Indecent Exposure, and Arrested Development

By Mike Wise
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

After the blow-up doll controversy in the Chicago White Sox' clubhouse last week, a number of women's groups and social engineers predictably weighed in on the issue. In defense, it doesn't take just an activist to summon emotion when an unidentified player props up two nude, inflatable dolls in an American workplace -- dolls with bats strategically positioned around them and one holding a sign that read: "You've Got to Push," a juvenile reference to the White Sox hitting slump.

Anyone with a wife, daughter or sister, or, heaven forbid, a relative who has been sexually abused, has a right to feel offended.

But it's the backlash over the backlash -- men outraged by the outrage -- that should make our gender quiver.

After Newsday's Barbara Barker took aim at baseball and the White Sox in a column, Jack from Chicago responded via e-mail: "Get back in that kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, like you should be."

After printing this tamer response, I have to ask: As a species, are we subhuman?

Because that is the defense of purported real men everywhere, that: a) we're male, therefore we are cretins; and b) they're male baseball players , tobacco-dippin' Neanderthals. What did you expect, decency? Respect in the clubhouse, a workplace subject to the same laws of discrimination and sexual harassment as IBM or Chipotle? Hah.

And it's not just louts on the Internet or on Miserable Suburban Guy radio taking up arms over this cause; it's naturally producing testosterone people everywhere -- friends and colleagues in my own business, who have decided to make White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillén's warped clubhouse their own Skull and Bones, a don't-ask-don't-tell fraternity where misogynists will be misogynists.

"Everybody, please, just shut up," wrote a flummoxed Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Of course it's stupid and ugly and not funny. It's the clubhouse, where players can do anything they please."

Said Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey, who hinted the dolls need names last week at the end of his column: "The baseball clubhouse is the last place where boys can be boys or idiots can be idiots, as if a distinction can be made."

Look, an illusion exists that locker rooms are private in professional sports. They are not. For long periods of time, often three hours or more, baseball clubhouses are places of business -- open to any credentialed member of the media. Women. Men. Straight. Gay. Black. White. Hispanic. Asian. Everyone.

And yet the suspension of basic civility often ends the moment a player or reporter passes through the door. Locker-room culture is a vacuum, where amnesia sets in quick.

This week in particular makes Bud Selig come across as a huge hypocrite. That's right, Major League Baseball, the people who gave you pink bats in support of breast cancer awareness on Mother's Day, were also the people whose commissioner called propping up a bat in a doll's rear end "a team issue."

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