A Critique of the post “Is It Sexist That Women Twirl?” by Matt Reagan
Someone on my Twitter feed linked to this post by Matt Regan at the Desiring God site a few weeks ago. Apparently, the original title was “Is It Sexist That Women Twirl,” and was later changed to, “Do Little Girls Outgrow the Twirl?”
(Link): Is It Sexist that Women Twirl (via Way Back Machine / Internet Archive, January 23, 2015)
The URL to that:
(Link): Do Little Girls Outgrow the Twirl? by Matt Reagan, January 23, 2015
A woman, Eugenie Bouchard, won an international tennis match. A journalist asked her after her win to twirl for him and/or for the audience.
Several media outlets characterized this as being sexist.
Here is some of what MR, Reagan, has to say about the incident; I will quote him, then offer my observations below each quote:
- Therein lies the problem. When Roger Federer was a little boy, he didn’t run into the living room, call for his parents’ attention, and twirl his outfit in front of them (he wasn’t wearing something twirlable to begin with).
- But Serena did. Eugenie did. They were little girls, who were made to display the beauty they were given and to have that beauty honored. My daughters are perpetual twirlers, even to the extent that they are searching out the most twirlable skirts and dresses.
First of all, if a woman or girl of her own accord chooses to “twirl” around in a dress for her daddy in the privacy of their home, that is HER choice.
For a grown man, a so-called professional, to ask a grown woman to “twirl” around in her tennis outfit before a stadium of people after she wins a match, is not treating that woman as another professional. It is not the man’s place to ask a woman in public to “twirl.”
Most women, in many cultures, are strongly socialized to always say “yes,” especially to men from the time they are girls.
Ergo, when this man journalist asked this woman to twirl, she probably wanted to say “no,” but felt, “Well, gosh, if I say No, I might hurt his feelings or put him on the spot in public, or even offend him, so even though I do not really want to twirl, I will do so to spare this man’s feelings.”
In some situations, women do not feel free to say “No” to men, because they have been conditioned to believe it is wrong to have boundaries or to be assertive.
Even if this woman was fine twirling at the man’s request, it does not change the fact that the action diminished her accomplishment.
Instead of the male reporter asking this woman questions about her tennis skills and ability to succeed at tennis, he chose to focus on her femininity and her physical appearance – which is, yes, very degrading and sexist, even if you think God designed women to “want to twirl.”
How would Reagan feel if there was a gender turn-around?
How about if a woman reporter asked a man quarterback who just won the Super Bowl, “Wow, buddy, your body is ROCKING in that tight football uniform, oh baby, how sexy. How about twirling around so the hetero ladies can get a load of your FINE ASS, honey?”
The timing is offensive, sexist, unprofessional, and not appropriate.
If the woman reporter finds Mr. Quarterback’s ass and six pack attractive, she can always approach him LATER, after the game, in private, and compliment him on his fine physique – but to do so in front of an entire audience (or even just the camera man), and place prominence on his physique over his skills as a football player, and right after winning the game, would be a case of reverse sexism, in my view.
To focus on the man’s looks, rather this his achievement, is to belittle him as a person and as a professional. It is the same thing when a male reporter compliments a female in public in regards to her clothing or physical appearance after such an occasion.
Secondly, I, and I am a woman, NEVER “twirled” in dresses in front of my dad, nor did I ever have any desire to twirl in front of my father.
Not all females are girly girls who like to wear frilly dresses, let alone twirl in them.
I am a woman. I hated dresses and skirts for many years.
I only wore skirts and dresses as a child occasionally because dear old mother dragged me to backwards, sexist Southern Baptist Churches, and she felt that SBCs would look down on her, if me, her daughter, wore jeans and t-shirts to church.
Trust me, I would much rather have worn jeans and sneakers to church as a kid (and as an adult).
As a woman, as a human being, I would rather be praised for my talents, skills, and accomplishments, rather than my beauty or my cute skirt.
Remember in a previous post, I wrote about my ex-fiance? (Here is a link to that post Link: Male Entitlement In Dating and Marriage Part 1).
My ex expected me to stroke his ego over his accomplishments CONSTANTLY, and though I tried, he never liked how I did so – I was not “ass kissy” enough for his tastes, and I did not do so as often as he liked.
One thing my ex – let’s call him “Fred” – did do is tell me all the time how “beautiful” I was.
I was rejected when younger, during my “ugly duck” phase, by males for being ugly.
Boys did not appreciate me for me or my humor or talent as a teen. When I morphed into the Sexy Swan, and men then started to warm to me, I was constantly getting praise from men – but for being pretty.
It pisses me off then, and it pisses me off now. Men only value me for WHAT I LOOK LIKE. I do not want to be valued only or primarily for how sexy I am.
None of these a-holes (i.e., males) care about me as a person, about my intelligence, my dreams for life, my hobbies, my career, my aspirations, my fears, my doubts, my sense of humor.
It always came down to, “you look HOT, baby honey.”
My ex, Fred, was no different.
Fred would constantly tell me, “You are so beautiful.”
And that means nothing to me. It is a hollow, empty compliment.
I do not want my value to be based on my physical appearance, whether for or against, or if I look cute twirling around in a skirt.
If you are a man, and you are going to like me or reject me, I want it to be based on non-looks standards.
Maybe you read this blog and think I’m a bitch. Great. At least that has nothing to do with what I look like.
I tried telling my ex to stop saying, “you are so pretty” to me all the time, but it went on for YEARS.
I said to my ex,
- “Bub, that doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if you think I’m smoking hawt or “ooh la la sexy sexy”. For the love of Holy Sam, find something else to compliment me on. Tell me you find me funny, if you do, tell me my piano playing is awesome, or you like my brains. Anything but the damn “You are so purity! So beautiful” all the time.”
Dumb ass, (my ex), never made the switch.
Doofus only cared about the outer package, not the heart underneath, so I dumped his ass (and for 126 other reasons).
- The first reason is evidential. Why are Eugenie and Serena wearing the outfits in the first place? Are they not intentionally demonstrating their feminine beauty to the world?
Reagan makes too many assumptions in his essay, and this is one of them. It is troubling how Reagan assumes his sexist assumptions about women are true of all women, and that these sexist assumptions are God-ordained and “biblical.”
Most women are not dressing to show their femininity or beauty to the world or to men, but that women are taught in girlhood that they are expected by society to “look pretty.”
Women get the message from parents, church, friends, Hollywood, magazines, and TV advertisements that their value resides in being pretty.
Hence, women wear lip stick, dresses, and high heels.
Women are not, by and large, wearing skirts because God designed women to place so much prominence on their bodies and looks – conversely, that is something CHRISTIAN MALES do. It is Christian males who continually assess women on their appearance.
I touched on that in a previous post here:
- Even in the realm of professional sports, where muscle and traditionally masculine qualities are on display,
Do you know who or what makes those traits considered “traditionally masculine?” Culture, that’s what. Society, that’s who. Reagan’s assumptions and opinions. But not the Bible. Not God.
- Eugenie Bouchard is inviting the world to see her beauty, to see the feminine glory of God. And in a godly world, there would be a strong, bold, and tenderhearted man who would honor her and delight in her as her father did, as her heavenly Father does.
Is Bouchard really “inviting the world to see her beauty?” No, she is not, not likely.
Reagan is only assuming she is doing so.
And why does he do so? Because he judges women based on what they look like, he assumes this is what everyone else is doing, and further assumes this is normal, good, right, and godly.
Further, Reagan is not judging women upon what they say, accomplish, or think (which is how God judges women).
I propose that the reason so many men, even Christian men, place too much emphasis upon women’s bodies, beauty, and sexuality is due to the fall in the Garden, mentioned in the book of Genesis of the Bible.
Back when Adam disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, it turned men into sexist a-holes who exploit women and obsess over women’s looks and sexuality. Reagan is actually upholding an outcome of the Fall as being a virtue; it’s quite warped. Reagan should repent.
In addition, Reagan’s comments here conflicts with the rest of the Christian world, consisting of Christians who are forever – (like militant Muslims) – shaming women into covering up their bodies.
If a woman wears a short skirt in public or to church, gender complementarian Christians will “tut tut” and scold such women, and tell them, “go home and put on a long skirt, because your current skirt is immodest. You showing off your knees is causing your brothers in Christ to stumble.”
Reagan is also assuming – and this is very sexist – that this tennis player woman should be valued ONLY for her looks and body, and he further assumes the only or primary reason a man would want to date her is that she looks cute in a short skirt.
Is that what God conveys in the Bible? No. God does not convey in the Bible that the one quality a man should look for in a marriage mate is “how sexy she looks in a skirt, and if she enjoys twirling in a skirt in front of men.”
- Eugenie Bouchard is inviting the world to see her beauty,
No, she’s not – that is merely YOUR ASSUMPTION.
Even if she were “inviting the world to see her beauty,” it does not follow from this that
- 1. God designed women to be that way; or that
- 2. this is true of ALL women.
One reason women wear short skirts in tennis is because it is easier to run and jump in short skirts than in baggy sweat pants.
Reagan attempts to use Isaiah 62 to say that all his views in his editorial are “biblical,” but Isaiah 62 deals with God’s views about Israel, not about how men and women are to relate to one another.
MR (Reagan) says,
- The way that a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, in all her multi-layered beauty, is the way that God rejoices over his people. The dynamic of women displaying their beauty for others to rejoice over is endorsed by God.
To use a passage about God’s relationship with ancient Israel and attempt to apply it to contemporary society’s views about women and womens’ dress totally misses the mark. It’s a misapplication of Scripture.
MR (Reagan) says,
- The dynamic of women displaying their beauty for others to rejoice over is endorsed by God.
Not necessarily, no.
The Bible is silent on whether or not God endorses the concept of women displaying their beauty and at that, for other people to “rejoice over”.
I would suspect that God does not believe that men should be judging women based on outward appearance or rejoicing over their looks, for God says (this was originally written about a man but the principle applies to women),
- But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Reagan also assumes that women wear skirts or lip stick to appeal to the male gaze – to him, to other men. That is not so.
There may be occasions in a woman’s life where she does specifically dress for a man but this is not the usual motivation.
For example, my ex, Fred, thought I looked sexy in a black mini skirt, heels, and lace stockings. I wore them once on a date.
Fred asked me months later, “Babe, when I take you out to dinner this week, will you please wear that same outfit?” I said, “Sure, okay”. That was my decision. I went ahead and humored my boyfriend on that occasion.
The first time I wore that skirt, though, I was not doing so to please Fred or any other man. I wore that outfit because I liked it. I was not wearing that skirt to “invite the world to enjoy my beauty.”
More often than not, women wear make-up or certain clothing to please themselves, or to address their own comfort level. Women do not dress for men. I don’t even agree with the old adage that “women dress for other women.”
Many men (not all, I said MANY not ALL, there are a few men who “get it”), who tend to be sexist jerks, always ASSUME that women exist FOR MEN, and everything we women say, do, or wear, is FOR THEM, or SHOULD BE FOR MEN. Your Christian variety of these sexist tropes is to add this rationale: “And God designed it this way. It’s biblical!”
That women have their own preferences, reasons, etc, for wearing what they do never seems to cross the minds of sexist, self-absorbed men such as Matt Reagan.
Matt Reagan should ask himself: if the journalist had NOT asked the woman tennis player to twirl, would she have? Probably not.
She was what, 20 at the time? Twenty year old women are not usually going to twirl around, as though they are still 3 year old girls in front of Daddy. It is not a grown man journalist’s place to ask a grown professional woman to twirl.
Would Reagan find it acceptable for his 28 year old daughter, (assuming he had one), to go to work as a lawyer in a law firm, and one of the senior partners ask her to twirl for him after winning a court case?
- “C’mon darlin’, I know you have a law degree, but twirl around in your skirt for me, baby. Twirl for me the way you twirled for Daddy when you were a girl. Mmm, yes, show off some more of that sweet ass and sexy long legs God gave you, baby.
- C’mon, God designed you to be sexy, for me to enjoy your sexy, so show it off honey bun. Twirl for Daddy, Twirl!”
Does Matt Reagan not see how creepy and wrong that mentality is, and how creepy, inappropriate, and degrading those assumptions, are? But this is the very thing he is endorsing in his editorial.
How about a woman surgeon, would Reagan find it acceptable for a male surgeon to ask the woman surgeon to twirl around in her scrubs after a procedure on a patient?
My guess is, he might say, “No, that would not be acceptable.”
Well, it’s not any more acceptable to ask a woman tennis player after a win on a court, either.
- Because God’s beauty is in his creation, we dishonor him and his creation when we conceal that beauty, and we dishonor him and his creation when we exploit it. Even in our hyper-sexualized society, there is a way to purely recognize beauty and to honor it. We appreciate what it is about God’s wondrous design that makes women, not men, twirl.
This is the exact opposite of “modesty teachings” one often sees on Christian blogs and in books. Christian women are frequently told NOT to wear short skirts, spaghetti straps, etc, all the time by other Christians, especially by gender complementarians.
Also, there are some men who do twirl. The men who categorize themselves as “transgender” who think they are women, might want to do things Regan would consider “feminine,” such as put on a skirt and twirl in it.
I myself do not agree with transgenderism, but my point is, there are males, as well as females, who do not engage in behaviors that Reagan assumes to be God-ordained for either gender, but who may feel inclined to do the opposite.
It is a mistake to assume it is God’s design to make any or all behaviors male or female.
As a girl, I never twirled; rather, I made my hand into a “gun” shape, aimed it at friends while playing Cowboys and Indians, said “bang bang!,” at them, and pretended to shoot my playmates dead.
On other occasions, my mother pinned a beach blanket round my neck, and with my neighbor friend (a boy) who pretended to be Robin, we chased the imaginary Joker around my backyard.
As “Bat Man,” I did lots of running, jumping, and yelling. No twirling. I was using my imaginary Bat-A-Rang to capture The Penguin or Cat Woman.
There was no cissy, feminine, girly, lame-o “twirling” around saying, “Daddy look at me in my dress!,” for me.
Why is Reagan not saying this sort of comment instead:
- “Because God gave women just as much talent and intelligence as men, we dishonor him and his creation -and women- when we focus only on the outer appearance of women and ask them to flaunt their looks.
- We further dishonor God and women when we ASSUME women care a lot about their looks, that they SHOULD care about their looks constantly, and that God designed them to care a lot about it and that God designed women to illicit male responses to their looks.
- In our hyper-sexualized society, there is a way to go against the secular tendency to judge women for their looks only, which only sexually objectifies women further, to encourage women to not obsess on their looks, and to acknowledge, instead, the intelligence and other inner traits of women.
- We appreciate that women are smart, capable, and talented, and that God created women that way.”
I find it odd that Reagan purports to be honoring women in this editorial, but all he manages to do is defend secular, sexist views about women: that women are to be judged or valued for their physical looks only, not for their intelligence, skills, occupations, or accomplishments. He assumes most women prefer this, want it, and seek it out – not true, at least not for all women, and I dare say, it’s not even true for MOST women.
This essay by Reagan is actually pretty typical of the double standard, speaking- out- of -both- sides- of -the- mouth, hypocritical nonsense one finds advocated by certain segments of the Christian community, most notably, Christian gender complementarians.
Related posts this blog
(Link): People Don’t Care About a Woman’s Accomplishments: They Only Value Her if She is Romantically Linked – After historic tennis win, Eugenie Bouchard answers the most sexist question in postgame interview