Serena Williams’ treatment resonates among black women
By DEEPTI HAJELA
Tuesday, September 11
NEW YORK (AP) — When Serena Williams told the umpire at the U.S. Open final that he owed her an apology, that he had stolen something from her, and then she got penalized for her words, Breea Willingham could relate to her frustration and anger.
Willingham isn’t a tennis star, but she is a black woman. She and others like her say Williams’ experience resonates with them because they are often forced to watch their tone and words in the workplace in ways that men and other women are not.
And if they’re not careful, they say, they risk being branded “Angry Black Woman.”
“So much of what she experiences we experience in the workplace, too,” said Willingham, a professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. “As black women … we’re expected to stay in our lane, that lane that has been created for us. Any time we step out of that lane, then we become a problem.”
The stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman” is alive and well, said Felicia Martin, 36, a federal employee who lives in Brooklyn. She recalls once seeing a white female co-worker cursing and throwing things and not facing repercussions, while she’s been told to calm down for expressing her own upset in a normal tone of voice.
“If I’m upset about something, I should get to express that to you,” Martin said.
During Saturday’s championship loss to Naomi Osaka, Williams got a warning from the chair umpire for violating a rarely enforced rule against receiving coaching from the sidelines. An indignant Williams emphatically defended herself, denying she had cheated. A short time later, she smashed her racket in frustration and was docked a point. She protested that and demanded an apology from the umpire, who penalized her a game.
Many people, black women among them, echoed Williams’ contention that she was punished while men on the tennis circuit have gotten away with even harsher language.
“A lot of things started going through my head in that particular situation. You know, first and foremost, what was going to be said about her the next day? The typical angry black woman, you know … when she really was just standing up for herself and she was standing up for women’s rights,” said former tennis champion Zina Garrison, who is black. “A woman, period, is always, when we speak up for ourselves, then you have the situation where people are saying, you know, they’re too outspoken. They’re acting like a man, all of that. But then a black woman on top of that, the angry black woman, who does she think she is?”
Martin and others pointed to a cartoon by an Australian artist as the clearest example of the stereotype facing black women. Mark Knight of Melbourne’s Herald Sun depicted Williams as an irate, hulking, big-mouthed black woman jumping up and down on a broken racket. The umpire was shown telling a blond, slender woman — meant to be Osaka, who is actually Japanese and Haitian — “Can you just let her win?”
“I was deeply offended. This is not a joke,” said Vanessa K. De Luca, former editor in chief of Essence magazine, who wrote a column about the U.S. Open furor.
The cartoonist “completely missed the point of why she was upset,” De Luca told The Associated Press. “It was about her integrity, and anybody who doesn’t get that is perpetuating the erasure that so many black women feel when they are trying to speak up for themselves. It’s like our opinions don’t matter.”
Some black women say they have to worry perpetually about how they’re coming across to make sure they’re not dismissed as angry or emotional.
“It’s exhausting,” said Denise Daniels, 44, of the Bronx, who works in professional development for educators. “It does diminish from the work satisfaction that other people get to enjoy because it is an additional cost.”
Willingham thinks that was part of Williams’ experience on Saturday as well, but that it was also about a career’s worth of frustrations that she has had to endure, such as when the French Open banned the type of catsuit she wore.
“I felt it for her. I felt she was fed up, she was tired of this,” Willingham said. “How much is she supposed to take, really? How much are any of us supposed to keep taking?”
Associated Press video producer Noreen Nasir contributed to this report from Washington.
Deepti Hajela covers issues of race, ethnicity and immigration for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dhajela. For more of her work, search for her name at https://apnews.com.
Women’s colleges play unique role in quest for equality
September 11, 2018
Kimberly Wright Cassidy
President, Bryn Mawr
Dean, Douglass Residential College and Douglass Campus, Rutgers University
President , St Catherine University
Kimberly Wright Cassidy is President of Bryn Mawr College, a women’s college, and is affiliated with the Women’s College Coalition.
ReBecca Roloff is the president of St Catherine University that was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Jacquelyn Litt does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Editor’s note: Thanks, some say, in no small part to the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump and the momentum of the #MeToo movement, enrollment in women’s colleges is up like never before. In light of this uptick, we reached out to the leaders of three women’s colleges – St. Catherine University, Bryn Mawr and Rutgers University’s Douglass College – to illuminate what the colleges do that makes them distinct. Here’s what they had to say.
Gender equity through academic excellence
Kimberly Wright Cassidy, President Bryn Mawr College
Women’s colleges have by definition led progress toward equality between the sexes since their founding in the 19th century – and, I would argue, they lead it today. One reason is that women’s colleges offer an environment in which women are the focus, and the drivers, of academic excellence.
What is the impact of this environment? One compelling answer to that question comes from a 2012 Women’s College Coalition survey showing that women’s college graduates earn advanced degrees at a higher rate than other graduates. Specifically, 51 percent of the surveyed women’s college graduates earned advanced degrees, compared to 33 percent of liberal arts and 27 percent of flagship public university graduates.
The impact is especially notable when one looks at achievement in traditionally male-dominated fields, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
When Quartz magazine, for example, created its list of the 25 schools most responsible for advances in science – a list that tracks the undergraduate affiliations of winners of the highest recognition in the sciences – Bryn Mawr College made the list, even though that list did not account for women’s historical and present-day barriers to success in STEM fields.
There are several critical components of the heightened academic achievement of women’s college graduates. One is access to female-majority workgroups and female mentor networks. Research indicates that these are crucial to creating a sense of belonging, particularly in STEM fields, which in turn predicts greater confidence in one’s abilities and greater persistence.
Another is a culture of enlarged expectations of and opportunities for women.
Graduates often tell me that a women’s college is the first space where they felt it was acceptable to be smart and passionate about ideas. As one young alum put it recently, a women’s college experience “gives you the confidence to believe that you can do anything you set your mind to…It’s cool to be intelligent.”
Women’s knowledge and skill is not all that’s required for gender equity in the workplace, but it is a necessary condition. And it is because, as I’ve argued here, women’s colleges provide more support for these intellectual achievements that they play such a critical role in preparing students to level the playing field.
What a difference a course can make
Jacquelyn Litt, Dean of Douglass College, Rutgers University
Most universities require their students to complete a certain distribution of courses, so that science majors take at least a few humanities courses and social scientists do a bit of math or biology. There are few campuses, it seems, that insist on a common course for all students: Douglass College, the women’s college at Rutgers, is one of them.
In its first incarnation, this course was known as “Shaping a Life.” Piloted in 1994, it introduced Douglass students to the lives of eminent women through original writings. Students read about how women from different backgrounds – ranging from bestselling author Amy Tan to former Smith College president Jill Ker Conway – viewed women’s roles in family, education, work and community. They learned, for example, to distinguish the kinds of work women do at home, at school and in the labor force – something they would not necessarily be asked to think about in their other classes. An internal evaluation of the course’s impact in the late 1990s found that it increased student retention, enhanced academic performance and improved students’ sense of leadership and self-confidence.
In 2007, however, the course was revised to more directly address gender inequality. Called “Knowledge and Power: Issues in Women’s Leadership,” today’s course engages students in intimate dialogue in small sections of 25 students. For example, one group looked at the anti-rape condom invented in South Africa, Rape-aXe, that has been designed “to give women a stronger chance at escaping sexual assault and bring their attackers to justice.” Students discussed the limitations of technology and its inability to deal, for example, with the trauma rape survivors suffer. They questioned the product’s heterosexual bias and challenged the burden it placed on women.
With 70 percent of its students women of color, Douglass is the most racially and ethnically diverse unit at Rutgers-New Brunswick, one of the most diverse universities in the nation. As a result, the course also focuses on inequalities between women.
How do power differentials among races affect women’s power to “speak out” in the face of harassment, discrimination and sexual violence? Students learn this firsthand as, for example, a first-generation Latina student interviewed an accomplished alumna with a similar background who is now a medical school dean. After hearing the alumna describe her encounters with gender and racial stereotypes, the student saw how important it is to consider how different forms of discrimination interconnect.
Students’ evaluations of Knowledge and Power show that most end the course with a recognition that their voices are powerful and that while inequality exists, they possess the capacity to bring about change.
In the words of one alumna: “Knowledge and Power made me a better feminist. It made me a better ally. Most importantly, it made me a better person.”
A mission rooted in creating economic stability
ReBecca Roloff, President St. Catherine University
The #metoo movement has intensified the volume of conversations related to equality and social justice. For those of us fortunate enough to come under the influence of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, we know they have been advocating for these issues since their founding in 1650 in central France. Neither educated nor wealthy, this order of Catholic nuns committed to “practice of all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy of which woman is capable and which will most benefit the dear neighbor.”
The sisters took a radical approach to their mission. They were active out in the community at a time when the majority of women religious were cloistered. When the sisters found young women who were forced to engage in prostitution to feed themselves, and perhaps a family, they didn’t judge. Instead, they took action and taught the women how to make lace, creating an opportunity for economic stability for these women.
It was in the late 1830s that the sisters brought their mission and commitment to empowering women to America. In time, they established five colleges and eight high schools across the United States, including my own, St. Catherine University (St. Kate’s), in 1905 – 15 years before American women had the right to vote.
According to historian Mary J. Oates, St. Kate’s was among those “dedicated to the advancement of women through a fine liberal arts education” and aimed to become “the nation’s finest women’s college.” Indeed, this commitment to excellence led St. Kate’s to become the first Catholic college, male or female, to have a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1937.
The impact of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet schools like St. Kate’s is best observed in the increased economic security graduates and their families have as a result of their outstanding academic experience. A 2016 study by the Equality of Opportunity Project examined how well colleges have built an economically diverse student body. Among Minnesota’s 17 private colleges, St. Catherine University has the highest percent of students drawn from the bottom 60 percent of median family income.
The study also introduces a college mobility rate, which identifies the share of all students at a college who both came from a lower-income family and ended up in a higher-income bracket. In comparison to those same Minnesota private colleges, St. Kate’s ranks first in mobility rate at 11.1, according to an analysis conducted by St. Kate’s. The average U.S. college has a mobility rate of 1.1.
At any higher education institution, graduates stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. For alums of a Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet school, myself included, we stand on the shoulders of remarkable women who created a legacy that fosters equality and social justice.
Comment: Ira More
There is a strong gender bias in education particularly in the US where women represent 58.5% of all college graduates (US Department of Education 2017). Women’s colleges serve to increase this bias. As a society we should work on closing the education gender gap and providing greater opportunities for males.
Lack of male education leads to other negative outcomes in healthcare, incarceration rates, suicide, and homelessness. If we are to get serious about closing the gender gap in these areas, then we must get serious about closing the gender gap in education first.
The friendship of Michelle Obama and George W. Bush strikes a hopeful, important chord
September 11, 2018
Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University
Richard Gunderman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Indiana University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Earlier this month, a video showing George Bush passing candy to Michelle Obama at the funeral of John McCain went viral. That such a simple act of kindness should attract such wide attention is a notable sign of our divided and rancorous times. It reminds us how rare it has become to see people on a national stage treat one another kindly, as if friendship between them were a real possibility. As a physician, I can say that this apparent decline in prospects for friendship presents a real threat to our well-being.
Friendship is more important than many of us know. Aristotle, the person MIT claims exerted more influence in history than any other, declared that it is impossible to live a full human life without friends. Not surprisingly, he devoted a large portion of his most widely read work, “The Nicomachean Ethics,” to the topic. What makes friendship so important to us? What factors enable friendships to thrive? And where can we look for examples of friendship at its best?
One clear benefit of friendship is good health. A review of 148 studies involving over 300,000 participants found that those with robust social relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive than those with poor ones, a benefit roughly equal to quitting smoking and twice that of regular exercise. Another review found that separation and lack of social contact are strongly associated with a poor sense of well-being.
Such results should not surprise us. Aristotle wrote that human beings are social creatures. Every human infant comes into the world helpless, and it is only by virtue of years of care and child-rearing that any of us reaches maturity. The medical community is just now beginning to understand more clearly the vital role of friendship throughout the human lifespan, not just in the early years but also throughout life.
While it is possible to identify some generic features of thriving friendships, one of the best ways to understand the full richness and complexity of such relationships is to study the stories of great friends. Western literature brims with examples – Homer’s Achilles and Patroclus, the Bible’s Jonathan and David, and Jane Austen’s Charlotte and Elizabeth. But recent American history has furnished its own shining examples.
Dorothy and Peter
Consider one of the most remarkable American friendships of the 20th century, Dorothy Day (1897-1980) and Peter Maurin (1877-1949). Together they would found a movement known as the Catholic Worker, which still operates 220 houses of hospitality across the U.S.
As a young woman, Dorothy Day led a bohemian life, experiencing numerous love affairs, a failed marriage, suicide attempts and an abortion. With the birth of her daughter in 1926, she turned from her atheist common law husband to answer a religious calling. A gifted writer, she recounted her remarkable story in her 1952 autobiography, “The Long Loneliness.”
Peter Maurin was born to a poor working family in France and immigrated to America, where he worked as a French tutor. In the 1920s, inspired in part by the life of St. Francis of Assisi, he underwent a religious conversion, after which he embraced poverty as a gift from God and worked at menial jobs for room and board. Peter liked to contrast the contemporary view of beggars as bums with the ancient Greek view that they are the ambassadors of the gods.
Dorothy and Peter met in 1932. She was a journalist who had just returned from covering a hunger march in Washington, D.C., hungering herself for some cause to which she could devote her life. He was a street-corner prophet with big ideas who had failed to gain traction. She saw in him the answer to her prayers for a purpose in life, and he saw her as a person whose words and works could attract thousands to the cause.
In 1933, their new friendship really began bearing fruit. Peter suggested she start a newspaper, the Catholic Worker, which published its first issue on May 1, selling for a penny a copy. His ideas also served as the inspiration for houses of hospitality for the poor. By living with and serving the poor, Dorothy, Peter and those they attracted to the movement would not only talk and write about their ideas but also live them every day.
Dorothy and Peter could hardly have been more different. He was short, an immigrant, shabbily dressed, his pockets bulging with newspapers and pamphlets, his mind on fire with ideas. She was tall and striking, a cigarette often dangling from her mouth, and could readily inspire others to action.
Features of great friendship
Their friendship flourished first because they shared a common purpose. Such purposes might include building a thriving family, creating a business partnership, or simply bringing out the best in each other. Dorothy and Peter believed that they had been put on earth “to give people the vision of a society in which it is easier for people to be good.” Great friendship means more than enjoying one another’s company. It means sharing a vision and working to achieve it.
Second, instead of dividing them, their differences brought them more closely together. They complemented one another – Peter the absent-minded dreamer who lived in ideas, and Dorothy the activist whose street battles would land her in prison multiple times. Peter delighted in the title of agitator, but it was primarily Dorothy who would build the movement’s momentum. Each was a formidable force, but together they produced results far beyond the mere sum of their parts.
Third, their relationship depended on something far deeper than romance. Each was keenly aware of the differences between men and women, and they occasionally teased each other about them. For example, when Dorothy rejected Peter’s original name for the newspaper, he responded, “Man proposes and woman disposes.” But because they shared a deep commitment to a common purpose, each tended to find in the quirks of the other cause not for consternation but delight.
Fourth, they regarded their relationship not as a secret to be jealously guarded for their own private enjoyment, but a renewable resource that could only grow through the sharing. Wrote Dorothy, “Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.” At first several, then dozens, and eventually hundreds of young people joined the movement. As it unfolded, they found their shared mission not diluted but intensified.
Finally, they both loved books and conversation. Peter read the Bible and the Lives of the Saints, to which Dorothy added the novels of Dickens and Tolstoy. She would frequently get to know visitors by asking them to name their favorite of Dostoevsky’s novels. They regularly discussed such books and ideas at roundtable discussions, which helped to clarify their thinking and inspire their mission. To them, reading and conversation were not pastimes. They were means of discerning and affirming life’s purpose.
Our fascination with a simple act of human kindness between political rivals reveals our longing to see and experience friendship. But friendship, like love, is not a dish that can be reliably prepared merely by following a recipe. To find genuine friendship and reap the many benefits it can sow, we need to explore the elements of great friendship, including a common sense of purpose, a commitment to complementarity, a delight in difference, a summons to share and a love of learning.
Perhaps the greatest wonder of friendship comes through community. Dorothy Day said, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” As MIT’s second-most influential human being, Plato, wrote in his dialogue “Symposium,” in isolation we are incomplete. It is only in the union of friendships that we stand a chance of leading truly complete lives.