Update: Cam Newton apologized Thursday night for his remarks Wednesday.
I spoke about editorial writing Thursday to a group of Charlotte-area high school journalism students. We talked about what an opinion writer’s day is like, including how we choose the topics of editorials and columns. That led us, on this day, to Cam Newton.
Most of the students in the room were young women, and all but one knew how Newton had laughed at a serious question the Observer’s Jourdan Rodrigue asked Wednesday at a news conference. “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes,” Newton said.
The young women, at least some of whom seemed to be Newton fans, were disappointed in what he said. But they were not surprised.
They told me about how they and their female classmates regularly deal with people who think they are less capable of something because of their gender.
It happens when they talk sports, they said, but that’s not nearly the only time.
It happens in STEM classes or in clubs like Robotics, where “you have to work twice as hard” to be seen as just as capable.
It happens at Junior ROTC, where women are made to feel out of place among the guys.
It happens in everyday discussions in everyday classrooms, where boys are dismissive of a female’s perspective.
It doesn’t come just from males, however. Sometimes, one student said, “it’s old-school females who are being that way.”
All of which is not news to most women – young or not so young. Each time one student brought an example up, it was met with nods all around. Disappointment. Not surprise.
Here’s one more thing they mentioned that you might recognize. When someone objects to a guy saying something dumb or sexist like Cam, they’ll hear about how it was a joke. Some guys will even admit to a bit of sexism in that humor, but hey, no big deal.
You don’t have to travel far down your Twitter feed to see the same.
You want to know why it’s a big deal? Talk to someone who’s young, smart and female and ask if she’s ever been outright dismissed because of the last part. Maybe you’ll be surprised. Maybe you won’t. But you should come away with this:
It’s not funny. And it’s not just a joke.