The male [sports] world: women have no value

 

I’ve been following several stories and threads about a variety of sex-related scandals in the sports world for a while now with increasing disgust and consternation.  And, full disclosure, I’m not a sports fan to begin with.  It took time for me to realize the full import of all these tales:  an underlying theme of women as being disposable, expendable, valueless and only on earth as sex objects.

I’ve chosen to tell the sports story because there has been so much coverage it’s easy to put together the real picture but I’m also realizing this utter disregard for women and their value permeates every level of our society to a far greater degree than I understood.

I’ve chosen two particular stories with lots of headlines and a general trend that’s been drawing media attention.

  1. Michigan State University and Expendable Girls

As the scandal at MSU wore on I started having trouble deciding whether I was more upset by the molestation and rape, the attempts by coaches and other MSU officials to hide it, or the cavalier attitude offered by the Board and President.

The first girl who tried to make it stop came forward in 1997.  She was shushed.  Over the years more girls came forward, only to be dismissed, discouraged from filing a complaint…  By the time people sat up and listened 332 girls THAT WE KNOW OF had been molested and/or raped.

Once MSU officials started looking into allegations they accepted the doctor’s explanation that it was a medical technique being misunderstood and dismissed the girls.  Apparently they didn’t even bother to ask any other medical professionals because the profession says what he was doing was NOT an accepted practice.  It wouldn’t have taken much effort to find that out but you know, it was just girls being molested, no reason to make an effort…

Even after they knew there was a problem, the doctor was allowed to continue as long as he complied with certain conditions.  William Strample, dean of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine was charged with overseeing compliance but later stated he never planned to enforce compliance with these conditions.

Then when the true scope of Nassar’s crimes came out and people called for the university president’s resignation, she denied knowledge and apparently didn’t feel that being in charge meant she should have been aware of what was going on.  Nor could I find a statement from her that made me believe she felt any great degree of sorrow or shock about what went on.

The Board of Trustees supported her initially and the most powerful man on the board, Joel Ferguson, dismissed the whole horror show as “that Nassar thing”, claiming the university had other issues to deal with.  You know, because 332 girls being molested and/or raped is no big deal.  After all, women are only here to be sex objects, otherwise completing lacking in value.

Deeper examinations have shown the university purposefully failed to comply with Title IX for years.  As far as I can find at this time, failure to comply has not affected federal funding to the university in any way.

Ferguson and all of the Board members are elected.  So far there has not been a coalition of women making sure the voting booths are flooded by women voting against his continued tenure there.

In all the coverage, while I’ve seen some outrage and shock, I haven’t really seen anyone stating what to me is obvious:  the fate of women and girls was seen by pretty much everyone in power or authority at the university as unimportant, this “thing” , an inconvenience.  Compared to the importance of sports and the lives of men, horrific crimes being committed against women was insignificant.

Why aren’t fans boycotting all MSU sports until the University proves it is going to treat women as valuable and respected members of their community?  Has there been even a slight dent in ticket sales in response to the enormity of what has happened there?

As far as Title IX I’m willing to bet they’re not by a long shot the only college that has failed to comply but continues to receive federal funds.  Since we never achieved an Equal Rights Amendment, Title IX is one of few protections women have but apparently all the way up to the highest levels of government no one really cares about compliance.

If anybody at any level in this whole tale had thought women were important and that protecting them and their rights matters, there could not possibly have been such blatant disregard for what happened to all these girls and young women.

Twenty Years of Failure: many groups missed chance to stop Larry Nassar

Michigan State settles with Larry Nassar victims for $500 million

Michigan State’s problems start much higher than Larry Nassar and sports coaches

  1. University of Louisville: women are sex objects

This is a basketball-mad state and Lexington is close enough to Louisville I’ve probably heard more about these NCAA violations than most of you who don’t live here.  A number of people on the staff of the UL basketball team and in the athletics department held sex parties for recruits.

The NCAA apparently was mainly concerned about the recruiting violation:  paying for prostitutes and strippers is considered a bribe.  The fact that the university was teaching young men (many of whom were minors) that women are sex objects to be used for their pleasure, apparently nobody cares about that.  Not the NCAA, not the University, not the basketball-loving public, which seems to think basketball has more value than women.

Nope all the conversation here is what it means for UL basketball that they’ve been stripped of their title and that much of the coaching team has been fired.  All concern seems to be for the basketball legacy and how it will survive.

Because using women as sex objects and telling boys and young men this is acceptable apparently is insignificant compared to the importance of basketball.  Maybe not a problem at all.  And contributing to the delinquency of minors also doesn’t count if it’s just making sure they know women exist only for their sexual pleasure.

For me the fact the women were paid doesn’t really matter in the face of the larger message being conveyed.  If you’re a man and good at sports you get to use women for sex, it’s your right and women have none.

Does anybody imagine this is the only school with this type of recruiting inducement? Or do you imagine, as I do, that there are probably many more?

College Basketball Made Louisville, Then Broke It

U of L player told NCAA that an assistant coach blamed bad practice on ‘strippers

  1. Sex, molestation and rape in high schools and colleges

For some time before I binged through the first season of 13 Reasons Why, I’d been noticing a surprising number of tales of whole teams participating in “rape clubs’ .  Young men — particularly those involved in sports — in high school purposefully raping girls and, in come cases, younger teammates and often with the knowledge of coaches and other school personnel.

Some of the “extras” with 13 Reasons included interviews with therapist consultants who talked about such behavior going on across the country in high schools and colleges.  Instead of just noting stories as they came up I started actively looking for stories, trying to get a sense of how big this problem is.  It’s horrifying.

And, to me, even more horrifying than seeing how widespread the problem is, was seeing how thoroughly discounted all the victims are in all these stories.  The worries are all about the money involved in sports, the possible impact on the sports programs, whether it will hurt the university or the school district… whether an athlete’s promising career will be taken off course…

I did a lot of hunting to see what parents were doing to protest.  Nothing.  For all the stories of sex clubs systematically raping girls while officials look the other way, there are no stories of parents banding together and pulling their children out of sports programs until the school implements gender sensitivity training and re-shapes their sports programs to uphold the value of girls.  Nowhere did I find a story of fans turning in their season tickets and boycotting the games to protest a college’s demeaning attitudes toward women.

If boys were taught by their parents and their schools that women are important and have value, would they still think raping girls is acceptable behavior?  If parents believed women’s lives are valuable, wouldn’t they make sure their children know?

If coaches and principles and school boards thought women had value, wouldn’t they move heaven and earth to keep the boys who are under their tutelage from molesting girls instead of pretending it’s not happening and then behaving as if it doesn’t matter when exposed?  If they thought girls had value, would they protect their sports programs and their players over the victims?

If the media thought girls were important, wouldn’t they be focusing on the devastating impact of rape on the girls instead of the impact on the sports team or the money involved in sports or the role of the men?  If schools and tribunals and judges thought girls were important, would so many men be given just a slap on the wrist for rape?

How have we reached a place where it is common across the country for whole groups of boys to molest and rape girls in their schools?  How has it become the norm to pretend it isn’t happening and try to sweep it under the rug? How have women become so devalued that their victim-hood is less important than whether an athletic career is ruined, or a sports franchise is hurt?

NCAA Remains Silent as Athlete Sexual Assault Cases Continue

Rape on Campus: Athletes, Status and the Sexual Assault Crisis

High Schools Are Failing Girls Who Report Sexual Assault

Sports Team Gang Rapes: Are We Breeding Sexual Offenders?

And?

Beyond the sports world, we see evidence of how little men think of women everywhere, from McConnell shutting Elizabeth Warren up to tales of Boards where women members are talked over as if their voices don’t matter to a President whose base thinks sexual harassment is trivial and the ever-growing accusations of the #MeToo movement, we can see our society affords no real respect or value to women.

Where are the fathers who love their mothers, sisters, wives and/or daughters enough to stand up for them?  Where are the mothers with enough self-respect and love for their daughters to say, “no more”?  Why are there no boycotts against teams/sports programs where these things are happening?

There are a few men like Justin Baldoni with the balls to stand up for women and call on men to join the fight.  But otherwise I see “liberals” joining the conservative tendency to throw women to the wolves when they don’t protest against women in congress being patronized .  We need a small army of men who love the women in their lives enough to stand up with them and demand equality.

The #MeToo movement is a nice start, but women need to face the deeper reality:  we are not seen as valuable in this society.  An epidemic of sexual assault is just a symptom of the underlying reality.  If we don’t stand up and fight for ourselves, we will never be granted the value and respect we deserve.

My series on women’s issues:

 

Fashion, women and the veils of patriarchy

A few months ago some of my posts were muses on the current state of women.  It’s an issue I’m still ruminating and this week some things came together for me.  Can’t quite decide if I’m disturbed or energized.  But I am ever more convinced that a shift into a time of greater feminine/Goddess energy requires women to take some long, deep looks at the many ways we’re hooked into the patriarchy.

This rumination started years ago when I began to realize that the “perfect” body coaches and judges demand of gymnasts and figure skaters is basically the body of a pre-pubescent.   Pre-pubescent boy was my first thought, but really the average body type at that stage is about the same for either gender.  Women’s grown bodies… not okay.

And more recently, as I discussed here, I reflected on another piece, the question of women dressing in revealing or “sexy” clothes.  It bugs me how much Hollywood and the fashion industry push for women to be sexy above all else.

Then lately I’ve been running into discussions about how younger women basically are waxing all the hair off their bodies.  Suddenly I got the whole picture of the body type fashion favors:  skinny, flat chest and no body hair.  Okay, we’re back to pre-pubescent.  So we’re permeated by a fashion sense that wants women to look like young girls — or boys — rather than grown up women.

You know, kids  The ones only pedophiles consider sexy.  I’m not sure which disturbs me worse:  that the fashion industry has somehow shaped the world view of sexiness to suit the desires of pedophiles (and wtf is that about?) or that so many women, instead of saying, “screw you, women who look like women — in every shape and size — are sexy and we don’t want your fashion” just jump on board and follow these dictates.

Is pedophilia really so pervasive that this long-standing, widespread effort to tell grown women the only thing that’s sexy is the body of a child hasn’t even been noticed?  Or is everything about women–not to mention children– so unimportant in our society no one is paying that much attention?

And what’s with all the women who get told they’re only sexy if they look like a pedophile’s wet dream and instantly start dieting and taking off all their body hair?  How did so many of the rest of us — us non-fashionistas — not quite see the deeper meaning in all this?  A world view that grown women aren’t desirable unless they look like and — as far as I can see — behave like children.  Now that I’ve noted it, it’s so glaring I can’t understand why this isn’t a national conversation.

I’m a great believer in the divine feminine, in the power of women.  We’re beautiful in every shape and size.  We’re smart, capable, talented, creative and most important, filled with compassionate and loving hearts.  Our compassion is the biggest reason we’re needed in positions of power and authority.  But instead of being celebrated and given equality and power for our wonderful attributes we’re in a male-dominated culture in which we’re treated as disposable, negligible, objects… children.

It’s a culture so pervasive I think most of us women are blind to some aspects of it because we’re too enmeshed in it to see.  I’m excited by the current climate of embracing women’s rights and yet I feel like much of it is dancing around the edges without delving into the deep issues.  It’s time to explore all the ways patriarchy is operating to keep women marginalized and degraded and to stand up for overthrowing all of it.  Not to mention stop colluding in it.

It starts, I feel, with women exploring their own inner landscape and healing all the ways they feel less than, lacking in self worth and/or self-respect, dependent on men, insecure, etc.  We need an army of GROWN, confident women who respect themselves and know their worth. And none of us can make anyone else do it.  It begins with me.  It begins with you.

Women’s Issues: How We Treat Each Other

In my last post, I talked about women and the “right to be sexy”. The sexy issue ties in with the issue I think looms largest for us, which is the degree to which women are so immersed in the patriarchal culture–and the “romance” fantasy that serves it so well–we don’t treat one another as equal to men.   If we women don’t see one another or ourselves as equals, how can we expect men to?

When we favor men over women

The realm of dating/romance is where I see this problem most clearly.  Since my college days I’ve scratched my head over the norm in which most women will dump a plan with a woman to go on a date with a man in a blink.  There’s no hesitation, the dump is generally conducted with the unspoken assumption doing something with a man always trumps any plan a “girl” has with anyone female.  With a wink and a “you understand” both women collude in placing any time with a man in a category of “above” or “better than” any time spent with a woman.

Doesn’t matter if the woman has been your stalwart friend for years, held your hair while you puked, shared your secrets, stood up for you against the guy who broke your heart, if some man you barely know asks you on a date for the same night as your plan for dinner and a movie with a woman friend, you dump the woman — wink, wink because we all understand the man is better.  Any man, no matter how little known or how bad he may turn out to be is just more important.

I can’t quite decide whether I feel more disturbed by the women who dump their women friends so readily or by the friends who accept it as natural and right to be dumped any time there’s a chance to do anything with a man. (I will admit I never demurred–knowing it was a losing battle–but the women who did it to me got put at arm’s length and went way down my list of trusted people…; I don’t take kindly to be treated as less valuable than a man)

I told many men, back in the years when I was serial dating, that I had a plan on the night he asked about, could we choose another night.  Never once did a guy say no to a different day.  So I got to enjoy the plans with my girlfriends and then enjoy the date.  No good reason to discard the girls’ night in favor of the man.  Except maybe you don’t think women are as worthy of your time.

I know few women who would say this out loud or even admit they feel that way.  The behavior says otherwise.  I’ve known strong, independent women with impressive jobs who would flake out on a plan with me in a heartbeat if any man whatsoever asked them out on a date.  I’ve known women with amazing resumes who’ve turned on me snarling at the suggestion that women shouldn’t treat one another that way.  “Stop being childish” or “you’re just being naive”.

I’ve never said I think shifting that mentality would be easy.  The fairy-tale-happy-ending fantasy has become a deeply rooted delusion of our culture.  Issues about men and women and romance are usually complexly tied to unresolved issues about Mom and Dad, so generally get into the heart of our deepest wounds and issues in the world.  Add in the deep cultural undercurrents about men being stronger, smarter, faster, more capable, better at leadership, etc. and you have a formula for women putting men and romantic relationships with them before all else, in many cases unaware of the degree to which they’re doing it.

Nor am I saying you need to hate men or eschew marriage.  I’m not sure why so many women put this extreme interpretation on any efforts to get them to shift their behavior and offer more esteem to women, but I think there’s a middle ground.  You can love a man — hopefully one who admires and respects you and treats you as his equal — and still love the women you know and give both types of relationship equal weight.

I make no claim about how we shift all these intertwining issues.  Or that it will be easy.  But as long as women are treating one another as second class citizens and refuse to even acknowledge it’s what they’re doing or the fact it’s a problem we need to address, I don’t see how we imagine men will ever treat us as equals.  We have to feel like equals and treat one another that way first.

When we don’t see our own worth

I’ve also been looking around at studies on the pay gap and the low numbers of women in upper level positions of business and government.  I was interested but not surprised to see besides gender discrimination, many bosses report women are less likely to demand a raise or promotion and studies found women are also far more reticent about putting themselves forward.  (Probably not helped by the general male attitude that any woman who does push for advancement is a bitch…)

In a society where women are raised as less than, often told their main jobs are cleaning and child rearing, so many of us lack the kind of confidence and self-esteem most men take for granted.  Most of us are so entangled in the world view of a society that values men over women it is hard for us to feel confident and worthy.

Some inner searching and working on raising our sense of worthiness are so important if we want to break out of our web of male privilege and achieve real equality.

When we stand together

Our best hope, I think, of stepping outside the patriarchy and insisting upon equality is to support one another.  To help one another heal the issues keeping us in thrall of romance, the issues of low self-worth and confidence, the habit of valuing men over one another, etc.  Together we heal.  Standing together we are a force.

Women’s Rights and Issues and choosing the battle

Back when I got to college in 1970, the women’s movement was in full swing and all the women I knew were on the bandwagon.  We took off our bras and spoke out on politics and women’s rights, applied for graduate programs in law and medicine and business in record numbers and moved into many fields and positions traditionally dominated by men.

In spite of our high hopes, things turned in such a different direction, I’m watching the #MeToo movement with a mixture of delight and skepticism. I saw Meryl Streep proclaim in an interview “there’s no going back now” and I questioned it, because we all thought there was no going back in the 70’s and then…  we quit going forward and in my opinion a portion of women went backwards.

We assumed the sisters coming along after us would continue progressing and accomplish equal pay, breaking glass ceilings, and achieving an equal rights amendment.  So when we hit the late 80’s and I realized I didn’t hear much about any of that and accomplishments seemed to have stopped, I was stunned to realize the main thing I started seeing women standing up for was their right to be sexy.  Necklines dropped, skirts and shorts were raised, and by the 90’s into the 2000’s a fashion for hooker clothes — and even dressing their very young daughters that way — was growing.

Somehow the right to be sexy issue has become so bound up with a “rape culture” argument that my efforts in social media to suggest women drop that one are met with outcries of condoning rape based on the “she asked for it” mindset.  I’m not sure how so many women became so clueless but the right to dress however you want without being raped is a completely different issue than what it means to dress in ways — sexy– that support the masculine view we’re only worthy as sex objects.

In the 70’s we understood that and were very conscious of wanting to be viewed as more and not labeled as arm candy, trophies or sex objects.  I’m not sure what happened, but the move from standing up for being recognized as smart and capable and talented, etc. to standing up for wandering around with our busts and butts hanging out as the sole issue of interest is baffling to me.

Get Real About Where We Are

The truth at this moment in time is that far too many men [I’d argue a majority but can find zero studies that specifically question how men see women — not how they feel about the gender gap or inequality, but what they believe about women — in a male-dominated research world I found that interesting)] see women mainly as sex objects.  I’m not talking about the political correctness many of them babble in public, I’m talking about how they really feel and act.  There are men who were changed by the movement and sons who have been raised to respect women (though I may be arguing in another post that they nonetheless are part of a male privilege culture and disrespect women in subtle ways), but way too many men still see women as put on earth solely to serve and pleasure them.

We’re good for sex and possibly for cooking and changing diapers (although no longer sexy once the latter two are our roles…) but not good enough to be paid the same, to advance into equal numbers of managerial positions, to hold as many seats on Boards or to preside over important elective positions.  THAT is the current state of affairs.

To me, the insistence on the “right to be sexy” colludes with the male attitude that it’s all we’re good for and plays right into their sense of superiority and right to power.  How nice for them that in a world where they just want us to be sex playthings there’s a whole segment of the female population that wants to be nothing more than a sex object.  Good for the men maybe.  In what universe can any woman consider that to be good for us?

I’ve seen a number of these “sex as power” advocates claiming it’s empowering.  I call bullshit.  Empowering as to what?  It certainly doesn’t add anything to inner power, confidence or self-worth.  It’s only powerful as to men and some odd (and I’d say sick) sense of having power because you can turn a man on.  I hate to tell you, but most of them are turned on all the time anyway and some are known to have been turned on by sheep, so it’s a pretty low bar.  Not much power in being able to do that…

The ability to make men want sex from you objectifies you and maintains their image of a world in which they do what they want, get what they want and we are here only to serve them and their desires.

How did we stop demanding to be seen as smart, capable, skilled, talented, powerful, worthy, creative and EQUAL?  Why are so many women not fighting to change the male power balance and instead fighting only to validate men’s belief we’re only on earth to satisfy their need for sex?

#MeToo and Moving Forward

I’m glad to see the #MeToo movement; it’s beyond time to call men out for their sexist behavior.  But it concerns me a little that so much  is focused on the issue of being sexually harassed instead of being focused on the many other things we are, the many talents and abilities for which we should be recognized.

While we need to address the serious problem of men seeing us as sex objects, I think it’s even more important to address our right to be equal under the law, equal in pay, equally represented in boardrooms and management positions and elective offices, etc.  There’s a whole conversation about men respecting women beyond just telling them not to harass, molest and/or rape us that needs to be had.

There may be a time down the road when a conversation about our right to wear whatever we want is timely.  I suspect though, when we have achieved a change of attitude in which men see us as creative, talented, skilled, smart, capable, etc. and treat us as equals, and, more importantly when we see OURSELVES that way, we won’t need to argue about what we have a right to wear…  Let’s address the right issues first.

Further Reading:

Note:  this is a little off my usual beat, but I find the need to bring forth the divine feminine so important, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the issues we face.  So I don’t think I’m done 🙂