Monday, July 9, 2007

The tables are turned, but the language remains suspect

The U.S. Open Series 2007 promotions have begun, and it is going be a task for the promoters to outdo last year's great "Road Trip!" spots. In one of the new spots, players say what they like about the series, and Russia's Elena Dementieva says "American boys!"

That would be cute, perhaps, except that Dementieva is going to be 26 in a few months, which--despite popular opinion about females under 60--makes her a woman. Young men are hardly ever called "boys" in our culture, only young women, so there are only two reasons, both probably unconsciously motivated, for giving Dementieva this script:

1. If we let her say she likes boys, the implication is that she is a girl, and since she is an attractive blonde with long legs, she, of course, has to be a "girl."


2. If she were to say "American men!" it would imply that she is a sexual being, rather than a sexual object.

My guess is that both cultural values were in play when the script was written, and, in a way, they are really the same: As long as Dementieva can be seen as a girl--not an adult--then she is non-threatening. By the same token, if one of the 25-year-old ATP Tour men said "American girls!" we all know that he could mean females from legal age up.

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