I didn’t plan on writing anything about Tiger Woods’ stupid, sexist, juvenile joke with pal Justin Thomas at the Genesis Invitational last week. After all, lots of people have already written about it more eloquently than I will. If you missed the moment, Woods handed Thomas a tampon during the first round of the tournament, presumably as a comment on Thomas’ play, possibly as a comment on his character. Here’s the video:
For me, the best part is Thomas disgustedly throwing the tampon to the ground, as if Tiger had just handed him a giant cootie, rather than, you know, putting it in his bag for when some woman in his life ultimately needs it, but that’s neither here nor there.
For all the “women are superheroes!” and “women can do anything!” ad campaigns that pop up around the time of the Olympics or any time the USWNT plays, there are a huge number of men out there that don’t get what the big deal is. I know this because a significant portion of them wound up in my inbox this weekend, thanks to this tweet:
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Literally tweeted it and went on about my day. After all, women are used to seeing this stupid joke over and over and over, often by men with pics of their daughters in their social media profiles and #girldad in their bios. But let’s be clear, the joke is always “women are weaker and worse at sports and you need a tampon because you are as weak as a woman.” That’s it. That’s the joke. There is no other joke. Not when men joke that a pitcher has his period, not when men joke that a quarterback needs some Vagisil, not when men rename teams the “ViQueens” or “CowGirls.” Women, and our perceived strength, are always, always the butt of the joke. Ironic, considering I haven’t seen a guy yet who can make it past the “moderate” stage of cramps on the PMS simulator.
But I digress.
Men were so moved by my tweet, that they sent me tearful messages all week about how I had “really made them think” about how they use language that denigrates women and how sorry they are, and how careful they’ll be moving forward.
Just kidding, they actually sent me lots of messages like this:
“A little overly sensitive and Woke about the Tiger Woods joke I see...must be that time of month…”
“You a bitch”
“I’ll watch Tiger hand tampons to JT a million times over before I read what you have to say about sports. 🤡”
And Tiger’s apology wasn’t much better, to be honest:
“It was supposed to be all fun and games and obviously it hasn’t turned out that way. If I offended anybody, it was not the case, it was just friends having fun. As I said, if I offended anybody in any way, shape, or form, I’m sorry. It was not intended to be that way. It was just we play pranks on one another all the time and virally I think this did not come across that way, but between us it was — it’s different.”
Okay, first off, you did offend people — you offended a huge number of women. I don’t think that’s even up for debate. And I’m sure it is different. I’m sure the jokes men make are always different when women aren’t around to call them out on their sexist bullshit. You hit that like a girl, here’s a tampon. You’re so emotional today, do you have your period? Really, if the joke is something different, please explain it to me.
What really struck me, though, about the number of men who wrote to (screeched at?) me was how many told me I was wrong because their daughter/wife/girlfriend/sister also thought Tiger’s “joke” was funny. And to be honest, I don’t know any of these women. Maybe they did find a grown man handing another grown man a tampon as a sign of disrespect completely hilarious. Maybe they have so internalized the sexism that women swim in every day that she genuinely found it humorous. Or (more likely) maybe the guy isn’t telling me the truth.
But here’s the thing: Women learned long ago to choose their battles when it comes to pointing out sexism and misogyny. Some women have so much of it to deal with at work or at home that, yeah, maybe criticizing one of the most famous athletes on the planet for making a sexist joke was not at the top of her priority list that day. And if there were a man in my life that got so angry about a complete stranger mildly criticizing Tiger Woods (who does not need Chad from Oswego to defend him), that he immediately sits down and pens a message full of insults and vitriol to the author - yeah, I might laugh it off, too. Avoid the controversy. Avoid the mansplaining and the “it’s not sexist” gaslighting. Is it even worth it?
Tiger Woods’ lame attempt at humor matters because it not only demonstrates but reinforces, the idea that women are inferior to men. In sports. On the job. In a bar fight (or whatever measuring stick men use to determine their machoness). And women being viewed as inferior is how we wind up with women’s pro sports leagues that are underfunded and under-marketed. It’s how we wind up with women being told they can’t show their bare arms on the floor of the Missouri state house. It’s how we find ourselves in a place where women have lost control over their bodily autonomy in more than a few states. It’s how we end up fearing men are coming for our birth control next. It is why we had the #MeToo movement and why so many men are comfortable policing, harassing, and intimidating women. We do not matter. We are lesser. Women’s inferiority to men is at the root of all of it — be it a joke between friends or an entire political platform based on it.
And either the men who “have raised strong daughters” or are “#girldads” agree with calling out sexism in all its forms, big and small, joking or earnest, among the famous and not-so-famous, by men they admire and men they disdain — or they don’t.