A Tale of Two Rugby Players
Today, two rugby players have come across my radar in a queer context. Both are straight.
The second straight rugby player of the day is Ben Cohen. This white, straight, ex-professional rugby player was on Channel 4 News talking about Jason Collins coming out as a black, gay, professional basketball player.
To be fair here, Ben Cohen has, since leaving rugby, set up an anti-homophobic and anti-transphobia anti-bullying charity* and he is obviously talking from that perspective in this interview.
There isn't a lot more for me to add to Ben Cohen's story here (I'm still very unclear why he chosen to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying, but I'm certainly glad he has). It is mainly to provide a little bit more context for the other straight rugby player...
When I opened my copy of Attitude I found an unknown cover star. Turns out this is Ben Foden, a rugby player. A good looking rugby player (although the photos inside are better in my opinion). So, what is this Ben Foden fella doing on a gay magazine cover? Let's turn to the article - this is the end of the second sentence:
...he enjoys going to G-A-Y (calm yourself, it's with his famous girlfriend).
Two sentences to tell us he likes the gays and has a girlfriend. Another few paragraphs and we find out about the terrible trouble he had attracting his girlfriend:
They met after he saw her on TV and said he fancied her. Yes, like QVC. 'I think I said, "I want that one"to my agent and he went and got her for me, he laughs before explaining.
Yes. Like. Q. V. C... Do I really need to go into detail about the misogyny in this exchange?
Before the end of the first page we find out that they have a baby girl (presumably not ordered from TV). Don't forget, he's straight. Definitely straight everyone. Like every straight guy he's got a famous girlfriend from off of the telly and a baby.
OK, so maybe he's done something, said something good for us gayz..?
Ask Ben if he has any gay mates, and he has to think about it before coming up with quite a posse. 'Sorry,' he say, 'I forgot they were gay'.
Other than that, there is some discussion about the actually-gay ex-Rugby player Gareth Thomas, how pretty Ben is, nudity and how Ben has settled down since becoming a daddy (he's straight, remember that please!).
So, errr... why is he in a gay mag?
Did I mention he's pretty by the way?
And yes, I've written about this problem before.
However, articles like this I don't think are helping anyone. It's not just about my beef with the idea that he doesn't deserve to be on the cover of a magazine, but the article definitely takes on an sports-dismissive attitude. Are we really doing our best to create a space for professional sports people to come out when we promote such a dismissive attitude, reduce the players we focus on to objects of desire and simultaneously dismiss those that don't meet the prettiness bar:
And if you're wondering how come Ben has picture-perfect looks ... it's because he one of the ones up the back and run with it - not to get too technical.
'You should see the state of some of them after they've done a few scrums. They get scrum pox with all the stubble rubbing against stubble...' Be still our beating trousers.
Is that really creating an atmosphere where gay people feel they can legitimately enjoy sports? Yeah, I admit I giggled when I first read the "what do we know about sports" style comments. I'm not a sports fan, this is not a sports magazine. I'm not expecting articles to expect or demand me to know the full details of every competitive sport and team, but for a magazine to roundly dismiss sports and sports people in such a way is... disappointing.
* I'm almost certain there are too many negatives working at odd-purposes there, but you know what I mean 8-)