We’re going to 11 here
So first I want to apologize. (That puts me in the company of the historic 2018 Women’s Singles Champion Naomi Osaka, so I’m okay with it, even though I felt like she shouldn’t have had to do it, and the rest of this annotation will be in great part about the reasons why. Why to both.)
I’ve been struggling to do regular coverage of the tennis this year because I’ve felt literally torn, internally, externally, in about a dodecahedron’s worth of directions, because as Professor Morrison says, racism can really get in the way of your doing your work. (I imagine she’d say much the same about sexism and misogynoir.)
I haven’t been able to do as much of what the shouters & whiners, some of them even trained psychologists (“allegedly”, to quote Stephen Colbert), complained of feeling deprived of – their sense of “escape”, literally obsessed with the “ruining of their fun” – because I have been by force more compelled to deal with the survival imperative and the rolling back of rights, what I could do to communicate about these things to others, then they’ve had to be. It didn’t – hasn’t - seem to occur to them at all that members of marginalized communities had their access to that same fun and escape summarily truncated, because of those same sometimes life-and-death pressures with which they didn’t even have to deal.
I completely agree that the spirit needs refreshment, that sport should be a source of inspiration and recreation for all.
What appeared to be missing from the calculus of these relentless status quo hunters, however, was that as long as rules both within and outside a given sport continued to be disparately applied, as long as some people were disproportionately and sometimes brutally punished for infractions while others are waved off with a wink for even greater offenses – what that means at the end of the day is that only some people get to have that fun, as the rest of us have to contend with the oppression and the brutality of constant microaggressions even as we continue to participate, to compete, even just to observe. And while they are apparently okay with that, that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be.
The thing is – as long as the inequities in treatment persist, those marginalized will continue to fight them when able.
And – as I’ve said more than one time and in more than one place – there’s a really easy way to fix all that.
When everything *is* actually fair, as opposed to the most privileged people merely pretending that the rules are being equably applied when they aren’t, it’s just stunning and amazing how infrequently any kind of organized protest movement feels necessary. #TakeAKnee
I didn’t look at the Deadspin coverage of the incident that ruined this past weekend. I heard enough about the choices made to shape the narrative a particular way, as opposed to an effort to engage in objective reporting (even as we continue to debate about whether or not that standard has to be met on a blog), that I didn’t want to be bothered.
As I observed both of & to more than one person this past weekend, choosing journalism as a profession doesn’t automatically make you or your writing “objective” unless you’re aware of and both willing to acknowledge and challenge the biases you brought to the profession in the first place. Yeah, no - you can’t widecast (opposite of “narrowcast”) the definition of “politics” to exclude any discussion of active marginalization with which you just don’t feel like dealing. Not and not blow a shotgun-sized hole in your credibility as any kind of cultural commentator, you can’t (not even the amateur kind, let alone the professional).
I looked at these articles instead, from Zerlina Maxwell and Rebecca Traister
AMOF I haven’t seen much Deadspin coverage of the tennis at all this year – or of any sport there - particularly as the more of it I skimmed the more what leapt and shrieked out more than anything was the sense of what the writers and, dear Jeebus, the commenters - were so desperately scrabbling to ignore the types of things I wanted to talk about … to the point of silencing those of us who strove to discuss it (so our comments are still visible on the wider web, but don’t appear on the page of the post(s) where they were originally written).
Both intentional and “unconscious” bias have marred and scarred the sense of fairness that is supposed, according to pretty much every commenter alive, to always permeate the world of sport. The cascade of event after event of deliberately perpetuated injustice of course wrecks that illusion, and the more people who die as a result the more challenging it is to continue to try to assert that justice is meted out equally for all. So it’s easier – though certainly not more “fair” – to just pretend, however increasingly brittle the performance, that it’s just not happening. (Especially since it’s totally happening, and we all know it.)
The “sports and politics don’t mix”-argument is questionable on its face, not just because the Olympics were going on before humans counted in A.D. years (not to speak of the reasons why they were created in the first place), but equally because sport as a cultural signifier is sufficiently woven into the fabric of our modern political theater to the extent that President Obama was referred to as the “Sports President” – but only after Bush II was – after Clinton I was – after Bush I was – after Reagan was, regardless of its sagacity as metaphor in a global environment that needs a little bit more nuanced perception than “both sides”.
Power and Politics of Sport: Why Games Aren’t Just Games Anymore
The language chosen to describe players and events – and each noun and each verb is a choice - as I’ve felt I’ve said to what some days feels like hundreds of dozens of journalists (and much more frequently recently) directly influences how those subjects and people are perceived by the audience. How many times have others here complained about how sick and tired they were of reading that Serena – or elegant Venus – “pummeled” or “hammered” somebody? How many times when we pointed out that that language was starting to creep into the coverage of elegant Sloane, or Madison, or even 15-year-old Coco Gauff (who won her doubles championship, but I wasn’t able to shoot it because the same representation problems that exist in sport also exist in the art world and the newsroom because systemic bias is systemic bias literally wherever in the world you go #IllKeepSayingIt) were our concerns brushed aside with dismissive claims that we were “just imagining it”?
Narratives are being re-centered, but sustained active engagement is requisite to continue movement in that direction. Sherilyn Ifill, Esq. says “demographics is not destiny”. She says that to encourage us to remain both vigilant and active in re-centering narratives throughout culture to be more consciously inclusive … particularly since even the tools we use to create will revert to status quo centering unless we consistently correct their trajectories.
I was inspired to submit some of these shots recently for an exhibit after I heard Dr. John Edwin Mason say, in a discussion of the choice by cover subject & cultural juggernaut Beyonce to choose a black photographer to shoot her Vogue cover after 200 years of the iconic magazine NOT doing that, that the simplest and most effective vector of racism was visual representation.
He brought up historical references to caricatures that resonate as late as today in a throwback representation that I won’t reference here any less obliquely than that, if everybody here knows what I’m talking about, and I think they do. See Karnythia (Mikki Kendall) if you don’t.
The tools of observation shape perception. Anyone arguing otherwise is just oblivious (willfully or otherwise) to their influence. #FishCantSeeWater
The identity of the observer can change what is observed, what is omitted, and how what is chosen to be observed is interpreted. That’s one big reason why #RepresentationMatters .
Scenes like this one—in which a cadre of mostly white male photo editors discuss which images will make that day’s web or print publication—are not uncommon. Throughout my 14 years working in seven different newsrooms, I have witnessed a dearth of diverse perspectives, both among those photographing news images and those selecting images for publication.
We make the invisible visible here, and the implicit explicit.
We can talk about Sachia Vickery, number one returner on the WTA tour
and how - and why – the 1000-level Masters tournament that James Blake had just taken over didn’t grant her a WC when Miami is her home training base, and whether or not that in turn would’ve made a difference to the year-long seedings there of the two ladies who met in the first round there and whom we just saw in the final of a Grand Slam where they belong?
We can talk about our international stars, because ageism is a thing even when you are marquee movie star dashing and a well-conditioned veteran, and fighting for your place
I still cannot believe the extent to which the historical (yes, I said it!) achievements of Rafa’s clay season this year were covered, basically, with a shrug on the Deadspin page because … what? Why? Because nobody upfront has the attention span for clay tennis ...?
We can talk about that here all we like.
I have yet to see any machine or organism, mechanical, organic or hybrid, successfully dig in and reverse itself when it was designed explicitly to progress.
They’re not built for that.
BETWEEN THE SCENES : TREVOR NOAH SPEAKS ON SERENA AND SEXISM IN SPORTS