The Degradation of Women as Profit and Sport

Don't any of these clowns have mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, daughters, aunts or grandmothers?

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: March 19, 2007

The Degradation of Women as Profit and Sport

As I write this, my heart is still pumping fast from my daily workout. Only my writing takes precedence over my love of sports and the great outdoors. There are few things in life that feel better than an exhilarating bike ride or hitting all-net from beyond 20-feet; writing a column to help build a new world is one of them.

Sports actually used to be a bigger part of my life. This was during the civil rights era when America's streets were ablaze including those in East L.A. -- when being a magician on the basketball court was not something you were supposed to talk about with people you were protesting with (though I once had a girlfriend who used to window-shop during marches).

I didn't just play or watch sports. I knew virtually every statistic about every athlete that had ever played since Jim Thorpe.

And then I grew up. Sort of. I still love to get out there and I still take in an occasional championship game.

So why this sports resume today? To proclaim that as a former sports nut, it's time to speak out about the degrading manner in which corporate America portrays women in the media particularly during televised sporting events.

This society has always had an ignoble history when it comes to matters of human rights. And that was the point of the civil rights movement. No longer would it be acceptable to discriminate, segregate or publicly degrade people of color, women, gays or the disabled. In regards to sports, the exception was always cheerleaders i.e., America's love for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders (Or was that just the TV cameramen?)

Well, perhaps the degradation never actually ended; scantily clad women in front of cars and at boxing matches, reminding us of what round it is, have long been a staple of Americana. But at least the impression was that things were changing. Yet along came the 1980s and Hooters and everything seemed to revert. Some blame Madonna. Others blame the corporate culture of the Reagan-Bush era.

And yet, despite the civil rights rollbacks of that era and except for the dehumanizing attitudes towards "illegal aliens," it is nowadays unacceptable to humiliate any group in public (That's what the home is for, no?). I stand corrected. To this day, despite
continued protests, it is seemingly still acceptable to dishonor American Indians every time fans do silly tomahawk chops, while they and their Indian team mascots dress up in paint and feathers.

That said, the degradation of women has once again become as American as apple pie during televised sporting events. And it's not accidental. There's a perverse logic at work; it's called niche advertising. The false rationale is that since sports are watched
primarily by beer-drinking men, it's Ok to objectify women, to depict women as subservient, and to use women as the butt of sexist jokes, etc. (I could also be talking about rap videos here).

It makes me wonder: Don't any of these clowns have mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, daughters, aunts or grandmothers?! Don't they have any dignity at all?

The real bozos are the advertisers that have created this notion that this degradation is acceptable because it targets a specific niche. Their rationale is that if anyone wants to see positive depictions of women -- they can go watch Oprah or go to Chippendales if they need entertainment of their own.

It's not just advertisers. It's also the professional leagues and the billionaire owners and the high-priced athletes. Of course. But it's actually the sports fan that's targeted and who also has the ultimate power.

I want to believe that not all sports fans are mindless beer-guzzlers that have been tranquilized into believing that sports, tail-gating and gambling are the most important pastimes and that the degradation of women is an acceptable form of entertainment.

I would like to believe that some of these fans who know every sporting statistic can one day begin to share statistics related to alcoholism, domestic violence and rape a good part of it which is related to liquor advertising and the easy availability of liquor. How to begin? Perhaps it starts especially for the men with honoring
and respecting the women in our midst. The next step requires making a dissenting phone call or writing a letter to the offending corporations, or to the editor.

Perhaps it also starts by drinking less and exercising more.

* This is written not just for the women in my life, who live with the scars and memories of rape, sexual and domestic violence but also for the sports fans that I assume also do care about the women in their lives.

(c) Column of the Americas 2007

About Roberto Rodriguez:
Rodriguez can be reached at: Column of the Americas PO BOX 5093, Madison WI 53705 -- or 608-238-3161 It is archived at:

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