Donald Sterling is a racial pig and we all know it. I do not object to the stiff punishment that the NBA has meted out to the Clippers’ owner and think it was the only decision available. Even if the racial rant at issue was done in private on a legally-questionable taped phone recording, the tarnished image of Sterling (no pun intended) is enough for the NBA to invoke its great powers to protect the Association and the sport.
That said, Donald Sterling is an equal opportunity jerk. In his recorded phone conversation with girlfriend, V. Stiviano, we hear words that are not just racist, but sexist. Referring to black people, Sterling says that he doesn’t care if she “sleeps with them or “f*****s him”–meaning Magic Johnson. Calling her stupid and contending that she doesn’t understand what he is saying, Sterling tells Stiviano that they should end the relationship because he needs “a girl that will do what I want.” In short, he treats her as property. Sterling has a rich history of such conduct. In 1996, Sterling was sued by a former female employee for sexual harassment allegedly for offering the employee money and clothes in return for sexual favors and for inappropriately touching her at the workplace. One woman later said that “working for Donald Sterling was the most demoralizing, dehumanizing experience of my life.”
Sterling is not the first NBA-associated male who has had issues with treating women like objects and will not be the last. And while the issue of men with power treating younger women like chattel is nothing new, it is not something that should be ignored. The fact that nobody is talking about this part of the story leads me to conclude that we are so used to the existence of sexism that it no longer offends us. Even Stiviano seems concerned only with the fact that Sterling’s slurs are against an ethnic group to which she belongs and disregards their misogynist nature.
We should all be outraged by racism. But, the bottom line is that, if people became as outraged with sexism as they did with racism, the world would be a better place. Both “isms” should be abhorred, but both must be recognized, discussed, and condemned.
This post was written by Karen Conti: Partner