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Last week, MNB reported on the fact that Dannon ended its endorsement deal with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, after Newton in a press conference disparaged a female sports reporter who asked a question about the physicality with which wide receiver Devin Funchess runs his routes.

I commented:

The thing is, Newton has a mother, a significant female other, and a daughter … like a lot of men who behave in a sexist manner. When will these people realize that it is attitudes like theirs that contribute to the holding back of people that they presumably love?

I drew a connection to the stories about Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein; the New York Times wrote last week that he has engaged in almost three decades of sexual harassment of employees, reaching at least eight financial settlements during that time. Yesterday, Weinstein was fired by the production company he co-founded.

And I wrote:

It isn’t just football players and Hollywood producers. It is executives in all lines of work (even presidents), people who think that because they have some power, it gives them the right to exploit people who work for them or want to work for them.

This kind of B.S. has to stop. And it is up to people who don’t engage or sanction this kind of crap to call out the people who do.

Now, in the original version of this commentary, I had one more line, saying that men needed to “show some balls.:”

Shortly after MNB was posted on Friday, I got a voice mail from an MNB reader who identified herself as a female executive who agreed with almost everything I’d written, but that my “show some balls” line crossed the line because it equated “balls” with the ability to lead … which in many ways is the root of the problem.

I also got a number of emails along this line.

MNB reader Jim Huey wrote:

Kevin, I’m wondering if the females that are also disgusted by this behavior should  “…show some balls”. I find your comment to be on the same line as Cam’s, and one could argue it is worse as it contains a sexual reference.  Should your sponsors drop you?

MNB reader Colin Lyons wrote:

I agree with everything you said in response to this story. Except for the last sentence. "quite frankly, they should show some balls.”

This is sort of vernacular gets closer to the root of sexism in the world. It lives in our words every day. The implication that you make here is that having "balls" is the position of power. It also implies that the people that are not calling sexism out in the workplace don't have any "balls", just like women. In the future I would suggest words like courage, valor, bravery. I know a lot of women that are much more courageous than I am. Despite their lack of “balls”.

From another reader:

really appreciate you giving airtime to the situations with Cam Newton and Harvey Weinstein – these are things that I hope we are moving farther and farther away from each day. Clearly, I am reminded that we still have a long way to go when these situations continue to arise. Talking about it in public spaces, such as your newsletter, are some of the best tools we have to educate the public and continue to make positive change, so again, thank you!

I would like to provide one piece of advice, however. I understand it’s a common expression to say “grow/show some balls” in regards to standing up to something, gaining strength, etc. This phrase needs to go away. If I may be candid, which I plan to be, balls are weak and therefore a poor representation of strength. It suggests that to be strong, one must have balls – which is obviously impossible for women. Additionally, it continues this “expectation” for all men to manifest a “manly” demeanor, which simply isn’t the only demeanor held by men and the phrase unfairly puts all men in a box to be manly and strong. There is another reason I bring this phrase to your attention, and again, I apologize, but I will be very candid. As a woman, it is entirely infuriating to have the phrase of “grow/show some balls” refer to being strong and to have the phrase of “pussy” to describe someone weak. This is something very near and dear to my heart and at most opportunities I challenge anyone who uses these phrases because they contribute unfairly to the way men and women are represented.

I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles every day, I think you have a clear-minded approach and you do a nice job at analyzing several angles of various issues. I just felt compelled to offer my opinions on this topic because as humans, we all have opportunities to better ourselves and to fight the inherent biases that we all hold. I completely agree that men (along with women) need to challenge sexist viewpoints, along with all other disparaging remarks, but I feel we need to do it without challenging someone to “show some balls.”

MNB reader Barrie Berquist wrote:

I agree with your statements about the need to end sexist remarks and for people to refuse to tolerate that kind of behavior.  However, your comment about the need for people to “show some balls” is exactly the kind of language that perpetuates the situation.  (Such) expressions … imply that being a man is superior and represents strength, confidence, courage, etc. while being female means the opposite.  Companies that seek to empower women and change the narrative have addressed these kinds of expressions such as the Always “Like a girl” campaign, which I first learned about from MNB.  Please do not use expressions that degrade women, even in jest.

FYI, I enjoy your articles and think you do a great job navigating the political and controversial subjects.  I am politically conservative but think your assessments are usually fair even when I may disagree.  Please continue to keep the conversations going and continue to take the constructive criticism with grace.

As noted above, the “balls” line was in the original version of the commentary. I didn’t have to get a lot of emails to convince me that I should go back in and take out the offending line.

I don’t mind offending people. In some ways, I do it for a living.

But in this case, my intentions misfired.

My goal was to be ironic … the fact is, some guys think that because they’re guys, they can behave any way they want. My point was that this is untrue … that a real man knows that correct behavior has nothing to do with gender.

But…I got enough blowback - all of it “constructive criticism” - on this that I removed the offending statement.

I like to think I still have the capacity for personal growth.

I did get other email about this subject, by the way.

One MNB reader wrote:

Now, I love football, but I gave up on the NFL when they put the dollar ahead of the sport.  I think Cam Newton AND Colin Kaepernick have a freedom of speech, but I also have the right  disagree with them.  Colin, I think was flat out wrong in his protest, but he has that freedom to be wrong.  I'm not sure Cam was wrong.  I don't know if there is a subtle underlying meaning to "routes", but I too would have thought it somewhat funny when most women don't know what inning half-time falls in.

So my advice to Colin is, quit whining and just do your job.  Keep your politics for your time off.

To Cam, I'd advise... "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be twisted by the women you come in contact with.”

I'm afraid there will never be equality in this country.  Neither gender equality nor racial equality.  This doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for it, but just realize that there will always be someone somewhere that wants to twist the premise, so as to advance their own political conclusion.  What percentage of women really want to push for equality, what percent want to go beyond equality to "pay back time", and what percentage are sick and tired of the hoopla and just don't care.  I don't know, but I'm betting that the last group is the largest and the most silent.  I know blacks and hispanics in all 3 groups as well.

I have no idea what demographic group this reader falls into. But it is funny how it generally is white males who argue that women and minorities are willing to twist the equality issue “to advance their own political conclusion.” Because white guys would never do that, of course.

Give me a break.

I really liked this email from MNB reader Dan Jones:

Like so many I am disappointed by Cam Newton.  What he did was wrong.  But I am also disappointed that in an entire room full or reporters, not one spoke up and said a thing to defend their female colleague.  That is wrong too.

I hadn’t thought about this, and wasn’t aware of how the other reporters reacted.

I’m a firm believer that whenever any public figure tries to demonize or diminish the legitimate press, these reporters ought to stand together, hard and fast and firm.

And then, I got a couple of emails from MNB reader Hy Louis. The first one:

I can sort of see how the question caught Cam off guard.  Women reporters usually take a different approach than men.  Both genders do their jobs equally, yet normally using a different approach.  Cam just needed to be prepared.  I'm sure he was tired after the game and meant no harm. He's probably not used to being around accomplished women.

If it was a male reporter talking to a professional female athlete, it would not even be newsworthy. There would be no whining about someone being held back due to sexist behavior.  Power always prevails.  Your president in the USA is perfect example.  His behavior was widely known, he bragged about, and won by a huge margin in election.  I believe that woman will always be considered sex objects and men will be considered success objects.

To be clear, if Serena Williams had a similar exchange with a male reporter, it would be incredibly newsworthy.

Also…get your facts straight. President Trump won the election because he won the electoral college, which is how the system works. But he did not win by a “huge margin.” Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 2.9 million votes. (This is not to question the legitimacy of the election … just to keep track of the facts. It seems to me that both parties ought to realize that we have a divided electorate, that almost nobody has a mandate, and that tacking to the center is the best way to govern effectively.)

Then, late yesterday, I got another email from the same reader:

As I watch the game, I see the Panthers squarely beating the Lions.  "Cam Newton's three main sponsors stick by him after apology".   Just say you are sorry and send them a new dress.  Thats how we do it in Hong Kong.

Mr Newton is turning the controversy into a Hall of Fame day.and proving to everyone who has the real power. He is making you look foolish.

First of all, you’re right that Cam Newton had a good game yesterday. News reports suggest that he realized he’d opened a can of worms and was trying to get on the right side of the issue while staying focused on his job.

But … the Panthers beat the Lions by a whopping three points. It was one 3-1 team playing another 3-1 team. Probably a good idea not to overstate the importance of 60 minutes of football.

One other thing. I find your “just say you are sorry and send them a new dress” to be enormously offensive and condescending. That may be how you do things in Hong Kong, but I think that the number of US executives who think that way is shrinking. In fact, I’d hope that the number of such executives in Hong Kong isn’t nearly as big as you think it is.

I have a daughter. If someone like you ever sent her a dress under such circumstances, I would hope that she is smart, confident, ethical and self-possessed enough to hand it back to you and tell you to stick it where the sun don’t shine.
KC's View: