Are Androgynous Athletes Changing The Game Of Beauty?

You know, as a writer, I understand the impulse to manufacture trends in cases where there are none. Got to generate that copy, yo’. But the New York Times’ “Brittney Griner, Basketball Star, Helps Redefine Beauty” is really one of the stupidest pieces of pseudo-trend journalism that I’ve ever read.

If you’re not aware, Griner, 19, is a Baylor University freshman (the team made it to the women’s Final Four), and she is a whopping 6’8″. Yes, she really is that tall. I’m 6’1″, and I can hardly imagine what it would be like to be 4 inches shy of 7 feet. But is this a … trend? According to the Times, the young woman with “the wingspan of an albatross” shows America is learning to appreciate androgyny — or, put more bluntly, more masculine women. Venus and Serena Williams, Mia Hamm, and Maria Sharapova are all part of this purported movement. Because of a supposed shift in what Americans consider to be beautiful, more “masculine” women are become more widely appreciated.

According to Guy Trebay, who wrote the piece and has made a career out of extracting cultural trends out of thin air, today’s women want it both ways. Being a woman is no longer enough. Supposedly, we want to be “a woman and play like a man.” Ergo, a young woman who just so happened to be born tall and a handful of elite athletes reveal that the rest of us want to look like girls and act like boys.

Stepping in to support Trebay’s wobbly thesis, Stanford University professor and basketball fan Terry Castle concurs, “Brittney Griner is such an athlete, and so gifted, you almost don’t notice that she is part of a slowly unfolding, civilized response in this country to the slightly androgynous female.” After all, this isn’t really about tall women, androgyny, or basketball! It’s about … feminism. “[Griner] calls our attention to the unnecessary rigidity of sex roles and makes a number of feminist points along the way,” Castle claims. Umm … one’s height does not a political point make.

Thankfully, the faux-trendspotters envision a happy ending for Griner. After looking at her pictures, a “renowned model scout” declares he would consider representing her. “I can imagine a market for that,” he decrees.

Too bad nobody seems to be able to figure out what “that” is. A talented young woman? Oh, that would be too simple.

[NY Times]