Tag Archives: rape culture

Running into the Fragile Male Gaze


Laurie and Debbie say:

The Women’s Cross-Country Team at Rowan University in New Jersey thought they were just working out, practicing, getting ready for competition. Instead, they found out that they were really serving as eye candy for the football team … eye candy so “distracting” that the coach of the football team asked the coach of the cross-country team to have the players “cover up.”

When this went to the Athletics Department, the verdict was that they had to cover up and move to a field where they wouldn’t bother the football players.

Fortunately, cross-country runner Gina Capone got mad, and did something about it. Lindsay Gibbs tells the story in Think Progress.

… after securing the permission of her former teammates — including sophomore Brianna De la Cruz and senior Hannah Vendetta — Capone penned a fiery article on The Odyssey, a self-publishing platform targeted at college students.

Capone did not mince words.

If you’re running in a sports bra, then you must be asking for it, right? Well, according to a football player at Rowan University, this is true.I’ll have you know the real reason women run in sports bras, and it’s not to show off our hard-earned abs. Women, whether they have a six-pack or not, run in sports bras because, quite frankly, it’s hot outside. We run in sports bras because our workouts are demanding, challenging, and vigorous.

Capone certainly hoped the article would draw attention to what she views as outright discrimination. But she never in her wildest dreams imagined quite how much attention.

In the wake of #metoo, the story was covered all over, from Sports Illustrated to the New York Times. Capone’s article has over 200,000 views. It also got the “ban” on sports bras for practice lifted, but the women are still kept out of sight of the football practice field, even though the university has a great option to move football practice.

Hannah Vendetta, a team-mate of Capone’s, has a very clear comment in Gibbs’ article:

“I don’t get what is attractive about me doing mile repeats on a track and pushing my body to the point where I want to throw up,” Vendetta told ThinkProgress. “If the fact that I’m working so hard is distracting them, then those athletes aren’t working hard enough.”  

Gibbs goes on to quote Capone and her team-mates about how women’s sports are short-changed. Of course, we agree. But we also think something more important is going on.

Just as the woman in the short skirt or low-cut blouse is “asking for it,” because no one would ever expect a man to contain himself when faced with something he wants, the women running their guts out for the cross-country team are being dealt with only in terms of their effect on men. The Athletics Department, and the university, don’t care if they are champions or perpetual left-behinds. The only way for a women’s track team to be noticed is when they have an effect on nearby men.

If the nearby men are the all-important football team, the contrast is even greater. We can’t have a football player distracted. We can’t possibly expect a football player to be responsible for his own focus. We couldn’t move the football team, because they might not like being moved. And we certainly couldn’t tell the football team’s coach to suck it up and  train his players to pay attention to their own practice. The university is expecting these men to have full permission to act on their impulses, and to treat women as objects. This is what the #metoo movement means by rape culture.

They thought they were runners; now they’re finding out that the University only sees them as objects of the male gaze. But what they’re also finding out, for the first time in contemporary history, is that the world cares about their story.  A substantial portion of the attention is from people who want them to be runners, not objects, and who will support their struggle.

Meanwhile, we’ll just imagine what would happen if the cheerleaders started saying that the football players’ physiques were too distracting, and they just couldn’t pay enough attention to cheering.

Follow Debbie on Twitter.

First Linksday of 2014

Debbie says:

Don’t miss The Aunties Project, a painting series by Aleah Chapin:

Chapin won the BP Portrait Award from London’s National Portrait Gallery for this series. She says:

I’ve been obsessed with realism since I was a child. But I noticed that the subject has mainly been the idealized young, female nude. Although these paintings are undoubtedly beautiful, I wanted to see something that mirrored the world I saw around me. The Aunties Project is less about age and more about making paintings that fully embrace the real human body, this fascinating vessel that carries us through our experiences.


Here’s a public service announcement. I still believe mammograms are a good and useful tool, but this is excellent information to have when you get your results.

Using data from radiologists who perform mammograms, Welch and Passow concluded that among 1,000 40-year-old American women screened annually over the course of a decade, between 0.1 and 1.6 women will avoid dying from breast cancer. (See chart at left; click to view full size.) A staggeringly high number — between 510 and 690 women — will have at least one false alarm (60-80 of whom will undergo a biopsy), and up to 11 women will be overdiagnosed and treated needlessly with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or surgeries such as lumpectomy or mastectomy.


Raphael Carter once wrote a brilliant “RAQ” (Rarely Asked Questions) about people outside the gender binary, which Practical Androgyny has preserved as a resource. Carter included this memorable bit:

Q: If I know that a person identifies as an androgyne, transsexual, or intersexual, may I inquire as to the details of zir biological sex?

A: You may ask after a transgendered person’s genital appearance in exactly the same situations where you might ask the length of a man’s penis — that is, if you will excuse M. Manners’ language, not bloody often.

Katie Couric got schooled on the Today show by Laverne Cox on exactly this point, after being unreasonably curious about model Carmen Carrera’s private parts. Janet Mock tells us how important this exchange was:

Cox then broke it down for the journalist, serving Couric facts for days: Trans people face discrimination everywhere, from employment to the streets, where trans women, specifically those of color, disproportionately face brutal violence (Cox mentions the murder of Islan Nettles in New York City, giving the tragedy its highest media profile to date). The actress concludes by saying that our culture’s focus on bodies doesn’t allow us to zero in on trans people’s “lived realities of that oppression and that discrimination.”

And that was the moment in which, Couric, a TV veteran, had to bow down to the magnificence of Cox, leaving her with this throwaway statement: “You’re so well spoken about it.”


When we look at problems with advertising, we can get specific, for example about the Old Spice ad for the fragrance that turns boys into men:

Old Spice sprayed a man of my son / Now he smells like a man / And they treat him like one.

Now he’s touching, kissing, feeling all women because OLD SPICE!”

Why on earth masculinity is ever equated with “touching, kissing, feeling all women” is in some senses beyond me. But more important, it ought to be beyond the pale.

Or we can get general:

Since the dawn of advertising, retailers have made a point of marketing separate lines of branded products for men and women in many categories, even in cases where their functions are essentially the same. …

Research shows that loyal customers often get upset when a brand commonly associated with men expands to include products perceived as feminine—especially in cases where men use a particular brand to communicate their own identities. Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Jill J. Avery calls this phenomenon “gender contamination.” …

Avery recalls her experience running the women’s shaving brand at Gillette. The company made a point of building products from the ground up for the distinct hair removal needs of both men and women. But it also made a point of creating a different brand name for Gillette’s products for women. Not to put too fine a point on it, Gillette called the brand Gillette for Women. “Having a line that was distinctively marked for women protected male Gillette users from the feminization of their brand,” Avery says.

Lots more data at the link.


On a more serious note, we missed it in November when Chauncey de Vega at We Are Respectable Negroes deconstructed the horrible story of Renisha McBride from the point of view of “the white gaze.”

Full citizenship involves the presumption that one belongs to a political community. By virtue of that fact, citizenship also means that a person is entitled to safety and security in their person without qualification, exception, or justification. Full citizenship is not contingent or precarious.

African-Americans are not allowed such protections by the White Gaze. They are viewed as guilty until proven innocent, a criminal Other who is a priori categorized as “suspicious” and “dangerous”. While formal racism and Jim and Jane Crow were shattered and defeated by the Black Freedom Struggle, this ugly cloud continues to hover over the United States, some 400 years after the first black slaves were brought to the country.

Consequently, black Americans are not really allowed to seek help from white people; the Parable of the Good Samaritan does not apply to people of color as viewed through the twin lenses of Whiteness and the White Gaze. The black and brown Other is not allowed the luxury and privilege of knowing that if they seek help when in distress—either from the police, or white folks, more generally—that such pleadings and requests will be met with a “How can I help you? Are you in trouble?”


Two useful critiques of feminism, the personal from Flavia Dzodzan at Red Light Politics:

I am deeply interested in how this “feminist taxonomy” of sorts behind “woman” is created. Who is allowed to “become woman” in these discourses? Who is represented and spoken about? How does feminist (or woman centered) media propose that we understand “woman” and the issues pertaining to “woman”? Those are the questions I seek to answer when I observe media and feminist discussions. But then comes the side eye. Side eyeing is the moment I have to decide whether I will be the public killjoy or if I will move on and “let it go”. That is the precise, pinpoint moment when I am left in the unattainable position of “pointing out the harm” or “eating the harm on my own”.

A common idea pushed lately by many mainstream white feminists is that denouncing within feminism is somewhat “anti feminist”. We should, apparently, “side eye in silence”. Even though this is the political ideology that writes the definitions of “woman”, the one that decides on what it means to be “woman” and the one that assigns value to “woman”, we should just accept what we see and not say anything. Saying something is to be the bearer of “division” and “abuse”. You then become not only the killjoy but the oppressor itself. You, with your act of “public side eye” are the one “abusing women”. The fact that this white feminism is defining what it means to be a woman and perpetuating ideologies that explicitly leave you out, you are not to say anything. “You are not a woman by our definition”, you are now “the abuser” that divides the movement and creates “bad atmosphere”. Not a woman, not a feminist, not “one of us”.

and the philosophical, from Miri, Professional Fun-Runner, at Free Thought Blogs:

So what I’ve decided to do here is to look at three models commonly used in social justice and point out some of their weak spots. I probably won’t get much into actually improving the models or else this post is going to be book-length, but I might do that in the future. I think there’s a dearth of good criticism of social justice concepts from people who actually understand those concepts and are willing to engage with them in good faith and support the idea of social justice in general …

Miri takes on three concepts close to my own heart: gender-as-performance, rape culture, and privilege, and she has valuable, chewy critiques of them all. I’m glad I read it.


Finally, in the Department of Bad Ideas, we have turning your stomach to gelatin to lose weight (really):

… researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK have found a way of combining two ingredients so that when they interact with the acids of the stomach, they expand to form a solid gel. Since the gel is harder to digest and breaks down more slowly than, say, birthday cake, it leaves a person with that delightful and elusive so-full-you-could-just-sit-over-the-toilet-fruitlessly-all-morning feeling.

I get links on a regular basis from Feministe, Feministing, io9, and Shakesville. This week also features links from Alas! A Blog (Mira on feminist theory), Jay Lake (gender contamination),  Lynn Kendall (Aunties Project) and Slactivist (white gaze). If you see something you think we might have missed, send it my way.