Jameis Winston made some sexist remarks on Wednesday in front of a group of school children. While apparently trying to address an unruly boy, he reiterated sexist stereotypes about how girls and boys should behave — “silent, polite, gentle” for girls, and “strong” for boys.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback later apologized, claiming that he was trying to address a boy in the audience without singling him out, and apologizing for “poor word choice”. Here’s the full text of his remarks via Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times, who also has video of the incident.
"All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down," Winston 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 (in deep voice). 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!"
Those quotes are pretty damning, if not entirely uncommon around the world — gendered ideas about how people should behave are nearly universal. But the fact that other people regularly make those remarks in the privacy of their own homes doesn’t make them less damaging, nor does that absolve Winston — who has a large platform and a responsibility to handle it responsibly.
As Jane McManus described it:
Watching the video, it's clear Jameis is trying to engage some restless boys... and reinforces gender stereotypes in the process.— Jane McManus (@janesports) February 23, 2017
This isn’t the first time Winston has made sexist remarks. He was suspended at FSU for yelling “f*ck her right in the pussy” — at the time a somewhat popular meme.
While of an entirely order of magnitude and not of a piece with these incidents, we should not that Winston was also accused of rape in college, an accusation that never led to criminal charges, and the resulting civil suit was settled last month. That fact still simmers under the surface every time Winston puts his foot in his mouth, as he did here.
Winston’s excuse that his remark about girls’ behavior was simply “poor word choice” is also a deflection — it implies that had he delivered the same content in some different words, it would have been better. But the content of what he said is the problem: he told girls to behave one way, and boys another. No choice of words will make that any better.
That directly harms the girls in the audience, too. "One of the girls turned around and looked at me and said, 'I'm strong too,' " speech pathologist Bonnie Volland, who was at the event, told Tom Jones.
Winston simply has to realize that what he says carries weight, and that these messages are harmful to both boys and girls.