I realize there’s a lot more important stuff going on in the world that I probably need to blog about, and I’m just feeding the beast with this. But I give myself blanket permission to obsess about pop culture on Fridays if I want, so fuck it.
Because there appears to be a lot of confusion out there on this point. (Though I suppose Tiger’s children also need an apology.) I realize Tiger Woods makes his own choices, but I feel from the bottom of my heart that his choice to make a big public apology was not a freely made choice absent of any coercive pressure from hypocritical handlers and companies that have advertising contracts with Woods. Or that those folks pressured Woods freely out of some moral outrage, but that they encouraged it in hopes that this will call the media off his ass and he can go back to being the money making machine of all-American goodness. And while I suppose I shouldn’t pity Tiger Woods, gazillionaire and admitted dog, I hate to see someone do something like this under that much duress. Call me a softie.
But my frustration with this is about more than just that. And it’s about more than the fact that there’s a double standard being employed in this—be it because Woods is an icon, or because of his race, or because of whatever—where he was singled out for a “scandal” for behavior that is more typical than not of golfers and athletes in general. It’s that holding Woods out to be a freak show implies that his behavior is unusual, and that his attitudes are freakish works to conceal the larger cultural support for his behavior and attitudes, especially in sports. But I would argue he’s typical, with the attitudes he almost surely has about women to inspire such epic cheating on his wife and apparent disregard for the well-being of his other partners. I’m not saying most or all men have his attitudes, of course. But a big enough chunk of them that it’s a joke to pretend that Woods’ behavior was anything to write home about.
It’s a weird kind of scapegoating to single out one prominent person who is guilty of behavior and attitudes that are common as dirt, act all horrified about it, and make him apologize and seek redemption. What’s the purpose of it? The media, in revealing the truth about Tiger Woods, is creating a bigger lie—that his frat daddy attitudes towards women are so uncommon that we can legitimately find them shocking. As if by hanging Woods out to dry, we can pretend that our society doesn’t make Maxim magazine profitable, have epic levels of date rape, and encourage young men in heavily masculine subcultures like athletics, fraternities and Wall Street to treat women like trophies and sex objects, but not like real human beings who deserve respect.
Why are we pretending to be shocked? Woods behaved in such a typical loutish manner that we not only expect but practically demand of some men. Playboy magazine reaches out to their wannabe readership idolize men for their ability to treat women as interchangeable sex dolls. That also appears to be a major theme in music videos and other pop cultural ephemera like it. Hell, people make money selling bona fide sex dolls by advertising how they’re basically just like real women, but better. The trophy wife at home and the mistress (or mistresses) that entertain you is hardly some new revelation in our culture, or else Americans wouldn’t be able to follow the storylines on “Mad Men”. And that trope is still dominant in many parts of our culture, especially sports, where it’s an ongoing joke how the trophy wives of rich athletes get paid off for frequent adulteries with unbelievably expensive jewelry.
Maybe we’re surprised that his wife was apparently in the dark. We shouldn’t be. This kind of hyper-masculine culture with very little regard for women isn’t about to open the doors for negotiating sexual boundaries and having communication about polyamory, or even just an “understanding”. It’s Don Draper, keeping his wife at home and ignorant. We’re not stupid, America. The rules have been around since the word “mistress” was invented. So can we quit acting shocked? And instead of scapegoating Tiger Woods, why don’t we examine the larger cultural narratives about masculinity that create this problem in the first place?