Sexism at Slowtwitch

NOTE: It was brought to my attention that Jack Weiss resigned in the fall from the USA Triathlon board. The article was corrected as soon as I was notified.

Slowtwitch has a problem far worse than a dated website, bad user interface and uninspired writing. Sure, the blue and grey time machine is a relic compared with today’s standard, but the real problem is with their people, not their technology. What’s the issue? Slowtwitch has a problem with sexism.

Did you consider aborting that baby of yours?

This week, Slowtwitch Editor-in-Chief Herbert Krabel asked professional triathlete Beth Gerdes if she considered aborting her baby. It was his second question. Of course, the first had to do with the fact that she is a mother, not that she just placed 5th at a regional world championship where she ran faster than and defeated Mirinda Carfrae, the defending Ironman World Champion.

“ST: Did you two at one point consider not having the baby, or was that a thought that never crossed your mind?

Beth: Seriously? This is a question? Hah. No, we never considered it. I admit I was terrified at first, but Luke was very excited from the get go. We actually found out that I was pregnant two days before Ironman Hawaii 2013. Luke came 2nd that year so I’d say it was some good motivation for him.”

I found this to be incredibly odd. I have never in my life heard of anyone publicly asking that question. The most generous among us would classify the question as creepy and rude. It could also be viewed as misogynistic and sexist. On social media, Krabel insisted that this question was legitimate. In fact, he and his wife discussed the possibility of aborting their child.


Later in the day, the article was modified.

 

Kelly Burns Gallagher, a woman, wrote this on her blog in reference to Herbert’s question:

“asking the question of a woman, and only a women, is beyond sexist (and we wonder why we’re still fighting for equal slots at Kona).  Slowtwitch has never asked Jordan Rapp, Craig Alexander, Chris McCormack, Luke McKenzie or hell even Lance Armstrong if they and their / girlfriends / fiancees / female partners ever considered “not having the baby.”  Can you image, “So, Jordan you had a really tough year with the accident and I know you were struggling physically and emotionally did you ever consider not having the twins?”

I’m sorry, this was not a “real question for the selfish world we live in,” it was a misogynistic query into an extremely personal subject that should not have been asked.  I give Gerdes credit for continuing the interview and providing some fantastic insight into gender issues in the sport, I would have ended the interview right then and there.  At the very least Krabel owes Gerdes an apology and owes the reading public a promise never to ask this type of question again.

But wait, there’s more…

3889914062_0360026d7b_nI noticed something odd on March 20th when I read an article originally titled: Angela Duncan talks changes. I had to stop myself for a moment and think about whether or not I knew Angela’s proper name. I thought it was Angela Duncan Naeth. Her website refers to it’s subject as Angela Duncan Naeth. I didn’t understand why, but Slowtwitch Senior Correspondent Tim Carlson decided to change her name.

Is Tim senile? Despite his decades following the sport, does he not know her name? Did he just assume incorrectly that she took her husband’s last name? Or does Tim just feel like she should take her husband Paul Duncan’s last name? Maybe it was just an oversight, a simple mistake.

Note: I pointed this out in a comment below the article, and it was changed to reflect her actual name. My comment was deleted.

Old White Men

Old white men have a history of saying offensive and idiotic things about women. Here is Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R) in 2012, referring to his vote to repeal an equal pay law designed to fight income discrimination among between men and women:

“Money is more important for men. Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers. But the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not “go go go.” Now they’re 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn’t discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person.”

We also had this wonderful insight from Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) in 2012 about legitimate rape:

Each of these men were rightfully taken to task by the media. They were ridiculed, and their comments were repudiated. So how does the triathlon media and community react if when it happens in our world?

Beatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’

In October 2014, the Chicago Tribune reported that “The treasurer of USA Triathlon has resigned under pressure from that position but remains on the organization’s board of directors after having pleaded guilty to assault against his wife more than a year ago.” Jack Weiss resigned as Treasurer, but he remained on the board for months. The Tribune described the domestic violence case in grim detail:

His wife, then 65, told the Euless Police Department that Weiss had hit her in the face May 24, 2013, according to the affidavit for the warrant.  Officers noted in the affidavit that she had extensive bruising and swelling around the eye, jaw and cheek.

To my knowledge, none of the triathlon media outlets wrote about this story. While Jack was still serving on the board of USA Triathlon, a thread titled “USAT’s Ray Rice” began on Slowtwitch and disaster ensued. (For those of you living outside the United States, Ray Rice was a professional NFL football player who was caught by an elevator security camera punching his (now) wife in the face, knocking her out cold. Rice was suspended from the league only AFTER a tape was released by TMZ.)

In this thread, the original poster and others argued that Jack Weiss should not be serving in a leadership capacity because of his domestic abuse. Slowtwitch Publisher Dan Empfield joined the conversation and wrote that he had talked to Jack, Jack made a mistake, and Jack has changed. Dan told the forum readers that he had contacted the board of USAT and told them he was “not going to second guess what the board does, i’m going to stand behind the board because it’s the board that’s got to make its decision rather than any of us.”

Then on page 2 of the thread he said something as offensive and idiotic as anything the previously referenced politicians said.

let me tell you why you’re very glad i’m not in charge of the code of conduct at USAT. i am kind of old school, i guess, because i stick cheating on wives right up there not too far below beating on wives. maybe even with it. so, if somebody who committed spousal abuse should never be involved in triathlon, at any level – on the board, as a race director, as a participant – if there’s a lifetime ban for anyone who’s hit his wife (as you seem to think appropriate), from my perspective what ought the ban to be for someone who’s cheated on his wife? because, in my book, that’s right up there.

That’s brilliant, Dan. We can’t get rid of your friend Jack because then we’d have to get rid of anyone/everyone who has ever CHEATED on their wife. Cheating on your wife is just as bad as beating the shit out of her. Good to know. The legal system would disagree. Jack Weiss got some jail time and rightfully so. Bill Clinton did not. Your moral compass is way off, Dan.

Opposing Equal Rights

It’s no wonder that Dan doesn’t think the issue of equality for pro women is clear cut. In his conversation with Rachel Joyce he started the article by laying this editorial groundwork:

I’m sympathetic to the issue, but this isn’t an ethical no-brainer. Reasonable people can see another side and I asked questions the other side might ask. Also, the space at Kona’s is pier is finite. These women aren’t just asking for more slots, they’re asking for someone else’s slots.

Both Dan and Jordan Rapp, the Chief Technical Officer for Slowtwitch, have promoted this intellectually dishonest argument that pier space is finite. It’s not finite. We built the pyramids and put a man on the moon. A company with $150 million in annual revenue can find a place for 15 more bikes.

As a leader in our sport (Empfield not Rapp), it is morally bankrupt to help Messick promote this false premise. It’s even worse to aid in the divisive strategy to divide the men from the women in this issue. Telling the pro men that they will be penalized is an PR strategy. It isn’t necessary or true.

Dan should be ashamed of himself for minimizing the devastating impact of spousal abuse. It’s way worse than cheating. The community should repudiate these remarks and force him to apologize. Dan should be equally as ashamed for furthering the intellectually dishonest argument against equality for women. This is an ethical no-brainer.

Where is the Outrage?

Slowtwitch and their sponsors need to be held accountable for Herbert’s offensive question and Dan’s even more offensive minimization of domestic violence. I’m outraged that there isn’t equality for women in the Ironman World Championships. I’m just as outraged that we have a clear pattern of sexism emerging in our sport’s most heavily trafficked website. I’m outraged that we have a convicted domestic abuser serving in a leadership position and none of our triathlon media outlets have written a single word about it. Shame on all of the powers that be, and shame on all of us for allowing them to remain in power.

photo credit: He’s good at that via photopin (license)
photo credit: Rep. Antonio and Others Stands Up for Womens’ Rights via photopin (license)

About the Author

Ben Hobbs
Ben Hobbs is Publisher of TRS Triathlon and host of TRS Radio.