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Flop Shot

How One Gesture Takes Advantage of Women Across Sport

Tiger Woods’ and Justin Thomas’ latest antics were funny to some, offensive to others, but generally not a good look for sport either way.

Whilst playing at the Genesis Invitational in February, a private joke between Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas was caught on camera and widely shared across social media, before making the news cycles on what would have been a relatively slow news day on February 17th. The ‘joke’ involved Woods discreetly handing Thomas a tampon after outdriving him on the ninth tee, insinuating that Thomas was playing like a girl.

The thought of Tiger Woods carrying around a tampon until he thought it was the right moment to hand it off to Thomas is a bizarre one. The premeditated nature of the joke rings more alarm bells about the level of banter on the PGA tour more than anything else, however, the sexist nature of the so-called prank is unavoidable.

The use of ‘playing like a girl’ as a pejorative was prominent in the childhoods of most people growing up. Although it is an easy comment to brush off, it can have damaging effects on how girls view their value and ability, leading them to think that being themselves is an inherently negative thing. Luckily, women’s sport has abundant role models to counteract this belief. Not least, England’s women’s Euro-winning football team, with their manager Sarina Wiegman, said that Tiger Woods should be "conscious" of his responsibility as a role model.

It goes without saying there are bigger things going on in the world that we should be concerned about than an ignorant, immature joke between two grown men who should know better, however, this does not mean that these men should not be held accountable for their rubbish, sexist jokes, especially given their positions as role models in the world of golf.

What's more, is that this is not the first time that Woods’ tampon recipient has been in hot water. In 2021, Justin Thomas apologised after missing a par putt at Kapalua, Hawaii, and deciding to use a homophobic slur to let out his frustration. At the time, Thomas said “There’s just no excuse. I’m an adult, I’m a grown man” and that he needed to do better. It seems that he has perhaps not learnt as much from this incident as one would hope. This is not to equate the two situations, as Thomas’s use of a slur is markedly worse than an ignorant joke. However, the two incidents both suggest that golf is perhaps not a sport that welcomes all.

Many people have come to Woods’ defence, claiming that it was just a harmless joke among friends. However, as soon as you start to question what makes this joke funny, you discover that it is the belief that men are better than women, which is not actually that funny at all. In fact, this insinuation coming from the most famous golfer in the world has significant implications for alienating women and girls close to the sport and beyond.

None of this is to say that Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas are bad people, it is more to say that they have bad craic and are ignorant about the positions they hold in the limelight of a major sport. Whether you think the joke is funny or not, it is undeniable that it comes at the expense of women, which above all seems unnecessary whilst playing men’s golf in 2023. The outpouring of criticism does suggest however that people are being held accountable for their actions, so, therefore, can reflect, learn, and come up with better pranks in the future.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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