Eugenie Bouchard won her match at the Australian Open last week and, as most winning tennis players do, gave an on-court interview. That’s when things took an odd turn:
After winning a second round match at the Australian Open, women’s world tennis no. 7 Eugenie Bouchard was asked to “twirl” by a reporter. “A twirl, like a pirouette, here you go,” she happily complied, showing off her neon pink and yellow dress.
“It was very unexpected,” she said in her post-match press conference. “I don’t know, an old guy asking you to twirl. It was funny.”
Ms. Bouchard handled it with grace, but she’s right: that’s not the type of request a woman should expect after a moment of achievement in her career.
One of the writers at Desiring God begs to differ. The twirl, in Matt Reagan’s opinion, was completely appropriate because every grown woman was once a little girl.
My daughters are perpetual twirlers, even to the extent that they are searching out the most twirlable skirts and dresses. They come to me unashamed. They giggle, they twirl, their smiles radiate with my delight. Only a bad father would stop their twirling to reprimand their self-misogyny.
So this begs the question: When Eugenie Bouchard grew up (she’s 20 now), did she grow from girl to man? Or at least, Did she grow up and lose the inherent desire in girls that makes twirling okay? My answer to each is an emphatic no.
Mr. Reagan then supports his position by pointing out two things, one temporal and the other spiritual:
- Women tennis players wear outfits that lend themselves to twirling.
- God exults in the beauty of his Bride – his people – and all women should thus show off their own beauty because this will glorify God.
I don’t think either one holds up.
A Woman’s Outfit Is Not an Invitation for Men to Make Demands
First, men claiming to be entitled to certain behavior from a woman because of what she wears is what leads to women being discriminated against, taken advantage of and abused. It’s also something that would never be asked of a man, showing even more of a disparity between Mr. Reagan and the Bible. The Bible is clear:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28.)
Of course it’s not that people expect a man to be asked to twirl on the courts after winning a match (although I think it would be great if the men in the tournament started doing so in all their on-court interviews just to show how ridiculous it is for Ms. Bouchard to have been asked to do it). No, it’s that Mr. Reagan thinks asking a woman to show off her beauty is fine because women (according to him) are made to be beautiful.
Where does this logic take us? For one thing, it takes us off the tennis court and into the rest of the work world.
- “Condoleeza Rice, before we start asking about your career as Secretary of State, how about a little twirl!”
And if it’s sauce for the goose, it’s sauce for the gander.*
- “Stephen King, you’ve made the best seller list once again. Now be a good boy and show us your biceps!”
Ms. Bouchard (whom Mr. Reagan repeatedly refers to by her first name, as if she were still a child) was being interviewed for her athletic achievement. The request to twirl, contrary to Mr. Reagan’s position, had nothing to do with that achievement.
Spiritual Norms Do Not Always Translate to Temporal Behavior
Second, to extend spiritual truths about God’s relationship with his people into behavioral models for how people are to relate to one another is always difficult and in this case I think it’s dangerous. Essentially Mr. Reagan is saying that since God’s people are beautiful to God – along with the unmentioned spiritual truth that God’s people are to submit to him – women are to submit to men who desire a woman to show off her female beauty.
That is not at all what the relationship between God and the church teaches us to do in our interactions with one another, and to suggest it does is not only an irresponsible use of Scripture but is a horrible way to treat women. One would expect better from an organization entitling itself “Desiring God”.
Blind-spots and Denseness
When it comes to a man being denser than a hand-me-down fruitcake about to be regifted at Christmas, I always thought the guy in the song “Put Another Log on the Fire” was the standard by which everyone else was to be measured. After all, anyone who utters these words truly doesn’t get it:
Put another log on the fire.
Cook me up some bacon and some beans.
And go out to the car and change the tire.
Wash my socks and sew my old blue jeans.
Come on, baby, you can fill my pipe,
And then go fetch my slippers.
And boil me up another pot of tea.
Then put another log on the fire, babe,
And come and tell me why you’re leaving me.
And that’s just the chorus.** Listen to the rest:
I might have to rethink my standards of density now.
*”Sauce” phrase explained: dictionary.com.
**I sang this song at the work holiday party a few years back. Brought the house down. Listen to the video and you’ll see why.