Wow—Is This The Most Contrived Feminist Complaint Ever Put Into Print? [CORRECTED]

Lindsay Crouse—the writer, not the actress, as I originally assumed in the original version of this post— has an op-ed in the New York Times called Why Don’t Women Get Comebacks Like Tiger Woods?” (Thanks to Althouse for pointing me to it: I tend to avoid the Sunday Times Review section since it became a repetitious Trump-bashing fest week after week.)

Here’s Crouse’s argument, condensed, in her own words:

  • Tiger Woods won the Masters after his long drought, it was more than just one of the most incredible comebacks in history. It showed America’s eagerness to embrace a man who persevered through years of setbacks, especially self-inflicted ones, regardless of whatever selective amnesia that requires….

  • Why aren’t there more redemption stories like this among women? It’s not just because women aren’t given second chances. It’s because they are rarely able to reach those heights in the first place….

  • In men, excessive qualities can be forgiven, even admired — when it works out at least. His trajectory is a reminder of who pays forever for their mistakes and whose transgressions can be set aside….

  • Part of the problem is that so few women even reach the athletic heights of Woods, let alone stay there. Yes, we have the extraordinary Serena Williams. But can you name another female athlete on the financial and cultural level as Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Tom Brady and their peers? 

  • Of the few iconic women, sponsors and fans, to a certain degree, want them to be perfect — or at least quiet. Women’s moral behavior deeply influences our perception of their professional achievements.

  • …No women have the leeway to behave like Woods and get away with it; a black woman certainly does not. Just imagine the reaction if Serena Williams was caught cheating on her husband, Alexis Ohanian, with numerous men.

  • …Women literally cannot afford to make the messy mistakes we see in the long arc of a lot of a storied male athletes’ careers, and they rarely get the payoffs….

  • Society rarely allows women to nurture those bold qualities that drive standout success. Instead, to get ahead, women either learn to stifle those instincts, or get punished for them. This muffles the traits that might lead to failure and inevitably also the qualities that lead to success…

  • Shouldn’t everyone be able to recover from a fall from grace? Or at the very least, shouldn’t we allow both men and women to get high enough to fall?

Convinced? I sure hope not. This is gender victim-mongering at its most silly and obnoxious. I’m probably going to be nicer as I debunk this junk than I would have if I didn’t know and like Lindsay,  but it’s a bad thesis, badly argued. She’s smarter than this, or at least was. Most people get smarter…and more ethical…over time.

To state what should be obvious, almost nobody gets a comeback like Tiger Woods, in sports or any other field, regardless of gender. Woods didn’t just have a sex scandal that exposed his squeaky clean image as a sham, he also stopped winning for a full decade. It’s as if Pete Rose somehow returned to win a batting title ten years after being banned from baseball. In most sports—this is impossible; golf is one of the very few that allows high level competition past 40.

Is Crouse narrowing her standards for comebacks to “falls from grace” that include only sexual misconduct? I assume not, and thus I know that she omitted another notable comeback from disgrace that was accomplished by a woman  whose transgression was a lot worse than Tiger Woods’. That would be Jane Fonda, who gave aid, comfort and ideological support to an enemy of the United States, and was regarded as a literal traitor by a large enough segment of the population to make her unpopular even though, unlike Woods, her quality of work never faltered. About a decade after cheering on the people who were killing our soldiers, she reinvented herself as an apolitical fitness guru, and became such a success in an emerging field that people stopped thinking of her as “Hanoi Jane.” Now she’s a popular celebrity again. Crouse’s assertion  notwithstanding, comebacks are a function of circumstance, talent and opportunity, not gender.

It is true that going back in time, far fewer women were in positions of power, position and celebrity to experience a Woods-like fall, so there were proportionately fewer opportunities for a Woods-style comeback, which is rare anyway. Nevertheless, the comeback is all up to the individual, whether they are willing to persevere, whether they can scale the same heights they fell from, and whether the “fall from grace” happened far enough in the past that the scandal is largely forgotten.

Crouse’s comparisons are all misbegotten. She cites the case of Olympic ice skating champion Oksana Baiul, whose career and reputation collapsed under the weight of alcoholism.  She eventually was treated and has been involved in various skating-related endeavors, but ice skating isn’t like golf. Champions retire to ice shows or coaching. “Spoiler: She didn’t return to competitive skating,” writes Lindsay. Yes, but that’s because almost nobody returns to competitive skating after a hiatus, and because alcoholism and elite sporting performance are not compatible–even in golf.

Crouse  asks us to  “imagine the reaction if Serena Williams was caught cheating on her husband, Alexis Ohanian, with numerous men.” “No women have the leeway to behave like Woods and get away with it; a black woman certainly does not,” she states. Oh, ack, cough, blech, gag me with a spoon. If Williams kept winning matches and championships, her domestic escapades would be a footnote, and nothing more. Movie stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and too many singers to list,  have seen their star status survive some ugly sexual conduct, but as long as their skills have stayed intact, so has their celebrity.

Of course women can recover from falls from grace like that of Tiger Woods. It’s easy: all they need is 1) to be the very best in their profession 2) be a revered role model 3) simultaneously indulge in behavior that destroys the role model image while 4) losing the ability to excel at their previous established level and 5) return to that level a decade later after the earlier disgrace has faded from memory.

That’s all!

43 thoughts on “Wow—Is This The Most Contrived Feminist Complaint Ever Put Into Print? [CORRECTED]

  1. It’s amazing that he came back, let alone win the Masters’. But, Tiger may be dead in the water if he accepts the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump. It’s buzzing around FB that it’s nice a two-timer can be honored like that, they’re starting to circle, deciding whether or not they’ll start a campaign to ruin his comeback or not. I have been commenting on each one of those posts that I see (only a small handful so far) that I don’t want to live in a world without forgiveness or the chance of redemption.

    Being associated with the President in any way is reason enough to deny even a comeback like that for them. It’s frighteningly single-minded and ruthless.

  2. Most people don’t get comebacks like Tiger Woods because most people wouldn’t persevere long enough to get it. After being a standard deviation above everyone else, he became a mid-pack golfer almost overnight. He didn’t get better, and he didn’t get better, and he didn’t get better. Most people wouldn’t have been able to handle that change in status and would have retired with their millions. How many would face the humiliation and spend a decade to work it through?

    As far as Serena Williams, if she had an affair, I am sure women like Lindsay Crouse would cheer her on. They would point out that male stars ‘get’ to have affairs and Serena is just claiming her just prize for her status.

  3. Can’t argue with Jack’s logic. But I did find myself repulsed by the idea of Tiger being back in “good standing” as a celebrity because he won a round of golf. Why should anybody– man or woman– be forgiven their sexual sorties on the basis of athletic ability? Athletic ability is a woefully inadequate measurement of contrition. 10 years and a masters win isn’t enough to compensate Elin Nordegren for the philandering ways of a cartoon watching, cereal eating man-child. It ought to be obvious to everyone that the true tape measure of a man’s sorriness for illicit affairs is intellectual achievement. While his first wife was impregnated, Einstein was writing love letters to his high school sweetheart. Two years later he had an affair with a first cousin. Now, most of us (who are not Richard) would consider this “highly unethical” behavior. But nobody ever discusses Einstein’s peccadilloes. Why is that? Because Einstein was so sorry he invented the general theory of a relativity and an atomic friggin’ bomb. Just so we could drop it on Emperor Hirohito’s head. BOOM. Wow-pow-mushroom cloud, all is forgiven– infidelity, adultery, and first cousin carnal relations. And when Madonna invents HER very own WMD of personal contrition, I think a speak on behalf of all mankind that we will FINALLY forgive her for that tasteless display when she bared her chest on David Letterman’s show and for her many other unforgivable peccadilloes hampering her career growth and preventing “Medellin” from rising above #9 on iTunes. David Letterman was a wholesome person and he did not deserve that.

    • This was high art, and I enjoyed it. But athletes are adored for what they do incompetition, and as long as they don’t cheat (Barry Bonds) or break laws, they can still be heroes. See: Babe Ruth. Tiger’s problem was that he was built up to be a paragon that he wasn’t. Now he’s just a great golfer, and that’s all. It’s enough.

      You WERE kidding about Letterman, right?

      • Kidding about LETTERMAN? No, sir. There’s very little that’s funny about David Letterman. I couldn’t even fill a top ten list of times he made me laugh– it was really just that ONE time when he revealed that he was the victim of a $2 million dollar extortion scheme. Confessing to your wife before she finds out the hard way is one thing. Inexplicably confessing to an audience of millions who have no stake whatsoever on a late night comedy show– now THAT is high art.

  4. “Part of the problem is that so few women even reach the athletic heights of Woods, let alone stay there. Yes, we have the extraordinary Serena Williams. But can you name another female athlete on the financial and cultural level as Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Tom Brady and their peers?”

    Women literally are not as fast and strong as men, which means that just about every single apex performance by an athlete in any given sport is going to be from a man. This is close to complaining that a man should win half of all the Mother of the Year awards.

    Serena Williams would be torched by most, if not all, professional men’s tennis players, too. There’s nothing sexist about acknowledging this.

    • “There’s nothing sexist about acknowledging this.”
      Well, you say that……
      Problem is, you’re relying on the archaic concepts of logic and reason, both of which have been replaced by emotions as the means for evaluating statements like that.

  5. Whining about Tiger Woods’ “comeback” is particularly strange, because Woods basically disappeared off the face of the Earth for so many years. Every so often I’d see his name in the middle of the scoreboard and be surprised he was still in the competing at all.

    If Serena played lacklusteredly for a decade and suddenly won again, she’d get exactly the same cheers a Woods.

  6. Another good example might be Vanessa Williams. She was the first ever African-American Miss America back in 1984, but had to resign due to the publishing of some unauthorized nude photographs appearing in Penthouse.

    In the comparatively prudish days of the mid-1980’s this was an unprecedented scandal that everyone was sure would derail her career forever. Far from it, as we all know. She went on to be a very successful singer, actress, fashion designer and entertainer.

    In many ways, her career is an excellent female analogue for Tiger Woods. No, she did not go into treatment for a sex addiction, but that particular affliction rarely impacts talented women. It is altogether too common among talented men, particularly athletes. Magic Johnson is just one of many examples of athletes who, like Woods, find sex so easy to come by that they lose themselves to the pleasures of the flesh.

    I think Crouse misses an important point — there are few female analogues to Tiger Woods because, in general, females are just less susceptible to becoming sex addicts than men. My quick research suggests only around 12% of all sex addicts are women. This has to do with the biological and psychological differences between the genders. Absent the sex scandal, Tiger Woods’ comeback would be far less notable, because of the violence it did to his carefully manicured clean image.

    So the reasons behind her “comeback deficit” are more a matter of biology than any gender bias or discrimination. You pointed out accurately that there are very few female athletes even within shouting distance of Woods’ celebrity, and that athletic culture is, and has always been, dominated by males, who by their very nature are more subject to spectacular and scandalous falls from grace. Even then, comebacks are exceedingly rare, and comebacks like Woods require even more help by involving a sport that allows a decade-long disappearance and subsequent resurgence to even be a theoretical possibility.

    So we’ll keep a weather eye out for a female African-American golfer who develops some kind of sexual peccadillo that splashes her all over Page Six for a couple of years, develops many severe musculoskeletal injuries, undergoes six or seven surgeries, and manages to climb back to the pinnacle of their sport.

    Come to think of it, absent the sex scandal, Woods’ old girlfriend Lindsey Vonn is about as good an analogue as you can find.

    • Vanessa Williams is a good counter to Lindsay’s claim, though she might argue that 1) being named Miss America hasn’t been a big deal since the 50s, so 2) she really didn’t have any high place to come back from, and 3) nude photos/films have long been regarded as career assets in show biz.

      I have doubts about sex addiction, though, and had forgotten that this was part of Tiger’s fall. It’s a way for promiscuous and irresponsible men to claim that what was conscious conduct on their part is really an illness. It seems like the only people treated for sex addiction are athletes and actors trying a PR ploy after being caught fooling around.

      • Well, the reason Vanessa Williams was such a big deal as Miss America is because she was the first African-American to win the crown. That made it much bigger than it would’ve been otherwise.

        Similarly, Tiger Woods was the first African-American golfer to win a major championship in golf. Those “firsts” make them more comparable than they might otherwise appear.

        I won’t debate the sex addiction thing, I think you’re right that it has more in common with bad behavior than an actual illness.

          • Well, he identifies himself as a mixture of races. However, the media and most of America classify him as an African-American in their minds, no matter what he “identifies” as. As such, the reporting and virtually all of golf’s records reflect that as his race.

            Whatever his identification (he has referred to his ethnicity as a “cablinasian”), he’s probably just as much an African-American as Barack Obama, although we cannot be as sure because his father’s heritage is not as well-known as that of Earl Woods.

            In any event, to the public it matters little. They see him as an African-American, no matter what he may actually be. That may not be fair to him, but alas, life rarely is.

        • It seems like the only people treated for sex addiction are athletes and actors trying a PR ploy after being caught fooling around.

          I would image this is only true for those who publicize receiving treatment….

    • ” females are just less susceptible to becoming sex addicts than men. ”
      The difference is relative testosterone levels, testosterone being the chemical mediator of human sexual response in both men and women. Low T is much more common in women than men, especially during and after perimenopause and menopause. I’ve personally seen a DRASTIC reversal of hypoarousal disorder in women following the administration of extremely small doses of T; far too drastic to attribute it to anything like the placebo effect, and studies bear this out. Unfortunately, this information hasn’t made its way to most OB/GYNs and endocrinologists, and marriages continue to languish and end unnecessarily because of this stubborn refusal to leave The Dark Ages behind.

  7. I wonder if tbe reason women athletes are rarely seen as making a comeback when they have had affairs is that only men seem to be treated as philanderers when they have extramarital affairs. While it is equally likely that males and females participate in extramarital affairs it is the males that are the sinners while the women are seen as victims of the sinners.

    Growing up I recall all the gossip rags talking about which star was sleeping with whom. We still revere Elizabeth Taylor.

  8. As a Vietnam-era veteran, I have never forgiven Jane Fonda. However, I have achieved the perfect vengeance…I own a copy of Barbarella.

  9. Was this woman given roles on “Law and Order” fairly regularly? She looks very familiar (and I’ve never seen a show on Broadway).

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