I am a football fan. I grew up in a football family. My dad was an assistant coach with the high school football team and I attended more scrimmages and football games than I can count. This is one reason why I'm so appalled at reading this article (h/t Linda Hirshman at TPMCafe):
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Feminisms is a series of weekly feminist diaries. My fellow feminists and I decided to start our own for several purposes: we wanted a place to chat with each other, we felt it was important to both share our own stories and learn from others’, and we hoped to introduce to the community a better understanding of what feminism is about.
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Here's the ritual, described by the New York Times:
At halftime of the Jets’ home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, several hundred men lined one of Giants Stadium’s two pedestrian ramps at Gate D. Three deep in some areas, they whistled and jumped up and down. Then they began an obscenity-laced chant, demanding that the few women in the gathering expose their breasts.
When one woman appeared to be on the verge of obliging, the hooting and hollering intensified. But then she walked away, and plastic beer bottles and spit went flying. Boos swept through the crowd of unsatisfied men.
Wait, it gets worse...
He wanted more from the alternative halftime show that, according to many fans, has been a staple at Jets home games for years.
Throughout halftime, about 10 security guards in yellow jackets stood near the bottom of the circular, multilevel ramp, located beyond the stadium’s concourse of concession stands and restrooms. Another guard later said they were not permitted to do anything about the chants at Gate D because of free speech laws. Yet when a reporter tried to interview two security guards after halftime, he was detained in a holding room, threatened with arrest and asked to hand over his tape recorder.
(emphasis mine) Wow. It's a free speech issue! It's not institutionalized sexual harrassment or anything. In my opinion this is just a continuation of the societal trend that treats a woman's body as a public commodity that exists for men's pleasure. It's Girls Gone Wild world.
I think it is a form of intimidation when you can not freely move around without being afraid. When people wolf whistle or throw out comments, I don't personally find it flattering. I find it scary and intimidating. Walking down a public street while being a woman (or walking in a football stadium or the streets of New Orleans) is not an invitation. I don't doubt that there are some people who are truly exhibitionist and love the attention, but they are a minority. Women are given conflicting messages - that it is empowering and good to show our bodies and that if we are raped it's our own faults for being so slutty or drunk or whatever.
If you feel moved to express your opinion, here is the contact information (below).
Contact info for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority: email@example.com
Contact info for the New York Jets (they have a feedback form). They also have a blog, and an article condemning the behavior of a "minority" of fans (no mention of the behavior of security turning a blind eye for years). It's interesting that it takes a newspaper article to address behavior that has gone on for years.
My letter to the Jets:
I have read the article "At Jets Game, a Halftime Ritual of Harassment" at the New York Times and the Jets' response to that article. I think it is good that the Jets will address the behavior at Gate D highlighted in the article. I take issue however that this behavior was allowed to continue for years and it was not addressed until a newspaper article was written about it. The Jets response also did not mention the behavior of security who allowed it to continue. They have an obligation to protect the right of women to attend a football game without harassment.
As a football fan and a woman I am very disappointed in your response. What will the Jets do to assure their female fans that they are welcome to attend the games? It seems like assuring that fans, both male and female, can attend a game free of humiliation and harassment is a minimum requirement.
My letter to the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (game security):
I just finished reading an article in yesterday's New York Times "At Jets Game, A Halftime Ritual of Harassment." I was troubled by the behavior detailed in this article, but also the behavior of the game security. It is not just a "free speech issue." All fans, male and female alike, have the right to attend games free of humiliation and harassment. It is the obligation of your organization to make sure that people can safely enjoy the games. The Jets' website says that this behavior will be addressed. Why did it take an article in the New York Times to end this practice which continued for years?