Of Crazy Bitches and Empty Vessels

Ladies and Gentlemen: the  single most misogynistic statement of our time:*

You actually don’t need context to understand how appalling that is (though this is a great source if you want it). You don’t need to know that Betsy Andrea is the wife of one of Armstrong’s former teammates, or that she has maintained for years that she heard Armstrong tell a doctor that he used performance enhancing drugs, or that Armstrong retaliated by trying to destroy her credibility and end her husband’s career in cycling. You don’t need to know that she was labeled a bitter, vindictive psycho just because she wouldn’t lie for him. Even without knowing who the hell Lance Armstrong is, that is some pure-grain misogyny right there. It’s textbook:

  • Yeah, I did call her crazy – Sure, I admit that I suggested she was irrational, unhinged, emotional, not to be trusted. Yeah, I attacked her intelligence and her understanding of the world around her. So? Doesn’t every guy who has conflict with a woman call her out for being psycho? So what if I implied that nothing she says or feels is valid, because it comes from her disordered, fevered imagination? Chicks, man. They’re nuts.
  • Yes, I called her a bitch – Yeah, I said she was vindictive, cruel, mean, petty, and selfish. I suggested that she’s emotionally deficient, cold, despicable, a castrating shrew, a nag, a scold, an ice-queen. BITCHES, amiright?
  • But I never called her FAT – So it’s okay! I mean, I know I said she was insane, and a terrible human being, but it’s not like I said she isn’t conventionally attractive! That would be mean, I would never attack her like that! I’m a nice guy!
Betsy
Betsy Andrea is Not Impressed

Watching that clip, it’s obvious that smirking jerkface Lance Armstrong is being a complete douchebag here, and it would be easy to dismiss this simply as a terrible person being terrible. It goes beyond that, though – “crazy bitch” is far too common in our culture; it’s our favorite way of dismissing inconvenient women. It bears mentioning, too, because Betsy Andrea calmly and rationally asserted that Armstrong doped, for years. Even though it seems transparent now, for years the media happily bought into – and perpetuated – the slander that she was just some “crazy bitch.” (I’m sure it’s no consolation to her that if the media ever said she was fat, well, that didn’t come from Armstrong, who obviously thinks that’s the worst thing he could say about a person woman.)

~

You know who was neither fat nor a crazy bitch? Lennay Kekua. This story has been everywhere; examined from countless angles. Jezebel and Feministing both did a great job pointing out the hypocrisy of the media being all over Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend’s imaginary death, while largely ignoring the very real suicide of a very real woman who was raped by a Notre Dame football player. Still, for all the coverage this scandal has generated, I haven’t seen any discussion of how sexist the whole construct of Lennay Kekua was in the first place.

The media bought this story unquestioningly – Lennay was held up as Manti Te’o’s inspiration, her death as a heartwarming reminder of the power of love. Lennay Kekua was beautiful. She was devoted. She was so in love with Manti that she didn’t need his comfort, his company, or his time – no, as she lay dying of cancer, all she wanted was for Manti to win football games. Apparently, no one found it odd that he was the love of her life, but she never asked him to be at her side.

3517588_370
Photographs of women are so much less demanding than the real thing…

Fake Lennay fake died in September – months after the fake car wreck which led to the fake discovery of her fake cancer. Their inspirational love and her tragic death were the subject of countless news stories: on ESPN’s College GameDay, Fox Sports, and CBS, in Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times… and yet the truth only came out last week, ten days after Manti’s football season ended. Te’o’s knowledge about the details of his girlfriend’s life was often murky, including her majors in school, occupation and extent of her injuries after an alleged April 28 car accident with a drunk driver.” Why didn’t that set off alarm bells with reporters? All this media around him, all these outlets repeating this heart-warming story, but even while she was “alive” no one needed to talk to her – and after her tragic (fake) death, it seems no news outlet  tried to get a fuller picture of this woman.

After all, who cared what she did for a living, or majored in in school? That was all beside the point. Lennay Kekua had been the perfect girlfriend: a beautiful empty vessel whose only concern was that her boyfriend succeed. She was as undemanding in death as she was in life, telling Manti to skip her funeral so that he wouldn’t miss any football games. She didn’t have messy emotional needs, or thorny contradictory ideas, or passionate competing dreams of her own… because Lennay Kekua didn’t exist. Conveniently, not existing made her the feminine ideal. After all, imaginary girlfriends are never fat, crazy bitches.

_______________________________________________________________________

*Excluding every single thing Rush Limbaugh has ever said about women, of course.

(I hope that this will be a resumption of regular blogging. Lord knows there’s been enough happening politically to keep me busy writing outraged entries daily, but my post-election crash ran into the holidays which ran into illness which went straight on through to a much busier new year. I think I’ve got it under control, at last.)

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