Columnists > Voices

Easy target

But liberals and libertines need to take their share of the blame for the mindset that led to the scandal at the University of Colorado

Issue: "John Kerry's dream," March 13, 2004

The hypocritical pretense of the secular feminist mindset is something to behold. Such folks can't abide old-fashioned conservative sexism-but blatant sexism of their own variety seems to be just fine.

Consider, for example, the continuing brouhaha in the athletic program at the University of Colorado. The scandal there provides almost daily occasion for feminists and feminist sympathizers to mount their moral high horses to decry the wickedness of anything resembling a macho mindset.

To be sure, the Colorado program has left itself pretty vulnerable. For weeks, the school staggered under criticisms that young football prospects got offers of sex, alcohol, and drugs when they came to Boulder to look over the school. But then things got much worse when half a dozen women students at the university claimed they had been raped by male athletes. All of which is hardly a picture any right-thinking person would want to try to defend. It is an ugly scene, and it deserves to be criticized.

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But when Knight-Ridder columnist Leonard Pitts (just to mention one critic among many) narrows his target to something so simplistic as chauvinism, and suggests that only arch-conservatives have mistreated women, it's important to balance the account.

Mr. Pitts accuses Colorado football coach Gary Barnett of a "near-Taliban level of contempt toward women"-a charge he bases on Coach Barnett's derisive comments about a young woman who wanted to play on the men's team. Indeed, Coach Barnett had the temerity to call the young woman a "girl."

Mr. Pitts is himself condescending when he notes: "It ought not require saying outside Afghanistan, but a woman is not just a sexual receptacle and bearer of children. A woman has intrinsic worth, inherent dignity."

Well and good, Mr. Pitts. But why be so selective when you go looking for the mindset that leads to the trivialization and stereotyping of women? You note in your column that it was Sports Illustrated that documented the grisly details of what has been happening at the University of Colorado. Do you consider it altogether irrelevant that that very same magazine, almost simultaneously, published its annual swimsuit issue-a publication that our parents (not to mention our grandparents) would no doubt classify as pornography?

And while we're thinking of college campuses, let's pay a visit to a modern-day dorm. No need to be careful, Mr. Pitts, about which dorm you're entering; no need to holler, as we used to, "Man on floor!" A couple of decades ago, you see, we got real daring and started mixing the sexes in a single building-a floor of young women alternated with a floor of young men. Then we started mixing up the rooms on the same floors. And now, at almost any state university you want to mention, you'll find it's not unusual for men and women to be sharing bathrooms, showers, and similar facilities. And you think that has no effect on a young man's mindset about what and who a woman is-or, for that matter, a young woman's mindset about herself?

Those same dorms are wonderfully and powerfully equipped with high-speed internet access, which means that the computer on almost any student's desk can spill out at lightning speed images of female forms catalogued and detailed to fit every fantasy and craving. The packaging, the pretense, the relentless merchandising-all these make clear we're not talking at all about a woman's "intrinsic worth" or "inherent dignity" (to use Mr. Pitts's terms), but about objects and playthings.

Even the tamest of the media are not exempt. I read a Knight-Ridder newspaper almost every day, Mr. Pitt-published by the company that syndicates your column. In its story selection, in its photography, in its humor, and in its promotion of the entertainment industry, it often demeans women and encourages men to think of them more as trinkets than as treasures.

All of which is not to mention your own and your publisher's attitude toward the mainstreaming of the homosexual agenda. Have you really considered what might be more threatening to a woman's sense of worth than to be told it's just as easy for another man to fulfill a man's needs as it is for a woman to do so?

So please, Mr. Pitts, don't blame sexism on what you refer to as a "Taliban" mentality. Wrong as the right wing is in some of its selfish attitudes toward women, we conservatives haven't done one-tenth what you liberals have done to enslave women. I know you'd like to think the University of Colorado is the fault of a narrow and old-fashioned viewpoint. I'd ask you to explore a few other explanations.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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