The Minority Report | Ashley Kim
A clip of New York Giants’ wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., crying into a towel and being consoled by his teammate, punter Brad Wing, on the sideline of Sunday’s game against the Chargers quickly spread across the internet over the weekend. Subsequently, Beckham’s masculinity and his relationship with Wing were in question by people everywhere, expressing their opinions on social media.
A reporter for the NFL Network, Mike Garofolo, tweeted, “Not sure what’s up there,” in regards to the clip originally shown by CBS. Without further explanation, it can be understood that Garofolo felt that these actions questioned not only what is understood to be masculine identity, but also the identity and relationship between male pro-fessional athletes.
With nearly 500 interactions (replies, retweets, and likes) by other users, arguably many agreed with the underlying message of Garofolo’s sentiments—that Beckham and Wing were not abiding by masculine norms, that because Beckham was showing any emotion at all, his sexuality should be questioned. (Beckham was certainly not abiding by norms of black masculine identity, but that’s a discussion for another column.)
Perhaps it’s my Women and Gender Studies minor, but I think this entire situation is incredibly infuriating. The reaction to Beckham is sad and disappointing, to say the least.
When a man crying and being consoled by his friend gains national media attention, it reveals a larger problem and commentary on the harmful and deeply ingrained societal expectations of gender performance. Two men being any semblance of emotional especially with one another is viewed as “gay” by many. This attitude wrongly defines the “correct” behaviors among straight men, gay men, women, and anyone at all.
People in mainstream media shape societal expectations and norms, and when a reporter reacts poorly towards two friends acting like, well, friends, the question must be asked: Will it ever be possible to erase gender norms completely? Will people who don’t conform to the gender binary ever be able to freely express themselves without ridicule or fear?
It’s difficult to tell, but for now, I’ll applaud Beckham for challenging masculine ideals at all, for being cognizant of having a platform as large as the NFL, and still choosing to show true, human emotion and undoing expectations of what it means to be a man.