Brittney Griner is Female Athlete of the Year! And she wears a suit!

12 July 2012

So I got up this morning to discover a radical spike in hits on this blog overnight — which can mean one of two things: either suddenly my nuanced analysis of the South Korean film Poetry has finally found a mass audience, OR basketball star Brittney Griner is in the news.

Sure enough: at last night’s awards show honoring the best athletic performances of the year (called the ESPYs because, shamelessly, they are sponsored by and shown on the sports channel ESPN), Brittney Griner received two awards: Best Female Athlete of the Year and Best Female College Athlete of the Year!

The 6’8″ college junior Griner helped to lead the Baylor women’s team to an undefeated 40-0 season, culminating at the Division I playoffs at which the Bears swatted away other teams like inconsequential flies. They won the final against Notre Dame by 20 points. Not that this was solely Griner’s doing — her team included the spectacularly talented guards, Brooklyn Pope and Odyssey Sims, who like Griner will be back next year to blow the rest of college women’s basketball out of the water.

Now, why are people coming to my obscure little feminist film & pop culture blog for info about Griner? Because they’re doing the same web searches they did when I wrote about Griner during her freshman year, and again during her sophomore year, all of which have to do with her sex/ gender/ orientation:

  • brittney griner a man
  • is brittney griner a man
  • brittney griner girlfriend
  • brittney griner makeover
  • brittney griner in a dress
  • brittney griner gender
  • brittney griner lesbian?
  • is brittney griner xxy
  • brittney griner in regular clothes
  • brittney griner dressed up

And yeah, in response to those posts a number of readers held forth about how she must be something other than a woman — based on nothing except their own notions of how girls are made up of sugar and spice. Based on my own unscientific analysis, I pronounce that Griner provokes extreme sex anxiety in straight people.

The best thing about all this? Griner herself has always been ahead of the curve, in on the joke. She plays with her gender performance all the time, and last night was no exception: she wore a suit. And looked smokin’. And when she bent down to give teensy-tiny 5’2″ actress/ presenter Hayden Panettiere a hug in thanks, Panettiere couldn’t help herself:

Now, what is that look on Panettiere’s face? Is this the B-list actress version of straight-people anxiety about a tall, hot woman in a suit bounding up onstage and giving her a grab? Is she looking for a cheap laugh — to get the audience to giggle with her in shared nervousness? Or was she genuinely flustered/ impressed by Griner’s sex appeal, leading her to overcompensate with the goofiness?

Whatever. I just want to recount a small moment from a talk I attended by the scholar Judith/ Jack Halberstam, whose Female Masculinity is the bible of analysis of gender transgressions by women. During the Q&A session, an anxious woman in the audience asked the brilliant Halberstam a strange, rambling question that amounted to something like, “Do butch women dress this way because they have given up on looking sexually attractive?”

The very butch Halberstam could not have been more kind — or more sexy — in answering with a sly smile on her face. “That has not been my experience,” she said with perhaps a little more thoughtfulness than she required. The obvious fact of Halberstam’s sex appeal, and the weirdness of the woman’s question, led the rest of the audience to laugh. “It has been my experience that femme women and many straight women alike are drawn powerfully to masculine/ butch women,” Halberstam continued. Some ten or fifteen women in the audience proceeded to whoop with approval.

Whooping with approval from my end, I say Brittney Griner is doing her best to upset the male/ female gender binary — which is why I keep writing about her and the weird gender & sex issues our culture seems to have with female athletes.

Also: “I wouldn’t be here without Title IX,” Griner said backstage after winning. Amen. And squeee!

8 Responses to “Brittney Griner is Female Athlete of the Year! And she wears a suit!”

  1. servetus Says:

    Great job, Ms. Griner. Keep up the good work!

  2. Hattie Says:

    Funny. I was just thinking about “Poetry” today and that scene in the tub. Must be because I’ve been reading “Pornland.” Panittiere sure has that porn star look.

    • Didion Says:

      Oh, man, that scene in the tub. Absolutely brilliant. And the actress bridges that weird space between reluctant compliance and kindness. That woman is amazing.

      • Steve Says:

        Didion, what do you think of Brittney’s latest exploits? 50 and a power dunk to boot!!!! I guess we’re getting ready to relive what brought me to your sight in the first place.

      • Didion Says:

        You know I’m paying attention, Steve! 1:30 pm today (CST) vs Kansas State, and thence to the championship, baby! The rest of this month looks to be really pretty exciting … as in, completely nervewracking for me. I live in fear that something horrible will happen and they’ll get bumped.

        But then I think back to the power dunk and remember, oh yeah: Brittney Griner is a basketball goddess, and we all need to just bow down before her glory. Woop! Woop!

  3. […] that one of the things I find most fascinating is the way she up-ends typical gender expectations. Like when she won the ESPN Female Athlete of the Year award and wore that awesome suit. Or when I wrote about the crazy list of search terms people used to find stories about her on this […]

  4. Tonya Says:

    Brittney Grinner is amazing. She is magician on the court. I didn’t know I liked basketball until I saw her play, now I’m hooked. Brittney stay level headed, keep your eyes open, listen carefully to those who have your best interest at heart and beware of those women gold diggers, they have no shame, a groupie is a groupie whether they eat or blow. They just want their bills paid and their picture taken.

  5. Julian Cruickshank Says:

    I think Brittney Griner is awesome.
    Furthermore, I am using her to challenge my god daughter’s notions of feminity.

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