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NFL quarterback touches down on sexism

by Alyssa Daley-Executive Editor
Tue, Feb 28th 2017 10:00 pm
Photo taken from TMZ.com
Photo taken from TMZ.com

 This past weekend Jameis Winston, quarterback for the NFL team Tampa Bay Buccaneers, began what should have been another empowering visit to a school filled with third to fifth graders.  It ended by having his positive initiative plastered over multiple news outlets, but not for a good reason. Winston's choice of words during the speech he gave to the children has gotten him a lot of press because he chose a blatantly sexist way to capture the attention of the young boys in the back of the room, according to ESPN.

"All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down," Winston said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now, a lot of boys aren't supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I'm saying? One day y'all are going to have a very deep voice like this [in deep voice]. One day, you'll have a very, very deep voice. But the ladies, they're supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men [are] supposed to be strong. I want y'all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to."

On ESPN's SportsCenter broadcast, all the men who spoke on the panel backed Winston.

Their thoughts focused on the premise that he didn't even have to go to this school — he did it all on his own. He has been visiting schools to help impressionable, at-risk youth understand that they can accomplish whatever they set their minds. This has been a theme of his off-the-field image since he was drafted, in an attempt to fix that image, as it remains damaged from his time at Florida State where he was accused of raping a woman.  One of the men even said that if you look at the whole transcript of Winston's speech that day, what he said "wouldn't seem so bad."

I understand that Winston has been trying to turn his image around and that his initiative to do these talks without being told by the team's public relations manager might show that he has begun to see the change he could help make in kids' lives. At the same time, for someone who was accused of sexual assault in 2012 and then chose to pay the woman, a Florida State student at the time, "$950,000 in January 2016 to settle a lawsuit she filed against the school for its handling of her Title IX complaint," according to ESPN,  making condescending or sexist statements is a huge no-no.

Winston's comment on his statement, which pushes response to the criticism of the stereotype that women are stuck essentially being silent contributors to society while men are meant to be the strong boisterous players meant to initiate change with their "deep" voices, is that he was trying to get the boys who weren't paying attention to become engaged in the conversation. I understand this as well.

Third graders are not good at sitting still and paying attention to an hour-long lecture no matter who's giving it, but girls have short attention spans just like boys. I am sure that there were some little girls in his audience who were not giving him their utmost attention just like the little boys in the room, yet he chose to address only the boys. He literally made the girls continue to sit while he had all the boys stand up around them separating them on a figurative and literal level.

ESPN's all-male panel choose to back him and his sexist comments and it bothers me perhaps even more so than Winston's actions in that classroom of 60 children.

They completely threw away the fact that what he said was sexist and most likely did have at least a subconscious impact on the young girls in the room.

Without a doubt, girls and women are exposed to sexism on a daily basis, through the smallest, most ingrained gestures in our society, like comments and phrases that belittle their abilities and their aspirations.

For this panel of four men to brush off the effect this will have, even if it was done by "accident," shows that our society has not yet evolved to treat everyone equally. It is not only boys who can voice their beliefs and be strong and it is not only girls who are polite and kind.

If you think of a statement and it forces certain attributes onto the person you're talking about based on superficial and/or surface- level observations such as race, gender, or sexual orientation then check yourself.


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