Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blaming women for their harassment: The same old story in 140 characters

Christine Brennan's tweet today, implying that Erin Andrews is somehow to blame for the violation of her privacy via a voyeuristic video, certainly lends support to the recent Big Lead blog about Twitter as a tripwire for journalists. Brennan's tweet implied that these things don't happen to women who are "smart" and "don't play to the frat house." She released a statement today attempting to do a take-back. But her original message -- as ugly as it was -- is actually just a variation on a common theme about female sports journalists: That they are sexually charged, locker-room "lookers" who aren't qualified to cover sports. Emphasizing their sexuality is a way to belittle them in the sports context. This myth has been used to justify discrimination and harassment since the first woman entered the profession, and it continues.
Brennan's tweet is evidence of what we've found: Interviews with women who work in sports journalism has found that many of them buy into this kind of rationalization when they see discrimination against their female colleagues. It's regrettable because it serves a power structure that marginalizes women in sports and sports media.
The problem when women in sports are marginalized and belittled is not the women. It's a definition and positioning of sports in our culture that claims them for men.
And that's much, much bigger -- and more difficult to address -- than anything that can fit in a tweet.

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