Quarterback Cam Newton has been in hot water lately. His response to reporter Jourdan Rodrigue’s question was rude and disrespectful and cost him his endorsement deal with Dannon. He referred to the woman as a “female”, a commonly sexist behavior, and called her question “funny” in a really smug way. On the surface, this issue looks pretty cut and dry. Big, dark football player is amazed a “female” sports reporter knows a common football phrase. She responds and an apology is issued. In a plot twist, Twitter revealed Rodrigue, a reporter out of Charlotte, was uncovered as a not so subtle racist during college (she graduated from University of Arizona in 2014). The reaction from white feminists has shielded the reporter and insists blame should be placed solely on Newton. She has also issued an apology. The reaction by White feminists seems to match the mindset of the large percentage of White American women that helped the current president win last November.
This is an example of what sociologists call intersectionality. America is a very paternal society. It is also a White Supremacist society. Cam flexed his male superiority on her and she flouts her White privilege on social media in racist tweets. Both were wrong. White feminists are insisting that because Cam’s offense was personal, in that he did something directly to her, he is worse and she deserves a pass and her offenses should be buried with her college years. The question is how much can someone really change in 3 years?
Looking deeper, there is a lot more going on here. For example, an ESPN headline
out of Charlotte reads, “Cam Newton apologizes for response to female reporter”. Not only does this headline by David Newton (no relation and yes, a White man) do exactly what Cam Newton did by referring to her by her sex at birth, it fails to mention her name until two-thirds of the way through the article. ESPN, who recently scolded Jemele Hill for calling the president’s White supremacy, is a network that caters to a mostly White, male audience.
The relationship between White Women holding power over Black Men has a strange history in America as well. Lena Dunham’s crude remarks about Odell Beckham last year are a reverse example of this type of situation
. The struggle we are observing is defined by the proximity to power. In America, White males hold the majority of the power Black men have been historically over-sexualized. White women are at times coveted and objectified in America and have gotten Black men in trouble. In the past, White women could abuse or seduce Black men at will, which was a potentially deadly situation for the black men involved.
Black people and White people are at odds in America and men and women are at odds around the world. Sexism exists at sports networks and the recent controversy with Harvey Weinstein shows the entertainment industry has an issue with sexism as well. Cam identifies as a black man and was born male, Jourdan identifies as a white woman born female. Both are subjugated by White patriarchy but both also share in some form of privilege. Their struggle for power intersects at the point where neither have the influence of an elite White man and instead they tear each other down. Clearly, some Black men and some White women have baggage in the realm of American sports and entertainment and the roots of sexism extend beyond individuals because it has become a culture.
Cam lost a lucrative endorsement in this fiasco but what did Jourdan lose? It seems like Whiteness still has more leverage than Male chauvinism when Black men and White women clash in American media.