Maybe others have picked up on this, but I’m just getting around to hearing, by way of Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast, Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall* comment on the Richie Incognito bullying scandal. In a press conference, he sounded a bit like a sociologist as he commented on gender socialization:
“Take a little boy and a little girl. A little boy falls down and the first thing we say as parents is ‘Get up, shake it off. You’ll be OK. Don’t cry.’ A little girl falls down, what do we say? ‘It’s going to be OK.’ We validate their feelings. So right there from that moment, we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, to not show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 with football players. You can’t show that you’re hurt, can’t show any pain. So for a guy to come into the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, that’s a problem. That’s what I mean by the culture of the NFL. And that’s what we have to change. So what’s going on in Miami goes on in every locker room. But it’s time for us to start talking.
While his insight is unsurprising to most sociologists, it might be worth using in class alongside, say, Bill Pollack’s The Boy Code. But I think there’s also a point to be made here about how gender inequality affects us all. Marshall — a professional athlete — embodies hegemonical masculinity and is at the tippy-top of a hierarchy that privileges men and masculine behavior. And, yet, his comment reveals the brutality of that system for even the supposed beneficiaries.
*Despite his eloquence on this issue, Marshall is not necessarily an ideal role model of feminist conduct. He has had a number of run-ins with the law for assault and domestic violence. He was subsequently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and seems to be doing quite well with the treatment. As the Hang Up and Listen hosts mention, one can hear a bit of the language of therapy in his statement, something more NFL players (and people in general) could benefit from.