Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reflecting on Rutgers Women’s Basketball and Don Imus

I am happy to say that I was wrong about the fallout from Don Imus’ comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. I didn’t believe that there would be any serious consequences for Imus other than his two week suspension. Boy, was I wrong and happily so. He finally crossed a line that even the American public, numbed by years of hostile and demeaning radio talk, wouldn’t tolerate. We spoke up and Imus’ commercial sponsors and finally CBS and MSNBC heard us.

Though much of the outcry was about the racism embedded in his comments, Imus’s rant was also sexist. I wonder if there would have been such an outcry if he had called the women from Rutgers some sexist name that wasn’t as racialized as the one he used (I won’t repeat it. We’ve all heard it enough).

Little media attention was paid to the homophobia also embedded in Imus’ comments. Calling the team “tough” and comparing them to professional men’s basketball teams is only thinly veiled homophobia. Calling women “tough” and “masculine” or “like men” is a time honored attempt to intimidate strong women. He didn’t call them “dykes” but the implication was there. Describing the Tennessee team as “cute” in contrast also revealed the expectation that women athletes must be sexy and appealing to men in order to receive their approval as athletes.

I wonder if the public outcry would have been as loud if Imus had only called the Rutgers team “tough” or “mannish” without the racialized slurs. I don’t know. I’m skeptical. Yet, Tim Hardaway paid a similar price for his anti-gay rant. Maybe our tolerance for all kinds of public mean-spirited putdowns whether racist, sexist or homophobic has run out. What do you think?


Carol Anne (Scamp) said...

"Maybe our tolerance for all kinds of public mean-spirited putdowns whether racist, sexist or homophobic has run out. What do you think?"

I think that PUBLIC expression of bigotry is mostly unacceptable these days. Unfortunately, PRIVATE espressions of prejudice abound. I'm defining "private" to include the Internet.

Many who use screen names ranted angrily in favor of Imus' free speech rights. Would they have done so if they had to post with their real names? I wonder.

The same goes for those who, in various Web women's basketball forums, insinuate that (for example) Carol Ross retired from Ole Miss to try to hide a personal scandal. When asked for the story and its source? The rumor's poster disappears (or creates a new identity)!

Carol Anne (aka Scamp) said...

Black male comedian D.L. Hughley appeared on the Tonight Show this week. He quoted Don Imus' remarks, denied the Rutgers' players were "hos," but then said they were the ugliest women he'd ever seen. Jay Leno laughed.

Hughley's "humor" is being defended by some on Rebkell's WCBB board as acceptable, since he (like the majority of the Scarlet Knights) is African-American. (I think you have to be logged in to watch the YouTube video.)

Why, I ask, would race give Hughley the right to insult those young women?

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the Tonight Show in question, but I find it MORE offensive than Imus' idiocy. His race doesn't make it more defendable, it makes it all the more insulting. He really should know better.
Does the man have a daughter? He surely has a mother. Would he find the same "humor" aimed at them to be funny?
As long as "he's one of us" is allowed to defend such disgusting remarks, none of this will change. There is no excuse for that kind of trash talk.

Carol Anne (Scamp) said...

Milton Kent, Baltimore Sun sportswriter, takes on D.L. Hughley in a Sun blog. This is the only mainstream media mention of Hughley's insulting the Rutgers team that I have found on-line. I guess Imus got the outrage.

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