I remember reading a profile of Warren Beatty in a Rolling Stone anthology from several years ago. The writer constantly referred to how Beatty would pause for a long period of time before answering any question. Even though his cautious approach was described in a derisive manner, it impressed me.
I liked the idea of being calculated with responses. The interviewer was asking something of him, and instead of jumping to respond and play along with this public relations game, Beatty took his time and was mindful of the potential outcomes of his answers in terms of other people’s perception. That seemed intelligent to me at the time.
Over the past week, I’ve felt an urge to write about Damon Bruce – the KNBR sports talk radio host who went on prejudiced rant against women in sports – but I’ve also felt a corresponding measure of hesitancy.
So, I paused like Beatty might. And now, I think I’m ready to write.
I despise that, in the year 2013, gender equality remains an issue. I have little doubt that future generations will mock us tirelessly for this. They’ll do so as a means of avoiding feelings of shame for being associated through DNA with the current idiocy of their species.
I am a man. Raging against inequality when you’re on the favored side of the scale is tricky. Yes, it’s easy to do so from a place of comfort, but to truly achieve equality, you can’t be the one to patronizingly parcel it out or imagine that it’s something for you to grant. There is no room for a male knight chivalrously raising the cause of fair maidens to the forefront of the public’s awareness.
In this case, what there is, is a man disappointed in his own gender’s obliviousness and lack of consideration. That’s it.
To admonish Bruce or to fisk his comments leaves me worried I’ll be perceived as attempting to be that redundant male knight tilting his sword at misogyny. Besides, what he said about women’s contribution to sports is so easily proven to be both inaccurate and mistaken that it’s hardly necessary to revisit his comments line by line. His monologue only attempts to reinforce the idea of traditionally feminine qualities as being weak so that perspectives challenging his own can be more easily dismissed.
Aside: There’s some irony present in that his masculine posturing is being used to avoid the confrontation of a differing viewpoint. He’s ultimately misusing manliness as a means of running away from a fight.
Nonetheless, this a sports talk radio host we’re talking about. He’s a warden of misfits, a slinger of malnourishing pablum to the lowest common denominator who are hungry for their own uninformed opinions to be confirmed. Whether Bruce believes a single syllable of what he uttered, or whether it merely represents the switching on of an attention magnet is anyone’s guess. That this medium would host prejudiced comments is hardly surprising.
It’s important to discredit what he said – as though sports commentary is such a bastion of noble pursuits that men haven’t already corrupted – and maybe ask questions – why exactly am I, as a man, supposed to not want females participating in the same hobbies as me; why would gender possible matter when it comes to opinions on something as meaningless as sports – but anything more only serves to feed the troll.
I feel as though a lot of us were at this point last week. We recognized Bruce’s rant as being offensive. We probably wanted to speak out against it beyond the number of characters that Twitter offers, but we didn’t want to credit it by discrediting it.
Then, a funny thing happened. Rob Neyer, a sports writer generally thought to be rational (rare), stood up for the misogynist buffoon on social media. In a matter of minutes, it was revealed that he hadn’t actually heard what had been spoken by the man he was defending, but even after listening to the Bruce’s derogatory comments, he stood by the man who had once done right by him (and therefore – in Neyer’s mind – remains forever exempt from punishment).
My preference: Everyone agrees that @DamonBruce might have fucked up, but don’t crucify him. But I’m biased. He’s been very kind to me.
— robneyer (@robneyer) November 8, 2013
Neyer even wrote a column today that embarrassingly (for him) referred to Bruce’s remarks as “some things on the air that really bothered some people,” echoing radio host’s words introduction that “for some of you, this is going to come across as … very misogynistic.”
I’ve avoided quoting Bruce’s rant to this point, but I don’t think I can go further without doing so.
A lot of sports has lost its way, and I’m gonna tell you, part of the reason is because we’ve got women giving us directions. For some of you, this is going to come across as very misogynistic. I don’t care, because I’m very right.
There is a serious group of you fellas out there that have just been so feminized by the sensitive types out there who continue to now interject their ultra-feminine sensitive opinions into the world of sports.
I enjoy many of the women’s contributions to the sports—well that’s a lie [lauging]. I can’t even pretend that’s true. There are very few—a small handful—of women who are any good at this at all. That’s the truth. The amount of women talking in sports to the amount of women who have something to say is one of the most disproportionate ratios I’ve ever seen in my life. But here’s a message for all of them…All of this, all of this world of sports, especially the sport of football, has a setting. It’s set to men.
This is guy’s stuff. This is men’s stuff. And I don’t expect women to understand men’s stuff anymore than they should expect me to be able to relate to labor pains.
Dismissing these comments as something that upset a few of you is not only condescending, but it also reduces the speaker of such words from being outright intolerant to merely controversial. Neyer, so adept at digging a hole for himself that he’s likely to one day burn himself on the earth’s core, reinforces this reduction in his piece, right after he ponders what exactly is the right amount of hate speech (not kidding).
If you’ve got any real convictions, any real bravery at all, at some point in your career you’ll be accused of writing something offensive, something inappropriate that doesn’t conform to the societal norms of the moment.
These aren’t controversial remarks fighting the establishment. What Bruce said was hateful against the already marginalized. Imagine if he had said the same thing about a race, a religious group, or perhaps – in a fashion that would cruelly hit closer to home for Neyer – people with a speech impediment. It wouldn’t be defended.
There’s no matter of opinion here. There’s no need for balance. In the Western world, and several parts of the rest of the globe, we agree with equality being a virtue inherent to human beings. We ascribe value to that ideal. Going against that in any regard – even promoting inequality on a sports radio show – deserves a swift and dismissive response.
I am friends with women. My wife – the best friend I’ve ever known – is a woman. One day, I might even have a daughter who will grow up to be a woman. Anyone who comes along trying to put limitations on what they can or cannot do, or anyone who defends someone trying to do that, not only puts himself in direct conflict with them, but also me.
I’m going to take their side every single time. It’s not self-righteous. It’s certainly not knee-jerk. And it’s definitely not self-congratulatory. It’s about a simple value that I hold dear – the equality of all human beings. I don’t want a pat on the back for standing up for that any more than I want to be congratulated for breathing.
Sport, at its best, is inclusive. Whether it’s at the participation level or as fans, all are welcome. The moment that’s eliminated or corrupted is the moment sports become not just useless, but actually harmful. It’s been like that in the past, and thankfully we’re evolving away from that. What Bruce suggests isn’t just degrading to women, it diminishes the possibilities for all sports fans.
It’s not hateful or petty to want such a voice to be silenced – as Neyer would suggest – it’s supportive of progress toward equality. The real shame has nothing to do with who talks and writes about sports, it’s that we’re still calling equality “progress” instead of just normal.