I didn’t see anything particular to say when John Amaechi “came out” as the first openly gay man in the NBA. That didn’t change when former NBA allstar Tim Hardaway declared himself as an outspoken homophobe, a man who hates gay people.
But then Michael Medved stepped into the fray. (A quick word about Medved: he became famous by writing about bad movies. At the time, he was a liberal. Now, it’s fashionable to be a conservative pundit with a list of grievances a mile long, and now he’s a conservative pundit with a list of grievances a mile long.)
This particular column, however, was written as if the point was to have Body ImpoliticÃ‚Â demolish it, and Michael, we’re up to the job.
Most female athletes would prefer not to shower together with men not because they hate males (though some of them no doubt do), but because they hope to avoid the tension, distraction and complication that prove inevitable when issues of sexual attraction (and even arousal) intrude into the arena of competitive sports.
I note first that making the (*ahem* dubious) assumption that John Amaechi is the only NBA member who is not a 100% Kinsey 1, heterosexual under all circumstances, straight man, issues of sexual attraction (and even arousal) already intrude into the area of competitive sports. Ask any athlete who’s willing to tell you the truth about his/her/their/zir response to contact, to winning, to group exhilaration after winning. This particular fallacy isn’t your fault; you’ve been seduced by the cultural myth that sexuality is genital, specific, and keyed to a very few triggers. Honest, Michael, it ain’t necessarily so.
Here’s a point you might have missed: the primary goal of a professional sports team is … to win! Winning is where the money is, where the glory is, where the sex is, where the juice is. If a gay, or bisexual, athlete can help bring home the win, is the possibility of a little tension in the locker room really enough reason to lose? The United States military , which you mention later in your column, has made this decision with regard to Arabic translators (who really aren’t in locker rooms as a general rule); sports teams, on the other hand, have to make money rather than spending ours.
But then you go on, right into this blog’s home territory:
Tim Hardaway (and most of his former NBA teammates) wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t welcome openly gay players into the locker room any more than theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d welcome profoundly unattractive, morbidly obese women. … The ill-favored, grossly overweight female is the right counterpart to a gay male because, like the homosexual, she causes discomfort due to the fact that attraction can only operate in one direction. She might well feel drawn to the straight guys with whom sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s grouped, while they feel downright repulsed at the very idea of sex with her.
Michael, really! Your mother would be ashamed of you! Have you no friends married to fat women? Don’t you know any fat mothers? Are you completely convinced that all men, 100% of the time, are repulsed by “morbidly obese, grossly overweight” women? Do you think that no one ever buys Women En Large as a stroke book? I hate to break this to you, but you are simply wrong.
Perhaps it’s just that no one as athletic or “handsome” as a professional athlete would ever be attracted to a fat woman? It doesn’t work that way either.
Or maybe you’re not attracted to fat women? Your business. Maybe you’re also not attracted to men? Still your business. But when you generalize it to everyone, you show yourself up not just as cruel but as stupid. And I’m sure you don’t want to seem stupid.
The rest of your column seems to be about convincing someone (your readers? yourself?) that homophobia is “near-universal,” and “common sense” and “human nature.” Fortunately, Lev Raphael has answered you on these points, and saved me the trouble.
Raphael knows what’s going on: “It’s all about power and the male transgressive gaze being turned upon men when it’s usually directed to women. I wish Medved had the balls to say that, to acknowledge male fear of being de-manned by becoming an object of even theoretical desire.But he’s too self-satisfied, and in his own way is being as thuggish and smug as Hardaway was when he proudly proclaimed his homophobia.”
Don’t like being looked at, Michael? Don’t like being judged? Don’t like someone deciding whether you’re cute enough to fuck, or gross enough to discard? It’s okay, I understand. Lots of men don’t like it. Lots of women don’t like it. Hell, I don’t like it.
But Raphael is right: if you can admit to yourself that that’s the core of the problem, and that everything you say about fat women proves how willing you are to be on the judging side of that line, you’ll sound a lot less like a fool. And here’s the way to check yourself: if you can watch George Takei making fun of exactly this issue using Tim Hardaway as an example, and laugh, you’ll be on the right road.
Thanks to Lori Selke for the pointer to Raphael.