Externalities Illustrated

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Today’s NYT featires an article entitled At Jets Game, a Halftime Ritual of Harassment that reports:

At halftime of the Jets’ home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, several hundred men lined one of Giants Stadium’s two pedestrian ramps at Gate D. Three deep in some areas, they whistled and jumped up and down. Then they began an obscenity-laced chant, demanding that the few women in the gathering expose their breasts.

When one woman appeared to be on the verge of obliging, the hooting and hollering intensified. But then she walked away, and plastic beer bottles and spit went flying. Boos swept through the crowd of unsatisfied men.

Marco Hoffner, an 18-year-old from Lacey Township, N.J., was expecting to see more. Not from the Jets : they pulled off a big upset over the Steelers. He wanted more from the alternative halftime show that, according to many fans, has been a staple at Jets home games for years.

“Very disappointed, because we’re used to seeing a lot,”Hoffner said.

The mood of previous Gate D crowds : captured on video clips posted on YouTube : sometimes bordered on hostile, not unlike the spirit of infamously aggressive European soccer hooligans. One clip online shows a woman being groped by a man standing next to her.

Sunday’s scene played out for about 20 minutes, and at least one woman granted the men’s request, setting off a roar as if the former star running back Curtis Martin had just scored a touchdown. Martin was actually nearby, being honored on the field in the official halftime show, which had a far less intense audience. …

The article notes that the security guards and law enforcement officials who are present allow and at least tacitly condone this behavior.   Here is another excerpt:

Denisse Rivera, a 23-year-old from the Bronx, was on a first date Sunday. When she arrived at the crowd at Gate D, several men pointed at her, signaling men at all levels to chant in her direction. After a brief moment of hesitation, she flashed them. Then she took a bow.

“I don’t care,”Rivera said when told that video clips of previous incidents, taken on cellphones, ended up online.”I love my body and I like what I have, so let everybody share it.”

Two security guards soon approached Rivera. The guards warned her about indecent exposure laws, she said, and let her go. …

I’m glad Rivera loves her body, and I understand that she feels she has an autonomous right to use it to engage in this form of self-expression.   The problem is, her actions then create negative extrernalities for women who do not want to flash their breasts, disappointing men who apparently feel free to spit and throw bottles in consequence. Women who just want to watch a football game have to tolerate harassment that is incited and perpetuated by women like Rivera.

If you took a poll of all the people present on the ramps near Gate D on one of these occasions, the numerical majority would almost certainly favor the view that “flashings” should be allowed and encouraged, reifying the apparently longstanding cultural norm for that portion of the statium during Jets games.   Most of the women attending the game who didn’t want to participate would never get a chance to vote, because they would be avoiding the area completely.   That would form the basis of an argument against legal intervention, and echo the arguments made about “free will” amd “majority rules” against legal intervention in a wide variety of contexts ranging from pornography to employment discrimination. But it doesn’t take account of the externalities – the women who are intimidated or frightened into compliance with the norm (to avoid crowd censure) or into avoiding that part of the stadium, or maybe even the entire game, altogether.

There are a lot of “ramps around Gate D” in cyberspace, and far too many pose as autonomously self-expressive Supposedly Liberal blogs. For one interesting description of what I am talking about, check out this post at Shakesville.

–Ann Bartow

This entry was posted in Acts of Violence, Feminism and Technology, Sociolinguistics. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Externalities Illustrated

  1. Eric says:

    These slobs make the South Carolina pep band seem utterly refined by comparison!

    And why do the guards warn the women about “indecent exposure” but leave the men’s assaults (throwing beer cups, spitting, etc.) pass without comment?

  2. Melpomene says:

    Wow, this is the first time in reading your blog that I’ve been so… insulted and confused by one of your posts. How the heck is Rivera “inciting and perpetuating” an external situation of harassment by being pointed at and chanted at, and then flashing the men? When they brought it up, and when there’s more of them then there are of her, and when she might have just seen the way the woman who didn’t “oblige” was then treated? I’m really surprised to read that that’s your read of the situation.

  3. Ann Bartow says:

    I don’t mean to blame Rivera and other participating women for creating the problem. The men are responsible for their own actions, and should be punished for any wrong doing. I’m not blaming any woman for the behavior of the bad actors. But as long as women continue to “flash,” the dangerous situation (women physically abused, security guards who do nothing) at the stadium will continue. I think Rivera is wrong to participate, not because she shows her body, but because she helps perpetuate a corrosively sexist environment.

    I am taking at face value Rivera’s published claim that she “flashes” because she enjoys it.  You seem to be assuming she was not truthful about this.

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