Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

What do baseball and "The Swan" have in common?

Salon has an article this morning by Steve Kettman about the stupidity behind the hand-wringing over steroid use in baseball. I have to agree. I don't even follow baseball and even I could tell it's awash in this particular drug. Hell, if the reward is being a multi-millionaire before 30, I'd take a bunch of steroids, too.

But as usual, there's more to the story, which he hints at:

Here's another basic fact to keep in mind about steroids: They're here to stay. Do we wish they had never been part of baseball at all? Of course we do. But the real story of BALCO is about how technology keeps marching forward. As the science of steroids advances, and doses and mixtures are further refined, steroids are likely to become attractive to even larger numbers of people, particularly men drifting into their 40s and 50s, worried about receding hairlines and flabby stomachs. All those TV ads of happy "Bob," pleased at his "male enhancement," are really just about testosterone. With male vanity being what it is, and with its attendant mentality that some is good but more is better, who is foolhardy enough to argue against a big future for steroids?

Bingo. Right now TV is saturated with program after program after program celebrating plastic surgery as a means for women to become "better" at their main job as women, which is looking good. The same attention to physicality is the allure of sports. It's completely silly to demand that women compete better at their physically intensive jobs as sex objects by using artificial and medical means like plastic surgery and then turn around and demand that athletes compete at their physically intensive jobs without the use of artificial body enhancements.

The line between athletic objects and sex objects isn't really even that fuzzy, as this quote from later in the story demonstrates.

"You gotta feel sexy," Giambi said, hopping off his bar stool. "That's the key. You gotta feel sexy. Like when you go into a bar and you know that every eye in the place is on you. Look at Mark. He goes up there, he's got the tight uni going. He's got the gel in his hair. He feels sexy. That's the key to hitting."

This story about the Terrell Owens/Nicollette Sheridan dust-up clarifies this connection even more. It was a racial incident, no doubt, but the promo pissed people off because it made explicit that to the largely male audience what they tend to repress--that they objectify the bodies of athletes as much as they objectify the bodies of actresses like Sheridan.

That same repression probably explains why so many sports fans can still dig up some outrage that steroid use is rampant. It's not that it's even about "cheating" anymore--you can't really say that steroid use is much of a cheat when pretty much everyone does it. It's that steroid use reveals how feminized athletes really are. It's just too close to the diet pills and plastic surgery that sex objects in our culture rely on to compete better for attention.

It also explains why Bush mentioned steroid use in that one State of the Union address. Bush's entire platform can be summed up, "Bush: Making Men Manly Again". He is a conduit for the myriad of masculine anxieties that our country is currently buried in. Nearly every weird thing he does is easier to understand if you look at it from the perspective of the anxious male.

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