NEWSFLASH: Just because something makes some wo/men uncomfortable, does not make it sexist.
When Dime Magazine published its list of
22 20 “Girls on Twitter Who Know Their Basketball (and Look Great)” online, there was predictable backlash and accompanying “sexist” accusations. Just how great these “girls” look and/or just how well they know basketball is not my concern; it’s the [errant] allegation of sexism that intrigues me.
sex·ism: \ˈsek-ˌsi-zəm\ noun (via MW)1 : prejudice1 or discrimination based on sex; especially: discrimination against women2 : behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex
Today I experienced a “can’t make this stuff up” random intersection of my #OnHere and #IRL worlds colliding. Within hours of celebrating women who transcended barriers of all sorts- including gender- to excel, I find myself writing a mini-treatise on what sexism is[n’t], to me.
I was sitting in a hotel ballroom earlier today, for the 2013 WiLMA Luncheon: Women in Leadership & Management Awards, honoring both private and public sector achievement. As luck would have it I was seated next to Kyle Speller, emcee for the luncheon and Denver Nuggets’ announcer at the Pepsi Center. A ballroom full of Colorado’s finest in business, the arts, education, activism, media, politics, etc.- and instead of networking, predictably- I was playing on my phone.
Scrolling my Twitter TimeLine when I should have been meeting and greeting, I found the aforementioned gem: 22 Girls on Twitter Who Know Their Basketball (and Look Great). I’m a girl! I’m on Twitter! I know basketball! I look great! So I favorited the tweet, bookmarked the link, and enjoyed a delightful afternoon of good womanly empowerment: spoken word poem calling me a Queen. Rosie the Riveter. I am woman hear me roar. Good stuff. Fast-forward a few hours.
I get back on Twitter, and my heart sinks at the first news item I see: Masai Ujiri, brilliant General Manager of the Nuggets is leaving Denver to take the helm of the Toronto Raptors.2 I was crushed. But as I searched Twitter to read more news on Ujiri’s departure, I instead stumbled back across my bookmarked Hoops Honeys list from earlier.
One of my favorite female3 bloggers had been on Dime‘s list of 22 earlier in the day- but wasn’t on the list anymore.4 Not only had “the list” shrunk from 22 to 20, but Twitter seemed much more interested in discussing Dime[‘s] than Nuggets’ moves.
Apparently while I was at WiLMA celebrating accomplished women,5 some folks were deeply offended about Dime‘s list. I was amused by the brief brouhaha, but not entirely surprised, and certainly not upset. Why would I be? Yes, I am a card-carrying NOW member, but what could possibly be so offensive about a list of female basketball fiends who were also easy on the eyes?
Make that the 768,943rd6 time in my life that I failed to join in on communal outrage over some perceived slight. But the more I read feedback about Dime‘s piece7, the more I found I was disturbed, but not at the list itself- neither its existence nor its content. I was disturbed by the reactions that decried it as “sexist.” Indeed, the more I read tweets to @DimeMag & @DimeJosh, the more I realized people don’t know what sexism is (and isn’t). Let’s revisit:
sex·ism: \ˈsek-ˌsi-zəm\ noun1 : prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially: discrimination against women2 : behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex
1. Prejudice? Discrimination? How was Dime being prejudiced? How did Dime discriminate? I’ll wait.8 If anything, Dime discriminates by not offering a corresponding male counterparts list. They did Hoops Honeys; where are the Hoops Hunks? (I volunteer for this task- Dime, just DM me.)
2. As for fostering stereotypes- what [negative] stereotypes are at play here? Dime doesn’t suggest that to be relevant in the online sports conversation a woman has to show skin or be sultry- far from it. If any, the relevant stereotype to discuss is the notion that females9 don’t like sports- or that if they do, it’s a superficial want-guys-to-like-me, and/or trying-to-land-a-baller type appreciation of athletics. But those aren’t the “girls” on Dime‘s list- at least not all of them, at least not from what I could glean.
At one end of the sexuality spectrum there is the sublime Lizz of Lizz’s LockerRoom. Lizz is a gorgeous woman with curves for days that she is generous enough to share with us. Guess what else she shares? Her love of and knowledge for too many sports for me to keep up with. In addition to being an accomplished model, actress, business woman, broadcaster, and activist- Lizz also tweets innuendo; she is overtly sexual. AND she knows sports. What’s not to love?
But Lizz, bless her, is not the only legit female sports fan- and Dime‘s list is not a list of 2010 Lizz’s.11 What Dime‘s list lacks in diversity of favorite teams12, it makes up for in diversity of females.13
There’s Lizz, yes, but there are also women who are themselves current/former athletes, journalism students, writers both aspiring and published. The “girls” range from what appears to be teens to late 30s/ early 40s, are different races, body types, and based on glimpses of their Twitter and Instagram accounts range from girly girl feminine to thuggish tomboy.14
Dime‘s list of 20 includes girls pictured in a jersey both as a dress and as a sports uniform; several of the young women have no intimate skin showing at all, nothing suggestive. By saying not just that Lizz Robbins looks great15, but that a girl-next-door minimally made-up basketball playing brunette whose apparel reveals nothing suggestive “looks great” too, Dime actually dispels a stereotype- not perpetuates one.
I took the requisite women’s studies courses in college, grad school, and law school. I read scholarly work about feminism, sexism, and their ilk. This is not an attempt at doing any such academic persuasion. It’s an attempt to tell you to chill- or if not, to please not freak out that I’m not freaked out. There is more than one way to be a woman, more than one way to be a fan, and being comfortable with my sexuality and my love of sports does not mean I condone sexism.
So whether the first or second definition of “sexist” is considered, Dime‘s piece just doesn’t qualify as sexist. #SorryNotSorry Dime‘s list is silly at best, tacky at worst, but lack of tact does not [necessarily] sexism make. Was Dime‘s piece brilliant hard-hitting athletic beat reporting? No. But was it sexist? Nope. Not that either.
There is good news and there is bad:
- Good news: memories are short, especially on Twitter. Outrage will be long gone and forgotten long before the Denver Nuggets hire a new GM.
- Bad news: memories are short, especially on Twitter. And people still won’t know what sexism is- or isn’t- the next time something having to do with gender or sexuality makes them uncomfortable.
Gloria Steinem or Lilly Ledbetter I am not. But neither am I one who minimizes misogyny or sympathizes with sexists. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be offended (but you shouldn’t); I’m not saying you should lighten up (but you should); I’m just saying there is an awful lot of insidious sexism out there- and this list ain’t it. If you aren’t picketing your favorite NBA team dancers’ hoe-niforms, miss me with your faux-feminist outrage now.
Now pardon me while I head to Josh Kroenke’s place with pitchforks ablaze. I’ll be wearing a Nuggets-inspired powder blue bikini, and marching in the 4″ heels I wore to the WiLMA Luncheon. Who’s with me?
P.P.S. Footnotes. (bc internet is just like law school: s/he with the most footnotes… wins!)
- …Prejudice. Wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it goes. [↩]
- I can’t believe you let this happen: Josh and Stan- go to your corner. [↩]
- …Twitter says I can’t say female; but Twitter ain’t my Daddy. [↩]
- I’m nosy, so I asked Dime‘s Josh Gotthelf for clarification; he answered: https://twitter.com/DimeJosh/status/340646474817867779. [↩]
- …an event the very antithesis of sexism! sitting with another hoops head, the Denver Nuggets’ home game announcer no less! [↩]
- …Give or take 6. [↩]
- See what I did there? [↩]
- Is there a “cricket(s)” emoji? There should be. [↩]
- Twitter still ain’t my Daddy. [↩]
- There is ONLY ONE Lizz- I know, I know. [↩]
- Though my name is Elisabeth, I have no idea how to pluralize Lizz. Do you? I didn’t think so. [↩]
- Some 7+ out of 20 are Lakers fans? Add in Clippers + Golden State, and even w/o a single identified Sacramento Kings fan, far more than half of the recommended follows support Cali teams. Really though? [↩]
- FEMALES FEMALES FEMALES [↩]
- I know, I know. [↩]
- Captain Obvious, anyone? [↩]