On the Denseness of Men

Tennis Twirl

Eugenie Bouchard won her match at the Australian Open last week and, as most winning tennis players do, gave an on-court interview. That’s when things took an odd turn:

After winning a second round match at the Australian Open, women’s world tennis no. 7 Eugenie Bouchard was asked to “twirl” by a reporter. “A twirl, like a pirouette, here you go,” she happily complied, showing off her neon pink and yellow dress.

“It was very unexpected,” she said in her post-match press conference. “I don’t know, an old guy asking you to twirl. It was funny.”

Ms. Bouchard handled it with grace, but she’s right: that’s not the type of request a woman should expect after a moment of achievement in her career.

One of the writers at Desiring God begs to differ. The twirl, in Matt Reagan’s opinion, was completely appropriate because every grown woman was once a little girl.

My daughters are perpetual twirlers, even to the extent that they are searching out the most twirlable skirts and dresses. They come to me unashamed. They giggle, they twirl, their smiles radiate with my delight. Only a bad father would stop their twirling to reprimand their self-misogyny.

So this begs the question: When Eugenie Bouchard grew up (she’s 20 now), did she grow from girl to man? Or at least, Did she grow up and lose the inherent desire in girls that makes twirling okay? My answer to each is an emphatic no.

Mr. Reagan then supports his position by pointing out two things, one temporal and the other spiritual:

  1. Women tennis players wear outfits that lend themselves to twirling.
  2. God exults in the beauty of his Bride – his people – and all women should thus show off their own beauty because this will glorify God.

I don’t think either one holds up.

A Woman’s Outfit Is Not an Invitation for Men to Make Demands

First, men claiming to be entitled to certain behavior from a woman because of what she wears is what leads to women being discriminated against, taken advantage of and abused. It’s also something that would never be asked of a man, showing even more of a disparity between Mr. Reagan and the Bible. The Bible is clear:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28.)

Of course it’s not that people expect a man to be asked to twirl on the courts after winning a match (although I think it would be great if the men in the tournament started doing so in all their on-court interviews just to show how ridiculous it is for Ms. Bouchard to have been asked to do it). No, it’s that Mr. Reagan thinks asking a woman to show off her beauty is fine because women (according to him) are made to be beautiful.

Where does this logic take us? For one thing, it takes us off the tennis court and into the rest of the work world.

  • “Condoleeza Rice, before we start asking about your career as Secretary of State, how about a little twirl!”

And if it’s sauce for the goose, it’s sauce for the gander.*

  • “Stephen King, you’ve made the best seller list once again. Now be a good boy and show us your biceps!”

Ms. Bouchard (whom Mr. Reagan repeatedly refers to by her first name, as if she were still a child) was being interviewed for her athletic achievement. The request to twirl, contrary to Mr. Reagan’s position, had nothing to do with that achievement.

Spiritual Norms Do Not Always Translate to Temporal Behavior

Second, to extend spiritual truths about God’s relationship with his people into behavioral models for how people are to relate to one another is always difficult and in this case I think it’s dangerous. Essentially Mr. Reagan is saying that since God’s people are beautiful to God – along with the unmentioned spiritual truth that God’s people are to submit to him – women are to submit to men who desire a woman to show off her female beauty.

That is not at all what the relationship between God and the church teaches us to do in our interactions with one another, and to suggest it does is not only an irresponsible use of Scripture but is a horrible way to treat women. One would expect better from an organization entitling itself “Desiring God”.

Blind-spots and Denseness

When it comes to a man being denser than a hand-me-down fruitcake about to be regifted at Christmas, I always thought the guy in the song “Put Another Log on the Fire” was the standard by which everyone else was to be measured. After all, anyone who utters these words truly doesn’t get it:

Put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans.
And go out to the car and change the tire.
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.
Come on, baby, you can fill my pipe,
And then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire, babe,
And come and tell me why you’re leaving me.

And that’s just the chorus.** Listen to the rest:

I might have to rethink my standards of density now.

***

*”Sauce” phrase explained: dictionary.com.

**I sang this song at the work holiday party a few years back. Brought the house down. Listen to the video and you’ll see why.

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44 Responses to On the Denseness of Men

  1. Sergius Martin-George says:

    although I think it would be great if the men in the tournament started doing so in all their on-court interviews just to show how ridiculous it is for Ms. Bouchard to have been asked to do it.

    I’ll give you 5 to 2 odds that Djokovic will take you up on that offer.

  2. Jeannie says:

    Tim, I know that song word-for-word (“Ain’t I gonna take you fishin’ with me someday?”). When I was a kid our family loved country music and listened to the Saturday Night Hoedown every week on the radio. 🙂 Seriously, though, thanks for this analysis. The TV announcer’s request might have been off-the-cuff, something he wouldn’t have done if he’d really taken time to think it over — but Reagan did think the issue over, and these are his conclusions? It would be funny if it weren’t so NOT funny.

    • Tim says:

      Good point, Jeannie. The one guy was doing a live interview, and the other sat and thought about it and thought about it and thought about it and then wrote the blog post.

      P.S. That song was a huge radio hit when I was a kid too, Jeannie. Gotta love (cringe!) the tag to the verse:
      … Now sit here at my feet
      ‘Cause I love you when you’re sweet
      And you know that it ain’t feminine to fight

      • Jeannie says:

        Have you heard this one, Tim — somewhat in the same vein? I think it’s hilarious. (I’m sure it’s not meant to be taken seriously…)

        • Tim says:

          “Here, Dumplin’, sign this dotted line … just in case.”

          Priceless, Jeannie. You probably remember this one too. I imagine it being sung by guys just like those who sang “Just In Case” and “Put Another Log On The Fire”.

  3. janehinrichs says:

    I’d love it if people started asking men to twirl! It would be funny. But I know that wasn’t your point. Thanks for being so sensitive to the subtle demeaning of women!

  4. Erica M. says:

    That was really unprofessional to ask her to do that. Now, if as an afterthought he asked if she ever got the urge to twirl in the dress, it might have been less bad. (Trust me, some of us do twirl. Like a lot. It’s why I wear twirly dresses in the first place.) But maybe that should have been left for a more casual interview, rather than one right after she won two matches. And frankly, however much I like twirly dresses, I would not want to be asked about that after achieving something amazing.

    • Tim says:

      Lots of men and women, boys and girls, like to spin around. But to expect a woman to do it because a man wants her to is so out of line.

  5. Interesting. I have lots of thoughts but they’re not very coherent because I had EMDR earlier. 1 Peter 3:3-4 comes to mind. Here it is from The Message: ‘What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.’

    As a woman, I’m a woman… by which I mean – er – I’m a woman, not a Disney princess. Hence, alas, I don’t twirl and neither does my ‘inner little girl’. Doesn’t the world already pressure women over their outward appearance enough? We really could do without it coming from within the ranks too, so to speak.

  6. Brian says:

    Your response to this Tim is one of your best ever.If any blog ever represented 2nd Timothy when people won’t be sensitive to sound doctrine, BUT we as sensitive followers of Jesus are to stand for righteousness, and not just religious verbosity ,it’s fitting your name is Tim! just like Timothy keep exhorting ! I have wrestled with this stuff a lot and have been guilty of acting like the reporter in my folly at times.I managed an office over 35 yr’s with many women and struggled to keep integrity in my life, very difficult but I learned there is that veritable line that should not be crossed,let’s pray the wisdom in your words are heeded here even if we say ” ouch” This example brings out the downside of both male & female behaviour’s,Lord help us! Oh yeah you’ll love this,I read an article from a NON -Chistian Sport’s reporter a few years back and he chuckled as he noticed at the Olympics the number of men ( place was packed with mostly men ) drooling over the girls in Gymnastic’s and he felt it had taken a serious turn in the wrong direction.

  7. Rev. Carlene Appel says:

    Awww, come on, don’t you know it’s a job requirement that reporters ask stupid questions (tongue firmly in cheek) Really. Can you count the number of times you’ve heard a reporter ask a person who just got the news that a loved one was murdered, or a fresh victim of a tornado that just mowed their home and town down,”tell me how you feel about that?” Really?!? Well duh!!!
    BTW the song is hilarious! Now tell me why she wants to leave? LOL😂 You should have heard and watched the video that followed “It’s Hard to Kiss the Sweet Lips at Night That Chewed My @&$ Out All Day”
    But seriously as much as it may offend us we have to be careful that we’re not imposing our feelings on the tennis player. If she took no offense at the question and had no problem responding with a twirl, maybe it really doesn’t bother her and she in fact enjoys it. It really bothered me to see the overly sexual Go Daddy Mobile commercials Danica Patrick participated in. But it apparently doesn’t bother her. She knows nobody doubts her ability to deliver on a track. Yup, she drives at 200 mph. and wins Indy car races like a girl. Like the ladies who play fast pitch softball. As a matter of fact they do throw like a girl—They 90 mile an hour pitches like a girl.

    • Tim says:

      “tell me how you feel about that?” has got to be the laziest question in a reporter’s repertoire.

      And I agree that Ms. Bouchard did not show great offense at the question, but she did say later that it was unexpected. Of course it was. The request to twirl had nothing to do with her accomplishment, so unlike someone paid to be a spokeswoman this athlete had no way to prepare for how to respond.

      • Rev. Carlene Appel says:

        How true Tim. I am one of those who is not able to give quick comebacks and I used to beat myself up later for not being able to do so. In the little theatre of Hindsight in my mind, I always have just the right response to slay them verbally and win. I’ve had to come to accept this about myself, but it was hard and still bothers me sometimes.

        On a completely different topic, I’m grateful to be alive. I was taken to the hospital unresponsive on Nov. 21st and was on life support for 6 days with a feeding tube. Spent 22 days there and almost died with a horrendous case of pneumonia, most of it spent in the ICU. Have no memory of much of it or most of the week leading up to the 911 call Ed made. I praise God for him, my hubby of 34 years who was at my side through it all and the hundreds of people across the country praying for me.

        • Tim says:

          Carlene, I am so sorry to hear of that hospital stay, but am praying with gratitude for your recovery, and for the good work by your husband and the medical people!

          And on always coming up with the snappy riposte after the fact, I think the French call these “Stairway Thoughts”. They’re the thoughts one has while climbing the stairs after coming home from a party: Oh, that would have been the perfect thing to say!

      • Zoe says:

        Degree in journalism and a bit of work as a reporter. Just to note that reporters covering any sort of tragedy do not ask “How do you feel about that?” because they don’t know or don’t empathize. They ask because hearing from the individual about their own terrible experience is, quite literally, the heart of the story.

  8. cmadland says:

    Here is my take on the article, thanks for writing this, Tim.
    http://wp.me/p4oMqN-hn

    • Tim says:

      I hope everyone clicks through to read your post. You summed up the point Mr. Reagan was trying to make at Desiring God quite well when you said “How juvenile.”

      Exactly.

  9. I have not read the article in question, but I am struck by the concept that women should show off their beauty because, if I am understanding correctly, the Bride is beautiful? Why is it that men who believe this stuff swap the spiritual to the natural whenever they like to make a point about women? I’ve noticed many men with complementarian views seem not to get it that they are as much a part of the Bride as female believers are. To make the leap from something that happened in the world of sport to the Bride of Christ is bizarre in itself. But then to put it on women to represent the beauty of Christ’s Bride is simply to imply that male believers aren’t equally part of that Bride. As Alice might say: Curioser and curioser.

  10. keriwyattkent says:

    My daughter went through a “twirl” phase where every outfit had to be tested for twirly-ness. I neither encouraged nor disparaged this behavior. She outgrew it eventually. (She’s more into rock climbing and running these days, both of which cannot be done in twirly dresses).
    That poor tennis player was probably caught off guard, and unfortunately, we often train girls to be compliant instead of saying “What on earth are you talking about? How about I show you an overhead smash instead?” 🙂
    I long for the day when women like Bouchard, in the face of such ridiculous requests, will raise their eyebrows and say, in the words of John McEnroe, “You CANNOT be serious!”

    • Tim says:

      I think you’re quite possibly right about why she reacted the way she did, Keri. And if only McEnroe were still playing. He might be one to ask that reporter at the next interview, “Aren’t you going to ask me to twirl, pal?”

  11. Hester says:

    When Eugenie Bouchard grew up (she’s 20 now), did she grow from girl to man? Or at least, Did she grow up and lose the inherent desire in girls that makes twirling okay?

    Apparently, I am really a man. I was also really a boy, all anatomical considerations aside, because I was almost always much more interested in dinosaurs and other predator animals than my clothes. In fact I pretty much stopped wearing dresses altogether except for performances (and maybe Easter) after about age 12. You can’t “twirl” blue jeans. And remember how I said on another thread here that I related well to militant images of Jesus as Victor over Satan? I guess me and my gender identity are just profoundly screwed up. *facepalm*

    How can people really believe this stuff? Have they never actually observed humans, other than themselves and their immediate families, in their natural habitat (i.e., noticed human behavior and their surroundings on any given day)? How is it that this was obvious to me as a young child, yet remains extremely NOT obvious to so many grown adults?

    • Tim says:

      It always amazes and saddens me when people take their own limited experience (this is how it happens in my family) and project it on broad swaths of society. It’s even worse when they try to make spiritual rules out of those limited experiences.

      “My daughters like to twirl. That means all grown women are really just little girls inside who still want to please their daddies with their twirling. That’s why it’s ok for a reporter to ask a professional tennis player to twirl.”

      Sheesh.

      • Hester says:

        You know, I think that exact idea, with very similar phrasing, was in the first chapter / introduction of that John Eldridge (?) book Wild at Heart (I was idly paging through it at some point). He claimed that men wanted to have adventures and women wanted to be looked at, then used the example of a little girl showing off her new dress to her dad as “proof” that his assertions about women were universally true. So basically a (male) Christian author came within a hairsbreadth of defining vanity as the essential feminine. It’s hard for me not to read something about his views of women into that.

  12. Ruth says:

    Your response to this strange idea of carnal beauty being like the Bride is very good! I laughed so hard at the clips, a new found source of fun as Hee Haw was never on Oz tv. As for twirling, I love dancing where gowns twirl and float, modern dance shows, there’s nothing to twirl clothes wise! My friends have little girls who wear their gauzy ballet, fairy princess skirts everywhere, simply pull over any outfit at all, even pjs, and you’re there! add tiara wand and fairy wings for a more formal look…too gorgeous for words.
    That’s normal and gorgeous, some of the best Facebook photos ever…even horse riding!
    However they twirl even after being asked to stop because crockery or toys are flying all over the place, and they will twirl anywhere, anytime, and love being asked.
    How different to the aberrant attitude that. Woman must exhibit herself because God made her beautiful, at the whim of a man, it was a pretty outfit, so is she, but, really, tennis is not the beginning of a performance of another type.
    Some men are dense, as you have quoted, you, however Tim, and so many like you are defenders of women and their safety in a fallen world, blessed girl, your daughter, amd many of us who have fathers, husbands and brothers with a right sense of creation and interpretation, and treatment of the female of the species!

    • Tim says:

      I love your description of little girls in their outfits, wanting to be ready to twirl at any moment and continuing on because of the joy of it all. That’s what kids do, and I am so glad for it. As you say, though, it’s a kid thing. As an adult I like do to be childlike, but I don’t like to be treated like a child.

      • Ruth says:

        Yes, they are lovely…the latest, a play day in the bunker at the local golf club. Blond pig-tails, with ribbons, striped leggings, pink top, fairy wings, gauze skirt and butterfly antenna head dress, wand for those, you know, big brother, moments, a huge grin and dirty as all get out! Oh and a princess tiara in case we forgot her station in life! As for personality, she is just two, and runs her big brothers like a sargeant major, and they love it totally, a total tomboy in fluttery garb….sigh….:)

  13. Susan aka VelvetVoice says:

    I just hope that she is not criticized for her compliance to his request. She didn’t have time to think about the implications of twirling on demand. I like the other commenters response “let me show you my backhand!” I’d pay good money to see that!

  14. Laura Droege says:

    I clicked through and read the article. This is strange. I mean, if women are supposed to show off their physical beauty, then why (according to many from similar complementarian positions) do they also have to cover it up lest they be immodest and entice a man to lust? So which do they want: me to flaunt it or me to hide it? Rrrr. (I’m having a bad week with complementarian theology.)

    • Tim says:

      I am right there with you, Laura. In fact, the same day I read the twirling apologetic I also read a post from the comp camp that went the same direction you mention: cover up and stop making men lust.

      As for having a bad week with comp doctrine, your thoughts would make a great blog post (or blog GUEST post here at my place!).

      • Laura Droege says:

        I’m not sure if it’s entirely comp doctrine, or a combination of comp doctrine as taught by linear-thinking male engineers who don’t find non-linear thinking to be valid and who don’t allow room for women to respond in Sunday school class. It’s hard to know what’s universally applicable and what’s specific to my denomination and the demographics of my geographical area.

  15. Donna says:

    One word (or woman) Vashti.

  16. On my parents mantle-piece while I was growing up was a china minature rolling-pin which used to freak me out me a bit. I never dared to speak to my parents about it. It read something like…”Your slippers are by the fire dear, a pipe and book that’s new, but if you don’t get home before this dear, you’ll find someone else in your shoes”. Well…aethiests as my parents were, in my recollection, Dad was mostly at the Golf Club each night while Mum was mostly intoxicated. Suffice to say that my being freaked-out hasn’t yet eveolved into the media requesting twirls of me. But, you never know I guess 😉 Do you think that I should add that talent to my repertoire, Tim 😉 ?

  17. How kind of you to say so 🙂

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