Women in the Man Cave

I was at the gym the other day and there are a number of TV’s there and as is often the case ESPN Sports Center was on.  I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the male and female anchors.  The females standing in there skirts or dresses, never below knee length, always wearing heels.  In fact one anchor, Nicole Briscoe, was recently complimented with “respect for being pregnant while also wearing heels”.  Alternatively, the men were well dressed and looking comfortable.  It is of course a massive double standard and sports isn’t the only place where such a double standard exists, but I couldn’t help but thinking even if we have a standard of beauty that we say we want to appear on TV such a standard is not evenly applied to men.   Men aren’t forced to wear tight fitting clothes, clothes that actually might be restrictive or uncomfortable.  When you look at the the bios of all the ESPN staff, anchors, reporters and columnists, you can see through these many pages a trend in the women all being fairly attractive and reasonably young unless they are a very famous former player.  What’s clear is that when you look at the men there is no similar standard.  While they all may be required to be smartly dressed the standard deviation in age, height, and, in my estimation, attractiveness is far greater.  Women must fit a narrow mold, while men are allowed to represent the diversity of body shapes, facial features, ages, and levels of balding.

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Yes those heels probably are uncomfortable. Pregnant or not.

More disturbingly than this is the level of vitriol that often women face who are involved with sports writing and sports reporting.  I recently posted this video on Facebook but I thought it was important enough to post on my blog as well, because I think it’s important that we be vigilant about counteractive the horrible comments these women received.  This video was hard to watch, and that’s what tells me that it might be worth it for a lot of people to watch it.  The comments these women received reminded me a lot of the type of comments that Anita Sarkeesian has received by trying to introduce a more balanced female perspective into the video game world.  It seems to me that sports are still seen as a male domain, and intruding on that domain has costs to women who try to do so.  If you aren’t pretty to look at, you shouldn’t be there.  And if you try to be more than just a pretty face, like have a mind, then you are going to be sorry.  This seems to be the overall message.  Just anecdotally I tried to look at a couple of the female profiles on twitter to see I could see additional evidence, and what I found is that horrible comments, like the ones in the video happen but are rare.  However, what you also see are plenty of comments objectifying the reporter/anchor.  Comments about how hot she is, or her legs, and as you can imagine worse at times.

I try to focus on the progress that has been made and try to remain hopeful.  Double standards are getting less in the music and entertainment industry.  Sports for women are gaining more popularity and more air time.  I try to remind myself that 20 years ago, seeing a female at all reporting or as an anchor on a sports show was unheard of unless it was a sport which actually involved women.  There seems to be these last bastions of maleness in our culture which is being fought against with all the misogynistic vitriol they can muster.  Some might argue that it is the internet that allows these people to express such horrible words in a largely anonymous fashion, and maybe that’s true to a certain extent, but it also exposes such behavior as well.  I have a hard time believing that such attitudes are a function of the internet, but rather just a larger forum of expression for attitudes that already existed.  This video reminds us that even if we aren’t saying the words to someone’s face they still have the same impact, and I also hope that this video reminds men to pay attention.  These men had an extremely hard time saying these things to the women, and it is likely that they aren’t the type of men who say such things, but they can be part of the solution which is to call out such despicable and hurtful behavior.  Not to be chivalrous or to gain favor with an attractive sports personality on, but simply because it is the right thing to do.  Do it equitably, to all women who are trying to make a living doing something they enjoy, whether it is on social media or a night out with the boys.  And maybe you won’t change any minds, but to be apathetic to such attitudes towards women is the same as compliance in my opinion.  And even if it is only words, we all know what a short road from words to cari_champion_espn_by_lowerrider-d8ry2f0actions there is.  I’m not saying twitter attacks are always the best way to combat these attitudes, but I encourage men to take up the mantle of fighting these attitudes in a manner that seems most effective to them.  At the same time maybe we can also change the standards by which women are placed into these roles.  So it’s not just about what they wear and how pretty they are, but by their passion and knowledge for sports (or whatever subject they are passionate about).  Perhaps if we only want a woman on TV for her pretty face and tight clothing, is it any wonder that so many men only see them as being valuable for such superficial qualities?

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Why I love Dexter

The series Dexter is coming to an end in about a month and so I felt inspired to talk about it, because I think it is one of the most amazing shows to have been made and thought I would explain why I think that.

First of all if you think Dexter is just a show about vigilante justice, a psychopath who goes around killing other bad people, you’ve missed the point completely in opinion.  This aspect of the show is really just to make sure that you can morally stay with the character while keeping you on the brink of darkness.  Ultimately if you are only watching the show to see “bad guys get their just desserts” then I might be a little worried about you, because that’s really not what the series is trying to show you.

The first aspect that I like is that you see the world through the eyes of a killer.  He kills “bad guys” so we can sort of tolerate his killing.  However there are some other things that build us sympathy.  He loves his sister, and he loves his children.  Finally the fact that we know of his past, the fact that he had a traumatic child hood experience in which he saw his mother get murdered and sat in her blood for a prolonged period of time and thus impacted his personality is where the brilliance starts in my opinion.  Traumatic childhood events are very common in people who society considers violent criminals, but how often do we spend time investigating what happened in their childhood.  We only look at what they’ve done and make our judgments based on that.  What if we had the story told in the way Dexter’s story is told for all violent criminals?  Might we not feel at least some sympathy for the devil?

The second brilliant thing the story does is to show us how much we are all a little like Dexter.  Dexter is a person who hides who he is.  He has to not just because of the law, but because of the disgust that would be shown to him by society in general.  But the show cleverly throughout the series looks at the fact that we all hide things.  We all have darkness in us, and sometimes it comes out. We all have secrets we’d rather not tell.  Very often we see a character do something, or we are told something about a character that makes us initially judge that person to have questionable character.  Only later the show reveals to us the truth.  Why they did what they did, or how a situation can easily be misconstrued.  Until you know the intimate details of a person’s life we can be quite erroneous about our judgment about someone, or at the very least the lines between black and white become a lot fuzzier.    Many of even the overarching “bad guys” in the series that Dexter kills in the end one can feel some sympathy for.  A psychopathic brother who was ignored and not given the same opportunities Dexter was given for love and support of his condition.  A District Attorney going a little too far off the deep end because he’s seen too many bad guys escape the justice system because of a technicality.  A serial killer who faced perhaps an even worse set of childhood tragedies and could not escape the cycle of violence.  A man steeped in religious belief he believed himself to be the bringer of the end of the world if he performed certain actions.  It makes us question, what kind of monsters we might become given a similar set of circumstances in our lives.

Finally it makes a psychopath human.  Despite how we might categorize psychopaths they are a part of a society, the human race.  Part of what makes them what they are is a physiological condition, and if we combine that with childhood trauma, what kind of person do we get?  It’s a combination of nature than nurture.  Furthermore it makes us ask, is someone simply a psychopath or not a psychopath?  Are there points in between?  Most likely there are.  Can they form absolutely no connections, perhaps that is true for some, but maybe there are some that can form a couple based on positive childhood experiences.  Again the grey comes back as we think about, maybe one of the reasons nobody thinks of a psychopath as a human as that nobody ever tried to uncover their humanity.   Maybe nobody took the time as a child to understand them and help them deal with their thoughts and feelings.

I know there are many people, probably in psychology, who think that Dexter doesn’t fit the model of a true psychopath but I think it’s important to remember that Dexter is a story, not a documentary.  That what the writer is trying to reveal is the dividing line between what we consider a monster and good person is not clear.

I am not sure how it will all end, but I think they have done a terrific job.  So thank you Dexter for drawing us in and reminding us that we all have demons to face and deal with. J