“So you’re the person who covers movies?” A year or so ago I stood in a big art gallery, talking to the owner about the space’s upcoming film screenings. I shrugged and told him that I covered a lot of things for City Paper, usually the arts and events. “You don’t look like someone who does movies,” he continued. I smiled, close-lipped, thinking that with pad and pen in hand, I looked like a journalist. Maybe I was wrong.
Last night Cam Newton, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, made a sexist comment to a female Charlotte Observer beat reporter, Jourdan Rodrigue. Rodrigue asked Newton a question about Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess embracing the physicality of routes. Newton responded, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.” Needless to say, the backlash has been swift. Sports Illustrated wrote, “No One is Laughing with You, Cam Newton.” The New York Times published, “Cam Newton Draws Rebuke for Mocking Female Reporter.”
When I saw the various tweets about Newton’s comment this morning I shrugged, kind of like I did in that gallery so many months ago. It’s a shitty thing to say, Cam, but I think a lot of us female reporters are used to it.
It starts early, when you’re in high school, after you watch All the President’s Men, and declare that you’re going to be a journalist. It’s that slow burn of adults telling you that you may not be cut out for a writer’s life.
It’s majoring in English in college and hearing again and again, “So you’re gonna be a teacher?” Followed by your utter disbelief that “No, a writer,” is met with silence. It’s hearing that same question posed to your male counterparts, but instead it sounds more like, “Oh, so you’re headed to law school?” It’s that there’s nothing wrong with either proposed profession, but that somewhere along the lines one was deemed better suited for someone of a certain gender.
It must be funny, then, to hear a female talk about being a writer.
How many times have I been talked down to? How many times has there been a pause after I make a statement, followed by a man having the last word? “Well, you know…” “I’m not sure you understand…” “Does this make sense?”
I know. I understand. It makes perfect sense. I just may not be agreeing with you. I may be asking you a question — it’s my job, after all.
Newton may get a slap on the wrist for his comment. He may go home to his daughter and think about how men will speak to her one day.
Newton’s comment is one of many, one of thousands that are made every day, to women in every field. On the surface it’s annoying to bear the brunt of those words, but it’s something we all deal with.
Last week a man came by my office and I interviewed him about his new book. After almost an hour sitting across from me he got up and sat next to me, placing his hand on the book in my lap. I couldn’t turn my head, for fear my mouth would be near his. Maybe it was that little voice in my head, that told me, “you don’t look like a journalist,” that kept me from moving, from telling the man that I would prefer him to move back.
Instead, I stared straight ahead, clutching my pad and pen, ashamed and angry.
Rodrigue says that she spoke to Newton after the press conference and that he did not apologize for his comments.
I’m sick of sexism making me uncomfortable and I’m tired of it keeping me from doing my job to the best of my abilities. I join Rodigrue in saying that hearing a female ask a question isn’t funny. You can laugh, but we won’t be joining you. We’re formulating our next question.