Thursday, November 22, 2007

Change the Culture: Male Harassment of Women at Football Games Must Stop

The New York Times reports that hundreds of male spectators at New York Jets home football games gather on the pedestrian ramps at Gate D and chant at women to expose their breasts.

The story mentions an incident in which a woman was groped -- apparently there was a video of this on YouTube, but it seems to have been taken down. Jay Dow, writing on WCBSTV, gives more details about the incident. Given the reports, I doubt seriously that this is the only time a woman was actually physically assaulted due to this behavior.

Judging by The Times story, this behavior is being tolerated -- one might even say encouraged -- by the Jets' authorities. Security guards do nothing to stop it -- in fact, The Times reporter was detained for trying to talk to the guards privately.

And the only time officials took action was when a woman did expose her breasts: They warned her about indecent exposure laws!

Now that woman appears to be an idiot -- she told The Times she loves her body. Well, so do I, but that doesn't mean I want to put it on display for hooligans. Plus believe me, this isn't just about admiring your body -- men who shout things like that will consider any woman who goes along an easy target for sex. (Women who don't are, of course, bitches.)
But the issue isn't her behavior, stupid as it was; it's the way those men are acting and the fact that no one is stopping them.

Here's the bottom line: This is women-hating behavior. Allowed to continue, it can grow into even uglier actions, and obviously has, since women have been groped. I wouldn't be surprised to discover worse actions than that: People in groups will do things that none of them will do individually.

We need to work together to stop this. The Jets' "boys will be boys" attitude is part of the problem -- it assumes that it's okay for men to act like that.

As long as men are given a pass for this kind of behavior, women will be at greater risk in public places.

I was disappointed that The Times article didn't really address the woman-hating aspect of this problem. They quoted the woman who loved her body. They quoted men who considered this the only good part of the game (since the Jets apparently are having a bad year). They quoted a father disgusted because his children might see this, leaving the impression that he was disgusted on moral grounds. But they didn't talk about the hostility toward women that such harassment represents.

Two things are needed to stop this behavior. First, the authorities have to restore order at the football stadium. And they can: The New York police know how to handle a rowdy crowd.

Second, as a culture, we have to stop tolerating group harassment of women. This behavior is not harmless.

Women need to not only refuse to expose their breasts; they need to express their disapproval to authorities and their male friends.

Men also need to take a stand against this kind of behavior. Most men don't act like this and don't approve of it, but they tend to let it go, to assume it isn't important enough to stop. Male disapproval of bad behavior by other men goes a long way toward stopping it.

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