“We really have to move beyond a mind-set of legal compliance and liability and think about the ways we can change the climate,” Dr. Paula A. Johnson, the president of Wellesley College and a co-chairwoman of the committee that produced the report, said in an interview.
The committee identified three types of sexual harassment: sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. It said gender harassment, “verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion or second-class status,” was by far the most common type women in these fields experienced.
“As opposed to the come-ons, you can kind of think of them as the put-downs,” said Dr. Johnson, who is also a cardiologist and former chief of the division of women’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “And when there’s more pervasive gender harassment, there’s proclivity toward unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion.”
Harassment is more pervasive in medicine than in academic science and engineering, the committee found. “There is still the idea of medical training as being akin to hazing,” Elizabeth L. Hillman, president of Mills College and another committee member, said in an interview.
Medical students often work long, grueling hours where they can be alone with a potential harasser, she said, and “harassment comes too from patients and patients’ families.”
In any form, the costs for women — and for science’s ability to retain the full range of talented people — can be great, even if the consequences can seem subtle at first, the panel said.
“Sexual harassment undermines women’s professional and educational attainment and mental and physical health,” the report said. Women who are harassed may quit but also may distance themselves from work without actually quitting. They may feel disillusioned, angry or stressed, and their productivity may decline. Harassed students’ academic performance may suffer; they may change advisers or majors, drop classes or drop out.
Of course, President Trump is the crude outlier here, as he is for so many civilized norms. But far too often when I hear a man describe a woman as “super fit,” my brain substitutes some variation of Mr. Trump’s locker-room talk.
The game is now all about discretion — of insisting you aren’t working hard while you are absolutely gritting your teeth, of telling your date that you just don’t like bread. While men pretend not to judge women for the way they look, we go to great lengths to pretend we don’t care, either.
And so we blend leaves together and call it “delicious” and “juice” instead of a mealy sludge.
We wear stilts to hike around concrete jungles and lie about how they are anything other than medieval torture devices.
We get the tiny horns on the tips of our fingers and toes painted in shades so subtle that heterosexual men don’t even realize we got them painted at all.
We shell out hundreds of dollars for magic elixirs and oils the size of Theranos Nanotainers that don’t even promise youth but boast that they are “clean.”
We lie under fluorescent lights and hold our thighs open for strips of burning hot wax while we chat about the new season of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
It was all beauty pageant until 1936, when a talent portion was added. The competition was limited to never-married women ages 18 to 28, and for a time, until 1940, it was written in the guidelines that they must be “of good health and of the white race.” The organization would not have its first African-American winner until Vanessa Williams earned the 1984 crown.
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“The Miss America state and national process was — and maybe still is — the single largest source of scholarship money for women in the U.S., yet the crucial requirements were physical, not intellectual,” the author and feminist Gloria Steinem said in an interview on Tuesday. “If the same were true for men, people would be saying, ‘No wonder China is winning!’”
“It’s not just the bathing suits, it’s physical appearance, irrelevant talents and, until very recently, being white,” Ms. Steinem added. “It’s also less about being unique than conformist.”
In 1950, the pageant winner Yolande Betbeze was among the first to break the mold, causing a ruckus when she refused to pose in a swimsuit during her reign. (“I was an opera student and didn’t have good legs,” she explained at the time.) In 1992, Catherine Ann Lemkau, a runner-up, announced that she would like to see the swimsuit competition eliminated.
And in 1995, Miss America encouraged its viewers to call a 1-900 number to say whether swimsuits should be scrapped: two out of three said no.
“We are not stupid,” Leonard Horn, then the organization’s chief executive, said in 1993. “We are very sensitive to the fact that the swimsuit competition has always been our Achilles’ heel. The swimsuit competition has been controversial since the early 1920s, but it’s been retained because the majority of the people like it.”
Appearing on ABC News to announce the change on Tuesday, Ms. Carlson declared, “We are not going to judge you on your outward appearance.” But it is hard to imagine what Miss America would be without conventional beauty standards at its core.
[Read more: Miss America appointed women to top positions months after a scandal.]
The 2017 Judges’ Manual lists the qualities and attributes required of titleholders, in this order: “beautiful, well-spoken, intelligent, talented, able to relate to young people, reflective of women her age (she should not be a 35-year-old trapped inside a 20-year-old body), charismatic, dynamic/energetic — that ‘IT’ quality that is so hard to define, mature enough to handle the job and all of its responsibilities, comfortable ‘in her own skin,’ manageable, punctual and flexible.”
“The American public has an expectation that she will be beautiful and physically fit,” the manual continues. “This is the same expectation they have for all of their celebrities, from music and film to sports, and Miss America is no exception. You must look at her physical beauty as well as her physical fitness.”
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Margot Mifflin, an English professor who is writing a cultural history of the pageant, wrote recently in The Washington Post that Miss America “has always been deeply invested in protecting the status quo in the face of women’s progress.”
“No amount of tweaking over the decades, from adding scholarships to mandating philanthropy, could obscure its bottom line,” she said. “Regardless of how smart or talented a woman is, she’s a loser without the one thing she can’t control or achieve: beauty.”
Tuesday’s announcement was quickly added to the lengthy list of stunning changes that have reverberated through Hollywood, politics and workplaces around the world in the wake of #MeToo. It was a ripple effect, so to speak — one that expanded the conversation from sexual harassment to the larger way that women’s bodies are viewed and consumed.
Still, it seemed like a small step to some.
“If Miss America wants to get out of the sexism game, it should probably end Miss America,” the writer Jill Filipovic posted on Twitter.
“Sure, it’s a relatively good thing that in 2018 this organization has realized it’s dehumanizing to compare and judge women’s bodies in front of a vast, international audience,” said Julie Zeilinger, the founder of a feminist blog called FBomb. “But when Gretchen Carlson says we are ‘not going to judge you on your outward appearance,’ the implication is that the competition will still judge women — just not by measures of blatant physical objectification.”
As for the women who threw bras and girdles into the garbage can on the Atlantic City boardwalk a half-century ago — and then infiltrated the event itself, draping a giant bedsheet from the balcony that read “Women’s Liberation” — they watched with wonder, and a healthy dose of skepticism.
[Read a New York Times article from 1968 about the protest.]
“What can I say?” said one of them, Robin Morgan, the author of more than 20 books of poetry and nonfiction, including the 1970 anthology “Sisterhood Is Powerful.” “After 50 years, this is a start.”
There is a lot of talk these days about the lack of women at the top of fashion brands — the statistics are terrible, the gender imbalance striking. It is one of the reasons Kate Spade, the designer who was found dead in her home on Tuesday morning, was so important to so many of us.
She represented not just a terrific talent who built an idea about handbags into what became a billion dollar brand, but a critical figure in the continuum of women who have defined fashion in the United States: designers who thought about what other women (like her) would want in their closets (and later, their homes) and who solved that problem without elitism.
That’s why, in so many profiles over the years, Ms. Spade — or her brand, which she personified — was put in the same cultural bucket as everyone from Dorothy Parker and Nora Ephron to the fictional heroines Nora Charles and Holly Golightly. I always thought of her a bit as Mary Richards throwing her hat up in the air with joy at taking on the big city at the start of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” not because they had the same style, but because they seemed to have the same approach.
The life and legacy of Kate Spade
But it may be more instructive to think of her as a natural heir toBonnie Cashin, Anne Klein and Liz Claiborne, and the predecessor of Tory Burch and Jenna Lyons during her J. Crew reign, not to mention Stacey Bendet of Alice & Olivia. In the history of women spearheading fashion brands in the United States, Kate Spade was a bridge between the early female icons of the sportswear era, and those of the current lifestyle age. She recognized the looming accessories boom, a bubble we’re still in today, and parlayed her success into all sorts of other areas where a design mind could legitimately have a claim. That seems like obvious strategy today, but when Kate Spade did it, it was wide-open territory.
So while Kate Spade the company may have begun with a handbag — Ms. Spade Scotch-taped her ideas together out of paper when she was an editor at Mademoiselle magazine — it didn’t end there. It grew into linens, china, picture frames, clothing and personal organizers. She created accessible luxury before that was an official term.
She and her husband and business partner, Andy, mimicked the structure of great luxury houses, with a creative mind and a business mind building a company side-by-side (think Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, or Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti). But high fashion is often aesthetically challenging and comes with its own velvet-rope-like barriers to entry, while neither Ms. Spade’s style nor her price points turned people away. They welcomed them in. They were not neurotic or conflicted or fraught with existential angst. They were fun. They were also fur-free before it became trendy. The name on the label was lowercase for a reason. Women who bought her products could imagine being her friend.
Each piece promised to brighten a room or an outfit (often literally, thanks to their color scheme), and the assumption was, Kate Spade the person would too.
Which is also what makes her end so startling. She had been so effective at building her brand, so good at weaving what looked like cheer and wicker-bicycle-basket attitude into every product she made, so adept at consistency of message and mien, that the assumption — even after she left her eponymous company in 2007 — was that as the name was, so was she.
That she later reportedly changed her name to Kate Valentine Spadeto reflect the name of a new company, Frances Valentine, and to distance herself from her former brand, seemed to suggest that she had sprung back after her sabbatical from whatever problems had arisen after Kate Spade was sold to investors and then began to change hands with dizzying speed. That she was back.
Though now it seems all those assumptions may have been wrong.
Whatever happened in her life, however, and whatever happens to the brand that still bears her former name, what should never change is the contribution she made: not just to a lot of wardrobes, but to the idea of the American woman. She stepped forward. She opened stores.
She moved all of us along.
Vanessa Friedman is The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic. She was previously the fashion editor of the Financial Times. @VVFriedman
In March, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions suddenly and inexplicably stepped into this seemingly settled matter, using a rarely utilized power to assign a similar petition for asylum, known as the Matter of A-B–, to himself for reconsideration.
The facts in the Matter of A-B- are similar to those in the 2014 case. Ms. A-B-, a Salvadoran woman, was brutalized by her husband for 15 years. He beat and kicked her, including while she was pregnant; bashed her head against the wall; threatened her with death while holding a knife to her throat or brandishing a gun; and threatened to hang her. Ms. A-B- attempted to secure state protection to no avail. On the two occasions she managed to obtain restraining orders, the police did nothing to enforce them. When she went to the police after her husband attacked her with a knife, their response was that if she had any “dignity,” she would leave him. When Ms. A-B- did attempt to leave her husband, he tracked her down, raped her and threatened to kill her. When she finally secured a divorce, her ex-husband told her that if she thought the divorce freed her from him, she was “wrong.” She finally decided to flee the country after he told her that he and his friends were going to kill her, put her in a body bag and dump her in the river.
When Ms. A-B- came to the United States seeking asylum, her case was heard by an immigration judge in Charlotte, N.C., named V. Stuart Couch, who is notorious for his high denial rate. Mr. Couch denied her asylum; Ms. A-B- appealed, and the decision was overruled by the Board of Immigration Appeals, the same board that had ruled favorably in the 2014 case. The board sent the case back to Mr. Couch for security checks to be completed and asylum to be granted. Without any explanation, Mr. Couch held on to the case and refused to grant asylum as directed. And then, deviating from normal procedures, Mr. Sessions took jurisdiction.
The attorney general does have the power to reconsider any decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals. However, the procedural irregularities, paired with the possibility that Mr. Sessions may be using his authority to upend the precedent set in the Matter of A-R-C-G-, are troubling. Mr. Sessions has given himself the power not only to decide Ms. A-B-’s fate but also ultimately to try to rule on how our country handles claims for all survivors of domestic violence looking for asylum.
To be clear, we do not yet know what Mr. Sessions will decide. But in the context of the Trump administration’s antipathy toward asylum seekers, and Mr. Sessions’s statements and actions with regard to immigrant women, his decision to assign himself jurisdiction does not bode well. Asylum seekers who have arrived at the American border seeking protection have been vilified by this administration. Our government has targeted women in ways that would have been unthinkable under prior administrations, including the recent decisions to separate mothers who arrive at the border from their children and to detain pregnant women. Mr. Sessions himself has expressed his deep skepticism for asylum claims based on gender-related persecution.
At a time when violence against women and girls is a global crisis, a decision denying protection to women who flee gender violence, including domestic violence, would be a grave mistake. This is a moment of truth of our country. Will we remain a beacon of hope for women worldwide whose lives are on the line because of domestic violence, and whose governments cannot or will not protect them? The answer, it seems, is in the attorney general’s hands.
From outside, the new shelter in Gafsa looks like an ordinary house. The inside is homey except for the schedule on the kitchen door, which sets out the hours to eat and clean. The storage closet is stocked with sanitary pads, toothbrushes and clothes.
“Sometimes the women who come here ran away from a desperate situation with no luggage whatsoever. So we provide everything,” said Sonia Mhamdi, the manager of the intake center that is the first stop for women in distress before they are placed in shelters.
There are seven women’s shelters in Tunisia, funded by the European Union. Most opened after the country’s Arab Spring revolution, which began in December 2010 and inspired a string of uprisings around the Middle East and North Africa. The shelters offer protection, legal advice, some free job training, child care, and psychological and medical treatment.
While the new law and the shelters are breakthroughs, the next challenge is to broaden awareness of the changes and to get more abused women to make use of the new institutions and measures to protect them. The police, judges and doctors must also be made aware of the provisions of the new law.
“We need to educate children and their parents to respect family values, which include women’s rights,” said the minister of women, family and children, Néziha Labidi.
The legislation outlaws domestic rape and bars a rapist from marrying his victim in order to diminish his sentence. Police can face jail time if they refuse to take a woman’s abuse complaint or try to dissuade her from lodging one. Even if the victim drops the charges in a case of violence against women, the investigation is still required to go on.
Reporting of domestic abuse has increased, yet the rate of prosecutions remains low. According to the Ministry of Justice, 5,569 complaints of violence against women were registered between 2016 and 2017. But more than half of them were dropped or dismissed.
She was an 8-year-old girl with thick brown hair, large brown eyes, a purple dress and a fondness for running through the fields in northern India where she tended horses.
Then a man called her into the nearby forest, grabbed her by the neck and forced her to take sleeping pills, according to police accounts. The man dragged the girl, Asifa Bano, to a Hindu temple, where he and other men raped her repeatedly over three days, before murdering her — after one man insisted on raping her one last time. Asifa’s body was left in the forest.
Murder and rape happen in all societies, but this girl’s body was a battleground: Hindu extremists were trying to terrorize and drive out the Muslim community that Asifa belonged to. The killing triggered a huge controversy in India, with some Hindu lawyers and housewives protesting against prosecution of the murder suspects and Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeping shamefully silent for too long. To their credit, many middle-class Indians, including Hindus, mobilized to demand justice for Asifa.
There’s a lesson from that horror story and millions more like it. The #MeToo movement has had a stunning impact across America, eroding the impunity that allowed powerful men to get away with sexual assault and harassment. But we now need a global effort — by rich and poor nations alike — to make the #MeToo principles truly universal.
A few glimpses of the scale of sexual violence as one of the top human rights challenges of our time:
■ More than 125 million women and girls in Africa and Asia have suffered female genital mutilation. In Somalia and some other countries, almost all the genital flesh is cut away and the vaginal opening is sewn closed with wild thorns, to remain nearly sealed until the girl is married.
■ A girl under the age of 18 is married every three seconds somewhere in the world, according to Unicef. (Even in the United States, thousands of underage girls are married each year, a few of them just 12, 13 or 14.) Whether in Bangladesh or in Texas, these child marriages are sometimes coerced and leave girls particularly vulnerable to rape and beating.
So let’s see #MeToo as a global human rights movement.
We tend to think of “human rights” in terms of political dissidents being tortured, but gender violence is not only far more common but also sometimes institutionalized and shaped by legal codes and government policy. Indeed, in Myanmar last year, the government appears to have sponsored a policy of mass rape as part of a strategy to terrorize the Rohingya and drive them away. Those Rohingya women who speak up about this are truly heroic.
But we should all be speaking up, regardless of gender or geography. These assaults and indignities don’t affect women alone, because these patterns of violence and repression suppress talent and hold back entire societies. When millions of girls and women are brutalized, we’re all diminished.
The civil rights movement wasn’t an issue just for black people, gay rights don’t affect gays alone and widespread violence against women is a human rights violation that constitutes a moral and pragmatic challenge to all of us, men as well as women. At its extreme, this is just another form of terrorism.
The U.S. could show leadership in addressing these issues. A starting point would be for Congress to pass the long-stalled International Violence Against Women Act, which would require the U.S. to adopt a strategy to confront gender violence around the world and work with other countries to reduce it.
Another useful step would be for Western countries to use aid programs more frequently to end impunity. We can train the police and the courts abroad to treat sexual violence cases more seriously, and hospitals and clinics to treat victims with more professionalism and compassion. Crucially, we can also support women’s groups in other countries as they try to raise these issues on their national agendas, for this kind of violence persists as long as it is invisible.
Finally, there’s no better way to empower women and change the social dynamic than to educate girls. Extremist groups blow up girls’ schools for the same reason we should support girls’ education: Over time, educated women can transform societies.
The reaction of the police? They demanded a bribe to arrest the perpetrator, but it seemed his family had already paid a bigger bribe. So the police, in my presence, shouted at Ida’s parents, told them to go away and threatened to arrest them.
That’s not one girl’s problem, or one family’s problem. That’s the tip of a global human rights crisis.
“My philosophy is to make hopeful, joyful films about Africa,” she said. “It goes against my ethos to create work that goes against that identity.”
The film ends by showing the two girls together, but it remains unclear whether they have maintained a relationship.
“It is actually quite an ambiguous ending,” Ms. Kahiu said.
Ms. Kahiu said she had wanted the film to receive the Kenyan equivalent of an R rating, limiting the audience to viewers over 18.
“We wanted adults to be able to have conversations, or have the right to decide whether or not they want to watch it,” she said. “We’re just saying give them the ability to choose. That’s been denied.”
The film ban comes as a Kenyan courts are reconsidering colonial-era laws discriminating against gays and lesbians. In March, an appeals court ruled that a law requiring the police to conduct anal exams on people accused of same-sex relationships was unconstitutional. A court in Nairobi is considering whether to overturn a British colonial-era law banning same-sex relationships.
Mr. Mutua and the board have previously targeted content they believe promotes homosexuality. The board banned the 2014 film “Stories of Our Lives,” which was a series of short dramatizations of the lives of gays and lesbians in Kenya. In 2016, a local network dropped a podcast called “Spread,” which discussed sex and sexuality, after Mr. Mutua accused its female co-hosts of promoting lesbianism.
The day before the ruling against “Rafiki,” William Ruto, Kenya’s deputy president, said in a nationally televised speech that privately watching films banned by the classification board is illegal, and he warned against discussing “illegal material.”
Ms. Kahiu said the ban amounted to creative censorship and violated her constitutional rights.
“Under the Constitution, we have the right to freedom of expression,” she said. “Nowhere does it say that the Kenya Film Classification Board has a right to deny that freedom.”
She is particularly obsessed with the end of close games, when she will rewind plays three or four times to make sure she has properly digested them.
By the time she arrives at the arena for a morning shoot-around, Ms. Burke usually has something fairly specific she wants to nail down. On this day, she was interested in defense — specifically, how the Bucks planned to stop Mr. Simmons. Before long, Ms. Burke bee-lined to the Bucks’ 27-year-old assistant coach, Josh Broghamer, who would not have looked out of place at a high school rec league.
Mr. Broghamer seemed almost surprised by the attention. He described how the Bucks planned to pressure Mr. Simmons far away from the basket to make it easier for his defenders to get around screens (essentially stationary blockers) that the Sixers might set.
“How much are you changing schemes?” Ms. Burke asked, alluding to the concept of changing defensive tactics midgame.
“I don’t know that we’re changing schemes,” he said. “But you have to get back and play D.”
You could watch Ms. Burke make her way through game day and forget that a woman, and not one of the dozens upon dozens of men from over the years, was doing this job.
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Still, there are some challenges that only she must deal with.
After lunch and a little downtime, she changed into her broadcast attire and caught a car back to the arena. She had set aside more than an hour for her makeup session before a 5:45 p.m. interview she planned to tape. But because of some confusion over where the makeup artist would meet her, the process took a little longer than usual. At 5:35, Ms. Burke had to hustle to a locker room on the other side of the building, where Phil Dean, her producer, and the play-by-play man, Mark Jones, were idly passing the time. Mr. Jones had left the hotel an hour later and looked smart in a gray suit and fuchsia tie.
(And Ms. Burke must endure an additional indignity: “Is anybody in here? Hello?” she called out as she walked around the corner to a bathroom.)
There are also subtle ways that men treat her differently. “I’ve had more coaches in pregame meetings apologize for cursing,” she said. “I’m like, ‘I swear like a pirate. You don’t have to worry about that.’”
Even some who work closely with her can have the occasional blind spot.
In February, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced that it would give Ms. Burke its top honor for writers and broadcasters. A colleague who’s a play-by-play announcer, Mike Breen, promptly sent her a congratulatory text saying she set the standard for women in basketball broadcasting.
When he next saw her, he apologized. “I needed to take out the word ‘female,’ and say she’s the best broadcaster in the business,” Mr. Breen said. “I’m an idiot for using it.”
From Big East to Big Time
In 2003, ESPN approached Ms. Burke with a proposition: How would she like a spot on the network’s top men’s college basketball broadcast?
Ms. Burke, an all-Big East guard at Providence College in the mid-1980s, had been calling games since 1990, when she gave up a career as an assistant coach in order to start a family. She had progressed from calling women’s college games on radio to men’s games on television, even men’s and women’s pro games. By the late 1990s, she was doing dozens of broadcasts each year.
But the offer came with a catch: Ms. Burke would have to work the sideline — conducting interviews and doing short bits humanizing the players — while the broadcasting fixture Dick Vitale did the color analysis.
Mark Shapiro, then an ESPN executive vice president, told Ms. Burke that it could be a serious reporting job, not fluff. “There was a notion that sideline reporting was a chance to showcase diversity,” he told me. “The men would be in the booth, and if there’s a place for a woman broadcaster, it’ll be on the sideline. Making the stereotype worse was that sideline reporters needed to be pretty. It was ridiculous. It was overdue to be called out.”
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Still, Ms. Burke was hesitant. She had always thought of herself as an analyst. “My whole push was I wanted to do all basketball,” she said.
Other female analysts had the sense that there was a double standard. A man hoping to become an analyst on a major broadcast would typically start off doing less visible jobs and land higher-profile analyst assignments as he progressed. Former N.B.A. players like Tim Legler and Mark Jackson largely followed this path. Female analysts, on the other hand, often seemed to be diverted to the sideline at a certain point — and many stayed there for years.
“I had seen so many women get pigeonholed,” said Kara Lawson, a former University of Tennessee and W.N.B.A. star who started her career as an analyst in the early 2000s.
Ms. Lawson, who became the full-time analyst for the N.B.A.’s Washington Wizards in 2017, said she had rejected numerous offers to work the sideline over the years. “The basketball guys are not doing years of sideline,” she said. “I saw myself as one of them.” (TNT has used former men’s players on the sideline in special “players only” broadcasts since 2017.)
Ms. Burke’s solution to the problem was, in effect, to work two or three jobs at once. She appeared in dozens of games as a sideline reporter, then dozens more each year as an analyst, frequently for regional coverage on lesser ESPN channels.
By the early part of this decade, she had made it by any reasonable measure: She was the regular sideline reporter for the N.B.A. playoffs, including the finals; a regular analyst on ESPN for some of the highest-profile men’s and women’s college games; and an occasional N.B.A. game analyst.
But the pace of the work was preposterous. “It was three separate jobs,” her adult daughter, Sarah, told me. “The anxiety came with ‘I was so focused on the N.B.A. the past six days, I haven’t had a chance to see this one team’ — going into the game with that kind of pressure.”
Ms. Burke, who is divorced, could have been forgiven for wondering when she would finally get a promotion that allowed her to focus on the premier telecast: men’s professional sports.
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Andrea Kremer, a longtime ESPN reporter who now works for HBO “Real Sports” and the NFL Network, said she believed there was a failure of imagination among male broadcast executives. She recalled having lunch with a top ESPN executive nearly 10 years ago, when the network was on the verge of filling its analyst opening on “Monday Night Football.”
“He was saying, ‘ We’re going to go unconventional and blow everybody away,” Ms. Kremer recalled. The executive swore her to secrecy and then revealed the name: Jon Gruden, at the time a former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I was laughing,” she said. “Really? If you want to be unconventional, I’ll tell you who to put in the booth. Put me or Michele or Suzy or Pam” — that is, the longtime sideline reporters Michele Tafoya, Suzy Kolber and Pam Oliver.
Susan Bordo, a gender and women’s studies professor at the University of Kentucky and the author of “The Destruction of Hillary Clinton,” said another element was mostly likely at work: Women tend to be viewed favorably when they’re in a supporting role but suspiciously when they’re seen as trying to advance themselves.
The sideline reporter role “provides a certain comfort that the gender roles are in place,” Ms. Bordo said.
She speculated that, in the same way that many women were able to have accomplished political careers when they succeeded their deceased husband in office, it would be easier for a woman to succeed as an analyst after many years in a supportive sideline role.
“Some women are going to do better in the public imagination when they’re seen as having been devoted wives first,” she said.
For most of her career, Ms. Burke said, she often felt something ranging from indifference to icy skepticism, even outright hostility from certain fans. A picture mocking her swollen eyes, after a brutal travel schedule, once circulated on the internet.
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But about three or four years ago, much of the skepticism began to melt. “The reception toward me is fundamentally different,” she said. “It is so fundamentally different when I walk into a building.”
In 2016, the video game NBA 2K, which is beloved by players, promoted Ms. Burke from sideline reporter to color analyst. “I will say they enhanced my body parts in that game,” she said. “I have a fairly significant backyard, but they enhanced it slightly.”
Then, in September, life imitated PlayStation. When a regular position in ESPN’s analyst rotation opened up, Ms. Burke, with a nudge from her friend and colleague Jeff Van Gundy, called ESPN’s lead N.B.A. producer to express interest in the job.
The producer couldn’t give her an immediate answer but did not play especially coy. “I think by the end of the day we’ll have some good news for you,” he said.