An Examination of “The First Amendment and Boobs”

Categories: Misc.
09/21/2017

Depending on how closely you follow cable news, you may have recently heard about the controversy surrounding Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis’s statement, “I only believe in two things completely: the First Amendment and boobs.”

Travis shared these comments on September 15, when he was a guest for a CNN segment hosted by Brooke Baldwin. The segment was initially supposed to address the racist and sexist implications surrounding White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sander’s call for ESPN to fire host Jemele Hill after Hill had called President Trump a “white supremacist” on Twitter.

Yet, any substantive conversation regarding this topic was quickly abandoned the moment Travis uttered the phrase “First Amendment and boobs.”

“After all, as a feminist political activist, I also have a vested interest in the treatment of the First Amendment and boobs in this country.”

 Many have been quick to argue that while Travis’s comments were undoubtedly crass and misogynistic, at the end of the day, his words were nothing more than that—words. Words that would be distilled into a fifteen-second soundbite and then easily forgotten in the next news cycle.

However, as they say, words carry power. So, let’s, for a moment, be generous and examine Travis’s words as though they were intended to express genuinely-held personal opinions. After all, as a feminist political activist, I also have a vested interest in the treatment of the First Amendment and boobs in this country.

If all citizens—like Travis supposedly does—were to truly think that the only two things in the United States worth completely believing in are the First Amendment and boobs, then, as a ciswoman in America, I’d never have to worry about my political or personal agency being violated again.

With the First Amendment considered sacrosanct, I’d be guaranteed all of the rights essential to political organization and mobilization through freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of petition.

My words and actions would be able to resonate throughout the political landscape without fear of censorship. My personal autonomy wouldn’t be constrained by the imposed religious beliefs of others. I’d be able to peacefully hold meetings and protests fighting for the causes that I believe in. And, if I had a cause that I wanted to lobby the government about, I’d be able to do so by collecting the signatures of like-minded citizens.

With boobs (and presumably the entire female body) equally venerated by fellow Americans, I could rest assured that all efforts to protect my personal, physical well-being would be an essential priority. I’d know that the health of my boobs (and body) would be covered by an inclusive healthcare system that offered women full access to mammograms, birth control, and OBYGN visits. And for those who failed to respect my boobs and my body through sexual harassment, assault, or rape, I’d know that there’d be an entire culture and legal system poised to bring my violators to justice for their crimes without shaming me or my body.

But this would happen only if the First Amendment and boobs were truly the only things that Americans like Clay Travis completely believed in. Because what Travis said is not a cry for greater gender representation and equality. Instead, it’s symptomatic of larger problems that women, particularly women of color, face as they attempt to form a voice in the current political climate.

With all of the public backlash focusing on the inherent sexism surrounding Travis’s comments, it’s easy to forget the reason he was invited to speak on CNN in the first place—the debate surrounding the treatment of ESPN host Jemele Hill. The debate surrounding a black woman’s First Amendment rights being publicly and hostilely challenged by the very branch of government charged with defending them.

“This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last time that sexist jokes will be used to undermine legitimate discussions surrounding women’s concerns.”

Rather than thoughtfully debating the merits of Hill’s opinions, Travis chose to evade any productive conversation by making a lazy, sexist joke that artificially elevated his voice at the expense of Hill’s. This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last time that sexist jokes will be used to undermine legitimate discussions surrounding women’s concerns. Who can forget about another recent scandal where a male Uber board member made a joke about how much women supposedly talk during a presentation about sexism?

We currently don’t live in a nation where the First Amendment (see: the White House response to Hill’s comments) and boobs (see: inadequate funding for women’s healthcare, penalties for public breastfeeding, rape culture) are universally considered priorities. Instead, we live in a society where women’s interests become the cheap patriarchal punchlines of men unwilling to challenge their perspectives.

If Clay Travis wants to continue making jokes about serious political issues, that’s his prerogative under the First Amendment that he so deeply seems to care about. But he also better not be surprised when the women attached to the boobs he seems equally invested in continue fighting until their voices are successfully heard and they get the last laugh in before his next punchline.

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Emily Wasek recently graduated from the College of William & Mary with a major in Government and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. While in college, Emily served as president of Women’s Initiative in Leadership, an organization dedicated to cultivating the next generation of female leaders.
Much of Emily’s previous work has focused on the intersection of women and political progress. Her honors thesis, “A Women’s Place in the State House: Exploring Backlash Effects of Women’s Increased Descriptive Representation” examined whether women’s increased elected presence resulted in a legislative backlash that could increase policies counterproductive to women’s interests. As a research fellow for the Project on International Peace and Security, her white paper “Mobilizing Change in Central America: Fostering Women’s Networks to Combat Gang Violence” analyzed how women’s coalitions could be used to enhance anti-gang policies in Central America.