If you’re tuned into the American football world (or are extremely online), you’ve likely heard about the Urban Meyer situation. The current head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars was caught on video in an Ohio bar, dancing with a young woman who was not his wife after the NFL team lost. This video rocked the sports world, likely in part due to rival fans spreading, sharing, and trolling the Jaguars and Meyer personally.
What Urban Meyer did or didn’t do isn’t what matters here, though. My focus is on the narratives being levied at the woman involved.
The young woman who danced with Meyer hasn’t been named, but yet, the flirtatious encounter has been actively ruining her life as she knew it. Her mother came forward and told USA Today that she’s concerned with her daughter’s emotional status. Can Meyer say the same? While he’s the subject of memes and jokes, the women involved in these situations are often the subject of attacks, blame, and shame.
That’s always how the story goes, isn’t it?
While Meyer maintains his job, his status, and his life, this unnamed woman is now being subjected to an investigation at her workplace regarding this incident. Women are allowed to drink and dance at bars. I’d argue this affects him in the workplace more than her, with Meyer not winning a single game of the reason. But who’s the one under investigation in her work place?
This poor woman went out drinking and dancing, had a video taken and distributed without her consent or awareness, and quickly became publicly recognisable, subjected to slut-shaming, and media attention. And yet, Meyer avoids any harsh spotlight. She faces potentially devastating outcomes, if she loses her livelihood or ultimately her home.
Why do we insist on punishing women for the behaviour of men around them?
You can say boys will be boys, but that refers to scraped knees and childhood playfulness, not adults dodging accountability for their own behaviour. A couple minutes of the woman’s night out have become twisted against her; the moment the Jaguars win, this will all be over for Meyer.
It’s not just her being punished. On the other end of the spectrum exists Shelly Meyer, Urban’s wife of 35 years. Shelly deleted her Twitter, citing “hate, vitriol, slander, trash” aimed at her and her marriage. Can you imagine seeing your husband engaging in potential infidelity, and having thousands of disgruntled sports fans blaming, teasing, and harassing you over it? She defended Meyer to a point before deleting her account, saying, “We all make mistakes, we are all sinners. If you think you aren’t? Then cast the first stone.” But why did she have to defend him or make a statement in the first place? Why is that expected of her?
Our society often demands women be held accountable for the behaviour of the men around us, and the Urban Meyer incident is another example of that. It is deeply rooted in rape culture and misogyny to place the blame on the women, assuming they instigated this behaviour on the basis of clothing, flirting, or not putting out. The fact of the matter remains that this all occurred because a man with power found a young woman desirable and got caught, and she’s the only one who’s going to suffer for it. While she risks losing her job and life as she knows it because of one trip to the bar, he will remain a well-established, and well-compensated, coach in both college and NFL leagues.
Enough is enough. She deserves better than this, better than slut-shaming and media frenzy. She deserves peace, the right to work, and happiness and that’s been ripped away from her because of the actions of an older, married man in a position of power.
Did we learn nothing from Monica Lewinsky?
Before you fire off that comment about how Meyer was “looking to explore a new tight end”, understand you’re speaking about a human, a sister, a friend, and that a lot of women in your life have likely been put in an uncomfortable position by a man with power over them as well. Would you be saying the same if it was your sister, your mother, or your partner instead?
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