Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Race, Gender, and Discourse

I just had a brief thought on the whole Don Imus controversy. (For those of you who may not know, Imus has drawn criticism for his remarks calling members of the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" on his morning radio program.)

Nearly all I've read and heard about this has focused on the racial aspect of the offensive remark and I think this speaks volumes about American culture and our media. I've always thought that "nappy-headed" was vaguely offensive, but not nearly as offensive as some other racial insults. (If I'm wrong, feel free to enlighten me.) What's interesting to me is the fact that the "ho" (or is it supposed to be "hoe"- I'm really not sure) aspect of the comment, which is certainly offensive to women, has received less attention than the racial aspect of the remark. Imus apparently went on Al Sharpton's radio show to apologize, and putting aside the question of whether that is a good medium to apologize to blacks, I'd seriously question whether that's the best medium to apologize to women.

There was an article I read sometime in the past week or so about the vulgarity and offensiveness of language directed at women on the internet, and for the life of me I can't remember where I read it. But anyhow, the point was that although verbal attacks and personal battles of words are quite common on the internet, the language directed at women (and not men) can be very sexualized and violent.

Now, my point here is only about the level of our discourse. I don't think we need to expunge the word "ho" from our vocabulary- nor do I think it's use, perhaps even in the Don Imus context, is strikingly offensive. But I would think the same thing about "nappy-headed" in certain contexts. Again, what's interesting here is the apology here and the outrage- the focus on race with little attention paid to gender.


Blogger A Fan For All Seasons said...

Just a couple of things I want to point out real quick...

- The comments he made were both racist and sexist. White women writing about his comments tend to focus just on the female side, while black women are focusing on both. Most men seem to be focusing on race.

- You have no idea how offensive those remarks were, so you shouldn't say you don't find them very offensive. Of course you don't, you're a white male.

- Don Imus has been making remarks like this for a LONG time and some of those comments have been MUCH worse. He generally speaks like that in a character, as to absolve himself from the blame. He usually directs these remarks at politicians. What makes these comments so bad is that he attacked a successful program, he said them as Imus and these girls aren't public figures, they're just college athletes.

- I'm actually writing a commentary piece for the Daily Campus about these comments and race in general. I'll let you know when I'm done and if and when it gets published. If it does, you can link to it and we can have some fun.

1:26 AM  

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