Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Field Witch Gets Another Chance

A month ago, Time magazine gave us a gender-fail of headline and story about a female Navy leader who allegedly verbally abused her subordinates and who lost her rank because of it. This story was entitled the "The Sea Witch" and went on to suggest that her actions were explained by her gender and that it was political correctness/affirmative action that kept her around for far too long.

That's why I was surprised, and by "surprised" I mean "not at all surprised," to read this Foxnews article about a male coach "whose reputation for physical and verbal abuse shadowed him through multiple jobs in a half-dozen states" has been given another chance.

Now, second chances are good. I'm all for people learning from past mistakes and doing better. Yet, let's compare these two instances of people allegedly behaving badly.

Of the woman behaving badly, Time magazine shouted in a headline that she was "The Sea Witch." Of the man behaving badly, Foxnews offers this timid headline: "Football Coach Accused of Years of Player Abuse Is Back on the Field." First, note the deference granted to the football coach as Foxnews rightfully withheld a final judgment about his guilt or innocence with the word "accused."

Second, note that his headline was not gendered. Unlike "The Sea Witch's" actions, his activities are not an indictment of his entire gender. He's just one man who messed up, allegedly of course, and who is not getting a second chance to be a, as the article says, "better Christian man."

So here, we learn that when women (allegedly) yell at people, it is Very Bad. So bad, that the leadership capabilities of all women are called into question and gendered slurs are thrown about. When men yell at and hit people (allegedly), it is pretty bad, but there's no doubt that men as a class are still fit for leadership, even the ones who have (allegedly) committed violence as long as they're striving to be "better Christian men." In this way, when men commit violence, it's framed in a minimizing "boys will be boys" manner, effectively entitling men to continue to commit acts of violence.

This phenomenon is closely related to the He Was Ordinarily A Really Great Guy Other Than That Time He Beat The Crap Out Of That Woman phenomenon whereby male violence is framed as a statistical aberration, rather than the statistical frequency that it is.

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