A mother Tigress and her Tiger cub

Curator's Note

Whoever thought it would be possible to long for the days of a Tiger Woods scandal? Ever since molestation and rape allegations tore through Penn State, I have been yearning for a simpler scandal environment – where the sex is consensual and of legal age – even if it is extramarital.

It’s been exactly two years since Tiger Woods’ car crash revealed a seedier life of serial philandering that belied his once unblemished image. One of the more curious elements of Tigergate was his mother’s presence, and his then-wife’s absence, at his February 2010 press conference.

Generally speaking, a wife’s presence at her scandalized husband’s I-have-sinned press conference is a longstanding American tradition (See Dina Matos McGreevey, Wendy Vitter, Suzanne Craig). Yet it’s true that wives have lately chosen absence over presence at recent press conferences (Consider Darlene Ensign, Jenny Sanford and Huma Abedin.)

However, it is only at Tiger Woods’ presser that the scorned man’s mother actually takes the place of an absent wife. Kultida Woods does not stand at the podium with her son. Yet she is the first person he embraces after his 15-minute set of remarks. She told him then, “Never think you stand alone. Mom will always be there for you and I love you.” In Kultida, therefore, we have the conflation of wife and mother – two roles that sports wives fulfill for their husband.

Steven M. Ortiz writes in “Sociological Perspectives” in 2003 that professional athletes “motherize” their wives. When the husband-athlete returns home from the road, he becomes another kid in the household – one to cook and clean for. Because the wife becomes a mother, she loses her sex appeal to the husband-athlete. This justifies his serial cheating with groupies. “Most of the guys feel their marriages are like being with their mothers,” said a sports wife who the author interviewed (page 546).

The Tiger Woods press conference offers a perfect meshing of the wife and mother roles. The absence of the sports wife (Elin Nordegren) is usurped by the presence of the athlete’s mother. Therefore mother becomes wife, and wife becomes mother at Tiger Woods’ press conference, demonstrating the interchangeability of these two gendered roles for the athlete-husband.

Comments

Samir Dayal's picture

The Flip Side of Motherize Is Infantilize

Hi Hinda:

 

Enjoyed your witty contribution.  In the light of what you say, isn’t an implication that the "athlete-husband" is infantilized as he (since it is usually a he) motherizes his wife or in Woods’ case "mujerizes" his mother in a kind of Oedipal triangle where the father is a missing link?  Is this a kind of public assumption of a metaphorical fetal position, seeking protection, by the embattled athlete and therefore also a way of seeking public sympathy, all other routes of appeal closing fast around said athlete’s ears? Or is this missing the trees for the woods?

Hinda Mandell's picture

Oedipal dimensions

 Samir, thanks for your comment. I find the topic you raise fascinating. The Oedipal dimension complicates this topic in interesting ways. I think the catch here is that the athlete-husband does not want to be sexually intimate with his wife or his mother. When they become mothers or assume the motherly role the athlete then desexualizes them. I also think that the behind-the-scenes family dynamics makes it off-limits to the public. If the public were to see a male sports star (virile, masculine) being made a baby by his wife/mother it would emasculate him. He would then lose favor among the public. 

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