY THERE and help her. Believe me, kids are as susceptible to peer pressure to do good as to do evil. And if anyone, ANYONE gives him a hard time about doing the fucking right thing, they will suffer my wrath – so help me fucking god, I will have his back.
What do all three of these instances of bullshit have in common? Well, dear readers, they all have the effect of making women harder to take seriously. They reinforce the sterotype of women as sexual objects above all else. Nicole with her peek-a-boobs, the stripper with her extortion, ESPN and Hearst with their hypocrisy. But the CNN coverage of Steubenville is the worst, because it perpetuates the culture of victim blaming in cases of rape and sexual abuse. It distorts beyond recognition the notion that bullies are victims, too. Oh, how SAD to see these promising young men have their lives ruined. What about the ACTUAL fucking victim??? How about being ENCOURAGED that the two most blatantly responsible for the VICTIM’S potentially lifelong nightmare are being held responsible??? Where is our sense of justice?
I once read (and I cannot remember who wrote it – apologies for that, too) that the advancement of a civilization is directly proportional to its treatment of women. Well, it would appear we have a lot of goddamned work to do.
January 10, 2013 § 1 Comment
I sat down today to write about the heinous, inhuman and grotesque crimes committed by a group of teenagers in Steubenville, Ohio – two of whom “allegedly” dragged an incapacitated drunk girl from party to party to be sodomized, raped, urinated on, and mocked online. For some reason, I’m coming up blank. Thanks, Brent.
Yes, I’m talking about famed sports announcer, Brent Musburger, and his televised comments about Katherine Webb. Musburger admired (at length and repeatedly) the beauty of Ms. Webb. She is Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s girlfriend, and, well, a BEAUTY QUEEN. Miss Alabama, to be exact. The camera was on her for a prolonged period of time during his inappropriate…um…commentary. ESPN has since apologized, and I think rightly so. Even though Katherine Webb wasn’t offended (of which I am glad,) millions of viewers (some of them male, if blog commenter IDs are accurate) were uncomfortable and creeped out by it.
There were predictable cries about the PC Police gone mad, and outrage that ESPN apologized. I agree with them. And I don’t. Frankly, I’m conflicted about it in a way that I am, of course, NOT conflicted about Steubenville. Maybe that’s why when I was experiencing writer’s block, and began jotting down stream of consciousness notes about it, my paper looked like this:
Why is there outrage about this apology? Are people sad they might be deprived of creepy imagery of old men who want sex? I don’t think they have to worry. I mean, if Cialis commercials aren’t enough to creep you out while you’re watching football with your 8-year-old, I don’t know what is. Are they concerned about Brent Musburger being deprived of his 1st Amendment rights? I doubt it. Might they be pissed that Mr. Musburger is being called out and reprimanded for behavior in which they themselves engage? Now, we might be getting somewhere.
Like so many human behaviors, expressions of appreciation of another person’s appearance is wide in range and acceptability. Hardly black and white. On one end of the spectrum, we have “What a beautiful young lady!” which imparts appreciation coupled with respect. On the other end, we have “That chick is so hot!” My friend, Shoshana, articulated many of my own feelings about this perfectly when she wrote,
“When you call someone hot or HAWT, as forty-year-old men who are acting like teenage boys text it, you aren’t saying “Wow, that is certainly a beautiful woman. Look how lovely her dress is.” You are saying, “Man, I want to drag that chick on the floor and fuck her brains out and not have to see her again in the morning….shhhhh…don’t tell my wife.” The second the word HOT comes out of your mouth, you are announcing to the room your intention to fuck. And I mean fuck. To say it means anything else is a boldface lie and a plot testosterone-fueled men thought up because they thought they were being tricky. Guess what? You’re not.”
So, where was Musburger on that spectrum? In my opinion, he was hovering around the middle. How do we judge? And more importantly, how can we teach? It’s fuzzy, and of course, highly dependent on the setting, delivery, body language, relationship, and a myriad of other factors that sometimes, understandably, leave some men wondering “What did I say? What was wrong with that? I was just saying something nice! Isn’t that a compliment?”
I’d suggest the following guidelines.
1. Consider the reaction of the person about whom you comment. Are they uncomfortable? Scared? Repulsed? In this case, Katherine Webb was not offended and thinks we should cut Musburger some slack. Granted, when one pursues the life of a beauty pageant queen, complaints of objectification and being recognized for one’s looks would ring hollow. Either way, though, the important thing is Ms. Webb, by her own account, is and will be just fine.
2. Consider the reaction of others who heard the comment. Were THEY uncomfortable? Concerned for the safety of the person about whom you commented? Were THEY grossed out? In this case, the answer to at least some of those questions was “yes.” As ESPN broadcasted to millions of viewers that highly anticipated college football game, they were right to issue an apology that Musburger used poor judgement and made loyal fans get a second, less pleasant taste of their gametime snacks by publicly lusting over a woman 1/20th his age.
3. Consider the daughters. Whether or not you have them. If you are in the habit of making such comments in public to and about people, ask yourself this: What would your gut reaction be if another man – of any age – said that about your 13-year-old daughter? I think this is a good guideline because if you imagine you wouldn’t like it, you probably should keep it to yourself.
I’m still struggling, though, with what this incident represents on a larger scale. Why did I sit down to write about Steubenville and find myself instead writing about these relatively low-impact comments by an addled old sports guy? Maybe because in both cases, the question screaming out is, “What are we teaching our boys?” Maybe I felt it was easier to start with the less heinous of the two stories – the one lives weren’t shattered. Perhaps I’m finding it painful to draw the connection between beauty queen culture and rape culture. I feel certain, though, that a connection is there, and I also feel a responsibility as a parent to explore it. So, stay tuned.