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“Just a Girl” in America

An open letter to Charles Barkley about why his comments meant as an insult against the Golden State Warriors were instead an affront to all women and our continued struggle for equal rights.

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Los Angeles Lakers v New York Knicks Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Dear Chuck:

By now, everyone has heard your so-called jokes and laughed along with you, repudiated them or looked the other way. I didn’t laugh because the comments were not funny, and other journalists have their repudiation game on point and already have put you and your chuckling minions in check. But I refuse to look the other way when someone with a platform as broad as yours uses airtime to insult half of the people on Earth while simultaneously exposing himself as a hypocrite.

In a June 8th interview on The Dan Patrick Show, you stated emphatically that you wanted the NBA to move the 2016-17 All-Star Game out of Charlotte in protest over North Carolina’s HB2 law, which blatantly discriminates against and demeans transgender individuals. At the time, you stated: “I want to stand up for everyone, and to speak out on social issues.”

Well, what the hell happened, man?

Last I checked, women are people, too.

We’re 3.8 billion strong

According to the UN, of the 7.3 billion people on Earth, 3.8 billion are women. Thus, women are people, too, and should be included in the “everyone” you claim to stand up for. But your repeated use of the word “girlie” as an insult during your NBA on TNT broadcast of the December 1st Warriors-Rockets game calls into question whether you consider women to be equal humans to men.

It’s no secret, Chuck — many people don’t like you because of your outspokenness. You say things that may not be the most popular sentiments of the day and you push boundaries, which challenges people to think about issues they may not have considered in the past. This is a good thing, and I resoundingly applauded your denouncement of North Carolina’s HB2 law — especially given that most in the NBA had been silent on the issue. (The exception, of course, is Adam Silver, who led the charge.)

But there is a difference between being outspoken and putting your foot in your mouth. And with outspokenness comes the responsibility to take ownership of your words. Moreover, since you use your platform to influence others — perhaps change a few minds on issues that blight our society, like race, poverty and HB2 — it is only right for you to examine the words of your detractors to see where you are wrong and to identify where you need to be educated.

That is ... unless you enjoy the taste of your Pradas or Ferragamos.

It’s not all about the Benjamins, but ...

By calling the Golden State Warriors’ style of play “girlie,” you are stating that girls and women are inferior to boys and men. Oh, but don’t worry, Chuck. You certainly are not alone. Much of U.S. society and the world at-large agrees with you, which is why blatant gender inequities continue to exist. Men dominate government and corporate leadership positions because women are thought to be inferior CEOs or commanders in chief — thus, perpetuating the problem of women being blocked from decision-making positions that could foster change.

Every day, gender inequity affects women and girls in the following ways — and it’s no laughing matter:

  • Earnings: Women in the U.S. earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns — for doing the same work.
  • Healthcare: Women pay more for healthcare and increasingly face difficulties obtaining birth control because of attempts by segments of our government to control women’s bodies. (Yes, it is clear these people are too ignorant to understand that birth control pills often are prescribed to treat health conditions and not prescribed solely for contraceptive purposes. Also, I don’t see anyone opposing the sale of condoms or refusing to fill prescriptions for Viagra.)
  • Sexual assault: Nine out of every 10 rape victims are female and one in six women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime.
  • Daily spending: Women pay “up to 50% more” for common drugstore items, like deodorant or perfume, although the sizes of the items are the same as the versions marketed towards men and the ingredients vary only slightly (usually by scent).
  • Home ownership: In the housing market, “male-owned homes appreciate at a faster clip” than those owned by women, leaving men with a bigger return on their investment. Additionally, men are approved for home loans more readily than women, and when women are approved it is at a higher interest rate — with black women fairing worst of any group. (We only need to look at the first bullet point about pay inequality to understand the reasons for this.)

Unless you are a flat-out, evil woman-hater — and I don’t believe you are — you will see there is nothing funny about using “girlie” as an insult ... just as it is absolutely unacceptable for people to use the word “gay” as an insult (e.g., “That’s so gay!”). Women and girls still face inequality in this society because of the deep-seated, patriarchy-created belief that women are both inferior to men and weaker than men. These beliefs show up in our paychecks and they show up on our sales receipts.

They show up when we are assaulted by men who view women as property and, without consent, “grab [us] by the pussy.”

Why, yes — there is something you can do

I can’t speak for all women, but I don’t hold a grudge when an offending party amends his or her behavior. Since it’s doubtful you’d be willing to cut me a check for the 21 cents I was cheated on every dollar earned since I first began working at age 15, I’ll accept a public statement of apology addressed to all women — live, during your next NBA on TNT broadcast. (This option for resolution seems much more constructive than petitioning TNT to suspend or fire you — but petitioning is not off the table until you make this right.)

Thank you for taking the time to read this missive and consider my request. It is my hope that you will use this experience as an opportunity to highlight the daily issues women face — and to use your public platform as a way to set a better example for those who didn’t see anything wrong with laughing right along with you.

In case you need some mood music while you think things over, here you go:

You’re welcome.

Follow Tamryn Spruill on Twitter

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