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What Tiger Woods & Chris Brown Say About Society
Before the last few weeks, in order to find an image more wholesome than Tiger Woods’ anywhere in the sports world, one would have to almost craft one from central casting; to a lesser extent, the same could be said for Chris Brown in the world of pop music. Given the obvious issues of the disappointment that usually comes from hero worship, domestic violence, and marital infidelity stemming from [the] recent incidents involving these two celebrities, its easy to overlook lesser issues…some of them having significant social relevance.
In the highly publicized case of Chris Brown, who was charged and eventually pleaded guilty to felony domestic abuse against his then-girlfriend fellow pop-star Rihanna, the screams of outrage from the morally judgmental had easily drowned out the sanity of a glass-house perspective…especially when the graphic police photos of the injuries Rihanna sustained after the attack were leaked to the public. In the still developing case of the very private Tiger Woods, there are allegations that the early morning single-car crash two weeks ago of Woods’ SUV was the result of a domestic argument or fight between Woods and his wife, model Elin Nordegren over alleged extramarital affairs that the golf legend has had with other women. A growing media obsession, even NBC’s long-running skit-driven Saturday Night Live took liberties to skewer Woods’ marital troubles by crafting an imaginary post-crash Woods-Nordegren news conference where “Woods”—covered in wife-administered cuts and bruises—is shown shaking with fear while surreptitiously asking the viewers for protection from his nearby angry “wife.”
While we can apply some tongue-in-cheek at Wood’s troubles, we cast the Chris Browns in the same vein as Michael Vick—overkill with the condemnation and sanctions. This is by any means meant to imply that domestic violence should not be frowned upon. But we do tend to give women—especially celebrities—far more amount of compassion when it comes to domestic violence than we do men who are assaulted. Just a few days ago, comedienne Rosanne Barr revealed on Headline News’ Joy Bahar Show that she was physically abusive to her ex husbands (she chose not to name them). Her admission received hardly any press or public condemnation. In fact during the interview itself, Bahar laughingly prodded Barr to reveal which ex-husbands where the victims of the comedienne’s abusive episodes before—more out of concern to be seen as unbiased rather than out of any sense of obvious empathy—she hastily added that domestic violence was wrong, no matter who the aggressors were. Having worked in the justice system (as well as having been in a volatile marriage where I was falsely accused of making threats) myself, even in cases where there are no outward signs of abuse, we tend to give women not only far more sympathy, but credibility with the mere accusation of abuse as well as institutional and social support for being victims of domestic violence; men on the other hand as victims are seen as either just another level of criminal or a sub-feminine wimp.
While Brown and Rihanna were not married, Woods had what by most standards could be called a fairy-tale life; married to a globally-recognized supermodel, financial security-bankability, name, face, and image recognition, as well as a legion of adoring fans worldwide. And still, some level of personal issues and/or moral failings forced him to seek extramarital sexual liaisons with women, some of ill-repute (sorry ladies, but “adult film actress” and/or “professional groupie” do not qualify as reputable career categories). Woods, now in self-posed seclusion and out of sight of the media, has been reported to be re-writing his prenuptial agreement in a way that would allow Nordegren to receive a greater share of the sports professional’s financial assets in the event of a divorce; a sensibly pragmatic move since it suggests that he recognizes that his actions would no-doubt be called to light in a worse-case scenario (and because most divorce proceedings are initiated by women).
Such incidents seem to imply that contemporary relationships, whether based in marriage or those meant to be exclusive long-term commitments, have become nothing more than flimsy social alliances. An admittedly cynical observation, but the facts and the reality speak to how disposable relationships have become. Of the 50 states, 49 have adopted no-fault divorce laws, which require no legal declaration of blame of either partner in the cause of a marriage’s dissolution (last year, an estimated 40% of all marriages ended in divorce, but the rates where still higher among certain group professions, such as police officers and those enlisted in the military). And although the overall divorce rate is down, so too is the overall rate of marriage in America. It doesn’t help that almost monthly high-profile break-ups and divorces—some lasting not even a full year—help reinforce the notion that the ability to dissolve an unhappy relationship is a more socially admirable exercise in “independence” that the ability for adults to work through issues and problems. There are many sociological reasons for many relationships end is dissolution, but the one reason society tends to overlook is that people have simply grown more me-oriented…selfish. Despite how we love to toss around terms like “compromise,” “understanding,” “50/50” and the like when it comes to our understanding of what constitutes successful relationships, the sad reality is that people often want what they want, and not necessarily what’s good for them in the long term. The sadder reality is that most Americans cannot think past their lust, their emotions, their love of attention, or their desire to engage in short-term hedonistic pursuits long enough to put themselves in the shoes of their partners. And since inflicting hurts in pursuit of our own selfish wants has become second nature to us, it should be no surprise that even the most idolized among our heroes are no different from the rest of us.
And what about the (currently numbering ten total) women who have conveniently come forth to reveal their affairs with Tiger Woods’ only after his high profile crash and its suspected cause? Jaimee Grubbs, the mistress and one-time reality TV star who was at the center of the initial revelation of Woods’ indiscretions, has publicly apologized to Woods’ wife via a television interview, saying “how remorseful that I am to have hurt her family and her emotionally.” Since Grubbs’ initial denial and subsequent about-face about her past relationship with Woods, 9 other women have since come out of the woodwork to get their 15 minutes of fame by revealing similar sexual romps with the world’s number 1-rated golf pro. Ignoring the fact extramarital affairs by design are supposed to be secret, its kind of hard to ignore questioning the motives behind these other sudden revelations by other purported mistresses of Woods; surely its not with the goal of seeking moral absolution from a sympathetic public. Such behavior only goes to illustrate the lengths to which people are willing to seek out fame and/or attention for its own sake…even at the expense exposing another family (and their children) to public humiliation. Whatever Woods may have done wrong in regards to his family’s trust and his own sense of will, it certainly does not help that others would add fuel to an already inflamed situation simply for a few moments if notoriety; Americans are a lot more selfish than we like to think otherwise.
If anything, the Tiger Woods and Chris Brown incidents do not speak to the nature of two individual men as much as they do to the nature of those who would point fingers and watch with perverse glee as “bad” people “reap what they have sown.”