Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Rocco Grimaldi, Sexism, and Self-Respect

I'd like to start this post by saying that this blog has been used exclusively for hockey-related material.  Generally, I try to steer clear of ethics and morality in my writing.  I have my own moral grounding, which I'm comfortable with, and will discuss almost any issue with anyone who cares to seek out my opinion but I'm generally disinclined to present my opinions unless I'm asked.

Having said this, a young hockey player presented some pretty strong opinions yesterday and it has caused quite a stir among people I know and people I read.  I don't mean for any of this to be offensive to anyone but here's my personal take on the matter.

Yesterday, Yahoo! Sports' hockey blog, Puck Daddy, published a series of Tweets by the recently drafted Rocco Grimaldi.  Grimaldi is a devout Christian -- so devout that one of his pre-draft interviews included the question, "Do you think your beliefs will affect your ability to maintain a positive relationship with your teammates?"

Grimaldi's Twitter account is rife with messages that reflect a lot of things that are positive about his faith and are a reflection of the kind of man he is, rather than the kind of player he is.  Unfortunately, on Wednesday, Grimaldi put together some Tweets that have garnered significant negative attention.

The Tweets themselves call on women to dress more modestly.  Grimaldi says:
Ladies, you can help us guys out big time.  Put your boobs away and everything else that is hanging out.  Guys have a hard enough time with that temptation without u helping it along.  When did being a beautiful girl become dressing with the least amount of clothes on?  When did what u wear become a competition?  Before you dress ask, "Does this outfit honor God, does it honor my body, does it help serve/love my brothers? If it's a no to any of those questions then you shouldn't wear that outfit 
The problem with the Tweets, and why they've garnered so much ire from so many fans, is that they're dressed in an outward looking fashion.  Calling on women to "help guys out" by "[putting] your boobs away" is no way to frame the point you're trying to make. 

What Grimaldi wants to say is "help yourself out" by treating yourself with the respect you deserve.  Unfortunately he dresses his message up as a call to women to provide a service to men.  Not the best start.

I don't think Grimaldi would be the only one who thinks it's a problem that our socially constructed ideas of 'beauty' have reached the point that a lot of people (including myself) would consider objectifying.

If we reduce his intentions down to the purest form, are they sexist (a man telling women how to dress) or are they about self-respect (treating your body like an extension of your consciousness or soul)?

Grimaldi goes on to address men, saying:

Guys, when did sleeping with every girl u can make u a man? Anyone can lay with a woman. And don't blame the women for how they dress. Don't say it's because they want attention. Don't blame ur "curiosity" or that u just wanted a little taste of what it would be like. Women are not an object for playing with. Sex is a gift from God. We have made it idolatry by how we use it. We blame the women for what they're wearing, we blame the media for what they're producing, but we never blame OURSELVES for how WE'VE twisted God's gift to only glorify ourselves. WE are the men and WE are to blame. God put US in charge of this earth so WE are the ones who need to man up and lay down our lust. Don't fall into that temptation. If you don't do this, you may be a boy for the rest of ur life
This part is significant as it suggests that his concern lies in the glorification of promiscuity.  There's no shortage of literature explaining how self-destructive this lifestyle can be and Grimaldi clearly feels (likely for religious reasons, but let's set those aside) that this lifestyle is one that should be avoided for one's own good. 

Grimaldi identified what he saw as a prevalent problem in society and tried to address it.  Whether or not you agree with his belief that promiscuity is self-destructive or that dressing provocatively is objectifying, you'd have to concede that these are, at a minimum, conversations worth having.

A friend of mine rightly pointed out that every day, MTV, ad agencies, and various other mediums have their say on the matter, only they do it subtly -- parading scantily-clad women in front of men who are then mesmerized: This is supposed to be 'girl power'.  Grimaldi provides a poorly articulated counter-point to this position and my feeling is that this is a side of the discourse that oughtn't be silenced.

If I could speak with Grimaldi, I would take umbrage with the wrapping of his admonition, but I'm more inclined to agree that promiscuous behaviour is damaging rather than empowering, which is the true content of his message. 

My own personal feelings are that while these behaviours might be self-destructive that their execution should be left to the discretion of the person who's acting on them.  In short, it isn't my place to tell people how to dress or how to behave (within these parameters).  It's like drinking -- it's legal, and it only hurts yourself so if you chose to do it -- that's your choice. 

Like drinking, however, if someone I care about had a problem, then I would try to help them.  What Rocco is trying to say, in a sense, is that he cares about everyone.  This may seem like a wide net to be casting to someone who isn't religious such as myself, but that's what his faith demands of him.  That isn't a message of hate; it's a message of love.

I suppose the crux of my argument is this:  Rocco Grimaldi is not a bad guy.  I understand that a lot of people took his message as sexist, and I think it's important to watch out for the way language is used because it too can be objectifying.  Having said this, what Grimaldi is really getting at is self-respect, not servitude.  Whether you agree with his primary point or not, it's important not to put him down for his message but rather to engage with it.

It may sound trite but Rocco Grimaldi cares about you.  No matter how hard that might be for a lot of us to fathom.


Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful piece. You really get it.

Jenna said...

Are you serious? Those tweets were disgusting and sexist, period. Get your message right and say what you mean. I'm so sick of christian apologists.

Julia said...

The hockey 'kid' is totally sexist as well as chauvinistic. He also doesn't understand the Bible. God never said that men rule over everything. He should reread Genesis 1:26-27 and ask a priest to explain that him: male and female is very clear as far as who 'them' is in that section of the Bible, when it comes to ruling over the creatures of the earth. Women dress for themselves and comfort when it's hot outside. It's the conceit of men who think we dress for them. Breast are for nursing children and Rocco needs to get his head out of the gutter. He's a disgusting sexist chauvinistic young man. I hope if he sees a woman nurse in public he doesn't tweet about how breasts are sexual. They feed babies and he should not look at them as sexual. It's his hangup.

Anonymous said...

LOLOLOL Pretty sure it's not just his. Breasts ARE seen as sexual by practically everyone alive. This is due to man's subconcious mind, which views breasts and hips as an indicator of a woman's ability to produce and nuture children. Something that may be desirable in a mate, no?