Rogers Sportsnet baseball panelist Gregg Zaun is not widely known for his sparkling wit or nuanced analysis. And he’s certainly not known for his respectful treatment of women. So while it may not come as a surprise to anyone that he has been bragging about being called a misogynist on Twitter, it remains both disgusting and disappointing.
Yes, Zaun is an individual who is entitled to his opinions, revolting and backwards though they may be, but he is not entitled to protection from the backlash that they elicit. He is a public figure with influence and a following, so for whatever reason, there are people who look up to and admire him.
The problem with public figures conducting themselves in this manner is that it normalizes the behaviour; the people who admire Zaun will look at his treatment of women and think that it is okay. And because they look up to him, there is a good chance they will go on to emulate (or attempt to emulate) these attitudes and behaviours in their own lives. Believe me when I tell you that we really don’t need more men out there treating women like Gregg Zaun does.
Here are the tweets in question from April 22nd. He has since deleted them, but screen caps are a thing that exist, so nuts to that.
Not only does Zaun act as though being called a misogynist is a compliment, but the revolting manner in which he addresses the woman at whom he is tweeting (“LOL XOXOX doll,” “Hugs and kisses doll”) is so condescending as to be almost unbelievable.
Just so we’re clear: misogynist is a pejorative. Even if you think that your “hero” James Bond was a misogynist, that does not make it complimentary. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a misogynist is “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.” So I’m going to need an explanation as to why wearing the label of one who hates women is a point of pride for Zaun.
Although he first claims to be “the furthest thing from [a misogynist]“, even going so far as to bust out every misogynist’s first line of defence (“ask a woman who actually knows me”), the fact that he ends up deciding to embrace and brag about the label is incredibly troubling.
Misogyny is not a title that is given to isolated incidents; it is a problem that saturates our culture (particularly in sports) and affects the way women are viewed and treated by individuals and society as a whole. Actively helping to perpetuate a cultural black mark that thrives on the derogatory treatment of an entire segment of society is repulsive, and deriving any smug self-satisfaction from it is even worse.
Behaving like a pig online is hardly a new thing for Zaun; on the same night, he told the “pretty lady” who tweeted at him that her hostility was going to lead to premature wrinkles and invited her to come watch the game with him in the broadcast studio if she didn’t like her seats.
A cursory glance back through his tweets has you wading through numerous other instances of skin-crawling interactions with and about women, including telling a woman “she’ll do” when she asks if she can come to his Grey Cup party and telling men that if they just want to “spectate” at his charity beer pong tournament, there will be “plenty to do.”
That last one comes complete with a link to pictures of the “Zauntourage girls” in case men want to check out the women that they, too, can objectify. And in perhaps his most well-publicized social media debacle, he once complained that the women in the same bar as him were, “tubby, unfortunately manish, and super stuck up.”
Make no mistake: no one is surprised by his disrespectful conduct. I am tired, and I am angry, but I am not surprised. This has been going on for far too long without any obvious repercussions, and I have had enough.
Because as troubling as Zaun’s questionable conduct is, Sportsnet’s silence on the subject is even worse. Silence, not just once, but over and over again, implies endorsement. They repeatedly look the other way while their on-air talent belittles and scorns women and while once is bad enough, a pattern of silence on aggressive sexism is not something that should be tolerated.
Their apparent indifference is not limited to Zaun—on April 9th, Doug MacLean opened Hockey Central by telling viewers that it was Hazel Mae’s job to clean the studio. It’s true that we don’t know what Sportsnet may be saying to Zaun or MacLean behind closed doors, but their complete lack of any public response to the issue is inexcusable. By repeatedly refusing to condemn his remarks in a public forum, they are complicit in his behaviour and in the perpetuation of the cultural flaws it represents.
It’s easy to say that comments like these are just jokes or to brush them off by asking who among us hasn’t said something they shouldn’t have for one reason or another. It’s easy to say that they are just isolated incidents with no wider implications for women on the whole or specifically in sports. But that is wrong. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and make no mistake, when Zaun brags about how he thinks less of women, and when MacLean goes on air and says that the job of the woman in the studio is to clean, what they are really telling women is you don’t belong here.
Being a female sports fan can be frustrating because sometimes it always feels like you are defined by your gender rather than your fandom. There is always that asterisk there marking you as other. We’ve come forward in great leaps and bounds over the past few years, but things like this do not do anything but alienate women and make it feel like we are unwelcome.
Sportsnet tolerates their employees bragging about being called misogynists and repeatedly speaking about women in demeaning terms. They do not condemn them for saying that their female counterpart’s job is to clean the studio. And that’s just this month.
Their continued indifference on the subject contributes to the perpetuation of the culture and normalization of misogyny in sports. The treatment of women as though they are out of place does not stop with the panelists; it is internalized by every man and woman who hears it and while it is damaging enough to hear as a woman, the knowledge that other men will hear it and believe it is just as bad.
The longer we allow these men to treat women in this manner, the more other men will hear them and believe what they are spewing. The longer we put up with their contempt for women, the more people they will be able to influence. It is time to say enough.
If you wish to register a complaint, you can contact Sportsnet here. The sponsors of Gregg Zaun’s segment (Blue Jays Central) are Blackberry and Home Hardware.