Why Do Women Need To Be ‘Good Sports’?


Sup Rudd.

When I was in high school, somebody once told me, “Men who speak out are brave, women who speak out are bitches.” Each time I am told to be a good sport or “not ruin things” by getting upset over reproductive issues, rape jokes, fat shaming and the like, I can’t help my increasingly feeling like that adage is accurate. Not that I’m brave by any means — seriously, I have called innumerable friends over to kill spiders or, um, check for ghosts — but I do think it takes a certain amount of resolve to have a dissenting opinion from the people around you and to take issue when somebody directly, purposefully hurts you with their words. Men, too, are sometimes told to be “good sports,” but when they refuse to be, they’re not nearly as often criticized for not being able to take a joke or not finding something obnoxious to be hil-arious.

The whole ordeal between Lena Dunham and Howard Stern bothered me for two reasons:

  1. He was a complete and utter asshole about a woman’s body for no particular reason, calling her a “fat little girl,” among other gross and obnoxious comments.
  2. She forgave him instantaneously because he said he “totally” loved her and she loved “his particular brand of free speech.”

His apology, by the way, started like this in preparation for her to arrive on the show:

“I have an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, Lena. I watched your show and I hated it at first, but I stuck with it and now I love it. That’s the story. And, yeah, I was disturbed by you naked, and now I like when you’re naked. I don’t know, I had a change of heart.”

And once she was on the show, he said:

“I was thinking out loud. That’s what I do, I just kind of ramble on. “Not only am I addicted, but I totally get you. I’m in love with you and your character…So I came in and said to Robin, on the air, ‘I changed my mind. I love the show. And I love Lena and I love what she’s doing with it.’”

I am all for forgiveness, but what the hell? He didn’t say anything that remotely redeemed his fat-shaming, ridiculous words; instead he essentially said, “J/K I think you are like, the coolest even though your body made me disgusted but now you rule and I love you!”

With the exceptions of women-driven websites such as The Gloss, most media outlets covered both sides after his initial comments, but did not particularly lean towards one or the other; typically, the reaction was just, “Oh shit! Celebrity fight!” rather than, “Something is seriously wrong with Howard Stern’s mindset.”

And then, once Dunham had given him huggle wuggles on-air, they began portraying the situation as Stern making a slight misstep and Dunham being a “good sport” about his “cracks” regarding her weight. Aw, she’s such a sweet heart and a “darn good sport” because she came on his show and, rather than telling him that his behavior and comments towards her were unacceptable and that he should reconsider calling women “little girls” and insulting their bodies, she just let him sheepishly apologize and everything was all better.

It’s not that I don’t think people deserve forgiveness for saying idiotic things; believe me, I say idiotic shit all the time and apologize for it because I know I was wrong. My issue is that Stern, like most people who apologize only at the will of media coverage, didn’t seem to understand why those comments were wrong. But “being a good sport” is more important for many young women who want to be taken seriously rather than seen as some sort of bitch who gets upset over “cracks” about their bodies.

Share This Post:
    • elle

      Excellent article, stop many good points that needed to be said!

    • Helen

      If I was helming/starring in a hit show and all that jazz, I’d LOL at Howard Stern, too. Kind of like my reaction when my old roommate called me a whore for wearing weather-appropriate clothes. Not feeding trolls and all that.
      You’re completely right, though. It’s ridiculous how women are expected to grin and bear every horrible “joke”.

    • megdmur

      Well said Sam

    • Eileen

      Normally I would be totally on board with this article, but did you see Chris Christie on David Letterman (or the coverage from the past few days)? He was quick to say that Letterman’s fat jokes about him are funny, that he doesn’t mind, whatever whatever whatever, while eating a doughnut…and the internet has decided it likes him better for it.

      Maybe Christie truly doesn’t mind being made fun of for his size. Or maybe he wants to “be a good sport” about it. Now, granted, fat-shaming towards Christie is nowhere near as vicious as it is towards Dunham (possibly because he’s a man, possibly because she’s an actress on a critically acclaimed show, probably because both)…but it’s pretty damned mean. It’s not just women who have to be good sports.

    • Kay

      As a woman who is 6’1, I constantly have to deal with the men in my workplace joking about how I can beat them up, and I’m supposed to laugh and pretend it’s funny, or I’m the bitch. It’s ridiculous and aggravating. As is constantly having people ask me how tall I am – I’m not overly sensitive about my height, but almost every time I go out in public, I either get stared/pointed at or asked about my height, and after 30 years, it’s getting old. But I can never say anything without coming off as an a**hole. Anyways, good article, and kudos to Lena Dunham for “being a good sport”.

      • Lemona

        Kay –It is extra terrible that you have to deal with that at work. My gentleman is very tall, and he is asked his height every time we’re out in public, too, to the point that he is now very sensitive about it. He cringes every time. I feel for him, and I feel for you.

        And I think, TALL PEOPLE ARE NOT THAT UNUSUAL. I see tall people all of the time. Why do some people act like tall people are unicorns? You do not need to stare and ask for quantitative information. Seriously –why are you asking? If the tall person is standing *right there* you can see how tall he or she is. What good does the number do you? My point is, I share your frustration.

      • Kay

        “If the tall person is standing *right there* you can see how tall he or she is. What good does the number do you?” – I seriously say this all the time!!!

    • Maggie

      Honestly, I would rather be considered a bitch than a doormat. I get hit on a lot (not trying to sound conceited or anything, but I do) and most of the time it’s harmless, but I refuse to let a creepy perv get away with disrespecting me. Allowing anyone to comment on your looks, body, etc. in an inappropriate way is just wrong. Maybe saying something back to that person won’t change their mind, but at least they’ll know that you are not a bitch to be trifled with, and maybe they’ll think twice the next time. By not saying anything, you are allowing that person to think that their behavior is okay, when it is so not.

      Women deserve respect, and if we don’t command it for ourselves, sexist assholes like Howard Stern win.

    • chary fano-manango

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    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=699618735 Cara Crowes

      EXACTLY. Why should women be told they’re “ruining the peace” or other things for taking a stand? I know if I let even half my thoughts out, I’d be ostracized for God knows what. We can’t make excuses or tolerate for people to act immature and repugnant.