Don Imus’ disparaging comments about the players on Rutgers’ women’s basketball team — calling them, among other things, “nappy-headed hos” — sparked a terrific response from Women’s Media Center President Carol Jenkins. Here’s an excerpt:

On this occasion, those who think Imus should pay with his job include The Rev. Al Sharpton, The National Association of Black Journalists, and Kim Gandy, president of NOW, who has initiated a “Dump Don” campaign on the NOW website, supported by the National Council of Women’s Organizations, representing some 200 groups and ten million women nationwide. […]

While punishing Imus — and his team — may give us the cathartic satisfaction the offenses seem to demand, what the incident really provides is a chance to take a close look at how women are treated — or mistreated — in the media generally. It’s a chance to explore, and finally silence, the angry, insulting, degrading offerings that pass for news / information / entertainment in the media — most egregiously radio, a medium that holds staggering statistics: 85-90% male management, and decisively male domination on the air. A lot of  “atta boy” winking has been going on in this particular locker room for too long.

Let’s not stop at Imus, caught in the headlights this time, but let’s look, and really listen, to them all. What is the yelling all about, really? And, most importantly, let us use this incident to find solutions to some deep-running problems in the media — among them few women (3%) with truly “clout” positions to put a stop to offenses like these. When it comes time to write about Imus, only a quarter of the columnists with a regular podium will be women, and while there will be many on-air reporters and anchors visibly telling the story, almost all of their bosses are men: the executive suites in media are still an almost exclusively male domain.

Richard Prince of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education covers Imus’ apology, along with the long history of the radio host’s offensive remarks, which includes referring to PBS’ Gwen Ifill, when she was a member of the New York Times’ Washington Bureau in 1998, as “the cleaning lady.”

He also links to this statement released by Rutgers women’s basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer:

Without a doubt, this past season was my most rewarding in 36 years of coaching. This young team fought through immeasurable odds to reach the highest pinnacle and play for the school’s first national championship in a major sport.

To serve as a joke of Mr. Imus in such an insensitive manner creates a wedge and makes light of the efforts of these classy individuals, both as women and as women of color. It is unfortunate Mr. Imus sought to tarnish Rutgers’ spirit and success. Should we not, as adults, send a message of encouragement to young people to aspire to the highest levels as my team did this season?

And Jill Nelson also has an excellent commentary posted at Women in Media & News, in which she writes, “The truth is that as a woman, a woman of color, and specifically an African American woman, the insults come so fast and furious that there’s always the danger of becoming overwhelmed and de-sensitized.”

Imus continued his apologies and defense today on his program. MSNBC posted the transcript and video of his remarks.

Update: CBS Radio, MSNBC supsend Don Imus for two weeks.

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  • faith childs April 10, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    Carol Jenkins’ piece is a stunningly accurate portrayal of the state of too many radio programs today.
    With a wink and a nod we have acquiesed, if not laughed, as the radio vulgarians deploy their own one drop rule–of racism and sexism–under the guise of resisting censorship and political correctness.
    The cup of indignities, it seems, has finally runneth over…none too soon for my taste which doesn’t run to shock jocks.
    Let’s hope that the media elite will find the necessary spleen and spine to comprehend that such utterances damage all of us.