The young women had been insulted as a team and they would respond as such. No player, not even the white members of the team, or Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer, tried to delineate herself as an individual -- to perhaps separate herself from Imus's disparaging remarks that reached a nadir when he declared the team members "nappy-headed ho's."What Givhan doesn't quite say is that if they had dressed individually, people would have talked about their choices. Think of all the potential problems. A lot of current fashions are criticized as looking like something a prostitute would wear. But if they were to plan carefully and avoid the kind of clothes that could be characterized that way, it would be hard to avoid things that would be talked about as unfeminine. The sexist remarks made by Imus and company had portrayed the women as both too sexual and not feminine enough. How can you dress to be seen on camera by millions of people and not feel that you will seem to exemplify the remarks you want negated? You'd have to bring in brilliant stylists and buy new clothes all around. And then people would talk about that.
A few of the young women wore earrings. Others had on a bit of lip gloss. And while they wore their hair in a variety of styles from buns to bobs, none of it appeared to be nappy. (And if it was, so what? Nappy should not be mistaken for unkempt. )Yes, this needs to be said! The effort to condemn Imus has created an unfortunate inference. Take a moment to visualize black women with beautiful naturally curly hair. It's not something to deny.
Givhan goes on to discuss the way the warm-up suits made the women look "like kids." The baggy clothes, she writes, hid "their athletic physiques" and made them look vulnerable. Interesting. In a way, the whole controversy has eclipsed their strength. We've been hearing about how hurt they are by the old man's stupid babbling. There was another path that could have been taken, the one where you ignore the old clod and treat him as an archaic irrelevancy. But somebody -- were these women the ones who called the shots? -- decided to play it as an attack on Imus, and that demanded that they present themselves as more fragile than strong.
They appeared smaller than one might expect of such successful athletes. They looked like kids, and they seemed vulnerable, like a chain of fold-and-cut paper dolls. They only needed to hold hands to complete the image.Givhan contrasts the Rutgers team to the Duke lacrosse team, which just happened to step back into the limelight simultaneously, as the criminal charges against them were dropped. For their press conference, they wore jackets and ties:
David Evans's suit was a gray pinstripe and he wore it with a geranium-colored paisley tie. Collin Finnerty was wearing a navy blazer with chinos and a preppy striped tie. Reade Seligmann wore a blue button-down shirt with his suit and tie.They didn't, of course, dress identically. (Not like these guys.)
Givhan notes that when the rape charges against the lacrosse team members were made, people judged them harshly because they were seen as "white, privileged and entitled." And now, appearing before the press to accept the public acknowledgment of their innocence, they wore the clothes of the "white, privileged and entitled." Evans made a point of talking about his privilege: he had the money to hire lawyers he needed to fight the injustice, and what about those who do not?
Privilege had helped him to claim a victory. He wasn't trying to hide it, pretending as if it didn't exist or apologizing for it. Only making the reasonable observation that everyone should be lucky enough to have it on their side.Gracious of him to take that route. Yet it must be said: he had legal advice! On his own, he might have wanted to attack people for thinking ill of him out of prejudice against white, privileged guys. It was much better to show concern for the less fortunate. His statement processes the experience exactly the way prospective law students write their personal statements on admissions applications!
But yes, these are young people who deserve our good thoughts. As the WaPo headlines the Givhan piece: "In the Eye of a Storm, Beacons of Composure Rutgers, Duke Students Acquit Themselves Well." My personal stylists and legal counsel advise me that I should take that tack. But, hell, I'm blogging here. Life is more complex than that. Nevertheless, I wish all these young people well. And if they end up in law school -- I bet some of them will -- I hope they come to my school.