Trash talk. It’s a beloved pastime of sports fans everywhere. From fans to TV personalities and to the athletes themselves, trash talk is a fun and enjoyable part of basketball. And I’m sure that’s what Charles Barkley thought he was doing on Thursday night when he upheld his never-ending, reason-defying, one-man feud with the Golden State Warriors by calling their style of play “little girly basketball” and saying he’s biased against “girl basketball.”
Look, it’s not that he insulted the team I love. I can take insults. Give me your “3-1” jokes and your “Kobe’s better” takes all day long. They do not bother me. They make me laugh. That is the point of trash talk after all. To insult (however fairly or unfairly) each other’s teams and each other for rooting for said teams.
That said, calling something “girly” as a way of implying it is inferior or weak is not only lazy humor, it’s an insult to women, plain and simple. And guess what? Women are sports fans. We watch the sportsball too. I know, it’s shocking. I’ll give you a minute to adjust.
Rachel Nichols had a great take on it (aside from loving to hear Charles Barkley’s opinions on basketball, but that’s my personal, stated bias as a Warriors fan):
To use female terms, be they generally harmless words like “girly” or calling a male athlete a “bitch” for seemingly being weak or not good, you are implying that women are worth less than men, less important than men, less competent.
It was even more disheartening to see male Warriors fans react by tweeting videos of excellent Warriors plays and sarcastically saying “So girly” because that is completely missing the point.
That amounts to saying “LOL Charles Barkley, the Warriors aren’t girly, look how good they are!” Which is doing the same thing Barkley did, just in reverse. By implying the Warriors were girly, Barkley implied that they weren’t good or were weak. But by implying that the Warriors aren’t girly because they are actually good sends the exact same message to women.
Okay dudes, Barkley's comments were not free reign to jokingly call everything girly. Maybe just stop using girly as an insult?— Sami Higgins (@samihiggins) December 2, 2016
I sent this out during the game last night and got home this evening to dozens upon dozens of angry men complaining in my Twitter notifications. Some called me “girly” which is factually accurate. So, good job. Well-spotted.
Many told me to lighten up and learn to take a joke, much like what Barkley himself said to Rachel Nichols. Look, we’re not obtuse, we get that it’s meant to be a joke. What we’re saying is that it’s not funny. Try explaining to me, a woman, why I should find that funny without sounding sexist. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Many, many more decided to comment about how men are stronger and physically superior to women, especially at basketball. I mean, I guess that’s some kind of morning show “war of the sexes” argument you could have if you want to but that’s not the point and is only serving to derail my actual point.
Yes, Barkley’s comments were about the Warriors playing “girly basketball” but the point is not about a physical comparison of how men and women play basketball.
The point is that it was used as a demeaning adjective. In the same way men say things like “you throw like a girl.” As though it is the greatest insult in the world to be compared to a woman. What does that say about what you think about the value of women?
Go back and watch Rachel Nichols’ comments again. What does that teach young girls about their value in the world? Especially in the world of sports?
If you still feel like using these insults is just harmless fun, congratulations! You might be at least a little bit sexist. Or you just don’t care about how women are treated in our society, even within our own community of sports fans.
That said, if you’re feeling a little uncomfortable about it, try to be more aware of your words and the words of others. Words matter. Words shape who we become, how we treat each other and the type of world we create for the next generation.