Paige Spiranac is weighing in on the LPGA’s controversial amendments to its dress code and she’s bringing the fire.
In an editorial published to Forbes, Spiranac made some excellent points and injected feminist rhetoric like we haven’t seen from the Instagram sensation (which is a very good thing).
Spiranac is a complicated figure for feminists, and certainly there’s been something of an evolution to her public persona. Her internet presence, which likely began as an attempt to gain a few followers and blasted off into the stratosphere thanks in large part to male interest, has morphed into something much more meaningful.
As she explains:
“I hope my voice helps to encourage the next generation of great female athletes and golfers to possibly stop social injustices and prejudices from creeping into the game that I fell in love with at such a young age.”
Discussing Spiranac-as-feminist is better left to, well, women, but it’s an important component of her editorial that merited mention.
Now, onto the substance of what she had to say:
“As both an ambassador for golf and an advocate for the continued progress of women’s rights and equality in society, I fear that these new rules are stifling the growth of the women’s game,” Spiranac writes.
She makes the point that golf was once played by women in dresses and men in suits. As the game has evolved, golfers have begun to train like athletes. “To be a professional golfer in the 21st century, you must be an athlete,” she writes. This is probably 90 percent true. Miguel Angel Jimenez and Beef Johnston would disagree.
The vast majority of golfers fighting their way through the ranks, however, spend plenty of time in the gym. This is true. It’s also true that apparel companies have moved in the 21st century toward more athletic-looking attire, rolling that back is a far worse look than leggings on the golf course.
She also makes the point that since the LPGA hasn’t furnished any examples of players in violation of the rules, the exclusionary measure is more problematic “put in place…to make sure that only players who echo golf’s more traditional, conservative norms are attracted to and excel at the sport.”
And this is the heart of the matter: The idea that a woman’s attire says something about her morality and behavior. Making propriety about covering up suggests that those who have dared to wear racer-backs and leggings are not only in violation, but acting in a morally disreputable fashion.
Spiranac’s feminist fire burns brightest with this passage:
“If professionalism in golf equals athleticism, then athleticism should be promoted and showcased, and that means allowing the clothes that promote it.
“By labeling women as looking “unprofessional” when showing cleavage or shorts worn under a skirt, the LPGA is perpetrating the outdated stereotypes about the connection between what a woman wears and her morals, as well as insinuating that women do not have control over the perception of their bodies, but rather that they must bend to the every whim of the male gaze.”
Now, if you look at the LPGA’s About page, it’s unfair to categorize the organization as one that is run by men. The boards are about 50-50 men and women. However, if you were to do the same analysis of, say, the 10 largest sponsors of the the LPGA Tour and its events, you’d likely find things tilted in a much more male-centric direction. And as they control the purse strings, it’s the sponsors’ “gaze” that is at issue.
For those critical of Spiranac and her minimal accomplishments as a professional golfer: Using her platform to pen editorials like these is a far more important service to the future of the game. While she remains a complex figure, her voice is an important one in this debate.