Posts Tagged ‘sexual harassment’

I have several issues with Shaun White, who used to be one of my favorite snowboarders.  I’ve followed his career since we were both 14 years old, but over the years, I started to see the criticisms that the community had for him.  It was glaringly obvious at the U.S. Grand Prix this weekend, and Todd Richards has invited a discussion on Shaun’s perfect score.  I want to talk about another issue, one that is much bigger and yet no longer discussed.  In 2016, Shaun’s former bandmate Lena Zawaideh sued him for unpaid wages and sexual harassment.

They reached a settlement early last year, a few months before the Harvey Weinstein cases broke news and the #MeToo movement began.  I wonder if Shaun would have been let off the hook as easily because settlement or not, people are starting to take a stand against sexual harassment, especially in a workplace setting.  The texts that Lena used as evidence could be interpreted in different ways, but in some of them, Shaun is clearly behaving as superior.  Therefore, even if they were “joking” as he claimed, it is still unethical conduct as he is in a position of power.

The exchange is reminiscent of the viral short story “Cat Person”, which highlights a power imbalance between a man and a woman.  Even though Shaun is not much older than Lena and doesn’t hurl misogynistic comments in the texts (she does accuse him of such overall however), he does threaten to send her home for wearing an unappealing outfit and expresses “disappointment” in her decision to keep her hair long.  It’s the kind of language that borders on abusive.

Is this the kind of person we want representing our country?  Okay, this may be the wrong question to ask given who our President is.  The Summer Olympics is currently marred by the horrendous cases of abuse from the U..S.A. Gymnastics team doctor and the silencing of his victims, which included members of the famous Fierce Five.  The U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association should be doing more to take a stand, especially since they seem to have no problem with pressuring Scotty Lago to leave after risque but consensual photos of him were taken.  Should we only care about the athletes’ behavior only during the Olympics?

The snowboarding community hasn’t had the greatest track record with sexual harassment.  Although female snowboarders are finally getting the respect from peers, there are still the little microaggressions that happen behind the scenes.  Recently in a Shredbots video, Red Gerard, another member of Team U.S.A., jokes about wanting a “big booty ‘ho” for Christmas.  While he may have been quoting a song, it’s still discouraging to hear that come out of his mouth.  This is the sort of “locker room” talk that leads to men not facing consequences for harassing (or even assaulting) women.  It’s fine to joke, but we can do it without treating women, or anyone else, like garbage.  We can do better Team U.S.A.  We should do better.

I’m still riding the high from the X Games Aspen, and I am eager to write my recap.  However, there is a more important topic at hand that needs to be addressed: sexual harassment.  It is a big problem everywhere. I’ve encountered it in high school, in college, at burlesque shows while dressed in lingerie, at anime conventions dressed in business casual, from strangers, from friends, and from authority figures. Therefore this is not something snowboarders are exempt, and that is what enrages some of us about the Arthur Longo video that YoBeat posted.

It’s hard to speak out when you’re in the minority. It’s even harder when women in other male-dominated industries have received rape and death threats for taking a stand against sexism and harassment (see Anita Sarkeesian and Lindy West). Therefore I want to commend two people who took a stand against Arthur’s video.

One reader decides to confront YoBeat about the problematic video.  Her letter is passionate, as sexism is a huge issue in snowboarding (and everywhere else).  She points out that lack of indication that there was any consent.  Maybe if the video had included a message about how everybody in here was a willing participant and that you shouldn’t try this without consent, there would not be as much outrage.  That wasn’t the case.  The writer expresses disappointment that a publication with a female editor-in-chief would promote a video that treats women like crap for clicks and giggles.  I share her feelings and am further disappointed because YoBeat chose to publish the letter with such a dismissive tone and not address the issue hand.

I first heard about it through the blog What It’s Like To Be a Beginning Snowboarder When All of Your Friends Aren’t.  I commend Kate for showing solidarity and reminding the community to lose archaic attitudes about harassment.    It doesn’t matter how much we admire Arthur Longo; it’s not a compliment to be touched inappropriately by a pro snowboarder or anybody else.  Something else Kate points out is the possibility of being labeled as an “angry feminist” for her post.  Although I embrace the title (because women have a right to get mad), I don’t approve of it being used to silence voices that deserve to be heard.  Women are seriously concerned about sexual harassment, and we should listen.

Regardless of intent, the video and YoBeat‘s response to criticism did harm by making the slopes less safe for women.  We need to remember that there are underage riders even at the pro levels, and so not only do we need to protect them, we need to teach them how to respect their fellow riders, no matter what their gender.  It’s okay to have fun, but not at the expensive of others.