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Monday, October 27, 2014

Ted Bishop Take-Aways

How we talk about things is most certainly a lens into how we think about those things.  Yes?  No?  Well, perhaps not always.  Perhaps it only counts if we put those things in writing, yes?  Because if it's not in writing then we could be misquoted, or misunderstood.   Yes?  No?  Does it count if we delete those offensive things, like from our Twitter and Facebook accounts?  Yes?  No?  I'm confused.  When does it count?

Ted Bishop has suggested it doesn't count in his case because both his children are female and they've both made their careers in the golf industry and he's always been "a great advocate for women and girls in golf."

Feminist psycholinguists tell us that when men resort to gender-loaded insults there's more than a hint that those men not entirely comfortable with women as equals, but I'm not confident that the psycholinguists are widely read outside fairly narrow academic circles.

Still, is calling another guy a "L'il Girl" or saying he sounds "like a little school girl squealing at recess" insulting?  And if it's insulting, who's being insulted?  The guy who got called "L'il Girl"?  Little school girls?  All women?  All men?  The cosmos?

Clearly, the PGA of America felt that Ted Bishop had crossed a rather blurry line when he took his gender-laced attack on Ian Poulter to the very public social media level as surely as had Ray Rice when he delivered that roundhouse punch to his fiancee in what he presumed was the privacy of an elevator, but was actually a very public venue because the elevator's security camera was running.

If my Twitter feed and the Google+ Golf Community group comments are a barometer of public opinion, others are less certain.  Both the public outcry and the PGA Board of Directors' action seemed excessive to some, overreactions to a rather innocuous and relatively harmless albeit inappropriate and insensitive bit of locker room jocularity.

In a response to a Global Golf Post October 24 posting on Facebook asking for reader feedback on the Bishop firing, Horace Heggle, Jr. spoke for many others when he observed:
Why can't he [Bishop] say what he wants to say.  Everyone is so scared someone's feelings may get hurt.  Some people need their feelings hurt.  Life is not peachy keen every day.  Having to be politically correct sucks.
Photo credit:
Horace, how we can determine which people need their feelings hurt?  Perhaps people who need to be shoved back into their proper place?
Patricia Hannigan takes a broader, less personalized view of the Ted Bishop vs PGA drama, sees it as "part of a pent-up, long-languishing need for a cultural shift in a sport that has built its brand on the concept of 'tradition' . . . [and] part of a cultural evolution #golf needs to go through in order to stay relevant. . ."

Perhaps it boils down to a fundamental tension between focusing on the personal right to say what we think in whatever way we choose to say it and the inevitability of culture lag in which Bishop got caught?

Does the PGA Need a Broader Housecleaning?

And why, one Google+ Golf Community member, Tom Clooney, queried, should Bishop be held to a higher standard than other PGA officials, whom Clooney charged were most surely aware of if not present for the gender-charged locker room humiliations imposed on the US Ryder Cup team following their loss at Gleneagles?

Here's what Clooney had to say on the matter:

Tom Clooney
Yesterday 10:03 PM

+Elizabeth Bethel   On Ryder Cup Sunday, was losing a match and being "punished" by having to dress in wig and skirt - aka- like a chick -- sexist or just boys being boys?  (PS: The PGA brass were well aware and probably in the room)
Which is worse?  That, or this PGA President trying to be cool after hanging with these private jet fools.  I think the former was worse than the latter.  But nobody said boo.   #BOO

 Because the one incident was astonishingly public and the other not so much?  And that takes us back to the original dilemma: when does it count?

Where's the LPGA?

There is another questions that also merits consideration: Why did the LPGA, the presumed standard-bearer of women's access to professional golf, remain silent about the Bishop comments and the PGA Board actions for more than 48 hours after Bishop's Tweet and Facebook post exploded across the ether, when the PGA took action in less than 24 hours, warp speed for a bureaucracy?  Not until the following day did the LPGA issue an official statement on the matter that, for me, was disappointingly ambiguous and cautious.

While the LPGA Founders were pathbreaking, barrier-pushing athletes who challenged the No-Girls-Allowed pro golf ethos, most -- Babe Zaharias excepted -- were careful to avoid masculinization of their public persona and protected the LPGA's carefully-nurtured girl-next-door image.

Even The Babe, a powerhouse athlete across sports venues, maintained the facade of a certain feminine mystique.  When once asked for ball striking tips for women, she's remembered to have advised aspiring women golfers to just loosen their girdles and give the ball a smack!  I can't imagine The Babe or anyone else wearing a girdle while they golfed but Babe's allusion to that most womanly of undergarments put her squarely in the respectability camp.

A girdle, on the golf course?

What's Really At Issue?

The NFL being a notable exception, it's relatively easy to come out in opposition to physical abuse.  The now-infamous Ray Rice elevator video evoked a public outcry for action even as it elicited a merely elevated eyebrow from that most masculinized of professional athletic organizations.  But verbal behavior is a more problematic grey area.  When does language cross the line from harmless, thoughtless, locker-room banter to low-in-the-trough sexist insult?

And since when can't we hurl those insults at each other?  What's wrong with an occasional insult?I've been smack talking with Wes for years as we get ready for our next Bethel Wars match.  It's part of the prep process.

I routinely put on my tinfoil hat on deflect the verbal barbs of my golfing companions.  That's part of the mental game.  But when I use my tinfoil hat to deflect the rays of sexism and racism, am I deflecting an OB shot or a DQ sin?

Sacking Ted Bishop isn't going to solve the problem of sexism and racism in the game of golf, whether we're talking about the professional or the amateur level.  Did Bishop get DQed when he simply went OB?

Every woman's who's ever teed it up has compiled her own list of OB behaviors.  While we play our rounds, the gender wars swirls on our periphery, sometimes taking the form of slow-playing male foursomes who wouldn't dream of inviting a foursome of women to play through, but at other times evaporating as the men at our home courses become Bag Boys For A Day to support our tournaments.  

I often remember the two men with whom I was paired on consecutive days several years ago at a beach resort when I was playing as a single.  The first day my playing partner was a pleasant enough college professor who after my third tee shot whined, "You're outdriving me!" and the second day my playing partner was an equally pleasant Canadian retiree with whom I had an ongoing conversation about the delightful wonders of winter golf on the South Carolina Sea Islands, while I outdrove him.

Culture change just doesn't proceed at a steady, even pace, not in the classroom, not in the work force, and not on the golf course.