The photo here is inaccurate (as in Not-Brittney), as was pointed out to me by a reader when I first posted this piece. But the image did appear when I searched for a photo of Ms. Griner, so I'll keep it up. And I'll stand by my point herein too.
Yes, I did watch the men's basketball Final Four last night, with a particular eye toward spying Blue II, Butler University's glorious fawn-and-white bulldog mascot. (I also keep an eye out for Uga, Georgia's glorious white bulldog mascot, though I cannot begin to make it through a football game.)
It seems that basketball is everywhere, even in the style pages of the New York Times, as Guy Trebay writes about Brittney Griner, a 6-foot-8-inch first-year student and player at Baylor University.
There she is, dunking a ball, and far above, with David Beckham at the Espy Awards. I think she looks confortable, attractive, and like a young woman, unmodified, in both photos.
Trebay discusses how traditional female standards of beauty have been vexed for female athletes, and I add how those athletes have often engaged in the "feminine apologia"--dressing up in hyperfeminine clothing off the field to mark their gender, or posing provocatively for Sports Illustrated magazine, among others.
Trebay's article seems intended to be a positive one, focusing on embracing Ms. Griner's beauty, but the quotes he culls are troubling. Professor Terry Castle, for instance, situates Ms. Griner as a "slightly androgynous female"; the model scout Paul Rowland connects Ms. Griner to "amazing creatures."
While these expressions are within the context of both sources appreciating Ms. Griner within a feminist dialogue--they and the other sources all agree that traditional beauty, represented by women of a certain height, weight, with particular features, no longer stands--the language they choose is extra-ordinary. And while I'm down with being extraordinary, I don't want other people to provide those labels. Let people name their own identities.
It's fitting to see Ms. Griner standing next to Mr. Beckham, as he is a male athlete who has been critiqued for being too feminine--the nail polish, the hairbands, the preening in photoshoots; hence, perhaps the ultramasculine Armani underwear ads: the masculine apologia.
And yes, she has two of those Espy balls, while he has one.
That elephant in the room, though, is utterly coincidental, a non-symbolic happenstance that coincides with trophies won, not gender identity. Brittney Griner is a beautiful young woman on and off the court and it's getting tiresome to have to read articles that "defend" or "explain" that fact. In fact, I'm feeling tired just writing this!
Time for a nap.