Friday, December 18, 2009

Tiger Woods & Ann Cook

Let’s look at two columns that discuss waitresses and models, in connection with Tiger Woods. Yesterday and the day before, Echidne tore up alleged liberal Richard Cohen, who called cocktail waitresses “dreck” in the Washington Post. The word means “trash, especially inferior merchandise,” from the Yiddish word for excrement.

In the West, under patriarchy, there’s a long history of men judging women who work in public places as less moral and low status. This attitude strengthened as industrialization spread to cities in the 1800s. A “public woman” was another name for a prostitute. It’s not surprising that men considered
waitresses up for grabs, in more ways than one.

Models could be similarly tainted, especially if they posed for a man without a chaperone, or if they exposed a part of their body not normally seen in public.

For the most part, men created the demand and made the demands.

These days, there are plenty of liberal men who oppose restrictions on sexualizing workers (think Hooters), as well as prostitution itself, and yet view the women as “inferior merchandise” – if not crap – when they use their services or when the women are in conflict with men of higher status.

Some journalists knew that Woods treated sex as a sport, but they kept it secret to protect his image as a wholesome family man. It wasn’t just men protecting another man. The media also made money off of his image. They are making money on the scandal, too, but it won’t be nearly as lucrative for mainstream media and advertising as his golfing career has been.

Robin Givhan, also in the Post, writes:
… while Woods is being portrayed as complicated and troubled, the women are merely types. … The women are just "the mistresses." The golfer has been called a dog, a liar and worse. But he still gets the benefit of being perceived as an individual. He is still Tiger Woods.
She notes the power imbalance between a billionaire and women in jobs with little pay or prestige. Women are much more likely to work as models and servers, she notes, which may be one reason that young, attractive ones are so easily stereotyped as dumb and slutty.

Here’s her paragraph that inspired this post:
And pity the poor women who have ever been models. It does not seem to matter if one's only experience modeling was as an infant promoting Gerber's. If you should ever find yourself under media scrutiny, you will forever be referred to as a former model, a kind of shorthand meant to imply that you are vacuous -- all style and no substance.
I attend a Unitarian Universalist church with Ann Turner Cook, in the photo above. She's a woman of intelligence and grace, who writes mystery novels set in Florida locales. I emailed her what Givhan wrote, and she replied:
As the actual model for the Gerber baby, the experience has been a joy to me. The media always treat me with kindness. My real career was as an English teacher and mystery writer, but what could be nicer than to also be a symbol for babies?