Disclaimer: For better or worse, I know there are many sensitive people out there, men and women, that unfortunately misinterpret that which they see online, express outrage due to manufactured offense, and this outrage becomes poison as a result of a mass-retweet or the ills of mob mentality groupthink. I urge you, please do not interpret this as me trying to mansplain feminism to you. You could not be more wrong, were that the case.

As a man, my experience and understanding of feminism is uniquely limited by the fact that I am a male. I wish to dialogue with (and listen to) as many perspectives from women, many of whom (I hope) are about to read what I’m about to say below. Like anyone, I intend to polish and evolve my views over time, as more time and opportunity are made available to those with something constructive to say on this matter.

Also, you’ll find that some of the videos will say unavailable. Don’t worry. Click the YouTube button on the bottom-right corner and it will play in another window.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s begin, shall we?

Let me jump right into this.

My name is Ricky J. Marc, and I am a feminist.

I’ve been a feminist for a little over a year now, and for the longest time, I felt a sense of hostility to the term because of negative stereotypes such as femenazis and a combination of my own male privilege shielding me from the realities that women face. Like many that still do, I even laughed off many of the complaints I witnessed my fellow human beings making over this issue, as evidence of the toxic masculinity that existed (and likely still exists, however minute) within my heart. At the time, I had a lot of growing up to do. I still do today, and I understand that.

It wasn’t until I had conversations with absolutely brilliant women such as Phyllis KlarmannLinn Stinus and Summer Brennan (both on and offline) that I realized the differences and intersectionalities between social egalitarianism (something I already believed in) and feminism as a specific term used to address a specific issue. Over time, my willingness to listen to and understand perspectives through the eyes of others facilitated my evolution.

In truth, I’m thankful for my mother, the three aforementioned women, and Myrtille Neimann for encouraging me to write this piece. Women deserve much more credit for what they’ve blessed the world with than they now receive. Women deserve much more praisenot as entertainment, but as equals. In any case, now that enough background has been given to my journey, let’s turn the focus back on they whom this whole piece is aboutwomen.

What’s a feminist, you ask? Let’s talk about it for a little bit. There’s a lot to be said, so bear with me. As I understand it, feminism is an interdisciplinary approach to issues of equality and equity based on gender, gender expression, gender identity, sex, and sexuality as understood through social theories and political activism.

Feminist theory now aims to interrogate inequalities and inequities along the intersectional lines of ability, class, gender, race, sex, and sexuality, and feminists seek to effect change in areas where these intersectionalities create power inequity.

Here’s the thing about feminism as I know it: I want an America that is not afraid to label itself as a feminist country, not unlike Sweden. I believe in the complete and total equal treatment of women and dissolution of the patriarchy. For too long, we have enabled a patriarchal society to the chagrin of the women (and retardation of society) within our borders. When women are oppressed, we all are. This is a simple fact.

Many women dwelling among us, due to what we once believed was an old way of thinking, still fear for their lives just walking down the street, due to a combination of misogyny and an antiquated understanding of consent. This is dangerous. Women still face catcalling and offensive remarks in public, and as men, we have a responsibility to rebuke, shun, and discourage this behavior among one another. We cannot allow this to go on anymore.

Personally speaking, I have often erred on the side of caution. I am a 6’1 African American male with a noticeable baritone. Growing up, what has been viewed as harmless or playful by others has been received as aggressive or threatening were I to replicate the action. Being a Black man is not easy, and society has conditioned itself to believe that men like me are inherently more dangerous or aggressive.

With that in mind, Growing up in a predominantly European-descended (read: white) area in Boca Raton, Florida has taught me that it’s best not to say anything to strangers beyond a simple “hello,” something that still startles certain people. But that’s another story for another day. Let’s move on to the matter at hand. Feminism. Women. Sports. Respect. Equality. Let’s go.

The time has come for us to embrace the intersectionality of differing versions of feminism among the different groups—such as feminism among differing racial, religious, LGBT, class, and social lines. Fellow men, we must listen to the words that women are trying to speak to us, and we must use our male privilege to uplift the women in our society. Equality between the sexes is a goal, and we must absolutely strive to reach this as soon as possible.

The time has come for our society to pay women equally for equal work. The time has come for women to be better represented in media, music, and the corporate boardroom. The time has come for women to be better represented in leadership. The era of being seen and not heard must end. The time has come for women to be better represented and celebrated in sports. I am inspired by the sky-high level of play in our women’s leagues, and it’s clear that playing like a girl is something to be proud of.

Seriously, the WNBA is awesome, competition has never been better, and these ladies aren’t messing around out there. The time has come for women to be recognized not as mere companions to men, but excellent human beings in their own right. Women have their own stories to tell in society, and their platform is long overdue.

As far as I’m concerned, a woman’s place is wherever the heck she wants it to be.

So ultimately, feminism, to me, is a growing dynamic. I love, embrace, and encourage the idea of equality across the world and within society. I know that as a male, I must use whatever privilege I have to lift up my sisters, especially those of color who are marginalized enough as it is. I intend to. I’d love for us men to have a dialogue about this, while also listening to women about issues that directly affect their lives. We must trust and listen to them. They are everything, and they’re some bad mamas.

Before I move on, let me make one more thing clear. I am far from perfect, and I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes along the way, but know this: I will do everything in my power to be a better ally and citizen as the world continues to turn. I will do everything in my power to listen to those of you trying to share some wisdom I did not already know.

I will lend an ear to your voice and help lift up your appeals to the masses. Bear with me, an imperfect soul. I want to do better, and with your help, ladies, I will. Solidarity is key, and I wish to maintain as much of it as I can with all of you. I wish to join you on this journey in any way I can, and your successes are mine. When you win, we all do.

Let’s talk some more about women in sports.

Here’s the deal. Women are awesome and deserve our respect, love, support, and equality, both online and off. I mean this with sincerity, my queens—I apologize on behalf of the countless cowards that think harassment is any less abhorrent behind a screen. No one should feel worried about using social media due no matter what they look like, whom they love, or what gender/race they are.

No one should ever have to hesitate before opening a direct message or reading a mention from a male follower or user. No one should have to fear safe self-expression. No woman should have to hesitate before sharing a photo of themselves either at the beach or in mundane settings because of a crude comment. No one should have to be treated differently because of whom they happen to be.

No one should have to put up with anonymous disrespect. No one should have to avoid Twitter because they happen to be a woman that travels, is beautiful, or works in a male-dominated industry like sports or journalism. No one should have to explain themselves twice as much as a more privileged colleague because they look a certain way. Women are on Earth to be, first and foremost, our equals, not just entertainment.

We, as men, must be better within the culture. This is where our privilege comes in.

Every day I see my fellow human beings oppressed by something my personal privilege shields me from, I lose some faith in humanity. In a way, however, I do feel reassured when one of the privileged stands up for one of the oppressed. We cannot remain blind to injustice. We cannot remain ignorant to reality. We cannot trivialize the struggles of others because our privilege may blind us to those truths.

We have to become more understanding. We have to become more respectful. We have to become more appreciative of others. We can start today. We must start today. Our colleagues deserve, demand, and require our respect. In respecting and honoring our queens, we honor ourselves and the earth that birthed us. In honoring ourselves and our neighbor, we honor both God and the Universe, whether you are a believer in a higher power or not. Let’s start.

We must stop subjecting our neighbors—online or otherwise—to all forms of harassment and bullying. It must stop. No one deserves this life. I honestly cringe whenever I scroll past a lady’s photo on my Instagram feed because I know the kinds of scummy comments are embedded within. If I rebuked every single one, I’d never have time to do anything else. Y’all are some real losers. I dare you to say that to their faces.

There might have been a time where I thought some of the things I see being said to these women, but there’s a good chance I hit puberty shortly thereafter. Must we reduce women to nothing more than their appearances? [Seriously, just search some of the biggest names in sports media on YouTube, and you’ll find compilation video after compilation video focusing on their body parts instead of their actual talents. I had to do that for this piece, and frankly, it got tiring]. 

I follow some of the sports industry’s most talented women. It’s a pleasure to follow them because they’re good at what they do, are witty, talented, smart, and often funny. The same way I am more than just the melanin in my skin, these women are more than their curves or physical features. They deserve our respect. What more do you want? In my view, female objectification has spiked in the internet age, and it’s further bolstered by the Internet’s perceived anonymity. It encourages male cowardice in the face of patriarchal insecurity.

A particularly frustrating example of this objectification is made evident through the eyes of a very talented Palestinian-American journalist, on-air presenter, and producer. Her name is Dena Takruri, and she currently works for AJ+, Al Jazeera’s digital media network. She’s easily one of my favorites in the industry, bar none. In a remarkably candid interview with Nieman Storyboard’s Julissa Treviño, Dena explains:

Regardless of how serious the reporting is, and how good the journalism is, I will always be seen as a woman. That means I’m subject to a lot of objectification and sexualization, and it’s very dehumanizing.

One of my colleagues who does audience development and manages the YouTube channel has to constantly ban users because they’re commenting on the shape of my body and my appearance.

Talking about a news video as if it was porn. It’s to the point where I’ve told my cameraman to only shoot me from the waist up.

That’s really upsetting because you want to be judged by the quality of your work, not by your appearance. That’s something I’m constantly struggling to address.

It really is a problem.

You’ve got these amazing women doing awesome work on their platforms. They’re kicking butt and taking names. In response, male insecurity has risen. It’s crap. This insecurity leads to internet abuse and dehumanization. Anyone, from the color commentator to the team dancer, deserves our respect. They are human beings. We are in need of a cleansing, and we need it yesterday.

Women in sports can do bad all by themselves. They don’t need a male savior. What they deserve, in my opinion, is an army of community support that recognizes and respects their ability to do just as good (if not better) a job as the established men in this industry. It’s on us to rebuke idiots. We can’t continue to tolerate the way they’re treated online and in media. It’s time to be much more welcoming and respectful.

If a woman is trying to convey a message, we must viciously rebuke they that reduce them to a particular physical feature they have. No, they’re not being sexual when they’re sharing a photo of themselves on a beach somewhere. HUMANS GO TO THE BEACH AND WEAR SWIMWEAR. How arrogant must we be to assume they are solely there to entertain and arouse us? We’re lucky to look into their lives as public figures!

Personally, I know I have work to do as a man in this world as it concerns my own approach towards (and interaction with) women. I’m far from perfect. We all are. There are far too many of us out here on this platform to not use it for good.

We have to stand with, lift up, and champion women in sports.

Sure, I’m probably sounding like a broken record right now, and for those of you that follow me on Twitter, know that I occasionally shout-out women for their amazing work in our industry, but people like ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth, Doris Burke, Jemele Hill, Michelle Beadle, and Mina Kimes, and Turner Sports’ Kristen Ledlow, Ros Gold-Onwude, Kacy Sager, and the Portland Trail Blazers’ Amara Baptist, are why I love sports, especially what we know as #NBATwitter. We must cherish these women.

I know I do. I love the fact that they’re in this business. I love the fact that they’re as talented as they are. I love the fact that they inspire a whole new generation of young women to partake in an industry that, for a long time, has been an old boys club. I’m here for it. I hate the fact that the Internet allows trolls and jackasses to harass, disrespect, and objectify them the way it does. Our society has becoming more and more toxic by the day, and we’ve seen the disastrous effects of toxic masculinity.

I hate that not enough is being done to shut down this culture of trashiness that persists throughout our major platforms. I’m sick of it. I’m tired of our talented female figures being themselves, only for an idiot to drop some jackass comment like nice tits or something. A lot of these pathetic losers seriously believe that if they behave this way, it’ll go down in the DMs. It doesn’t. Society has mal-conditioned us to believe this.

This isn’t television. Grow up. 

We must do better. I think we will, but I’m not completely optimistic, given the state of things. It starts with both the top and bottom. In the meantime, my hope is that those of us that won’t stand for this nonsense continue to be allies where appropriate. It’s on all of us. Keep being awesome, ladies. I’m rooting for you and cannot wait to see how you continue to change the game in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

I’m all for your success and continued growth, and I hope I’m able to grow alongside you as a human being, fan, and citizen. The increasing presence of women in sports media is nothing short of wonderful. Again, forgive me for sounding like a broken record. This matters to me because freedom isn’t just about my rights and representation as a black male in America. It’s about all of my sisters too.

I’m talking about Joy Taylor seemingly getting a promotion every two weeks at FS1 because of how good she is at her job. I’m talking about Cassidy Hubbarth busting the door down and running her own NBA/WNBA shows on ESPN. I’m talking about Cari Champion running Sportsnation and Jemele Hill crushing everywhere she goes.

I’m talking about Kristen Ledlow breaking #NBATwitter every time Inside Stuff comes on. I’m talking about WNBA All-Star forward Chiney Ogwumike doing double-duty between ESPN and making people look silly on the court. I’m talking about Miami HEAT sideline reporter Kristen Hewitt singlehandedly inspiring #HEATCulture victories and demonstrating that yes, mothers can do sports too.

I’m talking about Kate Abdo running the show for both the 2018 FIFA World Cup and Turner’s UEFA Champions League coverage next season. I’m talking about an entire internet community demanding ESPN analyst Doris Burke rightfully take her place alongside Mike Breen for big NBA games. If you’ve watched the NBA on ESPN, you’ll know that Burke is a cult figure for all the right reasons.

I’m talking about women like 790 The Ticket’s Amber Wilson showing up on sports radio in Miami and immediately carving out a niche in a historically underrepresented platform. For Wilson to have endeared herself to the fanbase down here in South Florida as quickly as she has is nothing short of admirable, impressive, and a testament to her raw talent. Oh, and by the way, in addition to being an avowed Tupac Shakur fan, she’s a licensed (and practicing) attorney too.

I’m talking about women like Kacy Sager and Michelle Beadle out here serving up lessons on the reality that women are just as interested in and knowledgeable about sports as men are, and can run their own platforms and just as well (if not better) than us men. Perhaps the following news will surprise you.

I’m not just talking about asking questions and setting men up to opine on sports matters and dominate the discussion; I’m talking about women sharing their actual opinions. Believe it or not, women have them. I’m talking about Rachel Nichols hosting ESPN’s The Jump and killing the game (and Roger Goodell) with her radiant confidence and consistently excellent reporting. Nichols can do it all, folks.

I’m talking about the ever-soulful Ramona Shelburne, who can teach us all a thing or two about the All-American athlete-to-journalist transition. I’m talking about Suzy Kolber, who can easily switch from producing an ESPN show to reporting live from an ancient Egyptian tomb without skipping a beat. I’m talking about Amara Baptist, whose infectious persona immediately enriches whatever social media platform she’s managing. You can find her podcast, Social on the Sidelines, here.

Last, but not least, I’m also talking about the legendary Robin Roberts, a true pioneer. I don’t remember seeing that many women of color in sports media growing up. She was the first. I’m inspired by, proud, and eternally supportive of all of you today and coming up after them. Women are here to stay in all facets of life, and the time has come for us men to acknowledge, honor, and lift these women up as the equals they know they are. It’s high time we all knew it too.

It’s no longer a man’s world anymore, and we should all be thankful for it. 

It begins with respect.

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