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The 22 Convention is Laughable, but it’s Repercussions Aren’t

By: Hayley Morris

“Make Women Great Again.” From the catchphrase on their website, it sounds like a joke. I thought it was at first too, until I kept reading and realized no, this is horrendously real. The 22 Convention is a three day event from May 1-3 being held in Orlando, Florida, later this year. Described as “the most pro-woman event on planet earth” and “100% funded by women” you’d expect this to be some kind of large feminist convention, right?

Right?

Well, no. Scroll further down the website’s lovely feminine pink hues and you’ll be blasted with bold text announcing The 22 Convention to be “the mansplaining event of the century.” That’s because all of the speakers at the event are men, giving speeches on how to “improve your life as a woman,” arguing feminism has caused women to be “pushed to act like men” which has “left millions of women feeling unhappy, confused, frustrated, and hopeless.” The website argues that “povery, crime, mental health issues, and overall decline in well being is rampant today in America and the West in this context, thanks to feminist anti-motherhood propaganda.” 

One of the websites main focuses is the supposed “war on motherhood” being raised by the feminist agenda, and how this supposedly distracts women from their biological purpose to reproduce. They add men are “all sizing you up for reproduction” so if you’re not young, skinny, and beautiful, you’re irrelevant in men’s eyes. But don’t worry, if this knowledge makes you panic and wonder how you can “raise your femininity by 500%” these speakers will “teach you the skills to get wifed up, knocked up, and have as many babies as your heart desires” and provide you with “the secrets of becoming the ultimate wife material.”

Now if you’re sitting there reading this thinking, gee, an event where men tell me what I should be doing with my life, this really sounds like the event for me! — don’t worry, it gets even better. Tickets are $1,999 (currently on sale for $999). 

It’s easy to laugh at this event and brush it off, saying to yourself, “who in their right minds would actually attend this?” And sure, it does seem incredibly absurd, however the very fact that events like these are still being hosted reveals there are people who do genuinely still believe in the importance of following traditional gender roles. Those with a patriarchal mindset can be particularly impressionable upon young girls and boys, distorting their perceptions of themselves and reinforcing the much outdated stereotype that women are inferior and submissive to men. 

In addition to perpetuating the continuing battle against sexism, events like The 22 Convention create an incredibly inaccurate understanding of the feminist movement. Their websites paints feminists to be the destruction of humanity, associating negative data with anti-motherhood feminist propaganda. So let’s get one thing straight: Feminists certainly aren’t against motherhood. Far from it. Feminists support women doing whatever they wish with their bodies and lives, whether that’s remaining single and never having children and pursuing “manly” professions, or getting married and having kids and becoming a homemaker. Events like The 22 Convention completely miss the point of feminism and often convince other people feminists are the reason for all the world’s current woes.

Feminism is empowering. It has granted women around the world the power to vote, to have access to the same economic pursuits as men, to be valued both in the workplace and in society, and has taught both girls and boys to be proud in their bodies and live as freely and happily as they please. The 22 Convention teaches the opposite of this. It forces both men and women to conform to strict gender roles that disregards individual expression and happiness. It needs to be called out for it’s outdated and harmful beliefs about what it means to be “great.” After all, shouldn’t “the most pro-woman event on planet earth” be pro-woman?

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When is the Right Time?

By: Christina Lee

Kobe Bryant—dead in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. Later we would find out that the legendary basketball star’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna had also passed away in the crash alongside seven others.

Headlines cropped up relaying the news of the tragic death of the 41-year-old sports legend. Known for his 20-season professional career with the Los Angeles Lakers and as the recipient of numerous awards, Bryant’s sudden death resounded with basketball fans across the nation and all over the world.

However, the athlete’s death was not the only keyword blaring across the headlines. Reporters, victims of sexual assault, and critics of the late athlete were now posthumously bringing up Bryant’s rape allegation from July 2003.

That year, a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado hotel claimed that Bryant, who was 24 at the time, had raped her in a hotel room, bruises on her neck a testimony to Bryant’s strangling of the woman. She then filed a police report but later refused to testify. The case was dropped, but the damage was done. Bryant admitted to having sexual intercourse with the woman yet insisted that the ordeal was consensual.

Bryant then released a statement: “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

Bryant was arrested on July 4, 2003.

Now in an era of internet cancel culture and easily viral boycott sentiments, outspoken victims of sexual assault as well as reporters from major news publications were quick to point out this case from 17 years ago, criticizing the flawed history of this highly praised basketball legend. Their efforts did not go undetected.

Upon tweeting about Bryant’s rape accusation just hours after his death, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez was put on administrative leave, the news publication deeming her tweets to display “poor judgment” surrounding the issue. Sonmez had to stay in a hotel overnight as a result of a leak of her home address and unrelenting rape and death threats.

This concept of constant threatening, attempting to maliciously silence the outspoken seems to be a recurring pattern for those invested or involved in this issue. Bryant’s accuser was also as dangerously threatened—a man offered to kill her for $3 million, another left death threats on the woman’s answering machine, a Long Beach man sending her up to 70.

The number of awards, the countless seasons one has played, the amount of times one has claimed that the sex was consensual do not overwrite the consequences that another individual must face for the rest of their life, all because one man could not control himself at a Colorado hotel. For Bryant, that day in July may have been a moment he wanted to erase from history after the exposure of his act to the public, but to the victim, that day most likely remains as one of the most traumatic experiences of her lifetime—how can someone of such high social standing understand what it is like to continue living under the label of a traumatizing sexual-assault case in a modern-day, witch-hunting society?

Perhaps we haven’t given enough thought to the repercussions of the victim speaking out—death threats, harassment, an invasion of privacy. And for Bryant? A $136-million contract and endorsements for some of the largest corporations in America. The difference is too clear to deny that this rape allegation can only remain as a trivial speck in an athlete’s career.

For fans, Bryant’s character as it is re-exposed and re-interpreted by the public can create conflicting sentiments—one man’s sexual misconduct from years ago could tarnish and complicate his whole career, creating tumult even after his death, even 17 years after its occurrence. But maybe that’s the price to pay for fame. Maybe that’s the price to pay for the social elites who abuse their power.

It’s impossible to doubt that fans, critics, reporters will continue to bring up his past; we will continue to have discussion surrounding the privileges of powerful figures in popular culture, and we will continue to reiterate that one’s status is not an excuse for poor behavior. We will continue to discuss these issues to establish that we cannot habituate the silencing of victims, nor can we encourage the erasure of the ugly truth to serve the already-powerful.

The victim was threatened for accusing the successful basketball star during his career; Sonmez was put on leave for bringing up the topic after his death. If now is not the right time to talk about rape, when is it?

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Abuse of Women in Athletics

By: Flora Oliveira

Let me set the stage:

Imagine four people sharing two lanes…

Not the big, spacious lanes you drive on, but the ones on a bright, red, 400 meter track. 

At practice, sharing lanes to run together was our usual routine; our group, accustomed to one another, shared swift strides to make time trials. You can imagine our surprise when one of my teammates and I collided and ate… shit. Now, this isn’t a story about me succumbing to some injury and being lucky to overcome it, this centers an overarching problem of injustice in athletics. After tumbling to the floor and painfully developing a major concussion (which cost me a month), I was told I was faking it. As if getting up immediately after blacking out, proceeding to jumble my words, and blabbering on in confusion was not emotionally daunting enough, my coach’s (let’s say coach X) first remark was, “maybe it’s not your body, maybe you just need glasses so you can see.” This was not the first comment about my vision, but alas, common with concussions, there I was crying uncontrollably in front of the one person that warned us not to show emotions on HIS track. With a quick “don’t be so emotional” jab and a “go home,” my teammate and I quickly got help from our trainer and left. 

Don’t get me wrong, his words, as horrible as they are, are not individual. This is the reflection of a system designed to break women* athletes. Recently, Mary Cain collaborated with Lindsay Crouse and New York Times, to expose the harsh coaching tactics of one of the biggest athletic companies—Nike. Not only does Nike abuse and capitalize off women in sweatshops overseas, they also destroy the bodies and lives of young women athletes in the US. 

Mary Cain, once the fastest woman alive, was recruited by Alberto Salazar, a Nike endorsed coach, who, as she states, “physically and emotionally abused” her at the age of sixteen and on. The all male led staff, became obsessed with Cain’s weight, forcing her extreme decline in health. Disturbingly enough, Cain’s story is not an uncommon one.

As I spoke with one of my fellow teammates, I received the same response. Jaleah Calvillo further emphasized that women athletes everywhere were mistreated and somehow, no one was listening. Calvillo, shared her story with Instagram on Friday. She, like many other athletes, was told to lose weight. The infatuation with controlling women’s bodies for profit was nothing new to Calvillo. She too had been told that carbs were just another obstacle on her way to success. Followed by a year of malnutrition and 4-inch tear in one of her quad’s, the blame for her injuries was put on her “undesirable” weight. Striving to meet coach X’s desired look, she began intaking as little as “1,200-1,800 calories a day while practicing three times a day,” causing many more injuries in Calvillo’s junior and senior years. 

After six academic years with coach X’s reigning commands for us to “stop eating white bread they make your arms look bready” or comments on like “she has wide birthing hips, that’s why she runs like that”, or “fat don’t fly” — the overwhelming amount of reports about coach X were finally unignorable. Like many of the other coaches, he too was besotted by the weight of his athletes. His words, although intangible, only reiterated a variety of  physical requirements he made mandatory for his athletes, including skinfold tests, and “suggested” eating habits.

After years of conducting body fat tests, endorsing malnutrition, causing injuries, mentally abusing and harassing athletes, coach X’s repercussion was … retirement. A repeated decision which still salvaged our world renowned coach X’s reputation at yet another college. This decision to allow retirement was made before at previous institutions, and it cost many more women athletes’ careers and health. The toxicity of this culture does not only pertain to the standards set by the coaches, staff, or administrations’ reluctance to step in, but the toxicity also manifests when coaches implement shame further isolating athletes from each other. Lack of support or community in such an environment can be detrimental to the mental and physical health of athletes and in turn, their voices were stifled. After Calvillo’s recent Instagram post, she realized how many other women, on her very own team, were going through similar situations. Although each faced similar struggles they felt alone. These women suffered in a system that claimed to protect, educate, and guide them.

NY Times shared a great piece about Mary Cain who struggled under the pressure of a culture created by Nike, but what about all the other women athletes going through the same thing? How was this same culture created in non-sponsored athletics (i.e non-olympic level athletics)? Like most questions, there isn’t a clean cut answer. Of course the coaches, staff, and administrators are at fault for their part in causing and allowing the suffering of women, but without a patriarchal system that affirms these actions, such overarching problems of injustice in athletics , the perpetrators would have faced effective repercussions.  Collegiate athletics is no different from Olympic, amateur, or junior athletics; all are run under the same patriarchal system that assigns standards for women’s bodies– especially for black, queer, and POC bodies. This same culture affecting Nike athletes can be seen everywhere, and we must consider the fact that internal politics play a disturbingly big part in the lack of adequate preventative measures.

 On all levels of athletics, capitalizing on  athletes’ bodies is evident, but when do institutions begin to prioritize the actual person instead of the profit they bring in? Despite all of the women who spoke of their experiences, the institutions continued to focus on their profits, silence women’s voices by concealing the institution’s wrongdoings, and continued to support men like coach X before even acknowledging the effects of these actions. Still, with lack of adequate rules and repercussions to avoid coaches like coach X, we must ask: when will internal evaluations be conducted in order to prevent a recurrence? Such institutions,  which prioritize profit must be carefully examined. Events like those experienced by Calvillo, Mary Cain, and many other countless testimonies, are not isolated occurrences. The capitalist nature of these institutions/systems lead to the welcoming of such damaging perpetrators. The very systems these athletes are recruited by, present a set of circumstances no women should face– one which deeply reflects the gendered effects of colonialism. By sharing these women’s stories we can begin to understand the change that must come. Tons of women who have shared their similar, seemingly isolated, stories. I believe there must be an immediate call for preventive measures, reexamination of the prioritization of misogynists’ job, and a fundamental change in our gendered system.

Contributors: Jaleah Calvillo, Shelby Hightower, Rochelle Nadreau, and other anonymous athletes  

Disclaimer: The initial version of this article was published with the term “womxn” but I have come to learn this term evades connecting trans women to their identity as women. Since then, the article was updated. I want to emphasize that my use of the term “women” includes nonbinary folk, intersex folk, and all folk who are oppressed by the patriarchy and/or face misogyny.