Seeing the photos of “trans woman” Glenique Frank after he won a marathon in London by competing in the female category gave me a moment of clarity about the current “men in women’s sports” phenomenon. They usually try to pull off what they presume is a feminine air and fail miserably, but this guy didn’t even make an attempt. Oh sure, he was wearing a stuffed pink sports bra, but he was otherwise so clearly male one wonders why he even bothered with that. Some of this is just plain greed. Sports scholarships are lucrative, and races may have cash awards, which is why some guys go in for it, and by feigning sincerity the scam won’t be immediately called out. But I think something besides avarice is going on. That is, it’s an inside joke.
How apropos then that the first foray into this business of men competing against women in sports was launched by a comedian. On October 20, 1979, while hosting Saturday Night Live, Andy Kaufman offered $500 to any woman in the audience who could win a 3-minute wrestling match against him. Wearing full-length white thermal underwear, baggy black swim trunks, black socks and black shoes, he strutted around declaring he was the World Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion while poking fun at Women’s Lib. Previously Kaufman was best known for the nervous-foreign-man impersonation he did in nightclubs in the early 1970s, the inspiration for his character Latka on the sit com Taxi. After straightaway pinning his volunteer SNL opponent to the mat he got hate mail; today he’d be lauded, or as one of the organizers of the London Marathon gushed after “Glenique’s” win, “We are committed to making the TCS London Marathon the most diverse, equitable and inclusive marathon in the world.”
I think Kaufman was satirizing sexual politics, although he didn’t admit it at the time. Instead, he said things like, “Most men are bigger than me and stronger than me so I figured if I challenge women they’ll have a good chance to beat me,” and “I would have to say all these nasty things about women just to get them to come up on stage, and to define for the audience that they should be booing me.” So, he’s wrestling women to show the world how wrong it is to wrestle women, even if he’s so puny a gal might be able to take him. Hmm. Sounds like double-talk a PR agent concerned about keeping his client marketable talked him into. I believe Kaufman knew exactly what he was doing. He was debunking a feminist manifesto that demanded gender differences be viewed as merely chauvinistic bigotry, by showing how gender differences are very real, and doing it on national television. How times have changed. Now the opposite lesson is presented on national television. In cop shows.
Police gear totals about 30 pounds; gun, ammunition, leather holster, body camera, et cetera. In a typical TV police drama, there will be a scene where a female cop faces a “perp” who doesn’t want to be arrested and runs off, initiating a foot chase. The perp is dressed in jeans, a tee shirt and sneakers, and the only extra weight he’s carrying are the keys in his pocket (probably not his own). This limber, long-legged fellow is galloping along when suddenly out of nowhere the lady cop catapults herself up and forward and lands on his back. And cuffs him. Wearing 30 pounds of gear. And with shorter legs. She’s somewhat petite because she’s invariably also someone else’s love interest. Now, just off camera, there’s a ramp that a stunt woman, carrying a hollow plastic gun in a canvas holster, dashed up and propelled herself off of so she could land on the guy. The cop show’s inspirational “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby” moment is courtesy of a stunt coordinator and props department and bears no semblance to reality. This isn’t poetic license or willing suspension of disbelief, it is farce, but presented as female empowerment.
So, what’s behind the preposterous action sequences? Is it radical feminists who demand all gender differences be viewed as chauvinist bigotry browbeating today’s media bigwigs into politically correct scenarios of inclusivity, even when it’s neither correct nor inclusive because even male cops are slowed down by 30 pounds of gear? Do they really have that much power on their own, or is it indifferent men in the producer’s office acquiescing easily because they really don’t care enough to present the positive side of having female police officers in a logical way? Or is it faking sensitivity while laughing up their sleeves? An inside joke. Or payback.
Starting in the 70’s lawsuits were brought to force men-only venues, such as gentlemen’s brandy and cigars clubs and saloons like McSorley’s Old Ale House, to accept women. Their success was deeply resented. Men seem to have an innate talent for bonding in order to achieve goals, and they may now be strategically invading the ultimate “women only” venue, our very gender, as payback. Maybe for some it’s not part of an organized strategy; it may just feel good in a poetic justice sort of way, and as long as they’re not actually cutting anything off, and winning sports scholarships while they’re at it, why not? But the seething resentment isn’t altogether unjustified. After all, complaining now about the unfairness of physically stronger men competing against women in sports is ironic considering those same physical differences were side-stepped when it came to women joining the fire department by lowering the strength test requirements. And so, we now have men wearing the bras we burned in the ’60s; whether an inside joke, or payback, it’s gal contempt with a bow on it, but . . . maybe the guys have a point here. Just saying.
Look, I’m not contending this genderism nonsense is entirely an organized payback strategy or a smug poetic justice reflex. I’m sure some of these men are sincere, but being sincere doesn’t make you correct. Columbus sincerely thought he landed in India. But going so far as to cut off your sex organs enters the realm of serious mental disease. And encouraging minors to do so? It’s child abuse with a bow on it. But what is the charitable way to comfort those men, and women, who are convinced their true gender is in the wrong body and suffer because of it? Maybe, they don’t need a shrink or a surgeon but a philosopher.
What strikes me most about resorting to irreversible sex change surgery is the appalling lack of imagination. If you truly believe you’re a woman in a man’s body or vice versa, what a great opportunity to lead a fascinating life beyond what most of us can have! To be in the world with say, a man’s body but the inner self of a woman, affords you a dual perspective. It’s two lives in one. And if you are absolutely sure your gender doesn’t match your body, why do you have to carve yourself up to prove it? And to whom? Why would you need to convince others if you’re sure of it yourself?
One thing is for sure. “Trans-women” will never burn their bra. For them, it’s a trophy.