[Sexist] Dime… Piece.

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 women
2 : 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.

Elisabeth Epps & Kyle Speller

Elisabeth Epps & Kyle Speller

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\ noun
1 : prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially: discrimination against women
2 : 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?

This is Lizz Robbins. You're welcome.

This is Lizz Robbins. You’re welcome.

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.S. Follow me on Twitter: @elisabethepps. and Instagram too while you’re at it: @elisabethepps. Or don’t. It’s whatever. But if you don’t: you’re a sexist.

P.P.S. Footnotes. (bc internet is just like law school: s/he with the most footnotes… wins!)

  1. …Prejudice. Wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it goes. []
  2. I can’t believe you let this happen: Josh and Stan- go to your corner. []
  3. …Twitter says I can’t say female; but Twitter ain’t my Daddy. []
  4. I’m nosy, so I asked Dime‘s Josh Gotthelf for clarification; he answered: https://twitter.com/DimeJosh/status/340646474817867779. []
  5. …an event the very antithesis of sexism! sitting with another hoops head, the Denver Nuggets’ home game announcer no less! []
  6. …Give or take 6. []
  7. See what I did there? []
  8. Is there a “cricket(s)” emoji? There should be. []
  9. Twitter still ain’t my Daddy. []
  10. There is ONLY ONE Lizz- I know, I know. []
  11. Though my name is Elisabeth, I have no idea how to pluralize Lizz. Do you? I didn’t think so. []
  12. 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? []
  14. I know, I know. []
  15. Captain Obvious, anyone? []

3 thoughts on “[Sexist] Dime… Piece.

  1. jbaerogiuh says:

    Disproving that an online listicle does not fit with a dictionary definition of “sexism” does not prove anything. This article exists in a world of sexism and all it does is add to the broader culture. What the article did better than other “20 hot women on twitter who know about [topic normally associated with men]” is have a diverse group of women and who don’t all have a bunch of skin in their twitter avi. But the fact that the words “look great” had to be included in the title of the original article and that they most definitely won’t do a Hoops Hunks is very problematic. I’m sure some women appreciated that Dime said they “look great” in addition to knowing their basketball. But it shouldn’t ever matter whether a woman looks great or not if her basketball analysis is solid. (Obviously looks do matter when people decide who to follow on twitter but that doesn’t mean magazines should exploit that human trait of shallowness) Show me one listicle of male twitter users to follow for basketball tweets (or video games tweets or rap tweets or some other overwhelmingly male format) that ever says anything about their looks. The Dime Mag list is only one thing in a larger culture of sexism and it’s silly that everyone only brought out the pitchforks for this one list, which obviously could’ve been a lot worse. However, it’s easy to understand the outrage: these “hot chicks on twitter” listicles come out all the time and people don’t even need to change their talking points from one to the next. It’s also easy to get mad at and write off Dime Mag because no one gives a shit about that rag. I know you can’t light your torch every time women in sports are treated with less than tact, but to plant your flag in the ground and say this isn’t sexism only helps perpetuate the idea that it’s ok. It’s not. It’s microaggression, it shouldn’t be overblown but it shouldn’t be tolerated.

    P.S. I don’t mean for this to be a personal attack, but you being at a women’s conference when the list came out means nothing. And the fact that you mentioned Lilly Ledbetter as like a benchmark for extreme feminists is lazy and hurts your argument. Ledbetter was merely a woman who sued her employer for equal pay. She’s not exactly bell hooks. That you have to distance yourself from her to show you’re “in the middle” of the argument just stinks. You say you’re not one to minimize misogyny or sympathize with sexists. I’m not going to get into whether this was literally “misogyny,” but saying (even if it’s in italics and parentheses and after you said that you wouldn’t) no one should be offended and everyone should lighten up absolutely sympathizes with sexists.

    • Elisabeth says:

      Wow. So very well said. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts, and many more thanks for weighing in.

      re: “does not prove anything”, as I said, this was not an academic persuasive piece meant to prove a point philosophically beyond debate- to the contrary; the very fact that educated thoughtful well-meaning adults can disagree, that itself *proves* that there are shades of gray. But words matter: I don’t see sexism here. Keep in mind my interest as stated at the outset:

      Just how great these “girls” look and/or just how well they know basketball is not my concern; it’s the allegation of sexism that intrigues me.

      If not starting with a dictionary entry on “sexism” or “sexist” to discuss whether the term is applicable to Dime‘s piece, where else shld we begin the discourse? MW is not the be all, but what’s the alternative? (I’m not being rhetorical; I welcome your suggestion as to a better starting point to discuss if a word fits- than a definition. Starting with graduate level women’s studies work wld seem to me a bit… extra?)

      re: your P.S., I didn’t feel personally attacked at all. I am the least offendable (word?) person I know. The fact that I was at a women’s luncheon does mean something: it means irony to me; nothing more, nothing less. Also, you misunderstand: I mention LL not as a benchmark for feminism (GS was, IMHO, tho)- but to state that this is not a cause for me. I respect her greatly [even though I disagree with the resulting legislation, POTUS’ first act- but that’s a separate essay]; my point there was only that this list is not something I’d rally against- while equal pay for equal work is something I have lobbied for (cohosted LL with FLOTUS when I was in law school)- and will continue to. Hope those clarifications make sense.

      Lastly, my parenthetical asides “you shouldn’t” and “you should“, were sarcasm; I thought my 15 asinine footnotes were more than enough to elucidate my irreverent rhetorical tone, but it seems that attempt fell flat. Mea culpa. Of course I’m not offended- but how boring would this world be if everyone saw things my way? I shudder to think.

      To be clear: I am no more going to tell you what you SHOULD or should NOT feel than I would take you seriously if you dared suggest how I ought to think/ feel/ react. Trust me, all kidding aside: I understand and respect anyone’s being offended. I have no tolerance, however, for someone suggesting I should share their sentiments.

      Again, many thanks. Ours would be such a healthier happier place if more people were as thoughtful, insightful, and civil as yourself. Be well. -EHE

      P.P.S. re: bell hooks. Love her. I have everything she’s published. But an aside: I always thought her stated purpose in removing the capital letters worked totally contrary to her stated purpose. What do you think?

    • Elisabeth says:

      re: “listicle”! that’s a new one for me. hilarious and kinda… sad? wonder are they teaching that in j-schools yet? welcome to new media, indeed…

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