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The Daily Tar Heel

Celebrating Women Still Necessary

We need to set aside a time and space to celebrate people who are not celebrated every day. We need to remember the historical and current ways women are made invisible, degraded, violated and tossed aside. We need to work against this system of problems and look for ways to celebrate all women.

Many who do not understand events like Women's Week or Black History Month fail to see harmful inequalities that still persist today. We have all tricked ourselves into thinking that everyone has equal opportunities. It takes a lot of work to see oppression, but once you start, it's like you have peeled a cloudy haze from your eyes.

Here is an example of something that seemed ordinary at first, though further examination revealed it to be completely sexist.

My last column was a satire about the men's basketball game against Duke University. I wrote the piece before the game happened, using the voice of an excited fan in order to make social commentary about the problems with popular sports culture.

Of course, I received many e-mails from folks who disagreed with me, but one in particular stood out. A guy wrote me and said, "Your column doesn't prove that chicks shouldn't write about sports, but it does prove that chicks who don't know anything about sports shouldn't write about sports."

He then went on to further attack my column for its lack of knowledge about sportswriting, my picture ("Bad hair day?") and even my sentence structure.

Of course, he had missed the entire point of my column. My partner and I wrote him back and gave him a hard time about his error.

He wrote me again, claiming that the reason he didn't understand the column was because I was such a bad writer. He blabbed on about how "chicks" shouldn't write about sports, and even included a sports piece he had written so I could know how a real writer (apparently he is one because he isn't a chick) writes. This second time, he focused in even further on my picture. He went on for two paragraphs about how unattractive I looked.

I replied, simply writing, "Thank you, you've clearly confirmed my point. You'd rather me be knowledgeable about sports than social issues."

This guy made me angry at first -- his arrogance and cheap shots were definitely extreme.

What I didn't notice right away was this: What seemed like a normal "guy" response almost hid how much sexism was embedded in the exchange.

My first clue was that he saw me, and other women, as chicks. Such comparison of women to animals (bitch, fox, pussy, kitten) is an everyday put-down with more extreme consequences. They reduce the status of women to animals, which most people consider inferior to humans.

He also wrote that these chicks cannot write about sports, especially if they don't know much about them. Implicit in this statement is the idea that sports are a noble endeavor, and something women are not capable of discussing properly.

As I argued last week, sports culture is not noble.

In addition, his argument made me wonder why our culture values sports so much anyway. The answer has much to do with the status of sports as "male."

We talk about "the Carolina game" and mean the men's football or basketball game, whichever sport is in season. The women's teams are much overlooked. Also, all of our "real" sports heroes, with the possible exception of the recent phenomenon of Mia Hamm, are men.

I played soccer on both all-girl and coed teams for 12 years and had only one female coach. My basketball and softball coaches were also men. Even if many more girls are learning sports than ever before, men are still in control.

This only makes sense when we understand the history of sports being male-exclusive.

So, this guy who wrote me first discredited me by comparing me and other women to animals. He then dismissed me as being worthless because "chicks can't write about sports," an area that has value because it is controlled and dominated by men.

When the angry responder decided that I had no worth in these fields, he looked to the one area where women often do have societal value: my physical appearance.

Of course, women's attractiveness has value only if it meets men's standards. Women go through great lengths to make their outer appearance please men and can feel very empowered doing so. But this strategy confirms the fact that men often reduce the value of a woman exclusively to her looks, which are worthy only if men approve.

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This writer justified his angry, insulting rant using these criteria: sports, chicks and appearance. He insulted me because I am a woman, and he is a man. He tried to assert his power over me.

We need a women's week for these kinds of reasons. When this kind of harmful exchange is ordinary, and it is, women are surely not valued enough. Setting aside one week for events that celebrate them is definitely in order.

As long as men are socially allowed to spread their misogyny, and as long as so many people see this as normal instead of sexist, we will need to take time out to honor and value women.

Be sure to look for a Women's Week calendar in The Daily Tar Heel and check out some events.

Linda Chupkowski is a senior women's studies and psychology major from Fayetteville. Send any questions and comments to linda_chupkowski@unc.edu.

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