Brittney Griner!

21 March 2011

Apparently if I want to achieve true popularity as a blogger, I’ll stop talking about silent film and focus on women’s basketball phenom Brittney Griner, who’s a sophomore at Baylor. Yesterday 150 people came to this site for Griner alone — and they didn’t get here due to searching for more info about her amazing basketball chops, or even just her physical dimensions (she’s 6’8″, wears a men’s size 17 shoe, and her wingspan stretches to 86″). No, the Google searches that bring people to my site have to do with gender, biological sex, and sexual 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

This isn’t new. Ever since reporting on Griner a couple of times last year I’ve seen searches like this. So the question is, should I get cranky about these searches, or view them with a certain optimism? Should I explode and yell, Do you honestly think that anyone who plays basketball this well must be a man? Do you honestly think that this fact would have slipped by unnoticed by the NCAA, just like Barack Obama’s “Kenyan” birth supposedly slipped by US Constitutional rules?

On the other hand, maybe people read this blog and conclude, “Hey, maybe it doesn’t matter whether she’s XXY or gay or whatever, and I can just focus on thinking she’s awesome!” Or that women search for brittney griner lesbian? because they’re hoping they might have a chance with her. That they look at this image above, which I found last year on her personal website, precisely because it doesn’t try to prettify her according to some Vogue magazine version of sex appeal — instead it shows exactly the kind of female masculinity that Judith/Jack Halberstam discusses (and embodies).

Most of all, searches like this are a reminder to me that women’s sports remains one of those weird zones where a lot of people want to police gender lines and norms for femininity. Get over it, people, and — in the immortal words of En Vogue, free your minds, and the rest will follow. (But damn, remember how much En Vogue traded on their Vogue-ready looks and hotness quotient? Why oh why must it be this way?)

Un-fu¢king-believable.  The New York Times writes about Brittney Griner, a 6-foot-8 female basketball star at Baylor University, simply in terms of her attractiveness.  How does the author, Guy Trebay, make this into a news item?  By celebrating how female athletes are expanding our ideas about feminine beauty!  Yay, feminism!  Let’s look at his tally of feminist triumphs via women’s sports:

Feminine beauty ideals have shifted with amazing velocity over the last several decades, in no realm more starkly than sports. Muscular athleticism of a sort that once raised eyebrows is now commonplace. Partly this can be credited to the presence on the sports scene of Amazonian wonders like the Williams sisters, statuesque goddesses like Maria Sharapova, Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh, sinewy running machines like Paula Radcliffe or thick-thighed soccer dynamos like Mia Hamm.

Now that you put it in such a sensitive manner, Trebay, I see more clearly how much women have succeeded in making thick thighs and an “Amazonian” physical presence completely mainstream.

Clearly, when presented with the topic of female athletes, our sole question should be:  am I attracted to them?  And thanks to Trebay, we know the answer is yes.  Never mind that Griner has an “attenuated Gumby torso, coltish legs and tomboy features,” he attests; she’s gorgeous!  And he quotes a lot of model casting agents, stylists, and scouts to confirm that fact.

Thus, with our coltish legs and thick thighs, we resolutely take 10 big steps backward.  And I thought it was cool that Griner can dunk.