From ESPN.com to People Magazine, the entire sports and entertainment industry has been caught up in the public relations storm caused when NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne tweeted how “nasty” it was to see a woman breastfeed her child in public.
One woman on twitter responded, saying “‘I hope someday you have a kid and someone tells your wife that feeding your child looks nasty.” His answer? He called her a “dumb bitch.”
Since the incident, Kahne has deleted the offensive tweet, somewhat apologized on Facebook, and even had sponsors rebuke him and state that Kahne’s views are in no way reflected by their own businesses. Kahne has already begun the process of trying to rehabilitate his image, especially with women, and move on. But for Deana, the woman who spoke out against his tirade, the fallout continues as she is accosted via Twitter and email for having the audacity to speak up for women against this hero of the racing world.
I reached out to Deana, who is a friend of mine, and asked her if she would be willing to talk about what happens when standing up for a cause suddenly puts you in the center of controversy, and what sort of fallout has come her way since.
You’re not really a “lactivist” by any means. What made you decide to respond to the Kahne tweet in the first place?
I thought Mr. Kahne’s was wrong, he saw a “nasty” boob. In reality, she was probably a woman just trying to get through her day. She has a baby in tow, ideally she probably wanted to be at home, away from prying eyes to nurse her baby. That was not possible.
What sort of reactions have you been getting from Kahne fans?
I’ve received a lot of support from tons of really great women and even some men (who are racing fans) saying nice things and even defending me. Then there are a lot men and some women who say I’m ruining his reputation, and that I should shut up. I promise folks Kasey Kahne will be fine.
What is the worst thing that has been said to you since you spoke out against Kahne’s breastfeeding tirade?
The ones that hurt the most was a gentleman (term used very loosely) who said he, “hoped my kids would die”, another one suggested that I beat my kids. A few have called me a “murderer” and a “baby killer”, because they looked at my profile and saw that I am pro-choice.Some of your new “friends” on twitter have accused you of being a “fame whore” or seeking out the limelight. What would you say to them.
Most of the time when a regular person tweets @ a celebrity it goes unnoticed, or we think it does, and there isn’t a reaction. I never thought, for one second, that he would react or even see that tweet. As for me “enjoying” this, I can think of 5000 things more enjoyable than some of those hate tweets. I have not liked this at all, why would anyone like this?
Why do you think that women tend to stay silent rather than respond when someone, especially someone famous, makes a comment that is offensive?
I think women stay silent because we don’t want to be viewed as “whiners” or “complainers”. Because we stay silent people, even famous ones, think it’s ok to say heinous things.
If you had foreseen everything that would happen in response to the “twitter war,” would you have still sent that tweet?
Would I have sent that knowing what I know now? Probably not, but maybe. The interaction between Mr. Kahne sparked a conversation, even if for only a few days, that needs to be had. Who knows maybe next time I’ll do it from my dog’s completely anonymous account…
The media has made the Kahne story into a fight over what happens to a celebrity when he says something that is bad for his public image. But the real story is what sort of effect a celebrity’s misogynistic comments has on emboldening his own followers and fans to believe that this is the way you treat women, either online or off. By responding to someone online by calling her a “dumb bitch,” Kahne didn’t just somehow “hurt” breastfeeding mothers, he showed that the simple sexism involved in a sport that believes women’s bodies should be used to sell beer, but not feed children, is alive an well, and one that he and his fans readily embrace.
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