Saturday, June 23, 2018
Sports

Of sexism and an inconvenient truth

Good news, male chauvinist pigs. It's now politically correct to ogle female athletes.

In our increasingly wacky world, Gilbert Arenas can even be considered a feminist. Yes, the same Gilbert Arenas who proclaimed last week that the WNBA has too many "beanpies."

I'm not sure what a beanpie is, but I'd bet Tom Brady has never dated one. Arenas was ripped for his remarks, but then a strange thing happened.

Serena Williams was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year. The strangeness was the magazine's cover shot and reaction.

As the first solo female winner since 1983, Williams wore a lacy cat suit and stilettos and lounged on a gold throne with one leg draped over one side. The spread elicited the same tut-tutting we've heard for years.

You know, how it's wrong to value women based on their looks. How putting sex appeal above accomplishment degrades women and makes it harder for them to get the same respect as men.

That always made sense to me.

Then came the backlash to the backlash. The tut-tutters were ripped for being prudish dinosaurs.

Williams wanted to stick it to all the yokels who for years said she was too "manly." The path to empowerment meant striking a pose right out of Madonna's Sex book.

"I think it's important that women flaunt it occasionally," Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal told the Washington Post. "Even if this is controversial, I think that it helps. It attracts attention."

"It's a boss move," wrote ESPNW.

Makes sense to me.

Actually, the schizophrenia of political correctness is wearing me out. No more men in wigs at Halloween, racially segregated dorms are acceptable and now I can put up a Danica Patrick cheesecake poster in my cubicle and be considered an enlightened male?

Forget me, what about Arenas?

In case you don't remember, he is the answer to the trivia question, "What NBA player/gun nut had a shark aquarium installed in his house and was paid $22,807,922 in 2013 not to play basketball?"

Arenas' ended up with the Magic, which unloaded him with $60 million left on his contract. Agent Zero is now 33 and keeps himself amused by being a full-time goofball.

"Gilbert Arenas's comments are repugnant, utterly disrespectful and flat-out wrong," said Mike Bass, a spokesman for the NBA and WNBA.

Repugnant and utterly disrespectful, yes. Flat-out wrong, no.

Arenas' point was that the WNBA struggles because it emphasizes basketball over beauty. Get a few hotties out there, he thinks, and more people will watch.

Agree or not, the 19-year-old league had its worst attendance ever last season. TV ratings on ESPN and ESPN2 dropped 14 percent from 2014.

In his crude way, Arenas spoke a timeless truth. Looks matter.

Just look at Anna Kournikova, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Maria Sharapova, Mia Hamm and almost any sideline female reporter. Their fame and fortune was built as much on appearance as ability.

Nobody epitomizes it more than Patrick, who has built a financial empire based on her unrivaled ability to pose in a bikini on the hood of a stock car.

"A harmless, hair-flipping mascot for another subculture," is how ultra-progressive Salon once described her.

I was on board with that. On the off-chance my daughters don't grow up to look like Barbie dolls, I'd like them to play sports and attract attention based on how good they are, not how they look in lingerie and stilettos.

Human nature being what it is, I know that'll never happen. I just never figured that Serena posing like Madonna would advance the cause.

If you're confused by these changing times, imagine how Arenas must feel. Though at least he may have found a second career.

He can become a spokesman for The Feminist Majority. —Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

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