Well, Paige, if you read Ethics Alarms, which I’m sure is popular fare on the ladies’ pro golf tour, you would know the answer. To the average member of the public, yes, being a winner absolutely ‘holds more weight” than being a good person.
Your sport is golf, not baseball, but a famous baseball manager said, “Nice guys finish last.” It’s not football, either, but an even more famous football coach said, “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing.” [Aside: the quote is most frequently identified with Vince Lombardi, and it is very likely that he used it. Late in his career, however, he rejected that sentiment in favor of more measured statements, On the Lombardi website there are many quotes about winning, bu not that one. Lombardi wasn’t the originator anyway: UCLA football coach Henry ‘Red’ Sanders was, around 1950.]
In general, though, in and out of sports, what you have articulated is “The King’s Pass,” or “The Star Syndrome,” which is one of the Ethics Alarms rationalizations, as well as one of the five most common and most damaging on the entire list of 100. It says, in the short version,
One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head. In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others.
Paige Spiranac comes to her lament from an interesting perspective. The 26-year old is a former golfer on the women’s pro tour. When she was competing, she often complained that she wasn’t taken seriously because of her appearance. That seems to be half true: she wasn’t taken seriously because of her appearance and because she was suspected of being more interested in building a career as a sex symbol than as a golfer. This is part of our culture’s sexism problem. Beautiful women are stereotyped and seen as sexual objects first and serious professionals second, if at all. Yet some beautiful women exploit their attractiveness to advance in their profession. That’s a valid choice, but they can’t ethically complain that people see their face and form rather than their skill and character when they are the ones putting the former on prominent display.
Eventually Paige decided that her middling success on the links would be over-shadowed profit-wise by her moving into the bathing suit modeling, fashion, and social influencer areas. I have no idea why she decided to strike out on that course. By the way, here’s Paige in her old career…
Anyway, Paige has been bombarded by what she considers unfair and vicious criticism by the social media mobs and some of her fellow-golfers, especially after a nude photo she had sent to friends had been circulated to the world by an ex-boyfriend.
She was particularly upset by comments, including some from women golfers, that she wasn’t a good enough golfer to justify exploiting her appearance the way she has. Paige is right about that—Can you say “jealousy?” Sure you can. Her other lament is harder to call.
On her podcast, Playing-A-Round, (Psst! That title doesn’t help, Paige!) she talked about the leaked nude photo, saying, “It was horrible, just getting these random messages from people you don’t know and they’ve seen you in such a vulnerable way. It was disgusting….When I finally confronted the guy and said, ‘I can’t believe you did this to me’, he said – and I’ll never forget this – ‘You are the slut who sent it to me, you deserve this.”
(About your judgment in men, Paige…)
“I would wake up every single day, I would check my phone and be like, ‘Am I going to be on TMZ today? Am I going to be here, am I going to be there? That was the worst part. I was constantly stressed out that someone was going to see it and someone was going to get it and that it was going to get out. Also, that was one picture. I don’t know what else he had or what he was going to release. If he did it once, he could do it again and again and again.”
Wait, what? So he has other photos?
A few observations:
- The Naked Teacher Principle holds that a grade school teacher whose naked or near-naked photograph ends up within view of students and parents cannot complain when her job is threatened. The lesson is that things seen cannot be unseen, students shouldn’t see their teachers in sexually provocative poses, and if you put naked photos of yourself on line, you are risking this result. There is no “Naked Bikini Model Principle,” however. Attacking someone like Spiranac because a nude photo is sent out to embarrass her is pure viciousness. This was clearly revenge porn.
- Anyone, male or female, who entrusts intimate photos to anyone else in the 21st century should assume there is a chance they will be made public. It is a life competence issue. I’m not blaming the victim, but nonetheless, the victim can’t cry, “Oh, why oh why did this happen to me?” and expect a lot of sympathy. It happened to you because you look like a goddess (and you know you do) and yet placed in the power of someone else a photograph that you didn’t want shared. Yes, it was a betrayal, but the kind of betrayal that is so common that one has to be prepared for it.
- Call me cynical, but as with other celebrity photos and sex tapes, I have to wonder if Paige is taking advantage of the Streisand Effect, and complaining so publicly about her nude photo and the attacks she has suffered to improve her profile and marketability. (There is an obvious joke to be made here, and I’m not going to make it.)
I say this because Paige appeared in Sports Illustrated last month like this, not that there’s anything wrong with that:
The feature got her criticized on Twitter by ESPN female sports reporter Britt McHenry, who wrote,
“Why does a woman have to pose nude to feel ’empowered’? Isn’t it more empowering to keep your clothes on, go into an office or classroom like everyone else and excel? I agree it’s your body to do what you want. But posing nude is a way to ascertain empowerment through vanity. I don’t think, and this goes for both genders, it’s the best way to receive reciprocal respect or empowerment.”
My answerwould be that if you have the power, you can choose to use it, and you should be able to use it no matter how good a golfer you are. Beauty and sexual attractiveness are assets, and in life we have to use whatever tools we have at our disposal. It is lousy that this makes the Paige Spiranacs among us targets of petty, mean, bitter and jealous people, but human nature is a constant.
I would advise Paige not to complain too much, however.
It’s a bad look.