Misogyny in Sports

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


Jaclyn Friedman has an interesting article over at the American Prospect about the overwhelming misogyny that supposedly characterizes American sports. Riffing off Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s alleged rape of a Harrah’s hotel worker, Friedman writes that “sports misogyny apologists” leapt to Roethlisberger’s defense:

You know the ones — would-be or former jocks with Peter Pan disease, women desperate to be one of the guys, or who dream of being Gisele Bundchen to the next Tom Brady. They all cling to their game and their team above everything else, including evidence, compassion and logic.

It’s almost undebatable that American sports culture is characterized by a whole lot of misogyny. But Friedman goes too far—or perhaps not far enough—when she suggests that it’s sports celebrity, not celebrity in general, that’s the problem. Rich, famous male athletes don’t get treated differently than “normal” people because they’re athletes. They don’t get excuses made for them because they play for the Steelers or the Lakers. They get treated differently because they are rich and famous men. (Sometimes, as in the case of the University of Colorado football player rape case Friedman mentions, just fame is enough.) It’s not just the world of sports celebrity that’s full of misogyny and anti-feminist attitudes. Those attitudes pervade the entire celebrity culture: movies, music, fashion—even punditry.

That aside, I think Friedman is misreading the nature of fandom when she criticizes people for clinging “to their game and their team above everything else, including evidence, compassion, and logic.” That’s what a lot of team sports fandom is—rooting for one’s team despite x. In a sport like baseball or football, you’re rooting for a team that will probably have a very different lineup from one year to the next. If you get caught up in the personalities, good and bad, of the individual players, you’re going to be switching teams every year. There are bad people and good people on every team. It should be okay to root for a team that has someone who did something bad on it—provided you condemn that person for the bad thing they did. Otherwise, how are you ever going to be able to pick a team to root for? Every team has a steroid user or a wife-beater or an accused rapist or a dog-fighting enthusiast at one point or another. The goal should be to get those people fired—not to get people to stop rooting for the team.

(This is different in individual sports. It would be hard to excuse rooting for, say, a golfer who beat his wife. But being a Phillies fan does not mean you support Brett Myers hitting his wife.)

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate