Monday, July 13, 2015

David Frum Suggests Serena Williams Used Steroids

The Atlantic Senior Editor & Tweeter David Frum
Yesterday I briefly mentioned the outcry on social and mainstream media over the snarky "body shaming" comments leveled against Serena Williams by an assortment of people including tennis players who've been physically outplayed by her on the court, and even the president of the Russian Tennis Federation who called her "scary".

You can add David Frum, the Senior Editor of The Atlantic to that list of people.

According to an article by Jedd Legum that was posted on earlier today, Frum (a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, senior foreign policy adviser for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign and author of eight books) tried to delete some Tweets he posted insinuating that Serena Williams won Wimbledon because she's on steroids.

You can't make this stuff up folks. Well Frum obviously did, but you get my point.

What is it with some people and Serena Williams' body? It's almost as if there are people who are obsessed with attributing her success to something they see as "wrong" with her body because it's not like Maria Sharapova's. 

Given that Frum is a Senior Editor of a major intellectual magazine and an established journalist and author, I'm not really sure what he was thinking throwing out a wild and totally unsubstantiated accusation about steroid abuse like that based on his own narrow-minded perception of Serena Williams' body.

When he was brought on board as a Senior Editor at The Atlantic back in 2014, the magazine's Editor-in-Chief James Bennet described Frum as "a gutsy and heterodox thinker...", which I respect.

This is America after all where the right to free speech and the open expression of opinion is part of our DNA; after all, not everyone agrees with the opinions that I express here on my blog, nor do I expect everyone to.
But given Frum's lofty position near the epicenter of the media universe, it strikes me as a bit klutzy of him to just casually toss out a steroid use accusation like that into the maelstrom of social media.

Tennis writer Ben Rothenberg
Especially given the fact that frequent freelance contributor Ben Rothenberg was getting all kinds of flack for his New York Times piece published last week, which (in part) juxtaposed Serena Williams success on the tennis court with an analysis of the "ideal" woman's athletic build/body type.

Whatever Rothenberg's intentions, his article essentially came off as a group of white tennis players (whom Rothenberg interviewed for the article) pointing their fingers at Williams as if she was some kind of unfeminine Creature from the Black Lagoon of Tennis simply because she has a body type that's different than theirs.

It got so bad, the Times, still reeling from the infamous September 18, 2014 Alessandra Stanley piece which equated Shonda Rhimes with being an "Angry Black Woman", dispatched the Public Editor Margaret Sullivan to assess the damage and analyze the fallout from the article.

In her well-written editorial, Sullivan shared a few choice samples of the kinds of angry responses Rothenberg's piece generated, including a quote from Claire Potter's observation of the article in a post on 

“I don’t know why I am surprised that The New York Times would publish a piece that supports female body hatred, that a male reporter would support such a narrow beauty standard for women, or that women’s tennis players would be proud of their endless willingness to be gender police for each other. But I am.” 


The interesting thing is that Frum has gotten himself into hot water for shooting off his mouth on Twitter before.

Real photo David Frum called "Hamas propaganda" in 2014
Like back in July of 2014 when he posted Tweets to his 100,000+ Twitter followers leveling accusations that the New York Times, AP and Reuters all used a fake photo (pictured left) taken by Sergey Ponomarev of two Palestinian brothers in a Gaza hospital covered in blood after bringing their wounded father there for treatment after he was injured in an Israeli airstrike.

Frum suggested it was Hamas propaganda but it turns out the photo was real and Frum was forced to issue a half-ass apology in which he discussed (drum roll please...) the history of the use of fake photos as war propaganda.

Frankly it's kind of pathetic that this "analysis" of Williams' body has morphed into this pseudo-intellectual pursuit of "the truth", when in fact it's based in fear and ignorance and reeks of sexism and racism.

It also seems tainted with the kind of loony eugenics theories that equate black people with being animals or possessing super-human attributes.

Serena Williams is a beautiful, intelligent, world class athlete who trains hard, plays hard and is one of the greatest tennis champions in history.

She's not "blond-haired and thin" in a way that fits neatly into the Western European archetype of female beauty; why can't people just get over that?

And frankly, with all due respect, David Frum should probably stick to politics.

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