Jameis Winston reignited concerns over sexist remarks

Marika Yang Feb 26, 2017

Last Wednesday, Feb. 22, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston visited a class of elementary school students in the Tampa Bay area to give a speech with the intention of lifting up and encouraging the younger generation, a common way many local athletes give back to the community during the off-season. However, this photo-op quickly turned into a PR nightmare as Winston proceeded to put his foot in his mouth.

When the students appeared inattentive and bored, he tried to rile up the students, but apparently forgot that the group included girls, saying, according to the Tampa Bay Times:

“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” he said. “But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I’m saying? One day, y’all are going to have a very deep voice like this. One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice.

“But the ladies, they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men [are] supposed to be strong. I want y’all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!”

The franchise quarterback of an NFL team did indeed tell a group of third- through fifth-graders that boys are to be strong, with very deep voices, and girls are to be silent, polite, and gentle, to sit down and sit pretty. Immediately Winston’s comments were slammed, widely covered by The Huffington Post, The New York Post, and The Washington Post, with many people responding. Winston later clarified his statements, saying he was trying to motivate a young male student in the audience but used “poor word choice.”

Winston has worked hard to mend his image since his college days at Florida State University. An alleged rape case involving Winston from Dec. 7, 2012 was reopened in Nov. 2013. Despite this, he went on to win the Heisman Trophy a month later. The two federal lawsuits with the woman who accused him of rape were not settled until Dec. 2016.

Other controversies included stealing crab legs and making obscene comments, the latter of which led to a half game suspension. Still, he was drafted first overall by the Buccaneers in the 2015 NFL Draft. Since then, Winston has managed to avoid controversies, and this past season led the team to its first winning season since 2010.

Though he may have had good intentions, Winston’s recent sexist comments have only reinvigorated questions about his character that had quieted down for nearly two years. There is no problem with encouraging boys, but why exclude girls? Why not ask both boys and girls to stand up, to be strong, to speak out? The fact that a popular, public figure, one many kids in the Tampa Bay area look up to, is sending this message is troubling. Winston neglected his responsibility to the community and forgot his place, one that has power and influence. Or perhaps he wholeheartedly believes that women are to simply be displayed like a vase of flowers and ordered around like maids. That is even more disturbing.

However, no matter how wrong his comments were, it is not Winston who is the root of the problem. He is simply a result of a society that cages women to these expectations and social norms of submission, inequality, and silence. Winston is a man who lives in a society, our society, in which some people believe that women are lesser and weaker. Sexism is not one man — it is an institution that will not go away by simply denouncing him. It is something both men and women have combated for centuries, from women’s suffrage in 1920 to the recent Women’s March.

Women are strong. Women are not required to be polite or gentle, nor to stand aside and allow the next generation of men and women to believe the sentiments Winston expressed. Women will not be silent.