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Ayesha Curry and misogyny: Why people don't love her anymore

In just a few short weeks, Ayesha Curry has transformed from the NBA's sweetheart to a villain that's stepped out of line. But, in retrospect, this shouldn't have surprised us, and sheds light on basketball culture's problems with gender, perception, and social media.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the years, Warriors fans have gotten to know MVP Stephen Curry's picture-perfect family: his former athlete parents Dell and Sonya, his cool siblings Seth and Sydel, and his adorable daughters Riley and Ryan.  During Steph's ascent to stardom, the quiet, religious family has drawn contrasts to the bright lights of New York and Los Angeles where other NBA stars live like movie stars. Steph's wife Ayesha Curry has been a big part of this image: we found it easy to relate to a cool mom with a cooking show. But one tweet from last year inadvertently solidified her frightening status in NBA culture:

Because of her motherhood, her cooking show, and her low-profile demeanor, men began to associate her with purity and faithfulness throughout the Internet.  She became a symbol rather than a unique person, and a tool for pitting women against one another.  She was the perfect wife.

But suddenly, Ayesha's recent tweets have shown a side of her that people haven't thought even existed. Throughout the playoffs, Ayesha has tweeted some controversial views that have rocked Twitter and sports media.

And the latest, an admittedly bad tweet that she later deleted and apologized for:

The outrage, hot takes, and legitimate discussion surrounding her comments have gone overboard today.  Here's Brian Windhorst on the matter: (I do not endorse the tweets themselves, but watch the videos.)

And the dreaded Stephen A Smith take:

What's instantly clear here is how Windhorst and Smith believe that Ayesha's actions are somehow out of line with not only "etiquette," but also her true personality.  Windhorst's repeated mentioning of Ayesha's role as a wife first, her fallible emotions getting the better of her, and even the husband's right to take away Twitter from the wife support a terrible trope that women are loyal yet untrustworthy, and lovable yet insignificant.  Smith's implication that Ayesha should be seen, not heard, and his comparison between two independent, barely related women shows he really doesn't care about what women think.  Ironically, Ayesha's outspoken tweet about clothing style robbed her of any ability to speak up thereafter, since men began to idolize and thus objectify her in a warped, twisted way.

This isn't just about Ayesha, though. Overt and subtle sexism exists from Twitter to SBNation to ESPN, and drives women to the margins of sports. The ideas that women need to be subservient to men, that women are seen but not heard, and that women are weak, all lead into a narrative that women aren't welcome in NBA culture. Men in sports have been conditioned to distrust women's voices to protect their masculinity. Men are more worried about being shown up by a woman than hearing what women have to say. This results in mansplaining, exclusion, and invisibility.

Ayesha is not infallible, and that's okay.  But because NBA fandom mistakenly thought she fit some invented "ideal", she's become the target of misogyny and harassment on Twitter (never look at her mentions). For women, mistakes are blown out of proportion, and the margin for error is that much tougher.  Misogynistic men thought Ayesha Curry was that "perfect", loyal girl that wouldn't friendzone them and would stay in line, and they're angry now that Ayesha has shown she's just like any woman. There's no easy solution to misogyny.  The first step is clear, though: men have to start listening to women as individuals, rather than viewing them as accessories or embodiments of who men want them to be.

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