Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Race and neurosis

Eugene Robinson doesn't seem too worried about Tiger Woods' affairs. His main concern is that Woods goes for the "Barbie" type, meaning that his mistresses are uniformly blond, thin, and busty. Is Robinson put off by Woods's failure to be attracted to something a bit unusual (say, his failure to find himself a Lewinsky)? Does he not understand why a man would bother cheating with women who resemble both one another and his own wife? Or is the issue more that Woods seems to prefer white women to women of color? I tend to think it's that last one, which means that I agree, it seems, with some folks at the National Review. (Good to know, by the way, that the author of Liberal Fascism likes 'em Aryan. And by the way, if you go for "crazy-hot Swedish swimsuit models," that makes your tastes conventional, not "bourgeois" - bourgeois leanings or lack thereof don't enter into it.)

Anyway. Who knows whether Woods goes for this type (assuming that's even true - I haven't really been following this story) out of self-hatred, or if he enjoys the prestige that being able to score such partners implies, or if he found something special about each of these women individually who each just happened to look a certain way, or if, boringly enough, he's seen the same ads and billboards as everyone else and his tastes were shaped accordingly. It seems clear enough, though, that Robinson projects neurosis onto Woods without a whole lot of evidence.

The neurosis, though understandable, is that of the author, not Woods. It's a bit like how part of my ambivalence towards this personal-style blog comes from my awareness that if its author was an unabashed, unambiguous Jew, as opposed to a delicate-featured Texan belle, she would, let's face it, be called a nouveau-riche 'JAP' at every turn, in that her blog largely consists of photographs of designer shoes and clothes purchased, it appears, with her parents' money. Simply put, while Jewish girls can and do blog about fashion, a Jewish girl could not have this blog, because it would fit the stereotype too perfectly. So when I look at the blog, I'm bothered not only, as everyone else is, by the obscene display of privilege, but also by the specifically Gentile privilege that's evidenced by the blogger's free-and-easy announcements of consumption. Now I realize both that I can't prove what I just feel I know in this case, but also that on some level that I'm projecting my own anxieties onto a blog that has nothing to do with Jews. Which is sort of how I see the Woods situation. Mistresses or not, blonde or not, whatever's going on with Woods, it's unclear why his racial identity would be relevant here - if race enters into it at all, it's only insofar as beauty standards in our society favor not so much white women as a subset of white women who resemble that particular doll.


Jeff said...

Tiger is only 25% (for lack of a better term) black, and has not exactly turned himself into an ambassador for Causes of Color. I think people like Robinson have always been a bit irked that he has not more explicitly played the Influential African-American role.

I believe he's 50% Asian but as far as I know no Asian commentators are chiming in on his choice of women.

And if you look at the women (safe-for-work pic here of the first seven women, Tiger, and his wife), it's not exactly the seven best looking women in the country. And hey... on one of them... is that frizzy hair I see?

Britta said...

Can I just say, I know that Scandinavia and the US have very different definitions of blonde, but it what way are at least half of these women even close to blonde? I am blonde myself (by anyone's definition), and I am fully cognizant of the many levels of privilege that it makes me privy to, but it gets annoying when anyone gets described as "blonde" merely because they are...not black? Are supposedly conventionally attractive? White? Sure, Tiger Woods' mistresses are more blonde than the average population, but it's still not all. And, isn't there another way to point out their Barbie-like proportions without assigning them a fictive hair color?
A similar thing struck me when I was reading back issues of a Chinese magazine I study. An issue from the late 80s had an article on a Chinese peasant who got a college education, started a bar, and married a Portuguese woman. This was apparently unusual enough at that time to warrant a human interest story. They had multiple photos of the couple, and in all but one her hair was as dark as her husband's. In one photo, she had brown highlights in her dark hair, yet the article described her as a "blonde haired, auburn-eyed, western woman." Clearly blonde stood in for a certain level of desirability regardless of any basis in actual hair color.
Finally, this a little snarky, but I don't actually think his wife is that attractive. In some photos she looks fine, but in others her face is weirdly unproportional. Yes, she looks Swedish, and she has blonde hair, but those two facts are not enough to automatically make someone "smoking hot." Obviously this personal for me, and compared to actual discrimination the complaint that your ethnicity is stereotyped as so beautiful people disregard the actual attractiveness of your features and assume you beautiful no matter what isn't (and shouldn't) garner much sympathy.
Ok, that's my rant for the evening.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


Having now seen the photos, I fully agree with you that not all the women have blond hair. I don't really think there's a 'thing' in the culture to describe all non-black women as 'blonde'. In fact, I reread Robinson's passage about Barbie, and his concern is long hair, not blond hair, although to be fair, the doll is known for a very specific hair color, not merely a distinct body type. Some mix of the National Review posts, Robinson's doll reference, and the photos I had seen at that point made me think blonde, when in fact Brunette Barbie made the occasional appearance.

Anyway, I have always been curious how beauty would be determined somewhere like Scandinavia, given that in many situations I've been in (high school especially), merely having features (hair especially) that suggest heritage from that part of the world, assuming not paired with morbid obesity, made one "crazy-hot."

I can see how if for you, blondness is a not-unusual trait, or a trait you yourself have, the fetishization would be annoying. But I'm not sure how as a society this could be fought - by pointing out that some blondes are not that hot (or blonde) after all? (And as for Woods's wife, who does seem to model swimsuits, I think you'd have a tough time arguing that point.) By, as Robinson suggests, celebrating the beauty of women of all races? This, I find, only serves to make women of races one has to be explicitly told to celebrate end up looking worse, as when the leader of my Birthright Israel trip told the guys in the audience to remember how attractive Jewish girls are.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Also, I didn't get into this in this post, but the idea that a member of a minority group (or in Woods's case, several) who dates/marries among the majority does so out of self-hatred seems unique to cases when the man is the minority. None of the women mentioned in this story are presented as having any kind of fetish, whereas Groucho Marx is.

Matt said...

One can't help but feel a bit dirty after looking at it, but at least some of these women are hardly barbie dolls

The so-called "flapjack floozy" most obviously, I guess. I understand there's some suggestion that at least some of these women were not Woods's lovers but rather involved in procuring a steady stream of women for him when he was out out and about. Since I already know very much more about this subject than I ever wanted to I'm hoping not to read much more and to never know the truth.