Monday, April 1, 2013

A Double Standard That Makes Me Sick!

A year ago I wrote a post entitled "An Equal Voice," an entry about which I was particularly passionate. I have long been discouraged about the state of gender inequality in this country, and the Equal Voice post was a condensation about the portrayal of women in the media, and how the media negatively reinforces women's inferior roles in society by undermining their achievements and instead exploiting them as sexual and subservient beings. Media is just one part of society, but it's a big one in western culture. The post lamented that women hold a slight majority in the country but still don't have an equal voice. Most of the comments that I received from readers agreed with this, although a couple disagreed, citing me statistics about the rising income of women, etc. Nice try, but my position hasn't changed!

Sadly, gender inequality isn't the only problem that this culture has yet to conquer, as there is plenty of subversion going around. Minorities in terms of racial background and sexual orientation, not to mention those with a lower SES, disabled individuals, and senior citizens, all have barriers to overcome...but it shouldn't be all up to them to do it. My beloved professors in graduate school made sure that each psychologist graduating from our program knew that white people in this country are born into privilege (although white people who are GLBTQ, disabled, or poor still face opposition); this being the case, it is the responsibility of people enjoying privilege (that is, white people) to actively live out lives dedicated to ending racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, inequality in all of its forms.  Standing by and doing nothing is a passive form of racism. (If you want to read more about this, I highly recommend Beverly Tatum's Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?) There are certainly many individuals, communities, companies, and universities that are playing their part and making life better for the human condition; then, of course, there are people who aren't. BJ ran across one such illustration yesterday. I heard him muttering unhappy things from the next room and went to check on him in case he was cleaning up dog vomit or breaking his hand from flipping a mattress (!). Nope; he was reading this article about an insane situation at the University of Texas.

Basically, what's going on here is that two coaches at UT in Austin were involved in consensual sexual relationships with students. Both admitted to having sex with a student when questioned directly, and both apologized for the inappropriate nature of the relationships. One of the coaches garnered six national championships in track and cross-country. Her name is Bev Kearney, and she has three things going against her in terms of her social status: She is a woman. She is African-American. She is also a lesbian. Need I even mention that she was paralyzed from the waist down in a motor vehicle accident, regained enough functioning to walk with a cane, and now is technically what you and I might consider disabled? The second coach was, at the time, the running backs coach for the football team. His name is Major Applewhite. He is a beloved former quarterback for the team; he is white, male, heterosexual, and able-bodied. Bev Kearney was unmarried at time of her intimate student-athlete relationship; Major Applewhite was married (still is) and his wife gave birth to their child in the same month that he had sex with a female trainer.

Bev Kearney was informed in January 2013 that she would be fired if she didn't resign as a result of her inappropriate relationship. Major Applewhite received an 11-month salary freeze and underwent mandatory counseling, at the end of which he received a raise and was promoted to co-offensive coordinator.  He'll be calling plays next season from the sidelines and will earn well over $500,000.

I hope you're at least half as disgusted by this double standard as I am. Let's get one thing straight: I am NOT arguing that Bev Kearney should retain her position. I can see that the inherent power differential between a coach and a student is an icky situation, and I can understand why UT asked for her resignation. What I can't understand is why they didn't demand the same of Major Applewhite. His relationship was with a student-trainer, who also directly reported to him and was on the bottom side of the power differential as well. I have so few words to speak because this situation is so freaking unbelievable. Under what circumstances must the university think this double standard is acceptable? I have no idea what is going through these people's heads! Is it because it's football, and a bunch of crusty old white alums are slipping money to keep Applewhite on the team, dishing subversiveness along with their thousand-dollar bills? Is it the media with its foot in the door, angling for Applewhite to stay because he helps Longhorn viewer ratings? Is it because the decision-makers are homophobic and they view Kearney's relationship as 'super wrong?' Is it because they think women's sports don't matter anyway? Is it because they view the student-athlete as a victim, but the student-trainer as 'asking for it?' I don't care if Major Applewhite puts in 20-hour days, buys donuts for the team, and has the unbridled enthusiasm of Billy Mumphrey---you CAN'T keep him if you fire Bev Kearney for the same indiscretion. That's discrimination, no matter how you cut it.

Friends, we've got to play our parts, because we obviously can't count on some bigger institutions to do theirs.


  1. I guess I've never understood how things like this still happen. I would think it would be simple. You do this, your punishment is this (no matter the person or any specifics). Especially in a world where legal ramifications are a consequence for everything. I would imagine Kearney has a great case if she was interested in pursing that course of action. That is my detached view, anyway. My personal opinion is, of course, apparently we still live in a "good ole boy" world where you are either in with a group or out. If you're "in" you can apparently get away with anything.

    1. I like you a lot, Julie. =) I couldn't have said it better myself. Kearney is definitely pursuing legal action, and her lawyer has dug up over 10 other instances in which a coach has admitted to sexual relationships with a student...none of those coaches has been fired.

  2. I'm definitely more than half as disgusted as you are! You've got me fired up too. Yes, there is quite a double standard, and this certainly isn't an isolated example. Thanks for sharing this example and your perspective!