I have been sitting on this post about Tiger Woods for probably too long, but I think I am finally ready to post it so here goes…
In the following I am going to add to what is already an obscene number of words devoted to the Tiger Woods situation. But in part I want to write not so much about Tiger Woods, but about what Tiger’s situation makes visible about manhood in our modern world. To my fellow men… don’t take this too hard. I realize that we are not all Tiger Woods. I know that maybe the majority of us are doing the best we can. But at the same time we have to begin to account for the realities in our world that make Tiger Woods’ story sadly not uncommon.
Tiger’s disregard for his wife and children, his seeming obsession with women is disturbing and sad. And yet it seems to me that Tiger’s actions do not seem that far out of proportion to what too many men do on a fairly regular basis when considered in proportion to men’s various levels of power and access. What I mean is that Tiger’s infidelity brings to light (once again) a lifestyle that is, sadly, not uncommon among men with power. Frequent travel, incredible amounts of money, and universal recognition all mix to create countless opportunities for men who want to do whatever they please.
But I want to ask a slightly different question about what Tiger’s infidelity means for men more generally, you know the 99.9999% who are not billionaires with jets and travel and instant recognition where ever we go? There is nothing to excuse Tiger’s behavior, but given the vast difference in power and opportunity is there really a difference between Tiger and the guy who buys images of naked women? between the men who obsess over images of women (clothed or not) on the internet? between the all too common clergy who take advantage of their position and admiration?
Perhaps Tiger’s transgressions should bring us to ponder how we attempt to control our own spheres of desire and longing, however large or however small. As much as we would love to say, as much as we need to believe that we are different than Tiger, can we truly say that? Can we truthfully say that we do not take advantage of opportunities around us that dishonor the women we love and cherish or women more generally? There is a reason the porn industry is flourishing, why there is very little that is sold without the image of women, that images of beauty and “health” violently affect women of all ages.
I say this not to condemn men in general, but to simply ask the question what do we do with the power, the freedom we have? however great or however small? Sadly, I suspect the question of whether we are Christian will have little to do with how we answer this question (although it should) and perhaps that should give us the greatest pause.
In reading about Tiger I am reminded of how easy it is to become blind to the power we actually hold within our own local worlds. But even more, perhaps we should begin, with fear and trembling, to acknowledge how that power too often flows in service of our own bent desires so that those we see, those we speak with, those we meet become objects within a world meant to serve our needs.