For many years, I’ve run the Ridiculous Golf Item Of The Week Award, pointing out various golf gadgets, trinkets, tchotchkes, home decorations, etc. that I deem humorous, wacky, preposterous, or utterly useless. This is done with a completely conscious sense of irony because at the same time I mock the product with the award, I also provide a link for people to follow if they want to buy it.
It is with the same sensibility that I inaugurate the “Ridiculous Golf Story” no-prize. This will go—on a semi-regular basis—to news items, trends and memes that push the boundaries of rationality, taste and discretion. While I am not sure I have the gumption to sustain this on a weekly basis, there certainly will be no shortage of candidates.
As with the Ridiculous Item, I fully appreciate the incongruity of being in the position of mocking and criticizing, while simultaneously exploiting, the headlines.
Unlike the ridiculous item, most of these are going to require a great deal more explanation. The Ridiculous Items typically speak for themselves. The Ridiculous Stories often won’t.
For the first Ridiculous Golf Story No-Prize, I wanted something big—an epic story that truly boggles the mind of rational humans. I considered the ongoing fawning over Tiger Woods, the hysteria after yet another US Ryder Cup loss, the stupid Hack Golf initiative, TaylorMade’s product release black hole, the TOUR’s fan-exhausting wraparound season, and many others.
I finally settled on the trend of sexual exploitation by the major golf media. The shamelessness and/or lack of awareness exhibited by the golf media is breathtaking (so say I, even as I exploit). On the one hand, Ted Bishop is excoriated for his “lil girl” tweet, while on the other, the golf media exploits women in cheesecake photos to sell subscriptions and draw eyeballs to their sites.
The absurdity of the headline for this story is intended to illustrate the absurdity of the behavior of the major golf media.
There was absolutely no golf-related reason for Golf Digest to feature Paulina Gretzky’s boobs, abs and butt in a pictorial. Instead of Gretzky, who dated a player, how about a photo of an actual player? They did that in the October 2014 issue, which featured Michele Wie. Unfortunately, Golf Digest then exploited Wie with a glamour shot featuring a midriff baring, cutoff t-shirt.
Would they do that to Zach Johnson? Would Zach even consent to something like that? My image search of Golf Digest covers found nothing similar for male golfers. (ok. There was the now-infamous Tom Kite photo from 1981, but I think that was intended to be satirical. See photo on right)
In that, I find Paulina, Michelle and others like them complicit in the sexual exploitation of women by the golf media. I understand Paulina Gretzky’s position—she has nothing to offer the world other than a hot body—but Michelle Wie should have refused to pose like that and insisted on photo-equality with the male athletes. How can LPGA stars be taken seriously as athletes if they let themselves be used as mere decorations?
Similarly, I wonder why professional women golfers agreed to participate in Golf dot Com’s series of videos on the “most beautiful women in golf.” I could not find a similar video series on the “biggest hunks in golf.”
Golf Digest and Golf magazine are just the most prominent offenders. The web is full of them. For example, there is the Trash9Network (Back 9 Network) which as far as I can tell exist ONLY to exploit the prurient interest. If aliens abducted Paulina Gretzky and Amanda Dufner stopped wearing bikinis Trash9Network would fold.
For me, the worst part of the sexist exploitation is that in trying to attract male eyeballs, the golf media misses a golden opportunity. Females comprise fifty percent of the population, but represent only a quarter of the golfers in the United States (according to some sources. My unscientific observation suggests even less). If the golf media suffers from a decline in ratings (and golf in general finds participation levels falling), the obvious solution is to increase participation among women.
In the abstract, golf is an incredibly female-friendly sport, with forward tees, handicaps and specialized equipment making it possible for mixed groups to play on a level field. Golf is internal, non-aggressive and social. All of those characteristics should appeal equally to women as to men.
As currently construed, however, golf is not particularly female-friendly. Golf media treats women as mere eye candy. The USGA offers less than half the prize money in its women’s championships as it does for the men’s. Sponsors devalue the LPGA relative to the PGA TOUR. Manufacturers release a suicidally excessive number of clubs each year for men, while almost completely ignoring the women’s market. Female players are dismissed (at best) and harassed (at worst) at the course.
Much of this, I attribute to the way the golf media treats women. If female golfers—even the professionals at the LPGA—are presented as inconsequential, that attitude will trickle down to amateur players, fans, sponsors and manufacturers.
It is time for the golf media to step up to change the tenor of the conversation.
Here are The GolfBlogger’s steps for solving the golf media’s sexism problem:
Step 1: Whenever doing an article or photo spread, ask “Can we tell this story with a woman instead of a man?” If so, strongly consider the woman.
Step 2: Then, when you’ve decided to feature a woman ask: “Are we asking this woman to do anything we wouldn’t ask Jason Dufner or Zach Johnson to do?” If you are, don’t.
Step 3: Repeat the above steps until you have reached sexual parity.
I believe that if you change the attitudes of the opinion-shapers, the rest will fall into place.