Cover photo courtesy of ESPN
Beth Mowins made sports history yesterday as the first-ever female commentator for the NFL on a nationally broadcasted game. There was much celebration on Facebook when I saw ESPNw share an article about this glass-shattering occasion. I joined in with the “f*ck yeah’s” of my friends because I was basking in the moment of another woman breaking through in a male-dominated field. Finally!
I had the game on and half-listened while making dinner. There was nothing spectacular about the game commentary, but what did cause a reaction was when my fiancé began reading comments from the game thread on Reddit:
“She didn't really sound like a woman tbh.”
“Oh fuck Beth Mowins voice is so annoying.”
“Beth Mowins? Watching on mute. Sigh.”
“Rex Ryan AND a woman announcer? Are they trying to make people watch with the volume off??”
My favorites were the men that prefaced their sexist statements by reassuring that they were not sexist people.
“Not to be sexist but this lady makes this game unbearable and feel like a college game.”
“I'm all for equality but I don't like female announcers.”
By now, I’m confident that we’ve all come to know if someone starts their statement with a disclaimer about being “not sexist”, they’re about to load some sexist bullshit on you.
In any sports circle on the Internet, it’s easy for me to find men insulting/correcting/teaching women on their athletic endeavors.
On a women’s skateboarding/snowboarding edit, this guy felt the need to mansplain how he would have done the tricks better: “Her lip on the kink dils was clean, and mjs are always fun. I dig foot plants, good creative stuff. I would have sat on some of the skating footy, held onto it, or if I was pressed for content, moved it somewhere else.”
Or this guy who loves women and equality but needs to provide a few pointers: “I LOVE girl shredders but holy shit it’s rare to see anything done properly on this page…..it’s 2017 stop zeechin, I’m practicing equality. This is Too soft, like your presses. You say style is important……LOL.”
As an admin on Ride Like Her's Facebook page, I responded to one of these comments to explain why these criticisms weren’t helping, and I got the comment back: “I'm not sipping any hateorade. Being critical isn't being hateful. I'm not telling her to go big or go home, or hang up her board. I'm saying I think she can do better.” What even is “better”? She’s way better than me on a skateboard!
I’ve been a snowboard instructor for 12 years and these comments felt particularly unnerving. Skateboarding and snowboarding are about freedom of style and expression, not necessarily about making everything picture perfect. The blogs and social media accounts where these images and videos are shared are not for women to be torn down and told that they aren’t good enough. They are there for women to feel empowered to break barriers, do badass shit, and live their own lives.
The other day I saw comments even invalidating an entire division of female athletics:
“The WNBA is still a thing? Huh, who’d have guessed?”
“WNBA?? What’s That??”
It makes me sad and sick to see the amount of hatred poured across the Internet over women in sports. Women not being as good as men, being annoying, being unskilled, being X Y or Z. Wherever I look, even if a woman is at the top of her field, she gets brought back down on the Internet for any little thing that people can find wrong with her. We can probably all agree this isn’t just a sports world problem. It goes deeper. And it makes me think, why can’t women just do shit without men having to piss all over it?
Let me give you an example of how widespread this problem is. I’m sure you’re familiar with the phenomenal success of the PSL, or the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The Pumpkin Spice Latte has become the poster child for the “basic white girl drink”. In fact, “basic white girl” has become a favorite insult among men (and women, who are also capable of promoting sexism) to vilify girls and women for…liking something?
Chandler Smith wrote for The Odyssey, “I'm also not sure how the term 'basic white girl' came about when I know girls that aren't white that like these things as well. Even guys like Starbucks! Guys don't get called 'basic' when they all like and play the same video game. So why is it that just girls are being judged?”
Beyond that, women can even be demonized and condescended for enjoying sexual positions that give them the best happiness. How many times have you heard someone say a woman is ‘boring in bed’ because she does mostly missionary. If there was only one position to get you off because someone didn’t take the time to partake in foreplay and lasted only 30 seconds, you’d probably only stick to that position, too.
Adult women have been condescended and belittled for enjoying young adult novels, such as Twilight. In fact, there’s even subtle sexism in how we categorize literature. John Green and other male-authored novels are called “love stories” while female-authored novels are called “romances”.
Furthermore, women, and teenage girls especially, are constantly considered as having vapid and hysterical obsessions, instead of having a dedicated and passionate interest. Why is it that only girls are demonized for literally liking or doing anything? This list* includes but isn’t limited to:
PSL, boy bands (friendly reminder The Beatles were a boyband and the fan base, Beatlemania, of mostly women helped skyrocket them to fame), snapchat filters, selfies, Autumn, pursuing any type of profession, pop music, music that isn’t pop music, pop culture in general, being straight edge, partying, not partying, having sex, not having sex, dressing provocatively, dressing conservatively “chick flicks,” wearing makeup, not wearing makeup, wearing boots, being fat, being skinny, being too muscular, being athletic, wearing leggings, using Instagram, fruity cocktails, the color pink, being a feminist, driving certain cars, reading certain book genres, playing video games, reading comic books, wearing ‘non-functional’ clothing, following trends, setting trends, eating salad, eating too much, eating too little, women being “bossy”, being too young, being too old, talking too much, being too loud, changing your image, evolving as a person, knowing things about “non feminine” topics, being funny, jewelry, glitter, watching porn, Uggs, being a sorority girl, not being a sorority girl, saying “like”, uptalk, how our voice sounds, being a Tomboy, being a stay-at-home mom, being a working mom, wearing “granny panties”, not wearing underwear, being on your period, shopping, reality TV, having tattoos, wearing heels, using exclamation points, using emojis, not smiling, smiling too much, swearing, being prepared for your job, carrying useful tools, dogs, little dogs, dressing your dogs, cats, owning cats, cartoons, carrying a giant purse (don't forget female pockets are ~useless~ and female wallets are too big to fit in those useless pockets), not shaving, drinking any beer that isn't an IPA, drinking wine, watching primetime TV dramas, wearing nail polish, blogging, being too 'excitable'(?)….
…breathing, having a heartbeat….jk
So what can we do to change it? We can start by just letting women like the things they like and do the things they do without needlessly criticizing and commentating. Let a lady live and let live and enjoy her pumpkin spice latte without vilifying her for enjoying it. Keep what’s not constructive to yourself because women are still going to do and like and be these things. Start a conversation when you comment and post rather than breaking people down. Catch yourself when you criticize a woman (or even yourself) for doing something, and find the root of why you believe it. I do it, my friends do it, it’s something all of us can be more mindful of. The more aware we can be of why we feel critical about certain topics, the more we can start to change the conversation.
Tell us in the comments below how you want to change the conversation or what things you have been belittled for?
*The list above was compiled by all women who have experienced this daily struggle.