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Showing posts with label sexism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sexism. Show all posts

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Right and Wrong of Serena Williams

"To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart." 
-Eleanor Roosevelt

There is no doubt in my mind that there is a massive double standard in this world when it comes to the same behaviour demonstrated by men and women. In every sphere of life, from the bedroom and boardroom to the tennis court, outbursts of juvenile, rude, selfish and churlish behaviour are forgiven or excused when men act out, but when a woman does the same it is called hysteria, emotional immaturity and deemed unacceptable.

Many people are making arguments to excuse Serena’s angry outburst on the basis of this double standard. Some are excusing it based on the fact that because of her race, she has had to work many times harder than a white woman to break through in what has been historically a white person’s sport. I have long respected and admired both Williams sisters for their achievements. No question they have succeeded against all the odds. Few people would have the grit and tenacity, even if they had the talent, to stay the course and reach the pinnacle of this sport. For me Serena is the greatest tennis player, male or female, that has ever lived but it still does not give her a right to behave badly.

Something worth mentioning here is that Carlos Ramos, the referee, is considered one of best and fairest in the business; Serena admitted as much during her post match press conference. Mr. Ramos has a reputation for being a stickler for the rules, and has issued conduct violations to both Roger Federer and Novac Djokovic. Venus Williams got a warning for receiving coaching from her box. Andy Murray felt his wrath at the 2016 Olympics for saying “stupid umpiring” and Nick Kyrgios got one for shouting at a towel boy. So while there is no question that issuing the third violation to Ms. Williams without a final warning in a Grand Slam final was overly harsh, looking at Mr. Ramos’s history we can conclude that he has been consistent in his umpiring.

However, I still think Serena raised a larger point about an existing double standard that we need to discuss and address, but in doing so I am not willing to excuse Ms. Williams’s behaviour and still find it completely unacceptable.

The question we need to ask is what are people fighting for, when condoning Serena’s behaviour?

Are they saying that, because men often behave like complete assholes, acting out like juvenile, spoiled, thoughtless, nasty brats who need to belittle others to feel better about their own insecurity; women should have these same rights? The right to make Naomi Osaka feel like shit, through no fault of her own, to make her look like she was at a funeral after winning her first Grand Slam. To steal from her the joy of a great victory over an even greater champion on the grandest stage in the sport? To have her booed for her greatest achievement, booed to the point that she felt the need to apologise for a stunning victory built on showing maturity, tenacity, humility and class beyond her years?

Is this what we are fighting for by condoning her behaviour? There is something better we can demand and strive for out of the events that took place.

We can demand that men no longer get a free pass for their bad behaviour and public outbursts. We can suggest that Kanye West get banned from the MTV music Awards for rudely snatching the mic from Taylor Swift, rather than suggesting him as a host for the next show. We can boycott Alec Baldwin’s movies and TV shows when he leaves messages for his 11 year old daughter calling her a rude, thoughtless pig.” We can ensure that Ray Rice gets a lifetime ban from the NFL, not a pathetic two game suspension for physically abusing his wife.

I have written about why I believe women make more fair and effective leaders than men and it was in the moments when Serena asked the crowd to finally stop booing, and the post-match press conference where she said she ‘could learn from Naomi’ that she won back some hearts and demonstrated the leadership and maturity we expect from an elder statesmen of the sport.

Sports stars, musicians and actors are among the most powerful role models for young, impressionable minds. I believe they should be setting the example by holding themselves to a higher standard because of the pedestal they will always find themselves upon. So I would rather Ms. Williams apologise for her behaviour, to Ms. Osaka, Mr. Carlos and her millions of adoring young fans, and then declare that she is going on a crusade to penalize men equally and end all bad behaviour in her sport.

In the words of one of my favourite people, I hope Ms. Williams and other female luminaries of tennis decide that, “When they go low, we go high”.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I am Not Applauding, Hollywood

 (Image: Western Free Press / Artist: Sabo)
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 
Martin Luther King Jr. 

The mainstream media and coastal Americans are gushing about the Golden Globes this morning. People are lauding Oprah’s speech and pushing her to run for President in 2020.

I admire Oprah and she gave one hell of a speech. I agree with her that “speaking our truth is the most powerful tool we have…” but the problem lies in the fact that Hollywood has always hidden its truth, and refused to speak out, while being the first group to point fingers at everyone else.

Oprah’s brilliant speech and its full-throated celebration by the very people who have always had a voice and the power to speak their truth masks a deep hypocrisy and glosses over their lack of courage. Until they are willing to call out their cowardice we cannot truly move forward and ensure that the voiceless are no longer suffering in the shadows.

For me, therein is the problem with celebrating the Hollywood stars jumping on the #MeToo bandwagon now that it is in vogue and there are no risks associated with speaking their truth. Is this not same truth they did not speak when it might have cost them an acting role or a seven figure salary?

Rosa Parks did not sit on that seat in order to become a trending hashtag. Mahatma Gandhi did not embark on fasts unto death to write a bestseller and Mother Teresa never wanted movies made about her life. These icons of history did what they did because they were tired of injustice and were willing to lose EVERYTHING to fight for all those who did not have a voice or could not fight.

All we are doing by applauding Hollywood is applauding spinelessness, and telling future generations that it is okay to wait to speak your truth only when it is convenient, only when it will not cost you anything personally, and only when it will not harm your career.

I am incensed that people like Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek chose to stay silent. By doing so they made a decision that their careers, successes and fame were more important than telling this horrific truth.

I am not talking about when any of these actresses were starting out, living off someone’s couch and likely working two jobs just to make ends meet, having no voice or recourse. I am upset that when they became stars, powerful women in their own right, after they had paid their dues and earned their way up the ladder, and when they had the choice to share their truth – they still chose to stay silent.

By choosing silence they chose to leave in the shadows the millions of voiceless women who are taken advantage of and abused every day in their industry.

Meryl Streep felt compelled to speak out about the way Trump belittled a handicapped reporter, she cried, but never once did she feel the need to address the casting couch and horror stories of misogynistic, degrading and predatory behaviour of people she was close to and had worked with for years. I was deeply disappointed.

Make no mistake. I am glad that we are finally having this conversation and that a spotlight finally shines on the horrific experiences women across industries have suffered and had to endure, and still settle for lesser advancements than men less able or talented, purely because of their gender.

But for us to turn this moment into a lasting movement, one that results in real generational behavioral change, we need courageous people to carry the torch, not opportunists looking to burnish their own celebrity and trend on Twitter.

Courage is taking the plank out of your own eye before taking the speck out of someone else’s. I have not seen courage in Hollywood.

The Time’s Up announcement of a legal defense fund for underrepresented groups is a wonderful thing, but here is the thing about overcoming the greatest personal adversity: we cannot help people with handouts or defense funds alone. We need to inspire them to find their voice and find the courage to come forward. The only way to do that is through our own actions.

If the traditionally powerful have rarely been courageous, rarely put everything on the line, rarely spoken out against gross injustice, then how can we expect the single mother, the catering manager, the gaffer, the set decorator or the location scout to come forward and risk losing everything to do the right thing?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Political Correctness and the Rise of Donald Trump

“I got a feeling about political correctness. I hate it. It causes us to lie silently instead of saying what we think.” 
Hal Holbrook

There has been widespread condemnation, from across the political spectrum, of Donald Trump’s latest outlandish suggestion of barring all Muslims who are not US citizens from entering the United States. This is not the first time he has tread heavily into the territory of race, religion and ethnicity. Mr. Trump launched his campaign pronouncing that all Mexican immigrants were rapists and drug dealers and should be shipped back to Mexico. Since then he also has offended women, blacks, news anchors, the wider Hispanic diaspora, and the list goes on.

I have read many social media posts and news articles dismissing Trump as “un-American” and as someone who does not reflect American values. Yet, Mr. Trump’s poll numbers and popularity have remained largely unaffected and his support continues to grow. A recent poll indicated that 68% of his Republican base would support him if he ran as an independent (Source: USA Today) and he has 37% support nationally.

It is easy but would be dangerous to dismiss Mr. Trump and his passionate band of followers as crazy right-wing republicans and white supremacist bigots. Or to consider them a passing anomaly that has nothing to do with the growing fears and frustration of a large percentage of the American’s. I have heard journalists like Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity try to argue the merits of some of Mr. Trump’s assertions, and I suspect that fears about Islam, terrorism and immigration are main stream, even if the hate rests in the fringes. It is just that the majority of people are too scared to express even reasonable views freely for fear of offending someone and being branded a racist.

I am not suggesting that we seriously consider any of Mr. Trumps’ proposals, but to simply dismiss them and the fears of a growing number of Americans would be far more dangerous. If we do, these frustrations will only continue to fester, turn to deeper anger, and come out in even uglier ways. The question we need to ask ourselves is why does Donald Trump exist as a political force?

Trump is part reality TV star, part American dream, part frustration with politicians and lack of leadership, and part a product of political correctness gone awry. Trump is a cancer built from all the problems we have swept under our carpets for far too long in an attempt to create something resembling a society where nobody is ever offended.

Think about the fact that his greatest appeal is that he says, does, and sounds like most normal people do; like your politically incorrect grandfather, father and uncle. He routinely makes gaffs, says dumb things, lashes out in anger, but never does he come across as scripted or disingenuous politician trying to sound politically correct and thus totally unnatural. 
I am sure that political correctness, when it started on college campuses a few decades ago, was well-intentioned and genuinely meant to educate us, make us more aware and sensitive to other people. It was meant to help us become accepting of other beliefs, faiths and cultures. But today it seems to have become about trying to mould everyone into thinking, sounding and saying the same things. It has become the default weapon to shut down all alternate world views and is being used to prevent people from speaking their minds.

The point is that we all do and say stupid things and we all have prejudices and biases. We always have and we always will; that is part of being human. Today, it feels like political correctness (PC) in America has metastasised into a way to chastise anyone and everyone who does not fit some random litmus test. But all we are succeeding in doing is shutting down alternate viewpoints and muzzling people who do not think the same way, or agree with our views. It is this avatar of PC that is in large part responsible for creating and unleashing the monster we now call Donald Trump.

This is a very dangerous thing in a democracy that claims to value freedom of thought and speech above all else. Because freedom of speech also means allowing people who view the world differently to air their views, no matter how offensive, hurtful or heinous we might find them to be.

Not everybody thinks the same way about homosexuality, global warming or taxation. However, there is a stark difference between someone who spreads hate and someone who simply disagrees; and not all disagreement is rooted in hatred. We need to start making those distinctions and respectfully disagree with people, but not try to muzzle or force them to change their views by shaming them. Instead, we need to show people a better way through our actions; that is the only way you to change someone’s mind and long-held beliefs.

We need to make sure that the mainstream voice is more powerful and thus drowns out the hate. Think about the fact that there are still many Nazi sympathisers and active members of KKK, but the power of the mainstream has driven them into the wilderness, and made sure they stay ostracised and in the fringes of society.

We need to accept that everyone lies, fibs and says things that are sexist, racist, and homophobic. This does not make you a liar, racist, misogynist or a homophobe. We are human and will never be perfectly polite or politically correct because part of being human is doing and saying dumb and hurtful things – sometimes in anger, sometimes out of frustration or pain and very often in a misguided attempt to be funny.

I do not want to live in a world that is so superficial and forcibly sanitised, that we have to worry about everything we do and say. If we continue down this obsessively political correct path, all we will achieve is to alienate friends and family, and fuel the hatemongers even more. One day we will wake up to find that we have stopped independent thought, free speech, social experimentation and personal growth.

Our greatest ability, as humans, is not to be perfect in everything we say, do, feel and think, but to learn and change, after we have been shown a better way by others.