Slut Shaming a Victim of Racism: The Public Response to V. Stiviano

 

Donald Sterling

Donald Sterling

The recent audio recording of LA Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling promoting discriminatory practices against people based on their perceived race has generate a lot of media attention.  Much of the attention has been focused on the fact that Sterling made these comments and that he has, as a result, been banned from the NBA.  His prior discriminatory practices related both his property management and his management of the Clippers has come to light, but what has been perhaps the biggest tragedy of this is the fact that the woman on the recording, V. Stiviano, has been demonized by the press in a manner that reflect an overt misogynistic bias in the national media that has been grossly magnified in internet forums that have taken up the subject.

 

V. Stiviano

V. Stiviano

The Windsor Star is the newspaper closet to where I live.  It generally doesn’t report much on basketball unless Kobe Byrant is being accused of raping somebody, or Ron Artest jumps into the stands to start a fight with a fan, but on April 14th, 2014, it did give front page coverage to the Sterling story (though the story can from Postmedia News).  The ‘reporter’, Cam Cole, refers to the comments as being part of a “secretly recorded heart-to-heart with his conniving mistress”.  There is SO much wrong with this statement, it is hard to unpack.  Firstly, the comments were recorded with Sterling’s consent, so this is flawed reporting.  Secondly, the reference to Stiviano as ‘conniving’ is a judgement on Cole’s part.  He does not know that Stiviano is conniving.  This is likely based on the fact that he thought the recording was made secretly, but since it wasn’t, this value judgement was made on a false assumption.  Likewise, neither Sterling nor Stiviano have confirmed that they have had a romantic relationship, so referring to her as a ‘mistress’ is also a problem.  This is frankly, HORRIBLE reporting.  The issue at hand is Sterling’s comments, NOT the sexuality of Stiviano.  If anything, she is a victim of Sterling’s comments.  He prescribes to her how she should behave as a ‘Latino’ woman, tells her not to publicly associate with ‘Black’ men despite the fact that she identifies as partially Black, and calls her stupid for associating with people of colour.

 

V. Stiviano and Donald Sterling attending a Clippers game together.

V. Stiviano and Donald Sterling attending a Clippers game together.

Sadly, Cole’s style of reporting has not been an isolated incident.  The New York Daily News published a piece by Joe Kemp that also states Stirling’s rants were “secretly recorded” and also refers to her as a mistress.  Josh Peter, writing for a glorified blog, likewise wrote a story about Stiviano, detailing her breast augmentation and the fact she wore expensive clothes in highschool.  What this has to do with the Sterling narrative, I’m not sure.  Nobody is writing stories that investigate whether or not Sterling uses Cialis or Viagra, which frankly would be equally relevant.  In major publications, they beat around the bush, painting a picture of a woman who sought to use her beauty to obtain a lavish lifestyle, but most don’t have the courage to say what they are thinking.

 

V. Stiviano

V. Stiviano

When names are removed, however, the slut-shaming comes out in full effect.  On forums across the internet, misogynist cowards, most of whom would be eager to have an opportunity to share an intimate moment with a woman as beautiful as Stiviano, are jumping on the slut-shaming bandwagon.  Because they don’t have to attach their names to their comments and can hide behind the anonymity of the internet, these ‘men’ (and in some cases women) put their misogyny and chauvinism on full display.  In one particular forum on the website ProSportDaily, many of the site’s members have taken to referring to Stiviano as a ‘whore’ and when challenged on it, insist on using the word trying to defend it with flawed logic.  Rather than address the issue of ‘racism’, or recognize that their own misogyny is equally as problematic as Sterling’s ‘racism’, these posters defend their slut-shaming tactics and ignore the issue of Sterling’s response.

 

Rochelle "Shelly" Sterling, wife of Donald Sterling.

Rochelle “Shelly” Sterling, wife of Donald Sterling.

It is good to see that so many media outlets have taken an interested in the story of a billionaire who adopts discriminatory practices.  It shows that people who discriminate based on perceived race are no longer going to be tolerated regardless of how much money they have.  There is a darker side to this story however.  The media is willfully participating in the slut-shaming of V. Stiviano.  While it is now accepted by most that people of colour are deserving of being treated in a respectful manner, many do not feel the need to extend the same courtesy to women.  This is akin to the Brett Ratner Oscar debacle.  Ratner had made a number of comments about his sex life and made a regular habit of objectifying and sexualizing women, and little was said of his behaviour.  When he used an anti-gay slur, however, people took notice and Ratner was soon shamed into stepping down. It seems Ratner’s sexism was perfectly acceptable, but his homophobia was not.  While the media seems to have improved by leaps and bounds when reporting of issues related to perceived race and sexual orientation, its treatment of women seems to have improved very little if at all, and if the slut-shaming that is flooding forums across the internet are any indication, society is lagging even further behind than the media.

 

To read more about this issue, check out this article, and to get updates on my most recent posts, follow me on Twitter @JasonJohnHorn.  If you want to read about Sterling’s first comments since the controversy, check out a short article here.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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