Raising Gender Issues in Sports

A couple of weeks ago radio show host Don Imus, who’s show aired on MSNBC, made some derogatory remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Amid a discussion of the team, he called the women “nappy-headed ho’s.” This slanderous statement is a knock both to the ethnicity and the gender of these players, and it has no place in professional journalism or sports casting. After a plethora of complaints were filed, Imus finally offered up an apology and the show was suspended for two weeks as punishment. CBS radio fired Imus last Thursday following a strong public outcry against him and dwindling support from many of the show’s sponsors.
As a young woman and sports fan, it’s very disappointing to be reminded once again that the world of sports is still dominated by men who seem to think that they can make such remarks without repercussions. Many in my generation reacted only with a sigh of resignation at the fact that this is the world we live in and comments like these are commonplace, especially in sports. I do not sigh with resignation, rather I get angry and frustrated by the lack of outrage.
But as I was taking out my frustration on the elliptical machine at the gym recently, I tuned into the ESPN sports show “Pardon the Interruption” (PTI). Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser were discussing the comments Imus made when I started listening. I have to report that Mike Wilbon is one of my new gender heroes after the comments he made on the show. Wilbon came out in support of women in the sports world when Augusta Golf Club refused to admit female members several years ago, so this is not his first foray into the world of gender issues.
On the show last week, he very appropriately acknowledged that the comments were not only racist in nature but sexist as well. Wilbon acknowledged that as a man, he and other men were less likely to think of the implications such a comment can have for women as a group. I heard him use the word gender and almost fell off the machine because I was so excited. Wilbon continued by stating that the word “ho” was such a standard part of the cultural lexicon that most people don’t think twice before using it when referring to women. But he said that when he watched the press conference where the players commented on the insults they’d received, he realized that nothing could be further from the truth as these women were clearly eloquent, well-educated, and upstanding people. Wilbon frowned on society’s use of derogatory language and urged viewers to think about the gender implications of such disrespectful comments.
I want to personally thank PTI for addressing Imus’ remarks in a fair and balanced manner and for bringing gender issues to the floor in the world of sports. Women have made tremendous gains in the fight for equality in the world of sports, but we still have a long way to go. I’m very excited to know that we have allies in sports broadcasting, and I would like to encourage other sports journalists to follow suit. With the help of journalists and commentators, women and other advocacy groups can bring discrimination to public view and someday eradicate it from the wonderful world of sports. I look forward to that day and I thank Mike Wilbon for taking an important step in the process.
Elisabeth Crum

Women’s Vision and Values for Public Life

For the past several years, IWPR has explored the values that women from diverse backgrounds bring to public life. We have interviewed and conducted focus groups with a broad range of progressive women activists from different movements for change. These women are religious and not, feminist and not. They are white, African American, Latina, Asian American, Native American, and Arab American. They come from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Unitarianism, indigenous spiritualities, and many other religious identities. They are young and old, national leaders and grassroots activists, and come from all different income levels.
Our Working Group on Women’s Public Vision has developed a draft statement on women’s values for public life, based on both the experiences of its members and IWPR’s research. The statement is designed to provide a new frame for thinking about and articulating policies and practices that respond to women’s needs and concerns. We’ll be promoting the language of the statement in much of IWPR’s work, and asking our partners to do so as well.
What do you think of the ideas articulated here? What are the implications of women’s values for both policy and practice? We’d love to hear your comments.

Women’s Vision and Values for Public Life
Our Vision:
Women’s full integration into public life is essential to building a truly democratic society, creating a more caring culture, and improving the lives of women, their families, and all communities. We call on leaders in politics, the economy, society, and religion to promote practices that empower women of all backgrounds and advance their equality and well-being in public and family life. We call for policies that embody the values of caring and consideration for humanity and support practices that encourage cooperative models of public life.
What We Value:
Equality and Individual Worth: We respect the dignity of all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, culture, religion, or age. We ask individuals to recognize the ways in which differences lead to both their privilege and their subordination. We call for polices that promote social welfare and provide equal and just use of resources in politics, the economy, and society. We call for practices that value individual expression and humanity and decommodify women’s bodies.
Balanced Power: We seek to include all voices in public life. We promote innovative and responsive strategies for building power together, validating the experiences of different people, and inspiring activism and engagement. We call for practices that give both women and men the tools to claim and wield power. We ask those with power to return it to their communities, and those without power to take the risk of claiming it.
Family: We call for stronger supports for building healthy families of all types and all generations. We recognize the importance of family and acknowledge the impact of our private relationships on our lives at work and in our communities. We promote family values of caring and compassion as beneficial to public life, and we call for ending gender subordination in families. We ask that public policies help families pursue these values in conditions of safety and security.
Community: We recognize the importance of treating each other with compassion and of building connections across lines of difference. We support opportunities for individuals to work, live, and organize collectively with people of diverse backgrounds to better their lives and communities.
Amy Caiazza, Ph.D.
Director, Democracy and Society Programs

Ellen Bravo to speak about her new book: TAKING ON THE BIG BOYS: Or Why Feminism Is Good For Families, Business, and The Nation

Taking on the Big Boys Book Cover

Feminist firebrand and longtime 9To5 director Ellen Bravo is coming to Washington, D.C. to promote her new book Taking on the Big Boys: Or Why Feminism is Good for Families, Business, and the Nation.
At the event, Ellen will tell stories from decades of frontline 9to5 campaigns for income equity, family leave, and an end to sexual harassment and insecure temp work. In debunking myths from the Big Boys, she combines outrage with humor, and facts with personal narratives. Bravo goes beyond smashing the glass ceiling to redesigning the building from the bottom up.
Tuesday April 10, 7 pm
Women’s National
Democratic Club
1526 New Hampshire Ave. NW, D.C.
Free and open to the public
Co-sponsored by Politics and Prose, National Coalition of Women’s Organizations,
The Feminist Press at CUNY, and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.